2024 Virginia General Assembly Legislative Priorities

2024 Virginia General Assembly Legislative Priorities

(Updated as of 2/22/24 @ 10:30pm)

This year’s Virginia General Assembly, when legislators get together to make a new set of laws, takes place from January 10 through March 9. Nature Forward, with help from several partners (such as VCN’s bill tracker), is tracking several key environmental bills this session. We’ve listed our top bills below, and we are updating this page as we learn more about each bill throughout the session.

Get your voice heard: (1) Read up on the bill’s we’re tracking below, then (2) Ask your legislators to act on the bills below. Check out the next steps in the yellow box at the bottom of this page!

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Note: A big thank you to Nature Forward volunteers Christine Powell, Elyzabeth Earnley, and Anne DeNovo who worked with me since December 2023 to strategize on, select, and then track these bills each week during session!

If you need help getting up to speed on all of the terms used during legislative sessions, check out this helpful page from UVA of frequently used state-government terms.

NATURAL RESOURCES / TREES

There are several House and Senate bills dealing with the tree canopy and natural resources. We are following the following these bills, amongst others:

  • SUPPORT: Additional flexibility for certain localities to use their tree fund and more  (HB459 / SB121)
    These companion bills expand authority of certain localities to use their tree fund for both planting and maintenance (new) of trees on public or private property (new). (View talking points)
    STATUS as of 2/22/24: We are thrilled to report that both bills passed! HB459 passed the Senate (31-9) and SB121 passed the House (51-49). We now await the Governor!

  • SUPPORT: Strengthen local governments’ ability to conserve and replace tree canopy (HB529)
    This bill amends the Virginia code to expand existing local government authority to conserve or replace trees during the development process. (View talking points)
    —ACTION YOU CAN TAKE— as of 2/22/24: This bill will be voted on on February 26 by the Senate Committee on Local Government – if your Senator is on that committee, please email them asking for support of HB529!

  • SUPPORT: Labeling of invasive plant species as a requirement for retail sales (HB47 / SB306)
    This bill would require that nurseries and other plant retailers label invasive plants or otherwise provide cautionary signage regarding their sale of invasive plants. (View talking points)
    —ACTION YOU CAN TAKE— as of 2/22/24: SB306 will be voted on by the full House soon – it’s a great bill which comes with enforcement of signage – email your delegate asking for their support!
    Note: We are happy to report that HB47 passed the Senate (31-9) – we now await the Governor’s action!

  • CONTINUED TO 2025: SUPPORT: Allow conservation landscaping for HOA residents (HB528)
    Nature Forward carried this bill and we were optimistic about our progress. Unfortunately, just a day before it was to be heard, language in the bill was changed that undermined its intent and Delegate Krizek wisely pulled the bill with an ask for a workgroup to improve the bill language and a hope for continuing this work in 2025. (Watch the 6 minute hearing here)

SOLAR
  • SUPPORT: Expand Dominion’s shared-solar programs (HB106 / SB253)
    These companion bills would provide additional support for equitable shared solar, such as expanding Dominion’s shared solar program from 200 MW to 1.6 GW and setting aside 30% of the program’s capacity to low-income qualified customers. (View talking points)
    —ACTION YOU CAN TAKE— as of 2/22/24: HB106 will be voted on on February 26 by the Senate Committee on Local Government – if your Senator sits on that committee, please email them asking to support HB106! HB459 made it out of committee and will be voted on by the full House SOON – email your Delegate today asking for support of SB253!

     

  • SUPPORT: Parking Lot Solar Development Program and Fund (SB234)
    This pilot program would seek to reduce the cost of parking lot solar projects to encourage more such projects in the Commonwealth. (View talking points)

    STATUS as of 2/21/24: While companion bill HB367 failed to report this year, SB234 crossed over and has been assigned to the House Appropriations subcommittee: Commerce Agriculture & Natural Resources. House Delegates need to hear from you – if your Delegate sits on this committee, please email them asking for their support of SB234!

DATA CENTERS

Data centers are a huge topic at the 2024 Virginia Legislative session but only one bill remains alive for consideration this year. Your legislators need to hear from you about concerns for massive energy & water usage, siting, and subsidies. Education is key: Read our recent blog post on data centers for talking points and info on this issue.

  • SUPPORT: Siting of data centers; locality may perform site assessment before approval (HB338)
    This bill has been modified since it was first introduced, but it has bi-partisan support and will give local municipalities the authority to study the impact of proposed data center developments on water usage and carbon emissions. This bill faces a unified opposition by a coalition of nearly a dozen industry organizations.
    —ACTION YOU CAN TAKE— as of 2/22/24: HB338 will be voted on a second time by the Senate General Laws and Technology: please email your Senator and ask them to support this bill! On 2/21, the bill was voted on and passed out of committee, and then later in the same committee meeting, was essentially unvoted on and continued to the next meeting on 2/28/24. (Note: Companion bill SB285 was continued to 2025).

  • MOST DATA CENTER BILLS going to a 2024 JLARC Data Center study
    The General Assembly has directed the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission (know as JLARC) to “review the overall impacts of the data center industry in Virginia and state and local policies regarding the industry”. This study will include impacts to natural and historical resources, a forecast of energy and infrastructure needs, a review of cost allocations and site considerations, impacts to local residents and ultimately whether existing tax incentives should be changed. Bills that we had been tracking which will now be studied include: (1) HB337 / SB284   (2) SB191 and  (3) HB116SB192

    According to a 2019 JLARC study of economic incentives designed to bring data center development to Virginia, the state passed the first tax exemption for data centers in 2008. The exemption has been broadened several times and is a primary factor contributing to the industry’s expansion in Virginia. Between 2010 and 2017, data centers avoided over $400 million in state taxes.

    A final report is expected by the end of 2024. Read our recent blog post on data centers to learn more about this important issue.


*** ACTION ALERT ***

Your next steps are simple: (1) Find your legislator (2) Pick which issue(s) you want to advocate for above (especially if your legislator is serving on a committee making the next decision!) (3) Email your rep and (4) Check back often as bills progress – they need your support as they keep moving, especially before General Assembly ends on March 9!

Your voice as a constituent is the most important. Email your legislator today!