Albemarle County presented its legislative priorities to local legislative staff and state Sen. R. Creigh Deeds, D-Bath, on Tuesday morning.
The county Board of Supervisors in November approved the county’s 2019 legislative priorities, which include legislation on general district courts, zoning violation mailings, carrying specific loaded weapons in public area and local control for monuments and memorials.
Staff representatives for area Dels. R. Steven Landes, Rob Bell and David J. Toscano were in attendance.
“Yesterday was the deadline to request bills drafted, so your meeting really needs to be earlier in the year,” Deeds said. “Your legislators need to know in advance ... they need to be given some options or something because two weeks ago we were told this was the day you had to meet.”
The short session also limits the number of bills that can be filed to 15 for delegates and 25 for senators.
Deeds said he had to move his schedule around to be at the breakfast, while the other legislators were unable to attend.
“Obviously, we had a disconnect this year,” Supervisor Diantha McKeel said.
County Attorney Greg Kamptner said the board’s key legislative initiative relates to the General District Court. On Monday, the county and Charlottesville signed a memorandum of agreement that will move both localities General District Courts into a future three-story building in the city on the Levy property. The city also will build a new parking structure downtown.
The county had spent years studying whether to move the courts facilities out of downtown Charlottesville, and it had support from county residents who had trouble finding parking. The legal community pushed back, citing difficulties for the public defender’s office, among other concerns.
Amendments to the state code will be needed to allow the county General District Court to move to land jointly owned by the city and county and out of Court Square.
“That partially drove the timing of this,” Kamptner said. “We hoped that would’ve been entered into a little bit earlier in the year, but there were a lot of issues to figure out.”
Kamptner said he and board Chairwoman Ann H. Mallek had met with Toscano and Bell to discuss a bill about the General District Court.
They also discussed legislation around memorials and monuments. Albemarle has a statue of a Confederate soldier that sits in front of the Albemarle Circuit Courthouse. Some board members have expressed a desire for local control over the statue.
Kamptner said “interfering or disturbing” statues is currently not allowed, but the county would like clarification about contextualization.
“There was concern about also making sure that is clarified in the state law, but also to make it declaratory in existing law because we think that authority exists right now,” he said.
Landes has prefiled three bills that are listed on the state’s legislative information system. One is to change the date of the primary election held in June from the second Tuesday in June to the third Tuesday in June. Another is regarding the Virginia College Savings Plan and the third is to create a mixed beverage license for a future multipurpose theater in the historical district of the town of Bridgewater.
Legislators and county officials also discussed broadband, school funding and proffer legislation.