Chamber Insider Blog

The 2015 General Assembly is in the books – how did they do?

Post by Government Affairs Manager Brian Fauls

“Brian’s Corner” – The 2015 General Assembly is in the books – how did they do?

I’ve been involved with elected officials in various ways for over 20 years.  In that time I’ve attended a good number of swearing in ceremonies and watched good people solemnly swear to “support the Constitution of the United States, and the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Virginia, and ….. Faithfully and impartially discharge all the duties incumbent upon.” 

Lately, however, I’ve begun to wonder if another oath shouldn’t be added to the process, an oath to do no harm – a Hippocratic Oath for politicians if you will.   Let’s face it, if you’ve ever struggled with government rules, regulations and red tape – and what business owner hasn’t – you know that politicians can do tons of harm with legislation.   And as the clarion call from some quarters for government to get more and more involved with people’s daily lives gets louder, the chances for government doing more harm than good ratchets up.

So, increasingly, when I look at a legislative session, like the recently complete General Assembly session, I don’t judge success, like many other people do, solely by the number of bills passed.  I also look at how much harm the legislators did with the bills they passed.  

Based on that criteria, generally speaking, I think the 2015 General Assembly did pretty well.  But our General Assembly members they had a lot of help to keep them on the straight and narrow.  Trust me, had the business community not been paying attention and not been down in Richmond talking to legislators, some bad bill might have become law.  But we were there, continually reminding our legislators to do no harm.  Thanks to our efforts we passed a few bills that might actually HELP make it easier for people to run their businesses and to create world-class communities.  

For example, thanks to the efforts of the business community, our returning veterans will have an easier time translating their military training and experience into civilian careers.  It just makes sense that a former army medic probably has training relevant to a nursing degree, or someone who served in the military as an aircraft technician has a leg up on pursuing a degree in mechanical engineering.  They shouldn’t have to start at square one to get the civilian degrees and certifications they need for a job.  And now they don’t have to.

We also secured a big success in terms of energy efficiency.  While the price of oil may be cheap now, it won’t stay that way.  Whether you own or lease the building your company is located in, you still need lighting, heating, air conditioning, power for office equipment, etc., etc. to stay in business.  Those costs add up.  Now, thanks to the efforts of the business community, business owners can apply for Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) loans to finance energy efficiency and renewable energy building improvements.  The loans are repaid over 15 or 20 years via an annual assessment on the business’ property tax bill.   Which means, the loan is attached to the property rather than you the business owner.  So, you’re not locked into the property if your business needs new space to grow.   It’s a win-win; you can save money on energy and still have flexibility to grow.

Now, to be fair, we didn’t get everything we wanted from the General Assembly but we had a lot of successes.  Not a bad 45 days of work.

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