News and Notes from the Virginia General Assembly

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News and Notes from the Virginia General Assembly

Friday, January, 31, 2014

Democrats Now Control Virginia Senate

Virginia's special election winner 6th District Democrat Lynwood Lewis, Jr., created a 20-20 split in the Virginia Senate on January 29th.  With Lt. Governor Ralph Northam breaking the tie, Democrats adopted new rules of the Senate (SR-26).  One of the most consequential changes was a change to Senate rules that the chairman of the Senate Rules Committee has the authority to kill any Senate bills that have been "substantially" amended in the House.  The Senate Finance Committee will now be co-chaired by Senator Charles Colgan (D-29th) and Senator Walter Stosch (R-12th).  Senator Louise Lucas (D-18th) will serve as Chairman of Senate Education and Health.  Democrats in the Senate now chair every legislative panel in the chamber and have majorities on all but two committees.  With the Republican majority in the House of Delegates, the expectation is that partisan legislative battles will be common.

House GOP Leaders Call for Medicaid Audit

On January 27th, House Republican leaders announced they are seeking an audit of the Commonwealth's Medicaid program.  The leadership asked for the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission to conduct an independent, comprehensive operational and financial audit.  Speaker Howell indicated a concern over long-term costs as well as waste, fraud and abuse of the program.  House Appropriations Chair Chris Jones (R-76th) noted that Medicaid program costs have risen 1600 percent over 30 years.  Medicaid spending has doubled in the last 10 years from $1.8 billion in 2004 to $3.7 billion in 2014.

Economic Competitiveness and Virginia's Post Labor Day Law

In recent months states including Maryland and Delaware have studied Virginia's Post Labor Day school start.  This law has provided Virginia's Tourism industry a competitive advantage and our neighboring states are looking at their policy in this critical area.

Tourism is the fifth largest private employer in Virginia, generating $21.2 billion in revenue and providing $2.7 billion in state and local taxes.  For each dollar invested in tourism the industry provides a five dollar return.

The total economic consequences of shortening the tourism season in Virginia would be more than $369 million and $104 million in wages and benefits.

Taxes from the hospitality industry support the salaries of 13,000 school teachers or 15,000 police officers or the education of more than 76,000 students.

The Chambers OPPOSE all bills that eliminate Virginia's Post Labor Day Waiver Law.

A Virginia Plan for Closing the Coverage Gap

The Chambers are members of a broad coalition of business interests who are seeking to find a path forward - one that rejects the Affordable Care Act, keeps the money and control in Virginia and implements a uniquely Virginia solution.

The cost of caring for the uninsured are reflected in the premiums paid by businesses and all of those with private insurance.  Studies indicate that this cost increases premiums 2% to 10%.

If the General Assembly does not act to find a Virginia solution on the coverage gap issue, Virginia citizens and businesses will still be required by law to pay Affordable Care Act taxes and fees.  This will total $10 billion between 2014 - 2018.  In addition, Virginia businesses will continue to pay indirectly for the cost of caring for the uninsured.

The Chambers favor a unique Virginia plan that promotes value, improves access to preventative services, elevates quality and reduces the health care cost trend.

Transportation

HB253 (Jones R-76th) - Hampton Roads Transportation Accountability Commission - creates a Commission to manage regional transportation planning in Planning District 23 (Hampton Roads).  The Commission will have the power to issue debt for road projects.  (SUPPORT)

HB2 (Stolle R-83rd) - Provides funding be made for transportation projects providing the greatest congestion reduction. (SUPPORT)

Ports

HB873 (Jones R-76th) Ports tax credits - Changes Virginia's ports related tax credits by increasing international trade facility tax credits.  (SUPPORT)

Hospitality and Tourism

HB35 (Kory D-38th), HB42 (Habeeb R-8th), HB333 (Greason R-32nd), HB386 (Comstock (R-34th), HB577 (Stolle R-83rd), HB610 (Robinson R-27th), SB131 (Newman R-23rd) - School Calendar - Eliminates the Post Labor Day opening requirement in the Commonwealth.  (OPPOSE)

Minimum Wage

HB536 (Plum D-36th), HB32 (Morrissey D-74th) - Increases minimum wage from $7.25 per hour to $8.50 per hour.  (Chamber supports a federal minimum wage standard).

General Business

HB167 (Ramadan R-87th) - Mandates participation by State Corporation Commission in the Virginia Business One Stop electronic portal program.  (SUPPORT)

Legal

SB251 (McEachin D-9th) - Grand larceny threshold - Increases from $200 to $1000 the threshold amount of money taken or value of goods taken at which a crime rises from a petit larceny to a grand larceny.  (OPPOSE)

Military

SB18 (Locke D-2nd) - Unemployment compensation allowed to follow a military spouse.  (SUPPORT)

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