Lawmakers hear county’s legislative agenda

The Virginia General Assembly will be back in session soon and the county’s Board of Supervisors hopes their priorities will be addressed this year.

But local legislators believe some aspects of the supervisors’ legislative agenda are not realistic.

At a Nov. 21 meeting where three supervisors met with state legislators, the board proposed a number of items that would require the state government to provide localities like Hanover with the necessary funding.

Supervisors want a change to Virginia  Code that would not require a witness, who was subpoenaed to appear in court and was given less than five days notice, to be forced to go to court unless a judge issues the subpoena.

State Sen. Ryan McDougle

State Sen. Ryan McDougle

“If teachers are specifically the issue, I don’t think this is the way to accomplish that goal,” said Sen. Ryan McDougle, R- 4th.

He added that the board’s request would apply to all types of cases, not just their targeted juvenile and domestic relations cases. McDougle said that requiring a judge to issue a subpoena for a certain witness could delay a court case and result in a number of expenses.

Chairman W. Canova Peterson IV, Mechanicsville District supervisor, pointed out that although McDougle said it’s costly for those in the courtroom, he believes it’s expensive for those outside the courtroom too.

Hanover’s reasoning for pushing this forward is to prevent teachers and social workers from being subpoenaed to appear in court without five days notice and as a result have to call out of work.

County Attorney Sterling Rives said that currently Hanover teachers are subpoenaed to court roughly 12 to 15 times a year.

“This is not workable as it’s presented, it’s just not,” McDougle said.

He suggested supervisors address the courts directly about the problem and find a solution there rather than through a statute.

Another big topic is the requirement for local governments to participate in a stormwater management program by July 1 to comply with Chesapeake Bay Act requirements. Hanover wants the state to help fund a “substantial” amount of the necessary funds to implement programs.

All localities must have programs by July and that does not provide enough time for planning, said Del. Christopher K. Peace, R- 97th.

District 12 Republican Sen. Walter A. Stosch said that as a member of the Senate Finance Committee, he is aware that the money allocated has to be divided up amongst a number of very important things such as covering Medicaid. Stosch suggested the supervisors draft up language that would “financially provide what they need.”

Hanover is also requesting that the state government completely fund the Line of Duty Act, which gives benefits to family members of first responders who die in the line of duty.

Supervisors also support any legislation that would prohibit people from owning “dangerous, wild animals” excluding animal zoos, research facilities and sanctuaries.

Peace said that this topic has come before the General Assembly before, but they have not found a solution that all stakeholders involved could agree on.

“We don’t want to heavily restrict or over-regulate,” Peace said.

The item was prompted by recent events surrounding private zoo owner Curtis Shepperson and his six chimpanzees. One of Shepperson’s primates got out in 2010 and the county discovered that only two of the six had permits. The county requires permits for private possession of any animal deemed “vicious” under the county’s ordinance. The chimps are the only animals at Windy Oaks that meet the county’s definition of vicious. As a result, the county said the “illegal” chimps must leave the county. After numerous extensions, it was not until recent months that the animals left for their new home at the Houston Zoo.

“We will continue to try to find some commonsense way to approach this,” Peace said.

Posted on Tuesday, November 26, 2013 at 4:48 pm