|Wednesday, January 29, 2003
House passes bill to start buying land along 1-73's path
By KEVIN MILLER and MICHAEL SLUSS
THE ROANOKE TIMES
RICHMOND - The House of Delegates passed legislation Tuesday that could allow the state to get a jump start on buying right of way for Interstate 73.
By a vote of 80-14, the House passed a bill (HB 2066) that would give landowners along I-73's approved path the opportunity to sell their properties to the state and avoid condemnation proceedings. The Virginia Department of Transportation would use federal funds to acquire the land if money became available.
Del. Allen Dudley, R-Rocky Mount, is the bill's sponsor. The measure now goes to the state Senate.
Plans call for I-73 to run east of U.S. 220 from Roanoke to the North Carolina border, passing through Roanoke, Franklin and Henry counties.
Lawmakers from Franklin and Henry said the interstate could spark economic development. Roanoke-area legislators are concerned about the road's proposed path through Southeast Roanoke and the Mount Pleasant section of Roanoke County.
Dudley's bill was supported by Del. Ward Armstrong, D-Henry County; Del. Morgan Griffith, R-Salem; and Del. Robert Hurt, R-Chatham. Opponents included Roanoke Democrats Clifton "Chip" Woodrum and Vic Thomas; Del. Dave Nutter, R-Christiansburg; and Del. Jim Shuler, D-Blacksburg.
Senate panel wants to remove
environmentalist from water board
A Senate committee recommended removal of one of the state's most prominent environmentalists from the State Water Control Board on Tuesday because of a perceived conflict of interest.
Democrats on the Senate Privileges and Elections Committee, meanwhile, suggested that their GOP colleagues were inconsistently applying the conflict of interest rules on the state's boards and threatened to target other political appointees next year.
Gov. Mark Warner appointed Kay Slaughter, an attorney with the Southern Environmental Law Center and a former Charlottesville City Council member, to the water board last year.
As part of her service on the board, Slaughter volunteered to disaffiliate herself from a legal challenge the nonprofit Southern Environmental Law Center filed against the water board over a proposed reservoir. Slaughter also agreed to recuse herself from any votes on or discussion of the issue.
But Republican senators and delegates said state ethics rules prohibit Slaughter's inclusion on the board because of the litigation her employer, the law center, is pursuing against the water board.
Sen. Janet Howell, D-Fairfax County, said nothing is done about other board members with obvious conflicts of interest. Howell threatened to pursue other board oustings next year.
Panel rejects 2 bills for vehicle decals
to raise cash for athletic programs
Don't throw out those bake sale recipes just yet, Montgomery County booster clubs.
A House committee rejected two bills (HB 1771 and HB 2359) to allow Montgomery County to raise money for athletic programs at the public schools through the sale of special vehicle decals.
Under the legislation, county residents would have been able to buy the decals - similar to the registration decals required on vehicles by cities, counties and towns - from the Montgomery treasurer. Proceeds from the sale would then have gone into a special fund for the athletic programs.
The bills' sponsors - Del. Dave Nutter, R-Christiansburg, and Del. Jim Shuler, D-Blacksburg - submitted the proposal at the request of county officials.
"This would hopefully free up other county resources for more pressing K-12 needs," Nutter told members of the House Transportation Committee on Tuesday.
But committee members suggested athletics boosters could accomplish the same end by selling bumper stickers, which wouldn't require legislative approval.
Lawmakers won't address issue
of tolls on cars this year
The General Assembly won't take up the issue of tolls on cars this year.
Del. Chris Saxman, R-Staunton, withdrew legislation Tuesday that would have authorized the state to collect tolls on all vehicles using interstates. The General Assembly passed legislation last year restricting tolls to trucks.
Saxman introduced the bill in response to a proposal from a private group - Fluor Virginia Inc. - that wants to widen Interstate 81 to six lanes, paid for by tolls on cars and trucks. A second group has proposed widening I-81 to eight lanes, with separate lanes for cars and trucks. That plan calls for collecting tolls only on trucks.
Saxman said Tuesday he withdrew the bill to avoid influencing the Virginia Department of Transportation's debate on the two proposals. He plans to introduce identical legislation during next year's General Assembly session.
"If my bill had died [in the General Assembly], it might have harmed irrevocably one of the proposals," Saxman said. "Last year, I thought we created a very bad law and I wanted to correct it. But taking a longer look at the politics, I didn't want to jeopardize one of the proposals."
KEVIN MILLER can be reached
at (804) 697-1584 or firstname.lastname@example.org.