The Chamber is pleased to see one of our legislative transportation priorities (US 460 S curves) will likely be funded. After just missing the cut on the original House Bill 2 scoring, the Commonwealth Transportation Board (CTB) met this week and recommended funding the project. The S-Curves on US. 460 between Montvale and Thaxton are notoriously dangerous. Members of our Transportation Advocacy Group spoke at a public hearing in early April and stressed the importance of this project. Thank you to our local CTB members (William Fralin, Court Rosen and Shannon Valentine) for listening to our concerns.
We Advocate: For alignment of transportation funding to meet the prioritized needs in our region.
One of the most heated battles of the 2016 General Assembly was legislation to extend coal tax credits. Governor McAullife vetoed legislation that would have extended the credits and the General Assembly did not have enough votes this past week to override. Opponents of the coal tax credits argue that the program is failing and resources should be put into diversifying the economy of Southwest Virginia. Advocates argue that up to 1,000 jobs are supported by the credits and they are a lifeline to industries across the Commonwealth.
After several weeks of negotiations, a compromise was reached with the GO Virginia Initiative and Virginia's General Assembly adopted the legislation by a wide margin Wednesday night. The compromise between the Governor and chief patrons will give the Governor the majority of appointments to the 24-member board. The structural component of GO Virginia will continue this year and an enactment clause will create a work group in 2017 to develop guidelines surrounding project evaluation and funding by the board.
We Advocate: For support of the GO Virginia Initiative and for results-oriented economic development programs that encourage regional cooperation.
LABOR AND WAGES
Last Summer the Department of Labor proposed a dramatic change to the regulations that determine whether an employee is eligible to be paid overtime for any hours worked beyond 40 per week. Currently, if these employees are performing the "primary duties" of their classification and paid a salary more than $23,660 annually, they are classified as exempt from being paid overtime. The new proposal would increase that salary to $50,440 and increase it annually. If implemented, this higher salary will mean many employers will have to either increase salaries or reclassify employees into an hourly structure. This would be a disaster to small businesses and especially nonprofits, academic institutions and local governments. It is widely understood that our nation's overtime rules are outdated but this extreme threshold will hurt businesses.