Chamber Insider Blog

Richmond Public Policy Trip February 2020

The Loudoun Chamber Goes to Richmond

Post written by Grafton deButts, VP of Membership & Government Affairs

On Thursday, February 13, 2020, Loudoun Business Leaders traveled to Richmond to advocate for our key priorities this year and had an opportunity to meet with key leaders who are influential in these efforts.

Economic Development

They day started with a lunch with Stephen Moret, Executive Director of the Virginia Economic Development Partnership.  VEDP is significantly concern with the housing crisis in Northern Virginia.  Moret shared that companies are choosing not to come to Northern Virginia.  They would like to encourage the work to be done to create a regional “sense of place” to help market or brand the region against our greatest competitors in Raleigh, Austin, and Nashville.

 Transportation: Shannon Valentine: Secretary of Transportation

2018 was a monumental year in the Commonwealth.  It was the first year that vehicle miles traveled throughout the commonwealth increased, and revenue from transportation funding sources decreased.  Today, significant changes must be made to the transportation funding system to ensure that we are increasing revenue for transportation improvements while continuing to encourage fuel efficient and electric vehicles.   The Governor Omnibus Transportation Bill reorganizes that today Virginia has seven separate transportation funds that are supplied by eight different revenue streams.  The new plan would create a Commonwealth Transportation Fund that would collect and disperse all transportation revenue in a single fund.  Secretary Valentine describes it best as “Reorganizing and stabilizing our transportation investments and allowing them to grow.”  This itself will not fix our pending transportation revenue shortage.  Increased in revenues will have to come from an increased gas tax in 2020, which Virginia has currently ranks as one of the lowest states for gasoline text in the country.  This reality has resonated with the our legislature as this bill has received very little resistance during this year’s session.

Jason Stanford: Northern Virginia Transportation Alliance, Executive Director

Governor’s Omnibus Transportation Bill will restore funding to the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority that was reallocated to Metro Silver Line expansion at the cost of other transportation needs.  Other funding in the bill will be dedicated to metro to pay for the additional costs Silver Line maintenance that would otherwise fall on Loudoun and Fairfax to pay for out of local funds.

Technology: Robby Demeria, Deputy Secretary of Commerce and Trade for Technology

By 2021, Virginia will have launch the Virginia Research Consortium at one of the two state educational institutions in Northern Virginia ( GMU or VT).  This new department will fund technology research for the future development and growth of technology startups.

Workforce Development: Megan Healy: Chief Workforce Development Advisor for Virginia

Before becoming the Chief Workforce Development Advisor, Dr. Healy served as the Commonwealth’s first Director of STEM – H under Governor McAuliffe.  She briefed the Partnership on the Governor’s goal of seeking to fund the middle skills gap, or “New Collar” jobs.  His office is developing a new program entitled G3, which stands for Get Skilled, Get Job, Give Back.  G3 is focused on five sectors: healthcare, technology, early childhood education, public safety, construction trades (a blend of the skilled trades.)   A critical  strategy to improve the skilled labor pool is the Pathway program which simplifies the journey for a student who needs specific education for a high need sector.  Students now begin working immediately in their vocational curriculum rather than forcing every student to take the general education required courses, i.e., a future IT professional being forced to take Biology 101.

George Mason Parity Funding: Mason: Mark Smith, Executive Director for State Government Relations, George Mason University

Parity funding for George Mason University is a priority position the Northern Virginia Chamber Partnership.  Today, GMU receives 74% of the total resources that the other doctoral universities receive. This not only reduces the resources that students may access, but also leads to significant challenges in faculty recruitment and retention.  Smith also shared that “compensation is extremely important because our teachers can be recruited by any number of schools in the DC/Metro area and they won’t even need to move.”  No other state university in Virginia faces the same competition.

Pre-K Care & DevelopmentHolly Coy – Deputy Secretary of Education

Too Few kids are coming into school full ready in terms of reading, math, social skills and self regulation.  44% if Kindergartners are unprepared in at least one of these critical areas.  Up to 70% of parents up to the age of six have two working adults in the home, and therefore relying on other pre-kindergarten care for their children.

During this session, the Governor is seeking to put at additional $60 million into the Virginia Preschool Initiative in order to incentivize public/private partnership and work to increase class sizes to align with national best practices.  Additionally, as part of the Governor’s G3 Program, an additional $9 million will be invested into the training and attraction of Pre-K licensed instructors.

Advocating for our Priorities

Following our meetings with top state officials, we had the opportunity to host a reception along with other regional chambers of commerce with our legislators.  This provide an excellent opportunity to continue to advocate against bills that have moved from the House to Senate (and vice versa) that would put financial and regulatory burden on our business community, specifically bills concerning, earned sick-leave for companies with under 25 employees and collective bargaining for government employees.

To learn more about the Public Policy Committee and the Loudoun Chamber’s 2020 Policy Positions, click here.