Chesapeake’s legislative wish list: Ability to set vape tax, money for career and technical education center

CHESAPEAKE — City leaders are calling on Virginia lawmakers to allow cities to establish a tax on vaping products and to give retired law enforcement officers the ability to review traffic camera violations.

City Council members this month adopted the city’s 2024 legislative agenda, a wish list of requests for the General Assembly session beginning in January. As part of the approved wish list, they are also asking for funds for a career and technical education center.

Among the city’s biggest priorities is a request for authority to levy an excise tax on the sale of vaping products that would match what’s set for cigarette sales. Currently, that’s 65 cents per pack, according to the fiscal 2024 budget. The city’s legislative affairs representative, David Westcott Jr., told City Council members the new tax would provide an additional revenue stream for the city and make the tax levy more equitable.

Chesapeake also supports amending the state code to grant retired sworn law enforcement officers the ability to monitor traffic violations captured by cameras. Currently, officers have to review and approve those violations, so bringing in retired officers cuts down on costs and frees up time for other duties, Westcott said.

Westcott credited Sen. Louise Lucas and Dels. Cliff Hayes and Barry Knight for previously securing $3 million to help fund a Chesapeake Public Schools career and technical education facility. However, it’s not enough, so the city is requesting more, he added.

Another legislative priority would change certain petition requirements when multiple landowners own the same parcels of land.

The General Assembly convenes Jan. 10 in Richmond.

In addition to legislative priorities, the package also includes a number of other initiatives the city will support if legislation is filed, including a renewed call to repeal changes made in 2020 that further limit when drivers can be pulled over for traffic stops. Those changes now prohibit police from stopping drivers solely for vehicle equipment violations such as broken taillights and brake lights and expired tags and registration. Since then, Chesapeake has supported a call to repeal some of those changes and bring back more police authority in an effort it says will increase public safety and seize illegal guns.

The city supports any legislation that expands those deemed official public safety personnel, including emergency dispatchers, animal control officers and park rangers. In Chesapeake, both animal control officers and park rangers are armed and wear ballistic vests and can carry out certain law enforcement authorities. But deeming them public safety, Westcott said, would mean they’re eligible for early and additional retirement benefits.

The city also supports maintaining and expanding local authority to plan and regulate land use and additional dedicated state funding for gun violence prevention.

Westcott credited the city’s state and federal delegation for providing the city with about $34.7 million over the last three years, which has funded projects such as the Historic Village at Dismal Swamp, the Dr. Clarence V. Cuffee Community Center public pool and sidewalk expansions in South Norfolk and along Poindexter Street.

Natalie Anderson, 757-732-1133,