Post written by Grafton deButts, Vice President of Membership & Government Affairs
The General Assembly gathered for a most unique Veto Session on Wednesday. The House of Delegates assembled in tents outside the Capitol, while the much smaller Senate were able to maintain social distancing inside the Science Museum of Virginia’s event hall. The session went relatively smoothly, outside of some small technical hiccups and a minor health scare due to Speaker Filler-Corn overexerting herself. Loudoun’s own Catoctin Creek Distillery was on hand, not for their spirits, but for the hand sanitizer used by our legislators. See Richmond Times Dispatch’s full photo gallery.
By the end of the day, more than $2 billion in new spending was frozen as the state attempts to balance its budget in light of COVID-19. The Loudoun Chamber is closely following a number of priorities which are critical to the business community and of our economy. Here’s a quick summary of our priorities and other positions we advocated for throughout the General Assembly Session on behalf of our members, and the results after the Veto Session:
Restoring Northern Virginia Transportation Funding
- During Session: $50 million in additional funding for the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority was approved.
- After Veto Session: Part of the Metro Capital Fund and Prince William, Manassas, and Manassas Park transportation funding was to come from a 1% increase to the state’s Transient Occupancy Tax. Because the hospitality industry is one of the hardest hit industries during this time, that increase was delayed.
Increasing the Investment in the Virginia Housing Trust Fund
- During Session: Governor Northam proposed $70 million for housing initiatives over the next two years, more than tripling Virginia’s investment in housing our workforce.
- After Veto Session: $46 Million of those funds have been frozen through FY 2022.
Limiting the Increase to the Minimum Wage
- During Session: The minimum wage was increased from $7.25 to $9.50 on January 1, 2021 and then to $12 by 2023. This excludes those eligible for the tip-wage credit.
- After Veto Session: The minimum wage increase has been delayed five months and will now increase from $7.25 to $9.50 five months later on May 1st 2021.
Supporting Reliable Access to Energy
- During Session: Virginia has committed to having a 100% carbon free energy market by 2045 and joined the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, which will impose a rate increase on all utility customers in order to decrease greenhouse gas emissions.
- After Veto Session: No Change.
Collective Bargaining Rights for Government Employees
- During Session: A bill allowing local governments the option to allow their employees to collectively bargain passed. There was not enough support from lawmakers to mandate collective bargaining nor to provide the option for state employees.
- After Veto Session: The effective date a locality may allow collective bargaining for their employees has been delayed from January 1, 2021 to May 1, 2021.
Enabling Greater Access to Healthcare for Small Business Through Association Health Plans
- During Session: This bill will allow associations and membership organizations to sell health plan benefits to their members providing more healthcare options for thousands of small businesses.
- After Veto Session: The Governor made an amendment have this bill reenacted during the 2021 General Assembly Session, which would have forced it to be passed again by both the House and the Senate. The Senate rejected this amendment and now the Governor must either sign the bill into law, veto it, or take no action where the bill would still become law.
Grafton deButts, Vice President of Membership & Government Affairs