The Virginia General Assembly has met for its third week of the 2019 Session. Both chambers are now fully engrossed in legislative hearings and are considering over 1700 bills and resolutions. Last Friday, January 18, was the last day for the members to file bills and joint resolutions. The next major deadline is Tuesday, February 5, when each house must complete work on its own legislation, with the exception of the Budget Bill. Following are some of the important business related bills the Hampton Roads Chamber is engaged in:
SB 1200 - Minimum Wage
SB 1200 proposed to mandate an increase to the present minimum wage to start in July 2019 to $10/hour; on July 2020 to $13/hour; on July 1, 2021 to $15/hour.
This legislation was narrowly defeated in the Senate on a party line vote 21-19. From Hampton Roads voting against SB 1200 were Senators Cosgrove, DeSteph, Norment, and Wagner. Voting in favor of increasing the minimum wage were Senators Lewis, Locke, Lucas, Mason, and Spruill.
The Hampton Roads Chamber and a coalition of business organizations strongly opposed SB 1200.
HB 1806 - Right to Work for all Citizens
For decades, the Hampton Roads Chamber has been a steadfast supporter of the present Right to Work laws for the Commonwealth's private and public employees. Virginia is the northern most state in the South that maintains the strong statutory protections to work for all citizens. According to the CNBC Survey, we were graded an A+ in the Workforce Category and a D+ in the Cost of Doing Business analysis. Overall, Virginia was ranked the 4th best state to conduct business.
The right to work laws are a major favorable for the Commonwealth. During the first week of the session, Delegate Lee Carter of Manassas introduced HB 1806, a major assault on the Virginia's Right to Work laws. The legislation repeals the provisions of the Code of Virginia that prohibits any agreement between the employer and a labor organization or union. HB 1806 will be referred to the full House of Delegates for a recorded vote.
The Hampton Roads Chamber strongly opposes HB 1806 and supports the premise that all citizens of the Commonwealth have the Right to Work without undue pressure and influence from organized labor.
HB 1635 - Moratorium on Fossil Fuels by January 1, 2020/Eliminating the ACP project
Delegate Rasoul has patroned legislation that would kill the Atlantic Coast Pipeline Project and mandate that no utility could generate any new electricity via fossil fuels as of January, 2020. Moreover, the proposed legislation creates the Environmental and Climate Justice Task Force to assist in the development and implementation of the Climate Action Plan. Furthermore, residents of the Commonwealth and organizations will have legal standing to sue to ensure that the provisions of this law and any Climate Action Plan are adopted and enforced.
The Chamber and business groups are opposed to HB 1635.
Other Bills of Interest we are Tracking:
HB 1920 (Stolle) - Creates the New Economy Workforce Credential Grand Fund and Program.
SB 1351 (Wagner)/SB 1689(Dunnavant)/SB 1712(Vogel) - Allows Business Consortiums to offer self-funded health plans to their membership and be exempt from insurance regulations by the Bureau of Insurance.
Major Redistricting Court Decision Announced
On January 23, a Federal District Court announced its decision on the redrawing of 11 districts in the House of Delegates.
The Court appointed a Master, a professor from California (Bernard Grofman), who provided several options for the court. The ruling took aim at the Republican seats by redrawing the Speaker of the House, Delegate Chris Jones (Appropriation Chair), Delegate Gordon Helsel, Delegate Chris Stolle, and Delegate David Yancey into strong Democratic Districts. Furthermore, the court decision made Delegate Barry Knight's seat a toss-up.
The Republican Party of Virginia appealed this decision to the U.S. Supreme Court. It is anticipated that the case will be heard in mid-February. The Court can either allow the new districts to go into effect or rule that the 2011 or present district lines are legal.
If the Republicans lose this lawsuit, they will face a monumental task in maintaining their 51-49 majority in the upcoming November elections.