NBSP, VHC State Funds Sought

Campbell, Deeds Introduce Budget Amendments

Budget amendments have been introduced by the Rockbridge area’s members of the General Assembly that would provide funding for Natural Bridge State Park and the Virginia Horse Center.

State Sen. Creigh Deeds and Del. Ronnie Campbell are both pushing for additional state financial support for both entities. They’re seeking more paid staff at Natural Bridge and funding for capital improvements at the horse center.

Campbell introduced a budget amendment that would provide $380,000 in each year of the biennium to pay for five new positions at Natural Bridge. He said he’s also working behind the scenes to find a way to straighten out the park’s finances with regard to its debt.

“We’re hoping to allow the Natural Bridge State Park to reach its potential,” explained Deeds, who is undertaking efforts on behalf of the state park that are similar to Campbell’s. “We need to get the debt paid. I’m sponsoring a budget amendment to beef up the staff, adding two to four employees. The park only has two paid employees now. I don’t know how they do it. Natural Bridge should be the gateway to the state park system.”

Deeds has introduced a budget amendment that would have the state pay off all of the $12 million the horse center owes on a USDA loan that consolidated debt from various capital improvements projects. “I don’t expect to get all of that but that’s a starting point [for negotiations],” said Deeds. “The horse

center’s debt is huge. It has really hamstrung [its operations].”

Food and lodging tax proceeds from Rockbridge County and Lexington that go to the horse center, said Deeds, “are great, but it’s not enough. … An equine center is great for Virginia. It’s good for farmers and suppliers. Personally, my two cents is that we should set up an entity that’s similar to what’s in Kentucky. The state of Virginia needs to be more involved.”

A budget amendment introduced by Campbell would provide $500,000 to the horse center in each year of the biennium to help with capital improvements. Such expenditures would be subject to approval of Rockbridge County and Lexington, said Campbell. He added that he’s working to get support for the horse center from other legislators.

Campbell’s Second Session In the opening days of the session – Campbell’s second since being elected to the House of Delegates – the Republican legislator said he witnessed “confusion” as Democrats took control of both chambers for the first time in a generation. “Rules are changing,” he noted. “New committee assignments are being handed out. Hopefully, things will settle down.”

Campbell, who represents the 24th District, retained his seats on the public safety (formerly known as police, militia and public safety) and courts of justice committees. He was also appointed to the finance committee.

He is hopeful a spirit of bipartisanship will prevail, and that bills he is sponsoring will get a fair hearing by members of both parties. “We’re not Washington,” he remarked. “Here in Richmond we have to get along. We eat together.”

Campbell has once again introduced a bill that would provide a “cause of action” against employers who fail to pay wages due to employees, who could be awarded three times what’s due, plus attorney fees and other costs, if the failure is deemed willful with the intend to defraud. Campbell has said he’s found this to be an all-too common practice in the construction industry that needs to be rectified.

He’s trying to find a legislative solution to the problem of too many tractor-trailers driving through downtown Lexington. He’s proposing to shift hauling permit routes that truck drivers must follow.

Campbell has introduced a bill to set up guidelines for the Department of Environmental Quality to follow when reviewing wind energy projects such as the Rocky Forge wind turbines proposed in Botetourt County, just outside Rockbridge County. HB 205 was prompted by the Rocky Forge plans, though the new guidelines, if enacted, wouldn’t apply to this particular project.

HB 1416 is a bill Campbell introduced that he says will ensure due process for owners of zoos when accusations are leveled against them over the treatment of animals in their care. The bill was requested by a zoo in Winchester, but, he said, would provide the same protections for Natural Bridge Zoo and the Virginia Safari Park. “It’s kind of complicated but it’s the right way to go,” he said.

Campbell said he’s trying to garner support among legislators for opposition to Gov. Ralph Northam’s proposal to do away with annual vehicle inspections. He points to a Texas study that suggested vehicles with equipment defects are three times more likely to be involved in fatal accidents.

No. 29 For Deeds “This is my 29th opening [of a General Assembly session],” commented Deeds, Democrat of the 25th District. “There certainly have been some hang-ups, big and small, but we’re working through them. We’re going to work on a bipartisan basis.”

Of the lower chamber, Deeds remarked, “It will be interesting in the House. There are Democrats who’ve never been in the majority and Republicans who have never been in the minority. [In the Senate and House] we’re going to have to get our work done. So far, so good.”

Deeds and Campbell have each introduced bills in their respective chambers to give scenic river status to the upper portion of the Maury River, a 19.3-mile stretch from where it forms at the confluence of the Calfpasture and Little Calfpasture rivers near Goshen, to Beans Bottom, just upstream from Jordans Point at East Lexington. The three Rockbridge area local governments as well as Washington and Lee University, Virginia Military Institute and the Virginia Horse Center have all requested this designation.

Deeds said he’s supportive of an item in the governor’s budget to provide funding for making improvements to Green Pastures, a recreation area in Alleghany County that has fallen into disrepair. During the era of segregation, this historic park was frequented by African Americans, including many from the Rockbridge area.

Deeds said he has been in talks with new Rockbridge County and Lexington Sheriff Steve Funkhouser and others about what can be done to increase funding for law enforcement in rural areas of Virginia.

“One of my main focuses has been and will continue to be mental health,” said Deeds, who continues to chair the Joint Subcommittee to Study Mental Health Services in the Commonwealth in the 21st Century.

One bill he introduced, SB 330, represents an effort to ensure there are adequate psychiatric facilities and beds available in the state. The bill would remove psychiatric hospitals from the list of medical care facilities for which a certificate of public need is required prior to the initiation of the project, and would prohibit the conversion of psychiatric beds in existing facilities to non-psychiatric beds.

Another of his bills, SB 734, would establish a work group to study the current process for approving residential psychiatric services for children and adolescents. Another, SB 739, would mandate a comprehensive list of information that has to be included in the state’s acute psychiatric bed registry.

Deeds is chairing the privileges and elections committee and is serving on the commerce and labor, judiciary, finance and appropriations and rules committees.