The Virginia General Assembly formally ended its 2021 session on Monday and the Chamber was (virtually) front and center for the entire process that began on January 13th. Each year the General Assembly gathers in Richmond and makes decisions that impact how we do business in Virginia. The Northern Virginia Chamber is one of the most influential, pro-business voices engaged in this process.
In this highly unusual year, the Chamber remained an effective advocate for our members and the Northern Virginia business community as a whole. As the Chamber’s full time Vice President for Government Relations, I spent my days talking directly with key House and Senate members from the Region and around the Commonwealth, testifying before committees, and working with other business groups to implement the Chamber’s Legislative Agenda.
This Legislative Agenda is developed each year by the Chamber’s Policy Committee and we are always looking for new members. You only need to be a Chamber member to join and see up close how the Chamber has earned the reputation as the Voice of Business in Northern Virginia. Here are a few highlights of our work during this year’s General Assembly session:
Paycheck Protection Program Expense Deductibility: the Chamber advocated on this issue throughout the session, making the case that businesses that took PPP loans were the reason the state’s financial picture remains solid. Therefore, Virginia businesses should receive the same tax treatment they do at the federal level. This saved Virginia businesses hundreds of millions of dollars in potential tax bills should the General Assembly have chosen not to allow $100,000 of expenses paid for with PPP proceeds to be deducted. But the issue is not over – the bill only applies to 2020, so we will need to be vigilant that this same treatment applies for 2021 PPP loans (second draw).
Paid Leave: the Chamber continues to work with a number of legislators who are proponents of costly and cumbersome paid sick leave mandates. The biggest proposal – a 12-week paid family and medical leave program for all Virginia employees – would have been paid for through a $1 billion tax hike on Virginia businesses. We were successful in getting a number of these bills killed over the past two sessions. For this session, only two paid leave bills passed – one for home healthcare workers and another to study how to allow paid leave insurance policies to be sold by the private sector in Virginia.
The Budget: this session also included some major investments in education through the budget. Priorities like Gov. Northam’s G3 community college tuition assistance program for high demand fields, affordability funding for Mason, and the Technology Development Grant Fund (related to Microsoft’s Fairfax County expansion) are fully funded. One additional positive from this budget compromise is a greater-than-expected increase in the Cost of Competing formula funding for Northern Virginia K-12 (increased from 10.6% to 18%). All together, this year’s budget is continuing the trend of sound investment in the Chamber’s education and workforce priorities