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Senate panel votes down Loupassi’s RMA bill

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Posted: Thursday, February 14, 2013 3:24 pm | Updated: 3:44 pm, Thu Feb 14, 2013.

An agreement for making representation on the Richmond Metropolitan Authority board equal collapsed Thursday when the city apparently balked at signing off on the deal.

On a motion made by Sen. Henry L. Marsh III, D-Richmond, the Senate Local Government Committee voted to kill House Bill 1732, with Democrats joining forces to defeat the measure in a 9-5 vote taken at an impromptu meeting on the Senate floor.

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The RMA operates a toll expressway system that is heavily used by Chesterfield residents, as well as The Diamond, a minor league baseball stadium that the city is attempting to replace, and several parking decks. It also operates Main Street Station for Richmond.

Action on the bill had been delayed for several days while Marsh, who represents parts of the city and Chesterfield County requested time to review the bill. The bill was sponsored by Del. G. Manoli Loupassi, R-Richmond, a former president of the Richmond City Council.

The legislation would have ended Richmond’s dominance of the RMA board by reducing the city’s representatives from six to three. Chesterfield and Henrico counties would increase representation from two to three members each. A final member would be appointed by the Commonwealth Transportation Board.

By Aug. 1, the RMA and three localities would have to transfer control of four parking decks to the city, which paid for them, as well as The Diamond, which is built on land that would revert to Richmond. The city would lease the baseball stadium to the RMA for $1 a year as long as baseball is played there.

Loupassi presented a redrawn proposal to the committee on Tuesday and received vocal support from all three localities, the Chesterfield County Chamber of Commerce, and Sen. John Watkins, R-Powhatan.

Watkins, who represents parts of Chesterfield and Richmond, said the region has been talking for years about representation on the RMA Board of Directors and a regional approach to mass transit.

But Marsh wanted more time to study changes to the legislation, which was redrafted to protect Richmond’s property interest in assets controlled by the RMA and direct the region’s Metropolitan Planning Organization to study the possibility of a regional transit system to move workers to job centers around the region.

Equal representation is most important to Chesterfield, whose residents pay most of the tolls collected on the Powhite Parkway and Downtown Expressway.

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