A consortium of 27 industry groups, the Coalition for a Strong Virginia Economy, want Gov. Ralph Northam to delay enacting several bills passed in the last legislative session it believes will further harm businesses already crippled by actions to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
The group wants the governor to delay seven bills for at least a year, including legislation that would begin to increase the minimum wage annually starting Jan. 1, 2021, making it $9.50. The group wants that to be delayed until at least Jan. 1, 2022.
The legislation, as written, would increase the minimum wage to $15 by Jan. 1, 2026.
“This action will give Virginia’s businesses, large and small, manufacturers, retailers, construction, housing and agricultural and forestry industries an opportunity to rebuild our businesses, restore our customer base and rehire our employees before taking on more government mandates,” the group says in its letter dated March 31. “There is a strong possibility that many of these committed and long-standing businesses will not survive, and, if they do survive, it’s hard to say how long it will take for them to see their operations return to a level near to that of the pre-COVID-19 environment.”
The group also wants delays put on bills that:
<z_sym_square_bullet name="z_sym_square_bullet" class="macro" displayname="z_sym_square_bullet">Eliminate restrictions on which municipalities can tax items, such as admissions and cigarettes, as well as the amount of tax that can be levied, including transient occupancy taxes for lodging.
<z_sym_square_bullet name="z_sym_square_bullet" class="macro" displayname="z_sym_square_bullet">Allow local and state agencies to require bidders on public works developments to enter into project labor agreements.
<z_sym_square_bullet name="z_sym_square_bullet" class="macro" displayname="z_sym_square_bullet">Allow collective bargaining among public sector employees.
<z_sym_square_bullet name="z_sym_square_bullet" class="macro" displayname="z_sym_square_bullet">Would require 100% of state’s electricity to be produced from renewable energy sources by 2050.
<z_sym_square_bullet name="z_sym_square_bullet" class="macro" displayname="z_sym_square_bullet">Establish a carbon dioxide cap and trade program to cut emissions at power sites.
Among the members who signed the letter are the Hampton Roads Chamber and Virginia Peninsula Chamber, the Virginia Manufacturers Association, the National Federation of Independent Business, Virginia Retail Federation and the Virginia Trucking Association.
At a Wednesday press conference to update residents on coronavirus, Northam said he’s talking with the patrons of several bills as well as labor unions, the business community and others, and will make a decision on what to do. The General Assembly reconvenes April 22.
The state’s Republican leadership in the Senate, including Sen. Tommy Norment (R-James City County) had earlier written to Northam saying any legislation that “increased taxes or fees, added regulation, or placed new limits on free commerce and economic growth should either be vetoed or amended,” as a result of the coronavirus. They reiterated that request this week.