“Members of the Richmond City Council and Mayor Levar Stoney joined Richmond-area state lawmakers Wednesday to review the city’s proposed legislative package for the upcoming session of the Virginia General Assembly.
The 90-minute event, held at the Library of Virginia, featured a discussion of the city’s draft legislative package that identifies specific bills the council is asking members of the state delegation to carry, as well as dozens of policy positions on various issues that may come up when state lawmakers convene in January.
“Each year, we try to identify the things that can move the city forward, but we’d also like to prevent things that can do the city any harm,” said Council President Chris Hilbert, who represents the city’s 3rd District.
Among the proposed requests in the city’s package:
-A bill establishing a state commission to identify financing that localities can use to overhaul large public housing communities. The city has six: Creighton, Fairfield, Gilpin, Hillside, Mosby and Whitcomb courts.
-A bill to require gun owners to report a stolen or lost gun to police within 24 hours of discovering that it is stolen or lost.
-A bill amending state law that requires public universities and colleges to collect a local admissions tax for public events and pay it to the locality in which the events take place.
-Two charter changes, one of which would establish an office of an inspector general, a council-appointed position with the power to conduct investigations within City Hall. The other would give the council “full authority” in the charter to set its own salaries by ordinance. Each proposed charter change is expected to go to a council vote prior to inclusion in the legislative package, Hilbert said.
In brief remarks at the beginning of Wednesday’s event, Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney named two priorities for the upcoming session: funding for city schools and tighter gun restrictions.
City schools have not received their “fair share” of state funding for many years, said Stoney, reiterating a point he has repeated since his days as a candidate.
Beyond funding for operations, Stoney asked city leaders to lobby for capital funding to improve Richmond Public Schools’ decrepit portfolio of school buildings.
“I’m calling on all 19 of us — the School Board, City Council, myself — to walk across the street this January to advocate for the state to invest not just in renovations on Capitol Square, but also in renovations we need to make in the capital’s schools,” Stoney said.
In November, voters will weigh in on the issue. On the ballot is what is called the “schools modernization” referendum, which could prompt a charter change compelling Stoney to present to council members a fully funded plan to overhaul Richmond school facilities that does not rely on a tax increase, or else admit it can’t be done.
On guns, Stoney said it was “unacceptable” that the city could not ban firearms in its public buildings or prohibit people from bringing assault-style weapons to public demonstrations. He called on state lawmakers to give localities the authority to make those decisions.
“Urban environments like ours are just different. … The gun laws that may be right for Richmond County don’t necessarily work here in Richmond city. It’s time for the General Assembly to acknowledge that,” Stoney said.
Council members are expected to formally approve the city’s legislative package next month, Hilbert said.”