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Council to consider legislative agenda
Monday, November 9, 2009
By MICKEY POWELL -
Martinsville City Council on Tuesday will consider adopting its legislative agenda for 2010.
Each fall, the council adopts a list of legislative priorities for the coming year's General Assembly session. The list outlines what city officials hope lawmakers will accomplish to benefit Martinsville and nearby communities during that session.
The 2010 General Assembly will convene in January.
This year's list includes priorities pertaining to transportation, education, economic development and governance issues. Some of the priorities are indicative of concerns that lawmakers may make budget cuts.
Martinsville's top three priorities for lawmakers in each category - in the order in which they are listed - are as follows:
"¢ Urging the Commonwealth Transportation Board to reach a final decision on the planned Interstate 73's corridor in Henry County.
"¢ Upgrading sections of U.S. 220 that will be incorporated into I-73 to interstate highway standards, starting with sections in Henry County.
"¢ Finishing improvements to U.S. 58, particularly the widening of the stretch between Stuart and Hillsville to four lanes. That would make the highway four lanes across all of southern Virginia, officials have said.
"¢ The council endorses the legislative agendas of both the Martinsville and Henry County school systems, as noted at the top of the list.
"¢ Opposing the imposition of any unfunded mandates and, if the state cuts education funding, allowing localities to decide what expenses to cut.
"¢ Continuing support for the development and funding of the New College Institute. If NCI's funding is cut, the list says, the city urges that reductions be "minimized to the greatest extent possible" because the institute is "in the critical stage of growth, and its success is critical to" uptown revitalization.
"¢ Maintaining current levels of funding for economic development initiatives, including the Governor's Opportunity Fund.
"¢ Enhancing localities' power to address and eliminate blighted properties.
"¢ Continuing funding the Virginia Museum of Natural History at current levels.
"¢ Asking for a joint gubernatorial/legislative commission to be appointed to examine the structure of local government in Virginia. The commission would, among other things, find ways to help cities expand revenues and eliminate duplication of services among cities and the counties they border.
"¢ Maintaining full funding for so-called "599 funds." The funds, named after a House bill, have been provided to cities since the 1970s in exchange for them giving up their rights to annex land from surrounding counties.
"¢ Exploring potential new options for localities to generate revenues.
Virginia is a "Dillon Rule" state in which municipalities have only powers that are expressly granted to them by the state. Therefore, a city could not, for instance, impose a tax that the state does not give it power to impose.
The legislative priority list also includes a shorter list of priorities for Congress. The city's top three priorities for congressmen are:
"¢ Continuing to place priority on making improvements to U.S. 58 and developing I-73.
"¢ Upgrading portions of U.S. 220 that will be incorporated into I-73 to interstate standards.
"¢ Encouraging Amtrak, the federally operated rail service, to provide motorcoach transfer service between Danville and Martinsville.
The list will be considered when the city council meets at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday in its chambers at the municipal building on West Church Street uptown.
Area lawmakers are expected to attend the meeting so they can discuss the list with city officials.
Other agenda items during the council meeting will include:
"¢ Hearing matters pertaining to the 2010 census.
"¢ Hearing an update on the Safe Routes to Schools program from officials with Activate Martinsville Henry County.
"¢ Considering revisions to rules regarding the use of Beaver Creek Reservoir.
"¢ Hearing information on two American Municipal Power projects in which the city might consider participating.
"¢ Considering a revised facility cost agreement for Henry-Martinsville Social Services.
"¢ Hearing business from the floor.
"¢ Meeting in closed session to receive legal advice.