Lawmakers introduced 3,899 bills in the 2020 General Assembly Session. Of those bills, 2,203 passed, leaving the Governor to veto, sign, and amend legislation on his desk by April 11, 2020. Veto Session reconvened on April 22, 2020, where legislators acted on key pieces of legislation. The Hampton Roads Chamber Governmental Affairs team worked to push lawmakers on the most relevant to the business community. These included Association Health Plans, increase to the minimum wage, Project Labor Agreements, and support of offshore wind development.
SB861 is bipartisan legislation that will allow benefits consortiums to expand healthcare options to business owners and their employees. This legislation will lead to lower healthcare costs for many Virginians while maintaining healthcare standards under the Affordable Care Act. A small business could save an estimate of 15 percent on healthcare costs each year under this framework. The Governor's recommendation to the Senate was that the bill not become effective unless reenacted by the 2021 Session. The Senate rejected the Governor's amendment, where the bill will now go back to the Governor where he will be able to sign the bill into law, veto the bill, or take no action (which still enacts the bill into law).
SB7 and HB395 are bills increasing the minimum wage. The bills that passed the House and Senate included provisions for the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development, the Virginia Economic Development Partnership Authority, and the Virginia Employment Commission conducting a joint study beginning January 1, 2022. They will then decide to re-authorize the scheduled increase in the minimum wage to $15 by 2026. If they do not re-authorize the rate schedule, Virginia could remain at $12 an hour minimum wage. The Governor's recommendation to both Chambers was to delay the start of the bills from January 1, 2021, to May 1, 2021, due to unprecedented times. Both the House and Senate voted to adopt the Governor’s amendments delaying the start date by four months and going into effect May 1, 2021.
SB182 and HB358 are bills regarding Project Labor Agreements. These bills would raise the cost of public construction projects. They discourage nonunion contractors and subcontractors (98 percent of Virginia's construction industry) from competing to build taxpayer-funded projects. Research indicates that PLAs raise school construction costs by 18 percent. The Governor's recommendation to both Chambers was to delay the start of the bills from January 1, 2021, to May 1, 2021, due to unprecedented times. Both the House and Senate voted to adopt the Governor's amendments delaying the start date by four months and going into effect May 1, 2021.
Many bills passed the House and Senate developing facilities and requirements to ensure the creation of offshore wind. The bills that the Hampton Roads Chamber helped champion throughout the General Assembly Session can and will establish this region as a significant player in the United States' offshore wind industry for years to come. SB860, SB998, and HB1664 were standalone offshore wind bills that adopted the language regarding offshore wind from the larger Virginia Clean Economy Act, SB851/HB1526, (that were signed into law and effective July 1, 2020).
The Hampton Roads Chamber will continue to advocate on your behalf and strive to cultivate pro-business policy, especially in these unprecedented times.