What's ‘Germinating’ in the General Assembly

What's ‘Germinating’ in the General Assembly

As I hinted last week, this week’s column will delve into the environmental legislation that I have “germinating” in drafting. I am actively working with relevant stakeholders and constituents during this ongoing drafting process to ensure that these bills are ready for introduction in January.

I plan to introduce legislation urged by many of my constituents that aims to combat the invasive plant species Hedera helix, which is commonly known as English Ivy. English Ivy is designated as an invasive plant by the Commonwealth and all local jurisdictions in Virginia. As an invasive species, English Ivy can cover the forest floor, excluding tree seedlings and understory plants from nutrients. It can climb trees up to 90 feet, where it blocks photosynthesis and weighs the tree down. Ivy is also a host for bacterial leaf scorch. Ivy spreads from private plantings into natural areas through bird droppings and is expensive to control and remove, costing localities millions. As you may know, in 2017, the General Assembly gave localities the ability to control for running bamboo, a similarly invasive and aggressively spreading plant. This bill would give localities the ability to provide for the control of English Ivy, requiring landowners to properly upkeep and contain English Ivy on their property to control spread.

From a constituent active with soil and water conservation, I am drafting a bill to establish a state income tax incentive to install solar equipment on residential and commercial structures, brownfields, parking lots, and transportation amenities. I am also drafting legislation to amend The Virginia Brownfield and Coal Mine Renewable Energy and Grant Fund Program, which was established in 2021, to allow state funds to be used for grants. This fund awards grants on a competitive basis to renewable energy projects located on brownfields or previously coal-mined lands. Current law only allows grants to be made using federal funds, which is not always available. Eliminating this federal requirement will hopefully encourage more renewable energy projects on former coal fields and brownfields.

Another legislative effort I have in the hopper is establishing a cooperative program that would fully fund ongoing protection and preservation of lands of ecological, cultural, or historical importance, lands for recreational purposes, and working farm and forest lands for the benefit and enjoyment of all current and future citizens of the Commonwealth. Virginia has 42 wonderful state parks and 2,440 local and regional parks which employ 109,000 Virginians and have an economic impact of $9.4 billion. A stable, dedicated funding source will create even more opportunities to prevent further loss of Virginia’s critical natural areas.

Also from a constituent, I am pursuing legislation that would limit a homeowner association’s (HOA) ability to prohibit homeowners from installing managed conservation landscaping, such as using landscape practices that incorporate environmentally sensitive design to address stormwater runoff, reduce pollution, protect clean air and water and support wildlife through the use of native plants. After incorporating some of these landscaping changes on their properties, several of my constituents have faced pushback from their HOAs, which tend to favor turf grass. Over 2 million Virginia residents live in a homeowner association, and as we face the current climate crisis, Virginia residents should have the flexibility to more sustainably manage their private land.

Finally, I am working on a bill to create a stakeholder workgroup to study the current Litter Tax and other litter prevention and mitigation approaches in the Commonwealth and recommend reforms to modernize them.

It’s so wonderful to represent this district where so many tirelessly dedicate themselves to advocating for the protection and preservation of our environment. Our efforts together will play an instrumental role in ensuring a healthier and more sustainable future for the generations to come.