Clean Smokestacks Bill Tops Ticer Agenda

Clean Smokestacks Bill Tops Ticer Agenda

Former mayor wants to restrict pollution and encourage pedestrian safety.

Sen. Patsy Ticer was first elected to the Virginia Senate in 1996. She received a bachelor’s degree from Sweet Briar College in Sweet Briar, Va., and was mayor of Alexandria from 1991 to 1996. In the senate, she sits on three committees: Local Government, Rehabilitation and Social Services and Agriculture, Conservation and Natural Resources. Like many senators, she expects the upcoming session to be dominated by transportation issues.

"Obviously, everybody’s talking about transportation right now," she said, adding that a comprehensive strategy for addressing transportation is needed. "Too often, people think of transportation in terms of this project or that project. It all needs to work together."

Ticer has filed several bills for the upcoming session, covering a wide range of topics. One bill that she is particularly concerned about is the Clean Smokestack Bill, which was patroned last year by Del. John Reid (R-72).

"People are getting sick, and it’s our constitutional obligation to leave future generations with a livable community," Ticer said, adding that Article XI, Section 1 of the Virginia Constitution instructs legislators to protect the atmosphere from pollution. "It’s the same bill that was carried by Del. Reid last year."

The bill would establish maximum limits for sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide emissions that are released into the atmosphere from facilities with coal-fired electric generating units. Last year, it was supported by a coalition of groups environmental and health groups such as the American Lung Association. But businesses with a vested interest in coal power opposed it.

"Generally speaking, we see much more usefulness in having these issues addressed on a regional basis with federal rules as opposed to state-by-state legislation," said John Shepelwich, a spokesman for Appalachian Power. "Our company operates within 11 states, and we know that pollution crosses state lines. So we support addressing this on a regional level through federal regulations."

Although it was killed last year, Ticer is upbeat about the prospects of getting the Clean Smokestacks bill passed during the upcoming session.

"I think the public is for it," Ticer said. "So I think it has a good chance of passing."

PROTECTING PEDESTRIANS is an issue that City Hall is lobbying the local delegation to support, Sen. Ticer is supporting a measure that the city manager included in the 2006 legislative package. The plan, originally proposed by Councilmen Rob Krupicka and Andrew Macdonald, would either require drivers to stop at crosswalks or allow localities to require vehicles to stop.

"Pedestrian safety is a major issue for Northern Virginia localities," wrote City Manager Jim Hartmann in support of the measure. "The high volume of traffic often makes it difficult for pedestrians to cross roads, even at crosswalks."

Similar legislation was proposed in Richmond in 2003 and 2004, but Ticer thinks that she might be able to get some traction on the issue this year. She says that her bill in the Senate would be one way improve the existing situation.

"We’ve got to put the obligation on the driver to protect the pedestrians," Ticer said. "We also need to come down harder on jaywalking so that people are motivated by something other than their own safety."

PROTECTING VICTIMS of domestic violence is a long-term goal for Ticer, and she is now supporting a measure that would help keep distance between the afflicted and those who afflict them. Ticer wants to give victims of domestic violence alternatives to filing their address in public — with the Office of the Registrar, for example — to prevent their location from being easily detected.

"People who have been abused run the risk of being found by their abuser," Ticer said. "There are a number of ways that people can find you when you don’t want to be found."

The city’s Commission for Women is supportive of the measure, which its members say will bring a sense of security to those who have been victimized.

"The intent of the bill is to shield women from individuals who may be looking to do them harm," said Susan Butler, a member of the commission. "It’ll be a tough struggle in Richmond. But if anybody can get it through, it’s Patsy."

ONE BILL THAT might be difficult involves transferring money from automobile registration. Currently, the money goes toward funding the Jamestown anniversary commemoration. But the revenue stream is set to expire in 2007. Ticer wants to continue the fee, channeling the resources to conservation.

"We don’t have a consistent way of funding land conservation," Ticer said. "We need to protect what little land we have that’s not overstressed."

But fees are often difficult to pass in Richmond, where legislators fear supporting new taxes.

"Typical motorists probably didn’t understand why they were paying a fee for Jamestown, and they’ll probably understand even less why they have to pay for land conservation," said Pete Sepp, spokesman for Alexandria-based National Taxpayers Union. "We should question whether the fees are necessary at all. Do they provide a service to the motorist?"

Other bills that Ticer plans to sponsor include protecting whistleblowers, encouraging developers to plant trees, requiring written assessments from parole boards and requiring labels on fertilizer products.