Our position on pending legislation

Published 9:55 am Wednesday, January 21, 2015

There are several pieces of legislation under consideration at this year’s General Assembly session that were either brought by local legislators or would have a direct impact locally that we feel deserve watching. The following are some of those bills and our position on them.

Government transparency:

House Bill 2223, introduced by Del. Rick Morris (R-Carrollton), would make any officer, employee or member of a public body convicted of a willful and knowing violation of certain Virginia Freedom of Information Act provisions guilty of a class 1 misdemeanor.

Our position: We support any measure that further enforces both the letter and the spirit of the law as outlined under the Freedom of Information Act. We support this bill.

House Bill 1438, introduced by Del. Richard Bell (R- Staunton), allows local governments to use alternatives other than a newspaper of general circulation to publish required public notices. Localities would have the option of selecting and two of the following methods: (i) in a newspaper of general circulation in the locality, including such newspaper’s online publication, if any; (ii) on the locality’s website; (iii) on any public access channel operated by the locality, to be aired during prime-time programming and at least two other times during the day; (iv) using any automated voice or text alert systems used by the locality; or (v) posting at the local public library established pursuant to § 42.1-33, if any.

Our position: Allowing government to control the flow of information to its citizens regarding its activities is akin to allowing the fox to guard the henhouse. We oppose this and any other measure that would seek to restrict a citizen’s access to information about the operation of local government. According to a recent poll conducted by the Virginia Press Association, 63 percent of respondents said that they would read public notices less often if these were placed only on government websites, and 72 percent of respondents have not gone to a government website to read a public notice. We oppose this bill.

House Bill 1405, introduced by Del. Christopher Head (R-Roanoke), allows localities with a population of 50,000 or greater to meet public notice requirements by utilizing their websites, radio or television instead of local newspapers.

Our position: See HB 1438 above. We oppose this bill.

Government accountability:

House Bill 1383, introduced by Del. Rick Morris (R-Carrollton), provides that any appointee of a local governing body to a local board, commission, or committee shall serve at the pleasure of the local governing body and may be removed at any time.

Our position: As an example, if city council were to appoint a school board member that it felt was ineffective or failing the community by not carrying out his or her duties, that school board member could be fired by city council. We support this bill.

Minimum wage:

House Bill 1512, introduced by Del. Marcus Simon (D-Falls Church) and supported by Del. Roslyn Tyler (D-Jarratt), would increase the minimum wage in Virginia from the current $7.25 per hour to $15.15 per hour, effective July 1, 2015.

Our position: This bill would be an economic disaster. Proponents of a drastic wage increase claim the extra money in worker’s paychecks would mostly be spent, not saved, and therefore stimulate the economy. In truth, the only thing it would stimulate would be an unemployment rate that would shoot through the roof. The rise in the cost of goods and services as a result of wage push inflation would render much of the increase in wages useless. We oppose this bill.