Board of Trade’s policy and legislative focuses heading into fall
The D.C. Council passed emergency public safety legislation just prior to its departure for summer recess. This comes months after Congress, which has taken more interest in the district’s local affairs than in previous years, voted down the revised criminal code legislation. With violent crime up 37% on the year, considerable pressure was being applied on the D.C. Council to act prior to breaking for summer recess, likely a factor in what turned out to be a 12-1 vote. Also contributing to the bill’s passage was that it was emergency legislation, meaning it is only in effect for 90 days. As the D.C. Council returns from recess in September, a more permanent version of this legislation will need to be considered.
While the Prioritizing Public Safety Amendment Act of 2023 had several components aimed at reducing violent crime and holding perpetrators accountable, such as creating a new offense for firing a gun in public, the portion of the legislation that stirred the most debate amongst council members and advocates was the pretrial detention of both juveniles and adults accused of certain violent crimes and offenses. It is important to note however that the scope of those eligible for pretrial detention was narrowed from previous proposals in order to get the support necessary to pass the legislation. This will undoubtedly continue to be a contentious area of discussion as a permanent version is debated.
It remains to be seen what will ultimately be included in the permanent version of this legislation as well as whether it will be an omnibus-like bill or multiple individual bills. While the bill did incorporate components of Mayor Bowser’s original proposal, some measures were not eligible to be included. It is likely that additional portions of Mayor Bowser’s proposal will ultimately be included. Councilmember Brooke Pinto, who sponsored the bill, incorporated some measures of a bill she had previously introduced, the Accountability and Victim Protection Amendment Act of 2023. Additionally, measures to assist with the recruitment and retention of law enforcement personnel have also come up in discussions surrounding public safety efforts and should be considered as the legislation takes shape.
Upcoming Policy Event with Regional Labor Leaders
The standoff over the Commonwealth’s budget continues, months after Virginia General Assembly members departed Richmond following the conclusion of the legislative session. While an updated spending agreement is not technically required (due to the two-year budget passed last year along with a “skinny” budget earlier this year) billions of unallocated dollars remain, leaving priorities and initiatives of both parties unfunded. Conferees from the Republican controlled House and the Democratic controlled Senate have gone back forth over the past several months but remain at an impasse, all while Governor Youngkin continues to apply pressure to get it done and include permanent tax cuts for individuals and businesses when doing so.
The latest proposal came from the Senate last week, which was in response to the House proposal made three weeks prior. It includes both one-time rebates along with the more controversial ongoing cuts that have been proposed. Whether or not it is enough to satisfy the House is yet to be seen, as a response from House Appropriations Chair Barry Knight is expected soon.
Multiple factors are likely contributing to the delay in getting it done. Concerns regarding the economic uncertainty the future holds, specifically as it relates to permanent cuts, have been raised throughout the debate. However, these concerns have been somewhat mitigated by the updated revenue projections that have been released over the course of the last few months, showing the Commonwealth is currently in a strong financial position. The upcoming elections in November are also impacting the negotiations, as elected officials dedicate increased time to campaign efforts. As noted in a previous blog post, Virginia is experiencing historic turnover within its general assembly, not just in raw numbers but perhaps more importantly in experience. In the event an agreement is not reached, control of the House and Senate which will be determined in November will be all the more significant.
Earlier this month, appointments to the Maryland Commission on Transportation Revenue and Infrastructure Needs were announced, along with the date of their first meeting on August 24th. The Commission is a result of SB 24, passed this past legislative session, whose 31 members consist of legislators, local elected officials, cabinet secretaries, industry, labor, and environmental organizations. The Commission will review, evaluate, and make recommendations concerning:
- the current State funding sources and structure of the Maryland Transportation Trust Fund, including major trends in revenue including the general funds;
- the methods other states are employing to fund state transportation operating and capital programs including toll revenue, vehicle-miles-traveled fees, fees on zero-emission vehicles, and non-transportation-related revenue options;
- short-and long-term construction and maintenance funding needs for transit, highway, pedestrian, bicycle, heavy rail, shipping, air travel, and other transportation needs;
- options for public-private partnerships, including partnerships with local governments, to meet transportation funding needs including funding options;
- changes in transportation technology and trends that will impact transportation infrastructure needs and costs to the State;
- existing practices for prioritizing project funding and options to better prioritize needs, including local and legislative priorities;
- the structure of regional transportation authorities and ability of these authorities to meet transportation needs in various regions of the State;
- options for sustainable, long-term revenue sources for transportation; and
- options for improving the Maryland Department of Transportation’s ability and capacity to deliver major capital projects.
With Governor Moore advancing the Red Line in Baltimore, which was projected to cost roughly $2.9 billion nearly a decade ago, funding for projects in our region such as the American Legion Bridge 495/270 and addressing WMATA’s impending fiscal cliff, will be difficult to identify.