Post written by Grafton deButts, VP of Membership & Government Affairs
As the 2020 Virginia General Assembly reaches the finish line, a week later than planned, the Virginia business community can be proud to have achieved several important victories this legislative session.
But the Commonwealth’s employers will also have to contend with new laws that will increase the cost and complexity of doing business, along with near misses on anti-business bills that may return in 2021.
Working with our partners in the Northern Virginia Chamber Partnership, the Loudoun Chamber was able to achieve success on most of its top priorities for the 2020 legislative session. These include:
- Restore Northern Virginia’s Transportation Funding: Two years ago, the General Assembly carved out $102 million from the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority to fund the state’s obligations to Metro. This session, legislators agreed to restore $50 million of those funds, with another $20 million planned from other sources. Business leaders are also working to convince legislators to reform Virginia’s transportation funding strategy and reverse the steep decline in gas tax revenue – the primary funding source for building and maintaining roads, rails and ports.
- Increase Access to Attainable Workforce Housing: Governor Northam proposed $70 million for housing initiatives over the next two years, more than tripling Virginia’s investment in housing our workforce. While details for the final budget deal are still available, there is bipartisan support for Northam’s proposal. In addition, Delegate Kathleen Murphy’s bill to create a stakeholder group to propose ways that Virginia can make a bigger difference on this issue is heading to the Governor’s desk for approval.
- Provide parity funding for George Mason University: As with the housing investments, Governor Northam’s proposed two-year budget included $22 million in new funding for George Mason University. These funds would help level the playing field against other Virginia Universities, who receive far or state funding per student than Mason.
- Protecting the Rights of Virginia’s Workers: When the 2020 legislative session began, Socialist Delegate Lee Carter proposed a bill to eliminate Virginia’s job-creating right-to-work laws, and Senator Dick Saslaw wanted to force workers to pay union fees against their will. But when the dust settled, and after an impressive amount of engagement by the business community on this issue, but ill-conceived measures were soundly defeated.
- Ensuring Reasonable Employee Benefit Mandates: Most Virginia businesses offer employees paid time off, for illness or other family reasons. Many workers prefer to receive cash compensation over other benefits and so work for employers that do not provide these benefits. These arguments convinced Virginia’s legislators to better study the impact of mandated paid sick or family/medical leave on job creation and economic growth, and to work with the business community on solutions that support our workforce and small businesses.
- Supporting Reliable Access to Energy: The General Assembly adopted Senate Bill 851 an the plan to make Virginia’s energy market 100% carbon free by 2045. This includes committing Virginia to the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, which imposes rate increases on utility customers to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. With 64% of Virginia’s energy coming from carbon-based sources, the business community is cautioning legislators to proceed cautiously with a plan that is certain to drive up costs and risk access to reliable energy for businesses and residents.
To learn more about the Chamber’s Public Policy positions and committee, click here.