Friday, January 8, 2010

Legislative Agenda Presented by Area Officials

Download audio version here

Focusing on growth, transportation, and public safety mixed with greetings of old friends, salutations, and acknowledgments marked the Richmond Regional Planning District Commission Legislative Meeting. The meeting took place on Wednesday, January 6thbreakfast provided, with the invitation extended to 22 Senators and Delegates, the office of the Governor-elect Bob McDonnell, county supervisors from seven counties, city council and mayor of Richmond and Ashland and the greater Richmond Chamber business leaders.

The agenda included the discussion of high speed rail, environment, growth, public safety and governing locally along with the future of the Virginia General Assembly in 2010.

Delegate Jennifer McClellan thinks that the big issue that will go through the assembly this year is the budget.

“The big issue is closing the gap of the budget,” said McClellan. “Citizens of Virginia have come to expect a certain service for the state with the current economy, but we need to find a way to do it."

The Richmond Regional Planning District Commission is made up of 33 members who represent the Virginians in the City of Richmond and its surrounding areas. The commission meets monthly to discuss and deliberate regional issues.

Looking over the new agenda for the 2010 Virginia General Assembly the biggest issue that came about was the introduction of the high speed rail. Dan Trout of New Kent talked about an $8 billion federal fund that Virginia has applied for that help with funding the high speed rail.

“Right now the only high speed rail line is the Northeast Corridor which goes from Washington to Boston, the next step is to go from Washington to Richmond,” said Trout. “That will make Richmond a transportation hub, and help business in this area and tourism.”

“We’ve applied for the federal funding and I think the bulk of that will come from that,” said McClellan. “There is a state fund that provides matching funds for private sources and if we can have the federal funds qualify for the matching that will help as well. That’s an existing fund, so there wouldn’t be any new taxes for that.”

Supervisor Joe Walton of Powhatan, thinks that filling vacancies in local government and funding mandates are of big priority for the 2010 agenda. Since last year Powhatan lost a supervisor and the process of obtaining another was difficult.

“We would like to see the general assembly provide some sort of alternative means to have a special election or election for that vacated spot,” said Walton.

John Gordon, the Co-Chair of the Capital Region Collaborative, works directly with the Richmond Regional Planning District Commission. With the collaboration he thinks that this will improve the quality of life for the citizen of Richmond and the surrounding areas.

“We strive with age, government, the business community with a process of identifying, prioritizing, and implementing actions that will enhance the quality of life in the Richmond region,” said Gordon. “I get excited when I start to talk about the collaborative because I believe that this generation that is in this room’s opportunity to make a difference in the Richmond region and move it forward aggressively toward a great future.”

Other things on the agenda for the 2010 session according to Delegate McClellan include domestic violence bills, health care bill, and the city charter. Overall, the legislative meeting created a bond between the returning delegates, senators and other city officials and laid out the agenda for the upcoming session in 2010, over eggs and coffee.

-Laura Peters

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