Press Release: Virginia House and Senate Amend Legislation; Stopping Short-Circuit of Local Voice in Infrastructure Zoning

Executive director says: “PWC Local officials came up big; Delegate Habeeb compromised; Senator Stanley looked small.”

Haymarket, Virginia (February 17, 2017) – Local state and county-elected officials joined with the Coalition to Protect Prince William County to contain damage from a “Trojan Horse” bill designed to short circuit local participation in utility-related zoning and land use regulation.

Coalition executive director Elena Schlossberg stated, “As always, I stand in awe of what our community can do when we speak with one voice. This was high drama in the General Assembly. Thanks to Senator Richard Stuart’s amendment, the Senate version of the bill, which passed on Thursday, February 16, excludes Prince William County.  On Friday, February 17, Delegate Habeeb agreed to and gained passage of an identical amendment to the House bill.  And the desire to properly limit the bill is so widespread that voting on the final bill has been held over until Monday, February 20, so that other Delegates may consider exempting their relevant planning district.  We believe every district should take this opportunity to add this additional layer of protection for themselves to the proposed legislation.”

Senator Stuart told his constituents and Coalition supporters, “Over the course of my nine years in the Virginia Senate, I have never received as many emails on one single issue as I did on SB 1110 and HB 1766. This legislation was unsettling to me because it could have opened a door to a part of my district that has been battling a certain utilities group for years. I am glad that the Senate accepted my floor amendment and ultimately passed the bill that completely exempts Prince William County.”

“This controversy is not over until identical bills sit on the governor’s desk and receive his signature,” Schlossberg continued. “But thanks to Senator Stuart and Delegate Habeeb, it looks like – at a minimum – citizens of Prince William County can breathe a little easier. It’s up to the full House of Delegates now.”

“None of this would have happened without the tireless – and tough – hours put in by our own state and local leaders, including Delegate Bob Marshall and County Board of Supervisors vice chairman Jeanine Lawson, as well as volunteers from the Coalition. These dedicated individuals worked against intense time pressure and sometimes virulent opposition to serve their constituents and neighbors.”

Schlossberg added, “It’s clear to me that many Virginia legislators are starting to realize what the Coalition and others have known for a long time – that no piece of legislation which exempts regulated utilities with deep pockets from reasonable regulation can be regarded neutrally. That’s not being cynical. It’s common sense.”

“I must exclude Senator Stanley from that group, however,” Schlossberg went on. “His outbursts – and frankly tantrums – during testimony and voting on the Senate floor, were beneath the dignity of his office. He may not agree with the majority of his colleagues that the original bill left doors open which needed to be closed. That’s his right. But the way in which he expressed his opinion suggests doors aren’t the only thing sometimes better left shut.”

Schlossberg concluded, “Still, we are close to securing a win for our community. We urge the House of Delegates to join their Senate colleagues and pass the amended SB 1110. You know what’s right.”

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