2015 Virginia General Assembly Update

2015 Virginia General Assembly Update
While the Chamber views the overall outcomes from the 2015 Session to be positive for business, there are several issues to consider in the months ahead

On Saturday, February 28th the 2015 Session of the Virginia General Assembly ended. While 2015 was a non-budget year for the state legislature, much of the emphasis of the session was on adopting a revised balanced budget to adjust to lower than expected revenue. Ultimately a budget was adopted that spends $1 Billion less in general fund revenue than the originally adopted budget.  Noteworthy budget inclusions were teacher pay raises, additional funding for a healthcare safety net and funds for two veterans care centers.

2015 was the year for General Assembly retirements, Delegate Tom Rust and Senator Jeff McWaters, both businessmen, announced their retirements. In addition, the retirements of Senators Colgan, Stosch, Watkins and Puller means the General Assembly is losing over 150 years of legislative experience.

There were a number of pro-business bills and resolutions adopted during the 2015 session :

HJ490- Incorporating Virginia’s Right to Work law as part of the state constitution

HB1608- Prohibits local government from requiring a wage floor

HB1400/SB800- Increases the Governor’s deal closing, opportunity fund

HB1986- Improves Virginia’s Workforce Development structure

HB1886/HB1887- Improves the Commonwealth’s Public/Private Transportation Partnership Act and provides clarity in transportation funding priorities for structurally deficient bridges and pavement.

SB1349- Freezes current electric rates for five years in return electric utilities will not be subject to biennial reviews by the SCC.

A number of bills that would have raised the cost of business or been detrimental to businesses were defeated in 2015 including:

  • Bills to raise the minimum wage above the federal level
  • Bills to eliminate the existing waiver system for a post-labor day school start in Virginia (estimated $360M loss)
  • Bills that established mandated leave for employees to address personal issues
  • Bills that would change the punitive damages cap from $350,000 to $750,000
  • A bill that would require materials used in public buildings to be manufactured in the United States.
  • Bills that would have taxed or prohibited plastic shopping bags.

While the Chamber views the overall outcomes from the 2015 Session to be positive for business, there are several issues to consider in the months ahead. First, the accelerated sales tax is back which requires businesses to pay their estimated July sales tax in June. Also, a very well intended insurance mandate that increases autism coverage completely bypassed a state commission established to review all proposed insurance mandates.  Additional costs of doing business will hurt Virginia’s pro-business rankings.

The Hampton Roads Chamber will continue to be engaged in public policy and state legislative issues in the months ahead as all 140 members of the Virginia General Assembly are facing election in November. Your “Voice of Business” in Hampton Roads will represent your interests in Richmond each and every day. 

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