VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — In just over a month, Virginia lawmakers will be back in Richmond debating and deciding how to run the Commonwealth of Virginia.
Friday, 10 On Your Side went to local officials in Virginia Beach, to hear what’s on their mind ahead of the upcoming assembly.
There’s a demand to widen Interstate 64 from Jefferson Avenue in Newport News to Interstate 295 outside Richmond. Also on the agenda is maintaining and possibly improving the funding for higher education.
For 40 minutes Friday, State Senator Tommy Norment (R – James City County) and Delegate Barry Knight (R – Virginia Beach) laid out issues vital to Hampton Roads. It was part of the Business Leaders Forum sponsored by Kaufman & Canoles at the 31st Street Hilton.
Issue one: Vulnerability from sequestration in 2017.
“Sequestration could result in another carrier being transferred down to Florida, or some other place, or it could be a reduction in the military force and that is not a good thing for Hampton Roads,” said Senator Tommy Norment, the Senate Majority Leader. “I would hope President-elect Trump would move to postpone sequestration in 2017… he campaigned supporting a strong military.”
Outgoing Congressman Randy Forbes could be arriving in a new job, which could be big for Hampton Roads.
“I am prayerful that the President-elect Trump Administration will show their insight to selecting Randy Forbes as the Secretary of the Navy,” Norment said.
Del. Knight wants to make it easier to remove sand from the back of homes and to cut through bureaucratic red tape.
“I am going to put in that residents can get a general permit in Virginia Beach, the land owner gets the permit, and goes to the Wetlands Board, who reviews it and says ‘yes’ or ‘no.'”
Norment, a Republican, also wants to decriminalize use of small amounts of marijuana.
“As you know, I am in Williamsburg, and I represent a lot of college students. I think it is crazy for these punitive measures coming down for modest amounts of marijuana… I am not for legalizing marijuana, just decriminalizing it.”
Del. Knight wants to consider giving Portsmouth over $3 million due to lost taxing revenues at the Virginia International Gateway (VIG).
In September, the Virginia Port Authority advised Portsmouth it was entering into a new lease agreement with VIG. However, doing that took VIG off the tax grid for Portsmouth, and that will cost the city upwards of $1 million a year.
“I think it is absolutely something we need to put on table. We do have a revenue shortfall, but we are absolutely going to look at that.”
Portsmouth residents, don’t expect anymore toll relief.
“I think there will be other priorities for transportation in Virginia,” Norment says.
There could be a possible hike in the gasoline tax and that is looming large.
“If we got to increase the taxation on a gallon of gasoline another penny, then so be it. The motorists are going to benefit form it, and they won’t be sitting on the interstate waiting stuck in traffic, and they will be actually saving money,” Senator Norment added.
A new Airbnb law could be around the corner, too.
“I have looked at it, and I have come to the conclusion that the people who come through Airbnb must be registered so we know who they are,” Del. Knight said.
Senator Norment is also worried about the past negative presidential election contaminating more of the relationships among Democrats and Republicans.
Both candidates also thought the recent change in Portsmouth leadership will build better relations between the city and the General Assembly.
The General Assembly convenes January 11, 2017.