I-81 Funding: SB 583, supported by VTCA, passed the Senate 24-16. The bill, introduced by Senator Emmett Hanger (R-Augusta), would create and fund the Western Virginia Transportation Commission. The gas tax would be raised 2.1% in jurisdictions along the I-81 corridor, generating over $70 million a year to make transportation improvements along the corridor. If bonded, that revenue alone could generate a billion dollars of transportation improvements in the I-81 corridor. The bill faced major challenges from “anti-tax” republicans in the House. Nonetheless, we were able to get the bill carried over by the House Finance Committee for reconsideration next year. In addition, the Senate passed SB 971 which calls on the Commonwealth Transportation Board to study financing options for improvements to I-81, including tolls on trucks. That bill will be heard by the House Rules Committee.
Work Zone Safety: VTCA’s work zone safety bill, which increases the penalty for texting or reading/sending emails while in a work zone passed the House 99-0. Last year the Senate killed the bill, but we have received a more positive response this year. The Senate Courts of Justice Committee has passed the bill. Voting for the bill: Obenshain, Saslaw, Howell, Lucas, Edwards, Reeves, Deeds, Sturtevant, Petersen, Peake. Voting against the bill: McDougle, Stuart, Chafin.
Constitutional Lock Box: The constitutional “lock box” amendment limits the General Assembly’s ability to take transportation money and use it for other purposes. The amendment passed the House 78-21, BUT faced an uphill battle in the Senate. Senate staffers have pointed out that the amendment could limit the General Assembly’s ability to use transportation money to fund programs like the Space Port, the Motor Vehicle Dealer Board and Chesapeake Bay clean-up…exactly the purpose of the amendment. Nonetheless, this caused many senators to rethink their support for the amendment. The amendment failed in the Senate Finance Committee 7-9. Voting in favor of the bill were: Newman, McDougle, Vogel, Carrico, Obenshain, Dunnavant, Stuart. Voting against the bill were: Norment, Hanger, Howell, Saslaw, Lucas, Ruff, Wagner, Barker, Dance.