Officials lay out prioritiesPublished 10:18am Wednesday, January 2, 2013
BY STEPHEN H. COWLES/CONTRIBUTING WRITER
FRANKLIN—Economic development and prohibiting tolls on I-95 are among the major concerns of State Del. Rick Morris, R-Carrollton, and State Del. Roslyn Tyler, D-Sussex, respectively, when they return to the Virginia General Assembly. This year’s session begins Wednesday, Jan. 9, in Richmond.
Repeated calls to State Sen. Harry Blevins, R-78th District, were not returned.
One of the eight bills Morris has submitted is the Port of Virginia Economic and Infrastructure Development Zone Grant Fund.
Specifically, Franklin would be added to a list of localities that would allow businesses connected to the Port of Virginia to locate or expand here. They would be eligible for grants depending on the number of new jobs that could be created.
“This would ensure that Franklin will get a tax credit connected with the Port of Virginia extension,” said Morris.
Tyler said she’d again introduce a bill that prohibits any tolls on I-95 without the General Assembly’s approval. Last year’s effort was unsuccessful, she added.
She said the federal proposed rate would be $4 for cars traveling each way; $12 for trucks each way.
“We don’t want this to happen without General Assembly approval,” said Tyler. “Basically, where we are in the state we use 95 constantly for work, college, school, holidays or social needs. These tolls would be an economic hardship for Southside Virginia.”
Two other bills that Morris will sponsor are what he called farmers’ issues.
The first continues the 30 cents per 100 pounds excise tax on all peanuts grown in and sold in the commonwealth through July 1, 2016. Money from the tax would be used to promote sales and uses of Virginia peanuts.
The second has to do with farm equipment that’s stolen and sold for scrap metal. The bill would demand that salvage yards promptly offer purchase reports of non-metal scrap and metal articles to law enforcement officials.
An example he gave was of a peanut bed trailer that was stolen, scrapped and listed as scrap aluminum.
Morris acknowledged that farmers aren’t the only victims. Residents’ air conditioning units are also targets, he said.
“These are the kinds of things we have to put a stop to,” said Morris. “Scrap metal dealers are not always going by the rules. We need a fair dealing to stop an avenue for thieves and stolen goods. It hurts our farmers and homebuilders and owners.”
Tyler will introduce a bill to restore the rights of non-violent offenders who’ve served their time. She noted that Virginia and Kentucky are the only two states that deny voting rights to such people.
“They can’t apply for public housing or loans for educational funding. This reduces their employment opportunities,” said Tyler. She added this in turn could compel such people to commit other crimes to meet their needs, and “they’re back in the system.”
Tyler said she’d also carry a bill on behalf of the Virginia Loggers Association. She wants a resolution that would support lifting weight limits on interstate highways.
Morris added that he supports eliminating the system that allows non-elected panels to appoint school boards, such as in Southampton County.
“I believe that anyone who’s spending taxpayers’ money should be held accountable,” he said. “I just don’t believe it’s an efficient method of government to appoint any committee for using taxpayers’ money.”
Morris, who’s returning for his second term, represents the 64th District. This includes parts of Isle of Wight, Prince George, Southampton, Surry, Sussex counties, and parts of the cities of Franklin and Suffolk.
Tyler, who’s been a member since 2006, represents the 75th District. This includes counties of Brunswick, Greensville, and parts of Dinwiddie, Isle of Wight, Lunenburg, Southampton, Surry and Sussex, as well the city of Emporia and a part of Franklin.