For the remaining week of this session of the General Assembly, the Chamber will be focused on raising the income eligibility of G3 back to the level in the introduced budget and trying to improve the priority bills that went to conference, including the transportation omnibus bills and legislation on earned sick leave, local taxing authority, minimum wage, and the R&D tax credits.
The Northern Virginia Chamber will continue to maintain a full-time presence in Richmond during the session, this year aided by additional contracted lobbyists from Williams Mullen. For more information regarding the Chamber’s business advocacy efforts and to see our 2020 Legislative Agenda, please visit the Chamber’s website at https://novachamber.org/2020-legislative-session.html.
The Budget Bills (HB/SB30) were approved and conferees were named on Thursday. Northern Virginia conferees are Sens. Howell, Saslaw and Barker, and Dels. Torian, Sickles and Bulova.
The House and Senate budgets retain $22 million in base operating support for George Mason University. Our current Chairman joined with 23 past chairs in an effort to support this additional funding. The House also includes an addition $5 million for research equipment at Mason.
Both the House and Senate budgets include a reduction in the amount appropriated to Gov. Northam’s G3 program. The G3 program – Get a Skill, Get a Job, Give Back – would make community college more affordable and accessible to individuals pursuing a career in high demand fields like IT and health care. The introduced budget included $72.5 million in both years. The House version appropriates $69 million to G3 while the Senate appropriates $96.3 million. The Senate also reduces the income eligibility level to 200 percent of the federal poverty level from 400 percent, which would harm Northern Virginia’s ability to take advantage of the program. The Senate budget also includes $60.5 million in need-based financial aid for undergraduate students while the House includes $45.4 million.
In pre-K-12, both versions include over $1 billion in direct aid to localities. The budgets also include teacher raises (which need to be matched by localities), increased funding for the Virginia Preschool Initiative ($81 million in the Senate and $98 million in the House), funding for more ESOL teachers, and cost of competing increases (House only).
- Funding for a study of a paid family leave program
- Legislation that would have established this program was not successful prior to crossover
- Full funding of the Tech Talent Investment Program
- Creation and funding of the Virginia Innovative Partnership Authority
- Virginia Business Ready Sites
- $10m in House
- $11.2m in Senate
- Housing Trust Fund
- $70m in House
- $60m in Senate
Other Legislation in Conference
The Transportation Omnibus bills are headed to conference. Northern Virginia conferees are Sens. Saslaw, Marsden and Barker, and Dels. Watts and Sullivan. We are working with other transportation advocates including through our membership in the Northern Virginia Transportation Coalition to keep provisions offered by Del. Watts that, along with the provisions already in the two bills, replace $50 million of the $102 million diverted from the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority in 2018. With funding included in legislation last session dealing with I-81, that brings the total replacement to $70 million.
Earned Sick Leave
Only one required leave bill remained after crossover – Sen. Favola’s SB481 which would require employers to grant employees one hour of leave per 30 hours of work, up to 40 hours per year. The House approved that bill and removed some of the language the business community had worked to get in the bill. The Chamber is working with other business groups to help improve the bill during conference. Conferees from Norther Virginia are Sen. Favola and Dels. Simon and Krizek.
R&D Tax Credits
Northern Virginia conferees for these bills are Sens. Howell and Saslaw and Del. Keam. These bills would raise the small and large R&D tax credits and extend the sunset dates for both credits.
The Chamber will be asking conferees to retain the regional component of the minimum wage bill approved in the Senate, which aligns with our policy position in the 2020 Legislative Agenda. Del. Paul Krizek is the only Northern Virginia conferee from the House (joining Dels. Ward and Fariss). Senate conferees have not yet been named.
Legislation Sent to Governor
Dual Enrollment and Work-Based Learning
The House and Senate this week approved HB516 (Bulova) which require the Board of Education to include in its high school graduation requirements the options for students to complete a dual-enrollment course or high-quality work-based learning experience in place of an Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate course. HB516 incorporates SB112 and was sent to the Governor for approval.
These bills have taken into account some of the business community’s concerns around legal issues presented by the bill as introduced. The patrons, Del. Sickles and Sen. Ebbin, removed the provision allowing unlimited punitive damages (which means damages are capped at $350,000 via existing law), made language on security clearances consistent with federal requirements, and created an administrative process through the Attorney General’s office for employees to utilize prior to going to court (similar to the existing EEOC process). SB868 was approved by the Senate on Feb. 24 and sent to the Governor for approval.
Energy Bill Update
The Virginia Clean Economy Act passed the Senate yesterday and will be headed to conference once the House finishes its work on the bill.
The Chamber has also supported several energy related bills that promote economic growth here in the Commonwealth. Del. Hayes’ HB1664 and Sen. Lucas’ SB998, both of which have passed their respective bodies, promote development of the largest offshore wind farm in U.S. Federal waters. This project, proposed by Dominion Energy, would generate enough zero-emissions energy to power 660,000 homes. This legislation will help secure a U.S. based supply chain here in Virginia that will provide clean energy and manufacturing jobs while ultimately driving down costs. Earlier this year wind turbine manufacturer Siemens Gamesa Renewable Energy stated it is actively examining establishing a manufacturing facility in the Hampton Roads area.
Also being considered this session is Sen. Lucas’ SB988, which has passed the Senate, that supports the deployment of electric school buses to our public school systems. Safety, technological advancements, and long-term savings are the major priorities of this legislation. One electric school bus can save a school district up to $700 a month on operation and maintenance and eliminate fuel costs, while also modernizing our grid through battery storage with vehicle-to-grid technology. Earlier this year, Dominion Energy announced their partnership with 16 school districts, including Fairfax, Prince William, Arlington and Alexandria, to allow them the purchase of electric school buses at the same cost as diesel models. This opportunity will expand the economic and ecological sustainable future for our Commonwealth, while providing a safe and healthy form of transportation for our children.
These weekly updates are meant to provide a snapshot of how the Chamber is advocating on behalf of our members at the General Assembly. If you would like to know how the Chamber is engaging on a topic not included in this update, please contact Vice President of Government Relations Clayton Medford (firstname.lastname@example.org).