By Delegate Rob Bloxom

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As the 2018 General Assembly session comes to a close, some huge divides still exist between the House and Senate budget. The “conferees” have been named, and they have a daunting task to complete if we are to adjourn on time March 10. The six delegates will meet with seven senators in a conference committee to try and bridge the six hundred million dollar difference between the two budgets. It is too premature to talk about the wins and losses in the budget, and I do not believe in taking a victory lap until the Governor has signed the budget. I do feel optimistic that several of the budget amendments that will positively affect the Eastern Shore will survive in some form.

The General Assembly has passed 450 bills and has sent them on to the Governor. We still have more than 400 bills to consider during this last week. A lot of these bills will go into conference. This is where the Senate version of the bill and the House version of the same bill are different. Three senators and three delegates will meet to iron out the differences. At this stage of the session, wills and wits are matched in hopes of fruitful policies that will benefit the Commonwealth of Virginia.

Aside from the legislation I have been working on in Richmond, in early February I met with the DEQ, representatives from Tyson Foods and Perdue Farms, and a representative of the Virginia Poultry Industry to discuss permitting and water usage. The poultry industry and Accomack County have been critical of the DEQ in relation to obtaining a permit after construction and not being able to have one public hearing  for all the various permits needed at once. In DEQ’s defense, a water withdrawal permit needs a geophysical log to locate the water screens at the appropriate depth. Because of this,the permit is unable to be approved in advance. To this end, we continue to work. I am pleased to announce that they took my suggestion of using the upper aquifer for a portion of their water usage in their new chicken houses. We also discussed the timing of permits, as a person is not required to get a permit until 300,000 gallons of water have been withdrawn within a month’s time-frame. To put this into perspective, back in the day when canning factories were such a success on the Eastern Shore, even a small factory would use more than one million gallons of water in a single day. Therefore, 300,000 gallons of water per month is not as significant as one would be quick to think.

I look forward to returning home after this weekend. In the meantime, you may reach my office in Richmond at (804)698-1000 if you have any questions or concerns. You may also email me at delrbloxom@house.virginia.gov Thank you.