Fate of three driving, roadway bills to be decided Wednesday by Va. lawmakers

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RICHMOND, Va. — Lawmakers are making the final calls Wednesday on the Governor’s changes to legislation that passed during the General Assembly session this year. On the top of the list, three big changes you could see on the roads.

Governor Ralph Northam handed lawmakers 15 pages of amendments to two bills, SB 1716 and HB 2718, that passed the General Assembly this year and gave $151 million towards roadway projects. 

Currently, there is no dedicated funding source for the about 325 mile stretch of roadway in Virginia. Transportation officials say these amendments would create a number of sources to pay for $2 billion worth of improvements. 

Among the proposals is a 2.1 percent tax increase for gas sold in the region with the corridor, as well as increased registration fees for trucks, which is calculated by how much the vehicle weighs. 

There was a question of whether the Speaker of the House Kirk Cox would allow a vote on these amendments because they might not be closely connected enough to the original bills. 

The Speaker’s Communications Director Parker Slaybaugh said in a statement, that he would allow it if the question was raised. 

“The original bill included several provisions for funding improvements to Interstate 81 and the governor’s amendments are consistent with that original purpose,” the statement read. “Regardless of his position on a piece of legislation, he calls balls and strikes on the rules like an umpire. It’s a responsibility he takes very seriously and one that must be exercised consistently and fairly.”

According to previous reports, the Speaker isn’t backing an all-out ban on holding cell phones while driving. This was tacked onto another bill by the governor, which bans using your phone while going through a work zone. 

Lawmakers failed to pass a hand-held cell phone ban this year, but the effort has maintained support in the Capitol and by advocates. A recent AAA poll shows 63 percent of Virginians support the amendment. 

Gov. Northam also made a change to the budget that would eliminate driver’s license suspensions for people who haven’t paid up court fines and fees. The Governor’s office estimates 627,000 Virginians will get their driver’s license back if this passes. Lawmakers and state officials say driving is a critical part of being able to get to work, and not having a license impacts economically-disadvantaged Virginians. 

Gov. Northam has vetoed 17 bills. Session will reconvene at noon Wednesday. 

CORRECTION: The Communication Director of the Speaker of the House’s name was spelled incorrectly in the broadcast version of the story. Has been updated since for later broadcasts.  

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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