2023 Virginia General Assembly Workforce Update

In Chamber Blog, Government Advocacy, Workforce by admin

The 2023 Virginia General Assembly wrapped up on February 25th in Richmond. The Chamber's Vice President of Government Relations, Nick Clemente, was in attendance all 46 days (and then some!), advocating on behalf of our Region and Chamber membership. Chamber members were kept up-to-date throughout the session through Nick's weekly emails and member advocacy calls. He was also always a phone call away should a member have a need in Richmond. Not a member? Learn more about Chamber membership opportunities here.

Below is the workforce excerpt from Nick's summary sent to all Chamber members at the General Assembly's conclusion:

Our top priority this 2023 General Assembly session was the workforce development consolidation effort. The Chamber's own NOVABIZPAC Chairman, Scott McGeary, Washington Gas, Jim Dyke and I worked daily with Secretary of Labor Bryan Slater to ensure passage of Delegate Kathy Byron’s HB2195, and Senators George Barker and Frank Ruff’sSB1470. The effort resulted in a rare bipartisan victory that consolidates and transforms Virginia’s fragmented workforce development system and creates the Virginia Department of Workforce Development and Advancement (DWDA). This new agency will direct all workforce programs across state government to enhance workforce readiness for current and future jobs in the Commonwealth. The outcome was supported by a broad coalition of trade and industry groups, educators, labor unions, and business workforce leaders. 

For the past six weeks, I have provided Chamber members with weekly updates on this initiative and today I want to give you some additional commentary on our entire journey and how our advocacy work impacts our Region as a whole. At the beginning of the General Assembly session, we set out to become the “Workforce Chamber” and, consequently, dedicated a large portion of our efforts to ensuring that this legislation passed. While it wasn't always easy, thanks to our perseverance, we helped accomplish a reorganization 32 years in the making. It was certainly a roller coaster ride that included late nights strategizing with Secretary Slater, but to be a part of it was an honor of a lifetime. 

On January 26th, at the House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing for HB2195, the Byron Bill was considered and approved. A 12-10 vote along party lines gave us all some heartburn. I was particularly fearful that we were heading for another year or two of studies, despite Jim Dyke’s passionate speech about the bipartisan nature of this effort dating back 32 years! Rather than get discouraged, we all decided to kick into another gear prior to SB1470 being in front of Senate General Laws. We all worked the phones, calling people we knew had strong connections with Senate Democrats. 

The grassroots effort started to gain some traction, and we were able to get the support of Bill Leighty, the former Chief of Staff to Governors Warner and Kaine. On February 1st, Bill followed Jim and gave a moving speech, calling on the Senators to complete what he too had worked on for decades. The result was SB1470 being voted 11-0-4 out of Senate General Laws. Later that day, House Appropriations voted 14-8, with two Democrats, Delegates David Reid and Sam Rasoul, crossing over to support HB2195

At this point, the momentum was picking up! Crossover was fast approaching on February 9th and both bills were about to hit the floor! In the House HB2195 passed 54-45 and the companion SB1470 passed the Senate 40-0. As the two bills crossed over to the opposing Chambers, Jim told us, “The easy part is catching the big fish, the hard part is bringing it to shore.”

The last week of the General Assembly session concluded with unanimous votes on both HB2195 in the Senate and SB1470 in the House. In the waning days, Scott and I ran into House Minority Leader Don Scott and he told us, “Secretary Slater earned that victory. He was here walking the halls every day, listening to people’s concerns.” According to Scott McGeary, “no Secretary has walked these halls like Secretary Slater did since Delegate Vivian Watts was Secretary of Transportation in the 1980’s.” 

While the “Workforce Chamber” was happy to play a part in accomplishing something 32 years in the making, the lion share of the credit goes to Secretary Slater. He set the bar for political perseverance, willingness to listen and find common ground, and determination to do what is right for all Virginians. Jim, Scott, and I were happy to help him achieve something that 8 prior administrations had long said was necessary. 

As always, the Chamber and I are here to assist you. If you have any questions or would like to join our weekly member advocacy calls at 8:30AM on Friday, please let me know! 

For anyone who would like to virtually meet the great Secretary Slater, he will be joining us for our monthly Workforce Network meeting on March 28th at 2PM. You can register here