November 10, 2020: House of Delegates passes by on Northam's COVID budget amendments; A fourth fatality in Greene County

  
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Today’s Patreon-fueled shout-out comes from an anonymous supporter who wants to say again - "We keep each other safe. Wear a mask, wash your hands, and keep your distance."

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There are another 1,435 new cases of COVID-19 in Virginia today, and the seven-day daily average for new cases is 1,437. The seven-day average for positive tests has increased to 6.2 percent, up from 6.1 percent yesterday. 

There are another 31 new cases in the Blue Ridge Health District with 12 from Albemarle, nine from Charlottesville, and three each in Fluvanna, Greene and Louisa counties. There’s one new case in Nelson. A person from Greene County has died of COVID, the fourth fatality in that locality. That brings the death count to 78 in the district. No new fatalities had been reported since October 23. 

The University of Virginia’s COVID dashboard lists 41 active cases, with 24 of them students. Since August 17, there have been 1,148 COVID cases associated with UVA. 

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Virginia Governor Ralph Northam made several announcements yesterday about how some of the state’s remaining CARES Act funding will be spent. Seven million will go to the Federation of Virginia Food Banks for the purchase of food, $60 million will go to a municipal energy relief program to help people who have not been able to pay their bills, $22 million for private higher education institutions, and $25 million in Medicaid for day support programs for adults with developmental disabilities

However, the House of Delegates in the Virginia General Assembly declined to vote yesterday on a suggested budget amendment from Northam that would have provided more money to the energy relief program. Northam also suggested dozens of changes to how other portions of the CARES Act should be used. Delegate Mark Sickles of Fairfax made a motion to “pass by” on the amendment for the day. 

“This amendment from the Governor strikes a lot of language that the committee introduced to better direct in our view the coronavirus relief funds,” Sickles said. “When we came into session on August 18 there was $1.3 billion dollar of CRF funding that had not been spent and it needs to be spent by December 30.”

Sickles said the House version of the bill directed more money to frontline medical workers and hospitals, but Northam’s amendment would have taken that away. 

“The governor eliminated our language and we like our language and we think that it’s our role as the legislative branch to direct these funds,” Sickles said. (read the budget amendments)

For more on this, read Kate Masters article today in the Virginia Mercury.  

The House also “passed by” on an amendment that would have altered the fee structure related to nutrient credits which are used to help improve water quality in Virginia. Delegate David Bulova represents Fairfax.

“Whether you know about nutrient credit banks or not, they actually play a really critical role in our ability to meet stormwater management requirements as well as Chesapeake Bay restoration targets,” Bulova said. “They do that by leveraging capital from the private sector and in fact we can take a little bit of a point of pride here in that Virginia’s program was recognized several years as a national model for how to achieve water quality standards and do that in a cost effective way.”

Bulova said the Department of Environmental Quality’s stormwater management program is underfunded, but there was concern that the Governor’s approach was not ready. 

Other amendments include $1 million to fund a third-party investigation into racism at the Virginia Military Institute. That item passed 52 to 46.  

Governor Northam will hold a press conference at 1 p.m. to give an update on Virginia’s COVID-19 response. 

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There are many meetings today, and for a full review check out the Week Ahead newsletter

One of the most anticipated meetings is the Charlottesville’s City Council and Planning Commission joint session this evening. They’ll consider a rezoning on Nassau Street and get an update on the draft affordable housing plan that’s been put together by the consultant hired to complete the city’s Comprehensive Plan. This week there will be many opportunities to participate in virtual meetings about the initiatives, but tonight’s discussion between Council and the Commission might give a brief glimpse into what decision-makers are thinking. (meeting page) (draft affordable housing plan page)

A subcommittee of the city’s Housing Advisory Committee discussed the draft affordable housing plan at their meeting on November 4 and have sent their thoughts to City Council and the Planning Commission. The letter from the policy subcommittee  expresses support for the plan but also asks that the document include strategies for wealth creation and economic mobility.

“The plan should explicitly acknowledge that housing affordability for many households is an income problem,” reads the letter which also said the plan should better address the high cost of land and how that can be mitigated. They also made suggestions on policies for how the $10 million in annual funding for affordable housing called for in the plan.  (read the recommendations)

  • The Nelson County Board of Supervisors meets at 6 p.m. and one item includes a decision for a rezoning to allow Wild Man Dan Bed and Breakfast to expand its brewery operations  (meeting packet)

  • The Charlottesville Economic Development Authority meets at 4 p.m. and will get an update on the city’s COVID response.  There will also be an update on the performance agreement between CEDA and Piedmont Housing for tax increment financing for the first phase of Friendship Court. For those details, take a look or listen to a longer story and podcast I produced from the October 19, 2020 City Council meeting where the agreement was approved by elected officials.

  • The Albemarle Planning Commission meets at 6 p.m. They’ll have public hearings on reviews to two conservation areas known as Agricultural-Forest Districts as well as a public hearing on a change to zoning involving recycling centers. (meeting info)

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While not a government meeting, here’s another event that might be interesting. The Albemarle Charlottesville Historical Society will have another installment of their Ask a Genealogist series with Dr. Shelley Murphy. She’s the Descendant Project Researcher at the University of Virginia. Visit the Jefferson Madison Regional Library’s website to register and learn more. (JMRL page)