The Complex Dance Of State Laws With State Legislators

Perhaps you’ve heard something like this: “It’s better to get involved with your local government because that’s where the action is.” The idea is relatively simple. The executive, legislative, and judicial branches have a difficult time making any real long-lasting changes at the federal level. State branches of government tend to only worry about their own constituents, whose opinions are less diverse. That’s why it can be easier to get things done. But not always.

In a unanimous vote, The Loudoun County Board of Supervisors voted to oppose House Bill 2104. The purpose of the bill is to decide which law is responsible for the operation of the Dulles Greenway: the Virginia Highway Corporation Act of 1988 (HCA) or the Public-Private Transportation Act of 1995. The former law currently provides the requisite oversight.

The bill was also passed unanimously by the House Transportation Committee. 

The repeal of the HCA would bar Loudoun County from being able to make a new agreement — which could potentially nix its ability to make substantial amounts of revenue from the Greenway, both through public events and tolls. This would happen because the new law would essentially turn the Greenway into a state owned and operated road. Money would still be collected, but it would go higher up. This would also reduce the ability of Loudoun residents to make a bigger impact on their community with their own money.

But that’s not all the law would do.

Chairwoman Phyllis Randall said, “The goal is to offer lower tolls, the goal is to offer a distance-based tolling — those things are true. But we don’t know, quite frankly, if it would happen, when it would happen, how it would look.”

Other bills have also been proposed by State Senator John Bell and Delegate Suhas Subramanyam to change the way the Greenway is regulated in the future. So far, both have passed muster in the chambers where they were written. Even if the bills pass, it might be for nothing. If the HCA is actually repealed, the new law would supersede any modifications being written right now. Bell and Subramanyam’s ideas wouldn’t matter.

Supervisor Matt Letourneau (R-Dulles) said, “There’s a lot of uncertainty over the next 11 months, and I think if the other bill is successful as it looks like it will be — we hope, so far — [that] it only improves the county’s position and only increases the incentive for a potential deal down the road, even if it’s outside the administration. I think the same folks in the General Assembly that are interested in that would still be interested in that next year.”

State Delegate David Reid (D-32nd) is the reason why HB 2104 exists. He said, “This is one of the few opportunities across the entire commonwealth where we might actually have the opportunity to reduce the tolls that our constituents and commuters end up facing every single day.”

Here’s the thing: The new agreement could just as easily raise tolls. That’s the big unknown about changing laws (and hands) and perhaps one more reason to get into local politics.