Virginia General Assembly Current Activity
The Dulles Regional Chamber of Commerce is part of the Northern Virginia Partnership, a consortium of three local chambers. Together, we hire a lobbyist each year to represent our members’ issues at General Assembly. The Partnership is the largest business consortium from Northern Virginia weighing in with state legislators.
The Dulles Regional Chamber is proud to be serving the business interests of the Dulles Region through efforts such as our monitoring of state affairs.
MARCH 2013 SESSION - OVERVIEW
At the start of the legislative session, DRCC chose to focus its energies and political capital on a select number of issues that would truly impact its members in significant ways. This approach enabled DRCC to strengthen its impact, which led to positive outcomes across the board. The following provides an overview of the priorities that were identified by DRCC for the 2013 legislative session and the outcomes that were achieved in each area.
- Secure new, sustainable, reliable, long-term regional and statewide transportation funding to meet our critical transportation construction and maintenance needs.
- Secure additional state funding to support completion of the Dulles Corridor Rail Project in order to minimize the impact of increasing tolls for Dulles Toll Road users and ensure that one of the Commonwealth’s major economic development drivers remains affordably accessible.
DRCC worked aggressively throughout the session to support passage of a transportation package that would achieve the top two priorities, maintaining a focus on the outcomes more so than on how to achieve those outcomes. At the conclusion of the session, a bipartisan consensus transportation package was passed by both bodies with strong support from the Governor that addresses the priorities above and accomplishes the following:
- Generates sufficient revenue to address the transportation construction and infrastructure needs at the state level, as well as in the two most congested regions of the Commonwealth;
- Provides a dynamic funding source for transportation that grows with the economy;
- Attempts to tap revenue from sources that have a nexus to transportation system uses, as possible;
- Eliminates the maintenance-construction cross-over challenge;
- Provides a dedicated funding source for Mass Transit and the Intercity Passenger Rail Fund – it is important to note that this includes $300 million in additional state funding that will be dedicated to Phase 2 of the Dulles Rail project; and
- Reflects a compromise on the use of existing General Funds for transportation.
It is also important to note that the Secretary of Transportation is committed to using $87 million of these new funds to redesign the I-66/Route 28 intersection, and widen Route 606 west of Dulles Airport. These are the two largest unfunded projects in the greater Dulles/Loudoun area at this time.
Beyond the transportation funding legislation, DRCC also worked actively to oppose a series of bills that would have harmed Virginia’s Public-Private Transportation Act and discouraged private sector entities from investing in Virginia’s transportation infrastructure. Maintaining P3s as a tool in Virginia is critical, particularly given our significant transportation funding shortfalls. We were very pleased none of these bills advanced this session.
- Maintain support for the vast array of economic investment and policy tools that enable the Commonwealth to attract and retain jobs and employers to Virginia.
- Support making Virginia’s legal system as business-friendly as possible through a series of reform bills that will provide additional economic development tools to attract and retain businesses to Virginia.
Dulles Regional Chamber had a very successful session in the economic development arena, including supporting a package of legislation that will ensure Virginia’s legal system is as business-friendly as possible. To that end, DRCC actively worked in support of a compromise that was forged between the business community and the trial attorneys that achieves the priority above and includes:
- Depositions Used in Admissions and Summary Judgment Motions – For the first time since 1973, depositions will be allowed to form the basis for summary judgment motions in a limited class of cases. In these cases, depositions will now be allowed to knock out meritless punitive damage claims through summary judgment motions, will be allowed to form the basis for Admissions, and will help businesses defend against baseless and frivolous cases.
- Venue Reform – This change will help businesses limit lawsuits in jurisdictions that do not have any meaningful connection to the cause of action. With the proposed change, there must be a ‘practical nexus’ – or meaningful connection – between where the lawsuit is filed and the cause of action.
- Trespassing – Trial lawyers across the country are trying to assert new duties of care against property owners including the misguided theory that landowners should owe a duty of ‘reasonable care’ to a trespasser. Current Virginia law says that property owners owe no duty of care to trespassers except in very limited circumstances. Legislation passed as part of the agreement will freeze current Virginia common and statutory law and preclude any changes to our common law.
- Nonsuit – The compromise on this issue addresses a recent decision that severely damaged the existing nonsuit law. Whenever a plaintiff takes a nonsuit (a procedural motion to end the lawsuit) seven days before the trial or during the trial, the defendant is able to seek expert witness fees. The recent decision said the law only applied to the period seven days before the trial, and not the trial itself. This legislation allows recovery of fees expended during a trial.
All in all, this is a significant step forward for business after many, many years of unsuccessful attempts to make the legal justice system more business friendly and represents a real victory for the business community and the Dulles Regiona Chamber.
In addition, DRCC also supported a series of “Innovation and Entrepreneurship” bills and budget items in the economic development arena that were also successful this session to ensure we not only retain but continue to add “tools” to Virginia’s economic development tool box. This includes:
- Full integration of Virginia’s one-stop system enabling that system to be the first and only stop a business will need to make when establishing a business or accomplishing tasks related to their business.
- Development and funding of a Cybersecurity Accelerator at the Center for Innovative Technology (CIT), which has combined its expertise in entrepreneurship and technology to create the nation’s first cybersecurity accelerator, modeled after the highly successful accelerator created in California. Since 2005, Silicon Valley's Y-Combinator Accelerator is credited with creating 449 companies and securing $926 million in private investment for their development. The CIT accelerator will focus exclusively on cybersecurity company creation and will initially produce 10 to 20 new companies per year, bolstering Virginia’s cyber assets and capabilities. The requested $2.5 million for this program was included in the approved budget.
- Funding ($50,000) for the Commonwealth Innovation and Entrepreneurship Measurement System, which will function as a tool to measure areas within the Commonwealth worthy of economic development and institutional focus to advance the Commonwealth Research and Development Strategic Roadmap. This funding was identified in the budget from existing resources.
- While the introduced legislation focused on coordination for small businesses and entrepreneurs failed to pass, language was included in the budget that accomplishes the same purpose – to direct the Department of Business Assistance (DBA); Center for Innovative Technology (CIT); Virginia Tourism Corporation (VTC); Virginia Economic Development Partnership (VEDP) to develop a marketing campaign to attract and recognize entrepreneurs, small businesses, and emerging industry businesses.
- Similarly, legislation the Partnership supported related to the creation of an Innovation and Entrepreneurship Measurement System failed to pass as well; however, language was included in the budget to authorize the Innovation and Entrepreneurship Investment Authority/Center for Innovative Technology to create this system as a tool to measure areas within the Commonwealth worthy of economic development and institutional focus to advance the Commonwealth Research and Development Strategic Roadmap.
- Invest in and support conventional four-year degree programs, as well as highly-technical, specialized workforce training with continued emphasis in the science, technology, engineering, math and health – or STEM-H – fields.
- Invest in and support efforts to ensure Virginia has a competitive K-12 education system to enable us to meet the workforce needs of the future through strengthening teaching in the classroom, injecting greater innovation into education, rewarding creativity and success, and ensuring accountability in our education system.
To advance the priorities listed above, DRCC actively supported a series of bills and budget amendments that focused on having excellent teachers, innovation and accountability in the schools, improve public school flexibility and choice, and ensure greater workforce training connectivity with the business community so that the focus is directed where the needs are.
Legislation supported in this arena included: funding to recruit and retain high quality STEM-H teachers; development of strategic compensation grants that can be awarded to teachers who are innovative or otherwise going above and beyond what is expected; connecting teacher performance with contracts; providing intervention for grade 6, 7, and 8 students who need assistance with algebra which is key to success in most STEM-H fields; early intervention reading services for K-3 students; simplifying the current school accountability system to an easy to understand A-F grading system to ensure transparency; increasing the ability for local school systems to request waivers from certain state requirements; staffing flexibility in certain situations for public schools; and legislation to help struggling schools improve.
- Protect employers and their employees from any negative impact federal healthcare reform legislation may create as state-level policy and regulations are developed.
Dulles Regional Chamber's efforts in the healthcare arena focused on expressing support for the extension and reform Medicaid in Virginia. The House and Senate budgets included very different approaches to this, both which were problematic in that they proposed reform prior to acceptance of the resources associated with the extension of Medicaid. Dulles Regional Chamber strongly advocated that reform and extension happen concurrently so that the resources required for the desired reforms are available to enable implementation of them. The outcome included amendments to the state budget, including language directing simultaneous pursuit of Medicaid reform and expansion. Specifically, the compromise includes the following:
- Directs Secretary of Health and Human Resources Bill Hazel and the Department of Medical Assistance Services (DMAS) to develop a “comprehensive value-driven, market-based reform of the Virginia Medicaid/FAMIS programs” in three phases;
- Authorizes DMAS to pursue the waivers and plans necessary to implement the optional coverage expansion; and
- Establishes the Medicaid Innovation and Reform Commission (with ten legislative members, five each from the House Appropriations and Senate Finance Committee) whose approval would be required to implement the expansion.
Looking forward, DRCC how Medicaid reform and expansion happens and the relative impact on the business community will be critical, but this was seen as a positive compromise on what became one of the most controversial issues considered this session.
MARCH 2011 SESSION - OVERVIEW
In terms of an overview, the Partnership was particularly successful in a number of areas, both on the policy front, and in strengthening the Partnership’s brand as a leading northern Virginia business voice on critical issues impacting the business community. Through our active advocacy communications on the range of bills and budget initiatives we identified as priorities, as well as through the direct outreach from representatives from the chambers in our Partnership during your visits and other communications this session, awareness of the Northern Virginia Chamber Partnership continued to grow significantly during the 2011 session.
From a policy standpoint, the Chamber’s primary successes were in the following areas:
- Advancement of important additional economic development tools focused primarily on supporting emerging technology businesses, those engaged in research and development, and support for Virginia’s wine and tourism industries, as well as more than $40 million in funding for these tools, to support continued growth and development across Virginia;
- The most significant investment in higher education we have seen in Virginia in decades, providing an important step forward to increase the number of undergraduate degrees in Virginia, emphasizing the importance of highly competitive STEM degree programs, and increasing access and affordability for more in-state students interested in attending Virginia’s colleges and universities;
- Passage of the Governor’s “Get Moving Virginia” transportation initiative, which, while it does not address our long-term transportation needs, does create a framework to invest $4 billion over the next three years into road, rail and transit projects throughout Virginia;
- Early phase-out of the accelerated sales tax for 80% of retailers and other dealers across Virginia, which is critical from a cash flow standpoint, particularly for small and mid-sized businesses;
- Passage of a range of tax and regulatory measures that will provide tax relief, improve flexibility, simplify processes, and minimize tax and regulatory burdens for businesses in Virginia;
- Development of a framework to provide a voice for businesses as Virginia proceeds to create a health benefits exchange (as required under Federal healthcare reform legislation); and
- Work to minimize the impact of legislation requiring use of the E-Verify system by Virginia businesses to the extent possible, ensuring that only those larger employers who contract with the state would be subject to these new requirements and delaying the effective date to December 1, 2013.
The following links provide additional details on these and related efforts.
As you are well aware, budget negotiations this session where extremely tenuous, with stark differences between the budgets passed by the House and Senate at the mid-point of the session. While the House budget focused on addressing the structural deficit by dedicating resources to one‐time actions, the Senate budget focused more on providing additional funding for on‐going programs. That being said, the conferees were able to reach a compromise agreement that was approved unanimously by each house, and is now before the Governor for his consideration.
In the areas of Economic Development and Tourism, the budget provides $38.2 million for the “Opportunity at Work” economic development initiatives, including:
- $10.0 million in FY 2012 for research and development pursuant to the provisions of House Bill 2324 (described later in this report); and
- $4.0 million which will be deposited into the CIT Gap Funds and $6.0 million for the Commonwealth Research Commercialization Fund, of which $2.0 million will be dedicated to Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grants.
The budget includes $10.3 million in FY 2012 to reflect three new tax incentives adopted this session:
- A research and development tax credit capped at $5.0 million (supported by the Dulles Regional Chamber);
- $5.0 million for Virginia Port tax incentives; and
- $250,000 for a vineyard and wineries tax credit (supported by the Dulles Regional Chamber.)
The spending amendments for the “Opportunity at Work” initiative also include the following:
- $5.0 million in FY 2012 to recapitalize the loan programs at the Virginia Small Business Financing Authority (VSBFA);
- $3.0 million for industrial site revitalization through the existing Derelict Structures Fund managed by the Department of Housing and Community Development and $1.0 million for the Brownfields Redevelopment Fund ($2.0 million in GF and $2.0 million from the sale of surplus property);
- $2.5 million in FY 2012 to supplement grant funding available through the Enterprise Zone Program;
- $1.0 million in FY 2012 to expand the Virginia Tourism Authority’s Marketing Grant Program;
- $500,000 in FY 2012 to expand funding for the Motion Picture Opportunity Fund (MPOF); and
- $200,000 to the Virginia Economic Development Partnership (VEDP) to promote regional collaboration
Finally, the budget also includes $3.0 million (in higher education) in funding for non‐credit training classes at community colleges, which the Dulles Regional Chamber supported.
In the area of Higher Education, the final budget includes a net increase of $100.7 million GF for higher education. This includes new seats at high‐demand institutions, funding for the STEM initiative the Dulles Regional Chamber supported, additional research, and funding for operating and maintenance, and enrollment growth to moderate tuition increases.
Specifically, higher education general fund operating increases included the following:
- $16.0 million GF for increased operating costs due to enrollment growth;
- $12.3 million in targeted STEM initiatives;
- $2.6 million GF for 351 more in‐state undergraduate seats at the University of Virginia, College of Mary Washington, James Madison University and Virginia Tech as part of a multi‐year phase‐in of 1,725 new seats;
- $11.5 million to improve the number of full‐time faculty at key colleges and universities;
- $13.6 million for operating costs of new buildings; and
- $13.3 million GF for in‐state undergraduate financial aid.
In the Transportation area, the budget provides $32.7 million from the FY 2010 GF surplus to help capitalize the transportation infrastructure bank (this amount is required under provisions of HB 3202, passed during the 2007 session).
The largest amendment in the transportation area reflects the adjustments to the Commonwealth Transportation Fund forecast update, totaling $104.3 million in FY 2011 and $408.5 million in FY 2012.
The budget conference report reflects the provisions of House Bill 2527 related to the Virginia Transportation Infrastructure Bank (VTIB) and the Revenue Sharing Program, including $287.7 million as an initial capitalization for this bank which will be used to provide grants to local governmental entities and loans to private entities that have entered into public‐private transportation act agreements. This funding is comprised of $32.7 million from the FY 2010 GF surplus and $250.0 million of the existing VDOT NGF revenues identified in the audit completed this fall. The budget also reflects the increase in the revenue sharing program from a maximum of $50 million per year to $200 million each year.
The amendments retain the Governor’s proposed FY 2012 spending priorities within VDOT, including:
- Dedicating $50.0 million to the Transportation Partnership Opportunity Fund;
- Increasing the funding allocated for Transportation Research by $10.0 million; and
- Authorizing allocations to “state‐only” construction projects selected by the Commonwealth Transportation Board.
Switching to other areas of the budget, you may recall that as part of last year’s budget action, the General Assembly approved language to subject those retailers and other dealers that have over $1 million in yearly taxable sales to make accelerated sales tax (AST) payments. Typically, a retailer remits the retail sales tax they collect in the month following its collection. Therefore, last year, instead of paying June’s sales tax in July, retailers were required to pay in June – a month earlier than normal. Also, included in the budget was language to begin phasing out the AST payments in 2013. Last year’s action impacted 8,762 dealers across the Commonwealth. The Dulles Regional Chamber actively urged budget conferees this session to support efforts to reduce this burden on as many businesses, as quickly as possible. We were very pleased that the approved budget dedicates $45.7 million to eliminate AST for 80% of dealers that were subject to it in FY 2010. The threshold was set at $5.4 million or greater in annual sales, leaving only 1,736 large retailers subject to AST.
And finally, with regard to the Rainy Day Fund, the budget includes an additional $64 million deposit into the Rainy Day Fund Reserve, providing a total of $114 million, and ensuring that 50% of the amounts due in FY 2012‐2014 biennium are set aside. (Updated 03/2011)