Public Comments for 01/21/2021 General Laws
HB1811 - Virginia Public Procurement Act; preference for energy-efficient and water-efficient goods.
Va. AEE SUPPORTS passage of HB. 1811. This smart legislation will help to ensure that the Commonwealth's government procures energy- and water-efficient products, helping save taxpayers money while supporting Virginia's energy efficiency industry. Va. AEE supports the underlying intent of HB. 2001 and the work the patron has done with stakeholders to continue refining this bill in order to ensure it achieves its objectives. We encourage the subcommittee to pass the legislation and look forward to working with the patron to ensure it garners broad support as it moves towards passage in the full Chamber.
HB1812 - Casino gaming; technical amendments.
HB1847 - Sports betting; clarifies certain procedures, determining if an event is considered a youth sport.
HB1931 - Virginia Freedom of Information Act; public body authorized to conduct electronic meetings.
I strongly support HB1931 which will allow public bodies to conduct electronic meetings more often after the pandemic. A good change in the world resulting from the need to quarantine or socially distance has been utilizing videoconferencing more. Although there are many times in which an in-person meeting is most valuable, videoconferencing permits attendance when attending in person might otherwise be impossible. When the pandemic is over, it will offer a choice. I’ve experienced many situations in which my workday extended longer than expected due to an essential need or the subway or other traffic made it difficult to get to a meeting in person. Videoconferencing means I can attend even in transit. In other situations, I’ve experienced conflicts, such as work being done in my home, not feeling well, needing to finish a deadline project, or more, and I was able to participate in a meeting because it was videoconferenced. Lastly, holding video conferences motivated me to attend more meetings therefore becoming more aware of what’s happening in my community and how I might participate further, vote or otherwise support, or share with others. Thank you.
As a member of the Vienna Town Council, I urge the House to pass this bill. The ability to legislate effectively via video connection has been demonstrated repeatedly during the COVID-19 epidemic. Because town council members barely get paid, working people must make great sacrifices to serve. Consequently, those elected skew towards those out of the workforce. Allowing local officials to zoom or teleconference in will make it easier for working men and women to do the job effectively. It is one small way of trying to enhance the representativeness of our locally elected officials.
As a regional body that serves all of Northern Virginia, please accept this comment in support of Delegate Levine's legislation to provide flexibility with respect to electronic meetings. On November 13, 2020 the Chairman of the Commission, the Honorable P. David Tarter, sent a letter to the FOIA Council in support of the effort to provide bodies such as ours greater flexibility with respect to this matter. The following is the text of that letter: November 13, 2020 Dear FOIA Council: As Chairman of the Northern Virginia Regional Commission please allow me to share the Commission’s support for the following changes: 1) Immediate action to remove the state-level cap on individual electronic participation by members of a public body while a quorum is physically present; 2) A study of how flexibility could be increased for electronic meetings outside of an emergency while maintaining access for the public; and 3) The codification of language that would allow public bodies to address any subject during emergency electronic meetings. Our 24 members hail from four counties, five cities, and four towns across Northern Virginia. Commissioners may spend 30-60 minutes traveling one-way to the meeting given our geographic composition and rush hour traffic conditions. We have seen a 35% increase in participation amongst our members since our meetings became virtual. Increasing flexibility for individual electronic participation would allow us to continue this positive trend. Our members have busy schedules with numerous meetings and events in their own jurisdictions. If another meeting even partially conflicts with ours, the time spent traveling to our meeting becomes a barrier to participation. The current language in § 2.2-3708.2 for regional bodies does not apply to us, as none of our members live more than 60 miles from the meeting location. We note that the Code requires a member’s location and reason for electronic participation to be included in the minutes and believe that public bodies should be able to determine for themselves what additional guidelines and restrictions on individual electronic participation are appropriate for their unique circumstances. We appreciate the value of in-person meetings and especially enjoy eating dinner together and building relationships that allow us to work together for the betterment of our region. We look forward to returning to in-person meetings once it is safe to do so within our meeting space. However, increased flexibility for individual participation, and - in the future - the ability to hold a completely electronic Subcommittee or full Committee meeting, would allow us to be more effective in addressing the needs of our region. Our members also expressed from their experiences within their jurisdictions that they have seen public participation increase since switching to electronic meetings. One Commissioner shared that her jurisdiction had been, prior to COVID, trying to stream their meetings online, but the technology to do so was prohibitively expensive. Because they are currently meeting on Zoom, this cost has been effectively eliminated and more members of the public are participating. For these reasons, we also support a study of how flexibility could be increased for electronic meetings outside of an emergency, as a majority of states already allow. Thank you for your kind consideration of our views. Sincerely, P. David Tarter Chairman
The Virginia Railway Express supports HB1931 (Levine) to grant greater flexibility for VRE Operations Board members to attend meetings virtually.
I write in support of HB 1931, which was recommended by the FOIA Council after study last year. The FOIA Council received a tremendous amount of public comment from across the Commonwealth from members of the public, members of advisory bodies, regional bodies, organizations like the American Association of University Women, and local elected officials in support of even broader changes. As discussed at the FOIA Council, this is an equity issue. Government meetings that require in-person participation limit the pool of citizens who can participate. For example, the FOIA Council heard from a married mother in Chesterfield who had to resign from the Youth Services Board because she faced child care challenges and a single mother in Falls Church who would love to serve her community but has not applied because of these restrictions. A resident of Chesapeake spoke about the negative effect of the law on military reservists. The public benefits from a government, including advisory bodies, that reflects its population and includes a diversity of voices and experiences, including those who have children, aging parents, and/or travel for work. For comparison, an overwhelming majority of other states do not place restrictions on individual electronic participation when there is a physical quorum. Virginia Code also requires the meeting minutes to include the member’s location and specific reason for participating remotely, which serves to hamper any potential misuse. Additionally, public bodies can decide whether or not to allow electronic participation at all and can govern it by adopting additional guidelines or restrictions suited to their circumstances and community. These modernizations are needed. Please support HB 1931. Thank you for your service.
The Northern Virginia Transportation Commission supports HB1931 (Levine) to grant greater flexibility for commission members to participate in meetings virtually.
I strongly support this bill and any similar legislation that would permit the option of virtual meeting participation. As we have seen last year, virtual participation allows more people to participate and it makes government more open, accessible and transparent. This supports the spirit of FOIA even more than does the current code. In the 21st Century being physically present is no longer necessary for transparency. In fact, current code now unnecessarily restricts participation to those with the time and ability to be physically present . I hope you will support HB1931
Thank you for the opportunity to signal my strong support for removing Commonwealth-imposed limits on how often members of public bodies may participate electronically, in favor of locally- or regionally- determined limits. Throughout the FOIA Council’s study of this bill, my colleagues on regional bodies, such as the Virginia Railway Express Operations Board and the Virginia Municipal League, as well as my fellow elected officials and residents, have endorsed reforms that would empower local communities and public bodies to determine the appropriate limits on electronic participation. Others have provided a compelling legal and policy basis for recommending these changes. I write to support their comments and to add my personal experience. I am Vice Chair of the Arlington County Board and a mother. In 2019, we welcomed our son two months prematurely in early March, just as the County Board began deliberations on Arlington’s FY20 budget. Participating in person was not feasible during his monthlong stay in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. During those weeks, the County Board held not just our regular meetings but also budget work sessions on important departmental issues multiple times a week. I quickly made use of the two virtual participation opportunities afforded for “personal matters” in the Code of Virginia, and for the rest of that month found myself frustratedly emailing questions to my colleagues to pose in these sessions, watching the livestream of the meetings and taking note of areas that needed follow-up commentary that I couldn’t offer in real time. I don’t believe that the public interest of my community was served by having one of its five County Board members sidelined, prevented from asking questions and barred from participating in the study of the budget by a prohibition on her virtual participation in the state code. I do believe that my community, like other communities, is served by having parents and women in elected and appointed office. Across Virginia, parents are managing the needs of children, and family members are juggling the care of aging loved ones and loved ones living with disabilities. Local and regional bodies, both elected and appointed, are better when they represent these diverse perspectives. I encourage you to empower our communities to make public service more accessible for all Virginians, and to achieve more representative, effective public policy as a result. Thank you for your service and for your consideration.
HB1931: On behalf of the City of Falls Church Council we support the bill as recommended from the FOIA Council. The following comments submitted then expand on why: From: Cindy Mester <Cmester@fallschurchva.gov> Date: Wed, Nov 18, 2020 at 2:20 PM Subject: City of Falls Church Comment to VA FOIA Council- Electronic Meetings To: firstname.lastname@example.org <email@example.com> Cc: Cindy Mester <Cmester@fallschurchva.gov> Comments submitted on behalf of the City of Falls Church Council. Dear FOIA Council Members: The City of Falls Church is fully committed to transparent public meeting along with well documented record keeping. Additionally, the adopted City Vision and Comprehensive Plan foundation cites the criticality for maximizing equitable and equality public participation, remove barriers and facilitate more representative, effective public policy. The City wants our advisory bodies to reflect the diversity of voices and lived experiences within our communities and firmly believe that the public benefits when their government reflects its population. This is relevant during the declared pandemic emergency but existed as a need prior to and will after the emergency. The City requests the removal of the Commonwealth-imposed limit on individual electronic participation by members of a public body to include elected governing bodies (jurisdictions and school district) as well as appointed Planning Commission, Boards and Commissions (AAB, EDA, Historical, Human Services) and Regional (NVTC, NVTA). At a minimum three specific recommendations we request positive action on: 1) Immediate action to remove the state-level cap on individual electronic participation by members of a public body while a quorum is physically present (i.e. to delete the last sentence of § 2.2-3708.2 (A)(1)(b) “Participation by a member pursuant to this subdivision is limited each calendar year to two meetings.”) 2) A study of how flexibility could be increased for electronic meetings outside of an emergency while maintaining access for the public; and 3) The codification of language that allows public bodies to address any subject during emergency electronic meetings. Thank you for your sincere consideration. Stay safe, Cindy Mester Cindy L. Mester, ICMA-CM Deputy City Manager/ Legislative Liaison 300 Park Avenue, Suite 203E Falls Church, VA 22046 phone: 703-248-5042 (TTY 711) cell: 571-641-5586 fax: 703-248-5146 email: firstname.lastname@example.org www.fallschurchva.gov
Dear Chair Carr and esteemed members, I’m Deb Wake, president of the League of Women Voters of Virginia. (LWV-VA). We support passage of HB1931, advancing expanded electronic participation in meetings of public bodies. LWV-VA is a nonprofit, nonpartisan membership organization founded in 1920. With 14 Local Leagues and thousands of members across Virginia, the League supports full representational rights for all eligible Virginia citizens and promotes policies that encourage voter participation and civic engagement. Virginia Code section 2.2-3708.2 limits electronic participation by members of a public body to two times per calendar year, unless the member has a severe medical condition. This discourages participation in public bodies by people who have obligations that render in-person participation infeasible more than two times per year, even if they have strong expertise and the ability to fulfill the other obligations of the office. This law limits such civic engagement by otherwise experienced and qualified people who work or commute during much of the day, travel extensively, or have a caregiving responsibility for other family members. It is worth noting that more than 75% of all caregivers are female, and they can spend as much as 50% more time providing care than males. The League of Women Voters of Virginia believes that democratic government depends on the informed and active participation of its citizens. We support civic education and participation, and we support equal rights for all under law. Please pass HB1931. Thank you.
Thank you for the opportunity to provide comments on HB 1931. As a member of the Falls Church City Council, I write in full support of HB 1931 to provide flexibility on individual electronic participation by members of a public body to include elected governing, appointed, and regional bodies. The public benefits from a government that reflects its population and includes a diversity of voices and experiences, including those who have children, aging parents, and/or have jobs that require travel. Over this year, we have learned how effective it can be for people to participate in meetings virtually. (1) One size does not fit all: Our City Council meets every Monday night, year round - a one size fits all cap of 2 meetings per year doesn't make sense compared to localities that meet on a different frequency. (2) Who is at the table: The current restriction disproportionately and adversely impacts participation of women, not to mention single parents, people of color, or those with less flexible jobs. Women are often the parent that must balance the demands of work, both inside and outside of the home, with caring for children and aging parents. I have seen first hand the current restrictions deter highly qualified and passionate would-be City Council and School Board candidates from vying for public office. (3) Electronic participation works: COVID has been an excellent test case that electronic participation has worked and will work in the future. Virtual meetings have come a long way. As a result, the work of local governments has continued, largely uninterrupted for nearly 11 months now. We have found that that engagement and attendance in meetings has actually increased from previous in person meetings. From our regional bodies, we have anecdotes that participation has increased, with traffic and work commitments no longer a barrier. Virtual participation has also been a boon for accessibility for our aging and disabled citizens who have the benefit of technology to help them enlarge text or amplify audio real time, as professed by one of our most tenured members on our library board of trustees. There are effective guardrails that will prevent abuse, and I'm confident public transparency will be maintained. At the end of the day, my constituents hold me accountable at the ballot box to make sure I am accessible, responsive, and an effective voice for them. Across Virginia, local jurisdictions work diligently to ensure there is diversity in our elected and appointed public bodies, reflective of the life experiences and circumstances of all in the Commonwealth. I truly believe that with more flexibility in electronic participation, we will create stronger communities with more committed and representative leaders. I encourage you to support HB 1931 as drafted to make public service more accessible for all Virginians. Thank you for your time and service.
The City of Alexandria supports efforts to make membership on public bodies more accessible to residents from all walks of life by expanding allowances for participation in meetings electronically. We are grateful to Delegate Levine for patroning HB 1931 and the City supports the expanded flexibility and opportunities provided in this legislation for members of public bodies to participate in meetings electronically when a physical quorum is in place.
I support this policy and it is supported by the Fairfax County Public Schools Legislative Program as follows: “The Fairfax County School Board supports granting local school boards and other local public bodies expanded authority to conduct electronic communication meetings, including removal of limitations on the remote participation of members.” (Legislative Program p.12, Item J.6) https://www.fcps.edu/sites/default/files/media/pdf/2021%20FCSB%20Legislative%20Program%20Approved.pdf Parity is needed across the diversity of public bodies since they have different workloads and schedules. Allowance to participate virtually only two times a month is very different among bodies that, for example, meet monthly and those that meet many times a month throughout the year. This is common workplace accommodation to tele-work is already offered by many government offices in Virginia, to care for sick relatives and also as a matter of doing business regularly. We’ve also seen during nearly 11 months of the pandemic that governance and representative democracy can work with allowance for electronic participation. Allowing for virtual participation in the specific circumstances noted actually increases the benefit to constituents, because their representatives are participating in a meeting, rather than missing it completely. The burden of sick care largely falls upon women, who already struggle to participate in elected office and civic duty. Allowing for virtual participation in the specific circumstances this legislation seeks will increase women’s presence in our democracy. Localizing this authority is consistent with Virginia’s approach in many governance issues. Localities should be allowed to decide how its members use opportunities to participate electronically per the law, which includes using this new legislative flexibility, or opting not to use it. Thank you.
The Virginia Press Association has strong concerns with HB 1931 (Levine). While we have no objections to allowing electronic participation when taking care of a sick family member, we do NOT support changing current law to allow electronic participation up to 25% of the time due to the members’ inability to attend because of a personal matter. Instead, VPA has been consistent in our support for a comprehensive study of electronic meetings during 2021 after the regular session, rather than a piecemeal approach (unrelated to the public health emergency) to this complex and intricate matter involving countless public bodies. We note that the FOIA Advisory Council’s electronic meetings subcommittee already voted to extend its business into 2021, when this matter can be taken up more deliberatively.
HB1943 - Charitable Gaming Board; regulations, electronic pull tabs.
The Virginia Equine Alliance is monitoring this and all other gaming related legislation. We ask that during this short session the General Assembly consider each bill’s impact on the Commonwealth's overall gaming universe.
We appreciate Delegate Willett's legislation, and Grover Gaming fully supports this effort. House Bill 1943 makes a minor adjustment in the statute that allows electronic pull tab machine manufacturers to split game elements between multiple screens. It does not change any of the restrictions placed upon the gaming rules or what graphics can appear on those screens.
HB1944 - Casino gaming; requirements for issuance of operator's license, human trafficking training.
Dear Members of the General Laws/ABC-Gaming Subcommittee: I am writing to express my support for HB1944 and respectfully ask that you vote in favor of this simple but powerful bill. The goal of this bill is to ensure that the economic benefits that casinos can bring to communities are not overshadowed by the risks and costs associated with gambling criminal activity that can be associated with casinos. Let me share just two studies with you: • A 2010 study published in the UNLV Gaming Research & Review Journal found in a survey of over 6,000 people that casino patrons were 17 percent more likely than the average survey respondent to have paid for sex in the past year and problem gamblers were 260 percent more likely to do so. • This finding is corroborated by a large field study of prostituted youth in Atlantic City, conducted by a research team from the John Jay College of Criminal Justice. The direct connection between child sex trafficking and casinos was addressed incidentally in their 2016 report: Interviewed youth in the sex trade "reported that they either obtained customers ‘on the street’ (61 percent); through referrals (22 percent); at strip clubs, other clubs or bars, in casinos, or at private parties (29 percent); or via the internet (13 percent).” As the Executive Director of a regional anti-human trafficking nonprofit in Hampton Roads, I can tell you that human trafficking is already a very real issue in our community, based on the growing number of clients we are serving. Despite the pandemic, in 2020 VBJI served 160 adult victims of human trafficking and sexual exploitation, representing a 22% increase over 2019. And this doesn't include the number of minor trafficking victims, served by other organizations in our community. Virginia currently ranks 16th in the nation in the most reported cases annually (Polaris, 2019). And casinos, like other legitimate businesses, can be used by traffickers for nefarious purposes. VBJI provides regular industry-specific training for organizations that may come into contact with potential trafficking victims, including local airports and hospitals, among others. We would welcome the opportunity to partner with the new casinos to help develop and/or provide training, so that their employees will be equipped and empowered to help prevent human trafficking in our region. HB1944 would require casinos to have a policy for anti-human trafficking training for its employees as a condition of licensure. As such, this bill would have no fiscal impact on the Commonwealth and would position casinos as responsible gaming institutions committed to delivering on the economic upsides of the industry while minimizing the associated criminal activity that has been documented in other states. I encourage you to recommend swift passage of this bill and appreciate your consideration of this testimony.
Human trafficking is the second-largest and fastest-growing criminal industry in the world, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Although Virginia has passed some legislation in recent years to combat human trafficking, more work remains to be done; the State Crime Commission reports that “commercial sex trafficking is a serious problem in Virginia.” The legalization of casinos in some Virginia cities, although important for economic development and opportunity, adds another layer to the challenge of ending human trafficking, particularly sex trafficking. According to Annie Sovcik, director of Busing on the Lookout, “traffickers using casinos as a meeting place for buyers… particularly when the casino is combined with a hotel.” But casinos can also provide an opportunity for victims of trafficking to seek help or escape their traffickers, if casino staff are properly trained. These trainings have already proven effective in the airline industry; since 2016, flight attendants have been trained to recognize and report signs of human trafficking (including clothing, behavior, and relationship with traveling companions). Mandating such trainings for public-facing casino workers is an important step in combatting human trafficking in Virginia, and in making sure that the new casinos support the economies of their communities without becoming human trafficking hotspots. For this reason, we urge all committee members to support HB 1944, which mandates anti-human-trafficking training for public-facing casino workers. -Students for Equity and Reform in Virginia (SERV) Tessa Danehy, President Hayden Ratliff, Dhruv Rungta, Kristin O’Donoghue, Alexandra Hartman, Patrick Cloud, Madeleine Green, Cole Davidson, Austin McNichols, Priya Viswanathan, Ciara Tisdale-Vakos, Theresa Ho, Neha Krishnakumar, Hayes Miller, Gabby Jefferson, Sona Kalatardi, Jack Melman-Rogers, Stella Banino
HB1966 - Sports betting; mandatory permit issuance to certain casino operators.
HB1996 - Va Public Procurement Act; determination of responsibility, etc.
I am Fred Codding of 10382 Main Street, Fairfax, Virginia 22030. I represent the Iron Workers Employers Association as well as the organizations which are part of the Alliance for Construction Excellence (ACE). Those organizations include Chapters of the National Electrical Contractors, Mechanical Contractors, Sheet Metal Contractors, the American Subcontractors Association and the Iron Worker Employers Association. Those organizations and their members have offices and projects throughout the Commonwealth, from the Eastern Shore to the Western Mountains, through the Valley and from Hampton Roads to Northern Virginia. Members of the Iron Workers Employers Association itself supply and install structural steel, window wall, curtain wall, reinforcing steel and related products throughout the Commonwealth We support House Bill 1996 which amends the Virginia Public Procurement Act by deleting the required acceptance of a bidder who is prequalified by the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) in determining responsible bidders per Section 2.2-4301. There are numerous instances in many localities where VDOT prequalified contractors have been found to be major violators of safety and wage laws. Those jurisdictions include Arlington County and Fairfax County. We request your approval of House Bill 1996
HB2001 - State and local buildings, certain; building standards.
State buildings are a key element of the Commonwealth's infrastructure. By applying high-performing building standards to its buildings, the state can provide better quality, healthier, and more resilient spaces, conserve energy and water, reduce associated GHG emissions, and reduce utility costs. Virginia has embraced green building, with the Commonwealth recognized in the Top 10 States for LEED-certified buildings in the most recent year announced (#7 in 2019). While imperfect, the substitute bill being offered today adds to the current law, the High Performing Building Act, in several key ways. The substitute adds forward-looking EV ready infrastructure. The sub also provides a documented and accountable exemption process. The sub also requires agencies to reporting on several building outcomes as a one-time step to providing important information to help the Commonwealth continue to improve its building performance. We do urge replacing the phase “obtain prior written approval from” on page 2, line 39 with “notify” as it should not be burdensome for a state project to build exemplary buildings exceeding the standard. We see this state buildings part of the sub as a first step toward improving the state high performing building program to enable the state to make bigger gains in utility cost savings as well as improve resilience. In the near future, updating the VEES standard, which relies on a 2012 code, is essential, as well as adding resilience features. A more robust reporting program integrated with state benchmarking is also a critical next step for accountability and continuous improvement. The substitute bill also expands the high performing building program to local governments. With technical support from state agencies, local governments could benefit from green building. Recognizing that some local governments in Virginia do, and others do not currently use green building, the sub bill provides an exemption process in the control of the local government (e.g., state approval is not required), and also allows an easier option for buildings between 5,000 and 20,000 s.f. For jurisdictions with their own high performing building program, the sub provides for the use of local programs that exceed the bill's standards in lieu of the state standard. Nonetheless, we understand that some local governments will be concerned about an additional requirement and perceived cost. We encourage the state to provide ample education, technical assistance, and case studies to support local government in implementing green building. We note additionally that some Federal stimulus proposals include funding for local governments for school construction, and include green building, and the program in today's sub bill would help position for that Federal program should it pass into law. We support the substitute bill as better than existing law, and ask the subcommittee to advance it as offered. Thank you for your consideration.
On behalf of the Virginia League of Conservation Voters, we SUPPORT HB2001 and thank Delegate Helmer for bringing this bill forward. The transportation sector is responsible for 48% of carbon emissions in Virginia, Gas & diesel vehicle emissions also greatly harm air quality and public health. This bill affords the Commonwealth and its localities an opportunity to lead on transportation electrification by making prudent public investments in charging infrastructure that will encourage private sector engagement. Tackling energy waste and emissions also requires that when we build, we do so mindful of the lifecycle costs and environmental impact of projects constructed with taxpayer dollars. This bill provides agencies, institutions, and localities with the chance to adopt building standards that improve energy efficiency, decrease carbon emissions, and save money. Thank you for your time and consideration.
On behalf of the Virginia Energy Efficiency Council, I am writing in favor of Delegate Helmer's HB2001. This bill, if passed, will improve the building performance standards for state-owned public buildings while also setting a building performance metric for locality-owned public buildings. We appreciate the delegate's willingness to work with us and our members to make changes to the original version. We hope it is the committee's will to pass HB 2001. Sincerely, Chelsea Harnish Executive Director VA Energy Efficiency Council
The Virginia Association of School Superintendents feels that if this bill applies to school boards , then it could significantly increase the potential cost of construction and renovation of school buildings. This particularly true for small and rural schools. Thank you, Dr. Tom Smith VASS
My name is Charles Gerena and I am a Chesterfield County resident and proud owner of an electric vehicle since January 2014. I consider myself to be very fortunate. Thanks to my income and the fact that I own a home, I have been able to reap the benefits of transportation electrification. My Nissan LEAF emits no pollution, making the air around me cleaner, even when I’m sitting in traffic. I have saved money on maintenance from all of the fan belts and spark plugs and other parts in an internal combustion engine that I haven’t had to replace. I have saved money on fuel since electricity is far cheaper than gasoline and less volatile. And, most importantly, I have done my part to save the planet from the worst effects of climate change. That is why I am asking you to help broaden the benefits of transportation electrification to state and local governments. HB 2001 would ensure that major construction and renovation projects undertaken with taxpayers’ money can meet future fleet electrification, energy efficiency, and carbon reduction goals established through legislation (like the Virginia Clean Economy Act) and executive action (like the Virginia Energy Plan). Such “future proofing” is often cheaper than retrofitting buildings to meet such goals, especially when it comes to the installation of charging infrastructure. In addition to the benefits I have already mentioned, fleet electrification would be in Virginia’s best interest because it would increase consumer awareness of EV technology as government workers interact with the general public. It would also get more drivers behind the wheels of EVs, essentially creating an on-going test drive program. Some local governments may tell you that this bill amounts to an “unfunded mandate.” The state can decide for themselves how they want to spend their revenue, but why should cities and counties be required to install charging infrastructure? If a local government can’t afford to install charging stations right away, its representatives can opt for putting in the conduit and wiring to install stations later. If they can’t afford that level of “EV readiness,” they can apply for an exemption from the bill’s requirements. Regardless, making the installation of such infrastructure the default consideration for a major construction or renovation project will make it more likely to happen in the first place. Some fleet operators never consider electrification because no one talks about it. In sum, I ask that the subcommittee vote to move HB 2001 to the full committee for consideration. Thank you for your time, and thank you for all that you do on behalf of the Commonwealth of Virginia.
Thanks for taking the time to read my email.
Sierra Club Virginia Chapter supports HB2001.
State buildings are a key element of the Commonwealth's infrastructure. By applying high-performing building standards to its buildings, the state can provide better quality, healthier, and more resilient spaces, conserve energy and water, reduce associated GHG emissions, and reduce utility costs. Virginia has embraced green building, with the Commonwealth recognized in the Top 10 States for LEED-certified buildings in the most recent year announced (#7 in 2019). Delegate Helmer's bill strengthens the current law, the High Performing Building Act, in several key ways. The bill as passed out of subcommittee clarifies the requirements, adds forward-looking zero emission vehicle and EV-ready infrastructure, and allows (not requires) state agencies to include resilience and on-site energy features on their projects. The sub also provides a documented and accountable exemption process. Importantly the sub also provides for periodic reporting on implementation outcomes, which will yield important information to help the Commonwealth continue to improve its building performance. The bill also expands the high performing building program to local governments. Technical support from state agencies will be essential to help all local governments understand, apply, and benefit from green building. Recognizing that some local governments in Virginia do not currently use green building, the bill provides an exemption process in the control of the local government (e.g., state approval is not required), and also allows an easier option for buildings between 5,000 and 20,000 s.f. These aspects of the proposed program could weaken the outcomes but are intended to allow local governments flexibility and stronger standards could be added by amendment in the future. For jurisdictions with their own high performing building program, the bill provides for the use of local programs that exceed the bill's standards in lieu of the state standard and alleviates them of any reporting or other burden. Nonetheless, we understand that some local governments will be concerned about an additional requirement and perceived cost. We encourage the state to provide ample education, technical assistance, and case studies to support local government in implementing green building. We note additionally that some Federal stimulus proposals include funding for local governments for school construction, and include green building, and the program in today's bill would help position for that Federal program should it pass into law. We support the bill and ask the committee to advance it as offered. Thank you for your consideration.
Dear Members of the Committee: I am writing to request the Committee favorably report HB 2001 Building standards for certain state and local buildings. Many steps are needed to address the issue of carbon emissions, a serious challenge facing this state in the next decade. Actions need to be taken now, and this bill provides a specific opportunity to take one of those steps. HB 2001 addresses an important component of reducing carbon emissions: the expansion of electric vehicle ownership. Transportation causes almost half of Virginia’s CO2 emissions, and 70% of that amount comes from personal vehicles alone, according to data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Owners of Electric vehicles, however, need access to charging stations. This bill supports that need. Therefore, I request that you move this bill forward. Thank you.
State buildings are a key element of the Commonwealth's infrastructure. By applying high-performing building standards to its buildings, the state can provide better quality, healthier, and more resilient spaces, conserve energy and water, reduce associated GHG emissions, and reduce utility costs. Virginia has embraced green building, with the Commonwealth recognized in the Top 10 States for LEED-certified buildings in the most recent year announced (#7 in 2019). Delegate Helmer's bill strengthens the current law, the High Performing Building Act, in several key ways. The substitute bill being offered today clarifies the requirements, adds forward-looking zero emission vehicle and EV-ready infrastructure, and allows (not requires) state agencies to include resilience and on-site energy features on their projects. The sub also provides a documented and accountable exemption process. Importantly the sub also provides for periodic reporting on implementation outcomes, providing important information to help the Commonwealth continue to improve its building performance. The substitute bill also expands the high performing building program to local governments. With technical support from state agencies, local governments could benefit from green building. Recognizing that local governments in Virginia do not currently use green building, the sub bill provides an exemption process in the control of the local government (e.g., state approval is not required), and also allows an easier option for buildings between 5,000 and 20,000 s.f. For jurisdictions with their own high performing building program, the sub provides for the use of local programs that exceed the bill's standards in lieu of the state standard. Nonetheless, we understand that some local governments will be concerned about an additional requirement and perceived cost. We encourage the state to provide ample education, technical assistance, and case studies to support local government in implementing green building. We note additionally that some Federal stimulus proposals include funding for local governments for school construction, and include green building, and the program in today's sub bill would help position for that Federal program should it pass into law. We support the substitute bill and ask the subcommittee to advance it as offered. Thank you for your consideration.
HB2001: On behalf of City Council I wanted to advise you of concerns the City of Falls Church (CFC) has regarding HB2001 Procurement Bill related to design certain buildings and renovations with Virginia Energy Conservation and Environmental Standards. CFC has a strong commitment to environmental sustainability from stormwater to energy. CFC has adopted WMCOG’s GHG emission reduction goals and has adopted LEED Silver with Energy Star ratings for all public facilities. The recently renovated City Hall was just awarded LEED Silver and the Public Library current project score card indicates Silver as well. The just open new high school is net zero ready. That said we do believe the choice of standards should be locally determined, new standards such as these should go thru the normal building code development and review and design/construction state mandates such, even for such a worthy goal should be funded by the state. On a final note many localities, including CFC, would have to hire an outside consultant to conduct the requires exception cost analysis. Thank you for the consideration of these points. Cindy L. Mester, ICMA-CM Deputy City Manager 300 Park Avenue, Suite 203E Falls Church, VA 22046 phone: 703-248-5042 (TTY 711) cell: 571-641-5586 email: email@example.com
Va. AEE SUPPORTS passage of HB. 1811. This smart legislation will help to ensure that the Commonwealth's government procures energy- and water-efficient products, helping save taxpayers money while supporting Virginia's energy efficiency industry. Va. AEE supports the underlying intent of HB. 2001 and the work the patron has done with stakeholders to continue refining this bill in order to ensure it achieves its objectives. We encourage the subcommittee to pass the legislation and look forward to working with the patron to ensure it garners broad support as it moves towards passage in the full Chamber.
I support this legislation and it is in line with the Fairfax County Public Schools Legislative Program: “The Fairfax County School Board supports efforts to reduce the County’s greenhouse gas emissions and operational demand for energy through efficiency, conservation, renewable energy, and education; state incentives, opportunities, and targeted goals for the expansion of renewable energy and energy efficiency; and net-zero construction; and removing existing barriers to such efforts.” (Legislative Program, Item I 1) Thank you, Melanie Meren Member, Fairfax County School Board, Hunter Mill district
HB2004 - Virginia Freedom of Information Act; law-enforcement criminal incident information, criminal files.
My name is Jolicia Ward, and I am an Advocate for Demario Joyner, an innocent seventeen-year-old African American teenager shot in the back of head by Virginia Beach Police Officer Robert C. Ernest after running from gun shots at a local party held at The Beach House in Virginia Beach, Virginia on January 16, 2005. Since January 16, 2005, Demario’s family has been completely stripped of their civil rights. Demario’s lifeless body was left hanging on a fence for over six hours with no immediate medical care. Demario’s family stated that they believe if he would have received medical attention with in the first thirty minutes, he could of possibly survived. Demario’s family was also not allowed to identify his body at all through the entire process. The Virginia Beach Police Department and The City of Virginia Beach never communicated with Demario’s family at all during the entire medical examination process and investigation process. Demario’s family was left without a son, without a brother and no answers why. Demario’s family is ready to fight for justice and I am leading the way. Delegate Stephen Heretick requested the police report of Demario Joyner to help with the assistance of redrafting a proposal. I contacted the Virginia Beach Police Department via phone Tuesday, August 18, 2020 and an Officer stated that Demario Joyner’s case was an investigation case, and they can only release the report to the next legal kin on the death certificate with a valid driver’s license and death certificate. Darlene Taylor goes up to The Virginia Beach Police Department in person with the proper documentation on August 25, 2020 and The Virginia Beach Police Department stated they purged his record which I believe is false and is another violation of his family’s civil right. Now we have no police report to give to Delegate Heretick which is what he specifically requested to redraft this legislation in Demario’s honor. Delegate Heretick stated he does not understand exactly how he could request and receive a copy of the police report if Demario’s mother cannot obtain one. He then made myself aware of HB2004 sponsored by Delegate Hurst that could address this problem by requiring law enforcement to release information about cases once investigations are closed. This is a critical and important bill for the state of Virginia. Without HB2004, these are the type of situations families in the very community that all of us live in will be suffering from. They would continue to be humiliated and stripped of their God given civil rights. HB2004 has the power to save the lives of thousands and bring justice home to those who have been living a long time without it. Please pass HB2004 as it will have an overall powerful positive impact in the criminal justice system.
Greetings: My name is Jarrett Adams, and I am a criminal defense and civil rights attorney based in Manhattan, New York. I practice in federal and state courts throughout the country to defend clients claiming actual innocence, in various phases of criminal proceedings. I provide this letter in support of Bill #HB2004, and to give an example of how impactful the power of transparency is for justice in any aspect of the criminal justice system. In 2016, I co-founded the non-profit Life After Justice to advocate for the rights and release of wrongfully convicted individuals and support them through re-entry afterwards. I was inspired to start Life After Justice after my own journey of a false accusation leading to my conviction and incarceration. I was exonerated roughly 10 years after I was sentenced, and ultimately found redemption. Due to my personal and professional experiences, I am aware of how imperative it is to reinvestigate cases to exhaustion after conviction. People’s lives do not stop once they are convicted, and it is our societal duty to ensure that all claims of wrongful conduct are thoroughly investigated. This is only feasible through the release of complete investigative files. I support Bill #HB2004 regarding the release of information for closed cases because I am one of thousands of advocates that rely on meticulous and far-reaching post-conviction investigations in order to do my job effectively. Currently, I am working to secure the release of two innocent Virginia men from federal custody. See (https://richmond.com/news/state-and-regional/jury-acquitted-two-men-in-1998-murder-of-waverly- police-officer-but-both-serving-life/article_94253acf-22d0-59d7-806e-0ed27b8f40ef.html) and (https://www.change.org/p/sussex-county-commonwealth-attorney-terrence-richardson-and-ferrone- claiborne-have-been-wrongfully-incarcerated-for-20-years-801c7893-88a9-4335-8472- 4acd680f1cde?recruiter=1525985&recruited_by_id=a2a41f60-d02c-012f-1e60-40401bfb75). Proving both men’s innocence has been a challenge, especially since the state police refuse to allow access to the criminal file that may hold more evidence of innocence. After filing FOIA requests that were ultimately denied, I was only able to obtain pertinent information about the case through happenstance—old files that were dumped in a facility's storage after an unsuccessful post-conviction hearing. Through reviewing these old files, I discovered new evidence pointing to Mr. Richardson’s and Mr. Claiborne’s innocence. These documents revealed statements from a witness that provided a description of the perpetrator that did not match the two men, and record of an anonymous tip naming an alternate suspect. None of this information was disclosed to Mr. Richardson’s and Mr. Claiborne’s attorneys at the time of trial. It is preposterous and completely unjust that coincidence delivered the documents that I previously requested through FOIA. The current barrier to accessing information is a threat to the integrity of the criminal justice system and must be repaired at once. If the practice of restricting access to criminal files continues, innocent men and women may die in prison never having a chance to prove their innocence, thus imposing a separate and cruel form of punishment. Passing Bill #HB2004 would be a most appropriate step in preventing such an injustice. Sincerely, ___________________ Jarrett Adams, Esq.
Robert Bryan Haskins. Commonwealth’s Attorney for Pittsylvania County. I am writing on behalf of the Virginia Association of Commonwealth’s Attorneys (VACA) to address the fiscal impact of HB 2004. VACA is opposed to HB 2004 because Commonwealth’s Attorneys do not have the resources to handle the obligations imposed by the bill. Virginia FOIA law contemplates a five day turnaround to comply with a FOIA demand. This time frame contemplates a process whereby a request is responded to by copying papers, video, and audio and mailing them out as a package to the requestor. This cannot be the process with the many redactions required for criminal investigative files, and Commonwealth’s Attorneys simply do not have the staff or resources to manage this redaction process. It is one thing to say there will be no fiscal impact because Commonwealth’s Attorneys can charge reasonable copying fees. This argument misses the point of who will have abandon their current caseload to do work. Countless hours will be spent reviewing every document, every video, and every audio recording to redact all references to the victim and to redact information which other statutes require not to be released. For cases older than 5 years we will need to find VRCs just to watch the video much less edit the tapes. These redactions require legal interpretation of the FOIA statutes and how they interact with other law enforcement records privacy statutes found elsewhere within the code. The workload of file review and redaction cannot be delegated to an already burdened administrative assistant. The hours of work required will fall on the attorneys who are already either in court fighting today’s cases or out of court preparing for tomorrow’s cases. If HB 2004 passes there will be a rush to demand files from the media, the friends of defendants, and the simply curious. Without proper funding and staffing these FOIA requests will cripple our ability to help today’s victims because we are having to spend our time reviewing and redacting yesterday’s cases. VACA respectfully submits that HB 2004 is advancing without any consideration of the impact on the workload of Commonwealth’s Attorney’s offices. VACA submits that a study is needed before anyone can responsibly predict this bill’s impact on the operations of our offices. For the reasons stated above VACA respectfully opposes HB 2004.
The Virginia Coalition for Open Government supports HB2004. Records in a criminal investigative file have been generated, created and maintained because they have value to the agency that has them. They reflect the work of the law enforcement agency or state department. They have value to the public, too. We whose taxes fund these offices. We who have given our consent to be governed. And we who are impacted by that governance. These records have little value to us as a means of oversight if we cannot access them. Law enforcement has an interest in transparency, too. The records can refute a claim of malfeasance or prove that decisive action was taken when things went wrong. They can corroborate competence or adherence to policy. They can tell the story of the hard work that went into solving or pursuing a case. Other states around the country — from “red” Louisiana to “blue” Connecticut — and the federal government allow access to a far larger pool of criminal investigative files than Virginia does. And they do so without compromising the integrity of the records or the safety of law enforcement personnel. Please support HB 2004 and lift the curtain on the work of this part of the criminal justice system.
The Innocence Project at University of Virginia (UVA) School of Law, Mid-Atlantic Innocence Project (MAIP) and national Innocence Project make up the Virginia Innocence Coalition, which advocates for policies that address and prevent wrongful convictions. The Virginia Innocence Coalition strongly supports House Bill 2004. We thank Delegate Hurst and the Virginia Freedom of Information Act Council for developing this legislation. While the majority of states (32) and the federal government permit public access to inactive criminal investigative files, Virginia gives police agencies complete discretion about whether to release this information. Agencies frequently deny requests, leaving crime victims without closure, police-shooting victims without justice, and wrongfully convicted people without a way to prove innocence. House Bill 2004 would fix the broken law by presuming public access to inactive criminal investigative files, unless any of six exemptions apply. House Bill 2004 is based on the federal Freedom of Information Act. The federal model is used in 12 other states. The proposal balances the public’s right to know with protections for ongoing investigations, privacy and safety. The bill would: -Presume public access to criminal investigative files for law enforcement investigations or proceedings that are not considered “ongoing.” -Define an “ongoing” investigation or proceeding as one in which the case has not been finally adjudicated, evidence continues to be gathered, and the case would be jeopardized with premature release of the information. -Allows custodian to withhold criminal investigative files based on six exemptions for: 1) Interference with an ongoing law enforcement investigation or proceeding; 2) Deprivation of the right to a fair trial; 3) Unwarranted invasion of personal privacy; 4) Disclosure of identity of a confidential informant, 5) Disclosure of law enforcement technique or procedure that could risk circumvention of the law; 6) Endangerment of life or safety of an individual. This proposal is critical to meet demands for police accountability and racial justice. Innocence organizations are regularly forced to close wrongful conviction investigations because police agencies deny access to old case files. For example, a corrupt police officer framed four innocent sailors in the “Norfolk Four” case and is now in federal prison for other crimes. Innocence organizations are unable to review other cases in which the detective may have framed innocent people because requests for investigative files have been rejected by the Norfolk Police Department. Mandating release of these records will help overturn wrongful convictions and detect the actual perpetrators. It is also critical for victims. The Virginia Beach Police Department completed its investigation into last year’s mass shooting that killed 12 people at the city municipal center. The department is denying requests from victims’ families for the complete investigative files. Providing victims with access to this information will help answer questions about what happened to their loved ones.
The Virginia Press Association supports HB 2004 (Hurst). We join with open government advocates in ensuring that citizens and the press have access to criminal incident information for responsible journalism. We thank Delegate Hurst and all stakeholders for their work on this bill.
The goal of the legislation is to establish a mechanism that requires release of some criminal investigative files in some instances. The purpose is not to throw open the doors wide to any and every disclosure, but it is to understand that there is public interest and public value — through accountability — in records that are no longer part of an open, active investigation. Records in a criminal investigative file have been generated, created and maintained because they have value to the agency that has them. They reflect the work of the law enforcement agency or state department. They have value to the public, too. We whose taxes fund these offices. We who have given our consent to be governed. And we who are impacted by that governance. But these records have little value to us as a means of oversight if we cannot access them. There are defendants, victims, families of both, media, researchers, academics, civil rights advocates, attorneys, former officers, and others who have interest in these files. The public has an interest in monitoring the work of the government. The government with a very difficult and delicate job to do, but the government with extraordinary power over individuals and communities. And law enforcement. They too have an interest in transparency. The records can refute a claim of malfeasance or prove that decisive action was taken when things went wrong. They can corroborate competence or adherence to policy. They can tell the story of the hard work that went into solving or pursuing a case. Attempts to open up the records relating to policing, prosecuting and punishing people have been fought under a doomsday scenario that sees access to records and the information contained in them as a tool for new or additional wrongdoing. Records will be manipulated or altered. Records will jeopardize some other possible prosecution some time in the future. Records will be used to harm officers. Records will be quoted out of context. Or, the public doesn’t have the ability to understand what’s in the records. But make no mistake: other states around the country — from “red” Louisiana to “blue” Connecticut — and the federal government -- allow access to a far larger pool of criminal investigative files than Virginia does. And they do so without compromising the integrity of the records or the safety of law enforcement personnel. Please support HB 2004 and lift the curtain on the work of this part of the criminal justice system.
HB2025 - Virginia FOIA; record exclusion for personal contact information provided to a public body.
I support this policy and it is in line with the Fairfax County Public Schools Legislative Program: “The FCSB supports the creation of a “third party disclosure” FOIA exemption that would allow for the redaction of private information from emails that would not otherwise be subject to FOIA except for the fact they had been forwarded to an email address subject to FOIA.” (Legislative Program p.12, Item J.3) https://www.fcps.edu/sites/default/files/media/pdf/2021%20FCSB%20Legislative%20Program%20Approved.pdf It is a needed adjustment for privacy protections. Thank you, Melanie Meren Member, Fairfax County School Board, Hunter Mill District
VCOG does not oppose the original purpose of the bill, as requested by Loudoun County, to extend 2.2-3705.1(10). But VCOG does oppose the so-called "opt-in" language on lines 73-75 (which was added by the FOIA committee on phishing) and asks that it be stricken from the bill. FOIA’s entire presumption — as stated in § 2.2-3700 — is that all public records are open unless an exemption applies. That is what the opt-out provision in the current exemption does. Opt IN flips this presumption. Now, a record will be off limits unless a person has opted IN to allow disclosure. In addition to undermining FOIA's basic presumption, ff opt-in is to become pervasive, individuals operating in either their personal or professional capacity could interact with and attempt to influence government without their identities being made known. Finally, there is no evidence that access to government email distribution lists are related to phishing attacks. The State Police and VITA both testified to the FOIA Council's Phishing Subcommittee in 2019 that contact data used in phishing attacks comes from the Dark Web and data scrapers that hack into both commercial and government servers, NOT from FOIA requests.
The Virginia Press Association has strong concerns with HB 2025 (Gooditis). While we have no objections to adding “or any of its members” to the current FOIA exclusion, we do NOT support changing current law to require the recipient of electronic communications to indicate his approval for the public body to disclose such information. Current law requires the electronic mail recipient to request the public body not to disclose his personal contact information in order for the information to be exempt from mandatory disclosure. This provision in current law should be maintained for consistency with open government principles, clarity of recipient/requester intent, and ease of interaction between the requester and the public body. We also note that there is no evidence of a link between FOIA and phishing attacks, so this part of the bill is not necessary.
Loudoun County respectfully requests the subcommittee to please support this legislation. This bill excludes from mandatory FOIA disclosure personal contact information given by citizens to a public body or any of its members to receive communications from the public body or members unless the citizen opts to allow the public body to disclose that contact information. "Personal contact information," as defined in current law, means information given by citizens to a public body so they can get communications from the public body. The term includes home or business (i) address, (ii) email address, or (iii) telephone number or comparable number assigned to any other electronic communication devise. This bill would protect citizens' contact information that can currently be obtained by someone wanting to use it for phishing or other malicious reasons. This bill extends current disclosure exemption for citizens' personal contact information given to a public body, to cover similar information when given to an individual member of the public body. This bill is a recommendation of the Virginia Freedom of Information Advisory Council.
What the bill does: Excludes from mandatory FOIA disclosure personal contact information given by a citizen to a public body or any of its members to receive communications from the public body or member, unless the citizen opts to allow the public body to disclose that contact information. "Personal contact information," as defined in current law, means information given by citizens to a public body so they can get communications from the public body. The term includes home or business (i) address, (ii) email address, or (iii) telephone number or comparable number assigned to any other electronic communication device. This bill: • would protect citizens’ contact information that can currently be obtained by someone wanting to use it for phishing or other malicious reasons. • is a recommendation of the Virginia Freedom of Information Advisory Council. • extends current disclosure exemption for citizens’ personal contact information given to a public body, to cover similar information when given to an individual member of the public body.