Gov. Robert F. McDonnell’sgovernment reorganization proposal appears to have traction with legislators on both sides of the aisle, despite containing a provision some Northern Virginia officials oppose.
In November, McDonnell (R) proposed eliminating or merging several state agencies and dozens of boards and commissions. The proposal now is working its way through the General Assembly in two different versions — a heavily amended one that passed the House of Delegates, 82-17, on Feb. 17, and one with fewer amendments that emerged from the Senate.
The House then passed a substitute version of the Senate bill.
McDonnell’s budget anticipates about $2 million per year in savings from these measures.
Many of the provisions in the bill will have effects statewide, such as removing the regulation of hair braiders and mold inspectors and changing the regulating body for child care centers.
But one item of specific interest to Northern Virginia officials was the proposed consolidation of the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission and the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority.
The commission was formed to help get the Washington Metropolitan Transit Authority off the ground, and still primarily focuses on transit-related issues, as reinforced by its website, www. thinkoutsidethecar.org. It also is part owner of Virginia Railway Express.
The commission’s 20-member board includes 13 elected officials from its six member jurisdictions: Arlington, Fairfax and Loudoun counties and the cities of Alexandria, Fairfax and Falls Church. Six commissioners are state legislators, and the 20th commissioner represents the Virginia Secretary of Transportation.
The authority was formed in 2002 to develop regional transportation plans, and is primarily focused on the regional road network. It also was to be the entity receiving regional transportation revenue under 2008 legislation that was later overturned.
In addition to the jurisdictions involved in the commission, the authority also includes representatives from Prince William County and the cities of Manassas and Manassas Park. Those entities are not part of the commission because they belong to an equivalent body that focuses on transit serving the southern and western reaches of Northern Virginia, areas not served by Metro.
Combining the commission and authority boards would make things more complicated, not streamline them, said Sharon Bulova (D), Fairfax County Board of Supervisors chairwoman, at the time of McDonnell’s initial proposal. She serves on both boards.
The Board of Supervisors officially went on record as opposing the consolidation in its 2012 legislative package.
The House versions of the legislation don’t exactly mandate consolidation, but require the authority to study the potential consolidation with the commission and a third body, the Northern Virginia Regional Commission.
According to the amended legislation, the authority must find a way to merge at least two out of the three bodies, or all three, if practical.
The regional commission focuses on a variety of subjects of interest to regional governments, not just transportation. It has a 25-member board representing 14 jurisdictions: Arlington, Fairfax, Loudoun and Prince William counties; cities of Alexandria, Fairfax, Falls Church, Manassas and Manassas Park; and towns of Dumfries, Herndon, Leesburg, Purcellville and Vienna.
The amended House version of the reorganization bill is awaiting action in a Senate committee.