Virginia is a Dillon Rule state. That means that a locality cannot exercise any power unless the state has expressly authorized it. Each year, we get a ton of bills that come through from localities asking the state for authority to do different things.
For example, in my first term, I introduced legislation that would add Fairfax County to the list of counties that could adopt a meals tax by a unanimous vote of the Board of Supervisors instead of referendum. I also introduced a bill to allow Fairfax County to add a $4 fee to each traffic ticket to pay for an electronic ticket processing system that would eliminate the need for about 10 full-time employees and save the police thousands of man hours. An Arlington County delegate told me that he had to introduce legislation to allow his locality to issue paychecks twice per month instead of every two weeks.
One of my committee assignments is Cities, Counties & Towns and our subcommittee hears City and Town Charter changes which govern their authority. We also hear bills to give Cities, Counties & Town the authority to regulate the height of grass and weeds. This year, our subcommittee voted to the City of Hopewell, the County of Prince George, and the Town of Cincoteague. Last year we added James City County. In 2010, it was the City of Winchester, the City of Colonial Heights.
This year, Delegate Jim Lemunyon got tired of doing this every year and introduced legislation to allow any county to regulate grass height if they choose so they don't have to come through us. I cosponsored his bill.
Every one of these grass bills requires thousands of hours of government time to push through.
- Each locality has a legislative staff that prepares their legislative agenda
- It is vetted by a local board and delegation
- The legislation is drafted by the Division of Legislative Services and goes through a series of reviews;
- Legislation is then introduced and processed by various people;
- We then consider it in a 7-person subcommittee with staff (and spectators);
- It's then considered by a 22-person committee with staff (and spectators);
- It's then considered by the entire 100-member House of Delegates with staff (and spectators);
- Steps 5-7 are redone by the 40-member State Senate;
- The Speaker & President Pro Tempore of the Senate signs it;
- Then the Governor's Office vets the bill before he signs it;
- Then it has to go to the people who draft the Code of Virginia who need to work it into the official Acts of Assembly and then incorporate it into the Code;
- Then the Code of Virginia is republished and updates are sent out in paper form all around the state; AND THEN
- Electronic databases are updated so that every version of the Code everywhere is current.
- Then and only then, the locality can begin the process of amending its local ordinance which requires a who series of steps.
Delegate Lemunyon's bill would eliminate steps 1 through 13 when it comes to a county's authority to regulate the height of grass and weeds if it chose to do so. His bill passed our subcommittee 5-4 and died on a 11-10 vote in full committee this morning. Sometimes the legislature gives you a headace.