Arlington Column: Lopez Submits 2016 Legislative Agenda

Arlington Column: Lopez Submits 2016 Legislative Agenda


My legislative agenda reflects the values and priorities of our community. As the voice for our district in Richmond, I will continue to champion legislation that expands economic opportunity, preserves our environment, and keeps Virginians safe. These bills represent small steps towards a more sustainable, inclusive and prosperous Commonwealth.

Supporting Small Business

HB 971 Department of Small Business and Supplier Diversity; implementation of certification programs.

For the past four years, I’ve introduced legislation to improve Virginia’s definition of small business in the Small, Women, and Minority-owned (SWAM) public procurement program. Under the current definition, all businesses are required to have fewer than 250 employees or less than $10 million in annual revenue. This overly broad, one-size-fits-all standard makes it difficult for truly small, women, and minority-owned businesses to compete with large companies that still qualify under the definition. Last year, the General Assembly agreed to adopt the U.S. Small Business Administration’s small business size standards, but required a task force to evaluate this change outside of session. Throughout the year, we’ve reviewed the legislation and identified additional changes that need to be made. This legislation makes this change permanent so that business in Virginia are classified as small based on their industry in a fairer and more transparent process.

Affordable Housing

HB 972 Virginia Housing Trust Fund; revenue deposits

Last year, I introduced legislation to dedicate a portion of Virginia’s recordation tax collection to the Virginia Housing Trust Fund in order to support affordable housing projects and grant programs throughout the Commonwealth. While the bill was unsuccessful, the Virginia Housing Commission studied this idea outside of session and recommended that the General Assembly dedicate 20 percent of the recordation tax collection each year over $325 million to the Housing Trust Fund. With the Housing Commission’s endorsement and bipartisan support in the House of Delegates, I am hopeful that we will be able to create a dedicated source of funding for Virginia’s Housing Trust Fund this year.

Clean Energy

HB 973 Renewable energy; efficient biomass.

This bill redefines biomass in Virginia’s definition of renewable energy to ensure that only energy sources with a low carbon footprint are considered renewable. The current definition allows large-scale biomass generation to be considered renewable, which can emit about 50 percent more CO2 per unit of energy than coal.

Protecting Our Environment

HB 976 Special orders issues by environmental boards.

According to a recent study conducted by Environment Virginia, the Commonwealth was named as the fifth worst state for toxic dumping. We need to increase the penalties for violating Virginia’s environmental protections in order to send a clear message to polluters their actions will not be tolerated. This legislation increases the maximum fine per violation from $32,500 to $50,000 and raises the allowable cap from $100,000 to $1,000,000 for all violations.

HB 977 Discharge of deleterious substance into state waters; notice.

Under current Virginia law, polluters have 24 hours to notify the Department of Environmental Quality or the appropriate board if there has been a pollution spill in state waters. In order to increase our chances of effectively mitigating any damage, we need to shorten the notification requirement to 12 hours.