Ahead of crossover day, Del. Sally Hudson, D-Charlottesville, met with constituents Friday evening to answer questions about the General Assembly session thus far.
Crossover day, which happens Tuesday, is the last day for each chamber in the General Assembly to act on its own legislation. After that, bills that have passed each chamber cross over to the other chamber.
Hudson has had a number of bills pass the Virginia House of Delegates, including one that would remove salary limits on city councils statewide, one that reorganizes aspects of Charlottesville’s charter and a bill that would allow for ranked-choice voting in local elections.
“There’s a lot of stuff still to be determined about how we move forward as a new commonwealth, together,” she said.
Hudson took questions from the full audience at CitySpace about many issues, including war memorials, local taxing authority, clean energy and gun law changes.
On Friday, her bill to allow localities to have control over their war memorials was combined into a related one from Del. Delores McQuinn’s, D-Richmond. The bill was then passed by the House Counties, Cities and Towns Committee by a 12-10, near-party line vote.
Hudson said she is “relatively confident” that a bill about local control of war memorials is going to get out of both chambers.
“I have a hard time believing either chamber would have let them get out of committee if there wasn’t an appetite to pass them on the floor — the majority party doesn’t typically do that,” she said. “And so we’re going to get something. Our work, which I think will mostly come in conference committee, is about hashing out those details.”
One resident stood up and expressed concern that local control of war memorials could lead to a “slippery slope” of memorials for wars like the Vietnam War to be taken down.
Hudson said she believes that is a genuinely separate conversation because she said there is a difference between honoring the deaths of rank and file soldiers and exalting the leaders of a movement.
“The Robert E. Lee statue is not a monument to any history that ever happened here. Robert E. Lee never set foot in Charlottesville,” she said. “There’s not a battle that we’re remembering or lives that were lost … I think discussions like this are exactly the reason why that should be a local decision.”
Roy Van Doorn, president of the Charlottesville chapter of the Virginia Restaurant, Lodging & Travel Association, said the association is concerned that if counties, like Albemarle, receive equal taxing authority to cities, they will increase transient occupancy and meals tax rates to try to raise general revenues and take funding from tourism bureaus.
Hudson said that because there isn’t really a distinction between many cities and counties, she thinks it makes sense for the state to streamline the toolkits available to both types of municipalities.
The Albemarle County Board of Supervisors included equal taxing in its legislative wish list.
“I think the taxes on folks that don’t live here to support people who do is one of the important ways that we do income redistribution,” Hudson said.
When asked about clean-energy bills, Hudson said this is one of the issues most in flux currently. She said there is an omnibus bill called the Virginia Clean Economy Act, and then there are many standalone bills that duplicate a lot of the provisions in that act but with small differences.
“Candidly, the omnibus bill makes a lot more concessions to the natural gas companies,” she said. “… In particular, I think that that worries me most about the compromises made inside of that bill, is that the people who will bear the cost most are those least able to afford it.”
Hudson said that if there isn’t a full clean-energy bill that she thinks the community would stand by, there might need to be a special session on climate change.
“I’m not opposed to saying no if it’s not good enough,” she said.
Attendees at Sunday’s town hall also asked about redistricting, single-use plastics, affordable housing and marijuana.