The 2013 Virginia General Assembly session came to a dramatic and productive end on Saturday, February 23 with the passage of the first overhaul of the Commonwealth’s transportation funding program in 27 years. The historic transportation funding reform bill passed with strong bi-partisan support from legislators from Hampton Roads and Northern Virginia after being challenged and led by Governor McDonnell.
Transportation infrastructure was not the only issue addressed by the General Assembly during the short session. The General Assembly agreed to proceed cautiously in expanding the state’s Medicaid program in order to attempt to serve 400,000 uninsured Virginians utilizing federal funding from the Affordable Health Care Act. This action was supported by the Chamber and business organizations across the Commonwealth in order to attempt to reduce medical costs to all.
Additionally, the Chamber was proactive with other business organizations in supporting successful efforts in the area of Tort Reform; Hospitality and Tourism; Right to Work; Packaging of Retail items; Workers Compensation; Hurricane Preparedness; Funding for a Regional Sports Arena; and the purchase of property surrounding Ocean Naval Air Station.
2013 General Assembly Outcomes:
Transportation – HB 2313 (Howell) will ultimately pump an additional $880 million into Virginia’s transportation system. This is the first long-term and sustainable source of funding for transportation passed since 1986.
Highlights of the Bill, supported:
Medicaid, supported reform/expansion
Reforms Required in Budget Language
Approach to expand Medicaid to 400,000 Virginians.
Under the Affordable Care Act, states can expand their Medicaid coverage to include more people of low incomes who are not insured. The federal government will cover most of the cost of the individuals added.
While more than 400,000 Virginians could be eligible for the expanded Medicaid program, it is estimated that 250,000 would participate. For the Commonwealth to move ahead with expansion, three Delegates and three Senators will have to vote in favor of this action.
Tort Reform, supported measures
HB 1708 – will allow depositions to be used to form the basis of admissions and summary judgment motions limited to non-DUI punitive damage parts of a claim. This is the first time since 1973 that depositions can be used for any part of summary judgment motions.
HB 1618 and SB 1337 – deal with court venue. This legislation will require a “practical nexus” such that the location of fact, witnesses, plaintiffs or evidence in addition to the “regularly conducting substantial business” requirement will establish venue. Currently a company can be sued anywhere they have substantial business activities.
HB 1709 and SB 903 clarify that the requirement for a nonsuiting party to pay expert witness fees applies during the trial and 7 days prior to the trial.
HB 2004 – restricts the duties of care for trespassers.
Hospitality and Tourism
Labor Day – 17 bills were monitored or acted on in the 2013 General Assembly Session. The Chamber and other tourism stakeholders opposed measures that would eliminate or change the current system that requires local school divisions to receive a waiver before opening prior to the Labor Day holiday. With 54% of travel coming from within Virginia, this issue represents $360 million in potential economic loss. (Defeated bills included: HB 1309, HB 1310, HB 1319, HB 1467, HB 1491, HB 1530, HB 1596, HB 1673, HB 1674, HB 1880, HB 1894, HB 2098, SB 1099, SB 1153, SB 1189, and SB 1245).
HB 1385 – Declares that in any procedure providing for the designation, selection or authorization of a labor organization to represent employees, the right of an individual employee to vote by secret ballot is a fundamental right that shall be guaranteed from infringement. (bill passed)
HB 1381 - imposed a five cents tax on the use of plastic bags used by purchasers to carry tangible personal property purchased in grocery stores, convenience stores or drug stores. (measure defeated)
Two Term Governor supported HJ 549, HJ 679, and SJ 276 that would have permitted Governors to serve two terms. (measures defeated)
Sales and Use Tax – SB 766 – adds gas-powered chainsaws with a selling price of $350 or less and chainsaw accessories to the list of equipment eligible for the sales and use tax exemption for hurricane preparedness equipment.
Workers Compensation, opposed
HB 1612 – The Workers Compensation Commission was directed to promulgate regulations establishing medical care fee schedules governing all medical care services rendered pursuant to the Virginia Workers Compensation Act. The bill would have required the medical care fee schedule regulations to be based on Medicare with Medicare coding and reimbursement rules. (measure failed)
Sports Arena Development (support)
HB 2320 – Gives the City of Virginia Beach rights to issue bonds to construct an arena, receive state sales tax revenue that is attributable to an arena to repay the bonds.