January 29, 2016
Today, the General Assembly is wrapping up week three of Session. There are still hundreds of bills being tracked. Some are making their way through the chambers, others are in the hopper and some have been tabled. Until crossover, we want to make sure that we are updating you on all topics of legislation. Further, we have highlighted some topic areas below that we did not cover last week and have a call to action under Economic Development and strongly encourage you to participate. As always, if you have a question on a specific bill not listed, contact us at the information provided at the end of this newsletter.


ENERGY

The Clean Power Plan is President Obama's environmental policy aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions. This week a coalition of 29 states (mostly Republican) asked the Supreme Court to immediately bar the Environmental Protection Agency from enforcing the plan . Virginia is taking a different approach to implement the plan and Delegate Israel O'Quinn is leading the charge. Legislation we're watching in Energy:

HB2 is legislation introduced by Delegate Israel O'Quinn (R-Bristol) that would incorporate state implementation of the Clean Power Plan. In short, the bill requires the Department of Environmental Quality to receive approval from the General Assembly for a state implementation plan to regulate carbon dioxide emissions from power plants. Last week Delegate Greg Habeeb (R-Salem) expressed support for the plan in a Commerce and Labor committee meeting, encouraging his colleagues to do the same by arguing that Virginia energy policy belongs with the General Assembly not the EPA. HB2 passed in the House (64-Y 34-N) and has headed to the Senate. The Chamber supports this legislation as an important step in protecting citizens and businesses from expensive rate increases. We also encourage the timely implementation of the approval process or extension process to meet state deadlines set by the EPA.

We Advocate for evaluating energy legislation and regulation with due consideration given to economic and cost feasibility, natural assets, and benefits such as air and water quality improvements and greenhouse gas emissions.

WAGES

 
The House Committee on Commerce and Labor had enough bills on minimum wage increases that they were grouped and assigned to Subcommittee. On Tuesday, four bills were heard with lines of witnesses ready to speak in support and opposition of minimum wage increase. Legislation we're monitoring in Wages:

HB597 , HB623 , HB988  and  HB995 were bills related to raising minimum wage - some for tip-only employees and others proposed raising the minimum wage from its current federally mandated level of $7.25 per hour to $10.00 per hour in 2016, $13 per hour in 2017 and $15 per hour in 2017. All bills were defeated and laid on the table with (6-Y 4-N) votes. The Chamber opposes any efforts to increase the minimum wage. We believe that employers are best equipped to set wages that are market based, and increased wages will place burdens on businesses with costs passed along to consumers.

TAXES

You probably recently received your W2 in the mail and are inclined to skip this section but don't - we're tracking legislation related to tax credits and incentives that are important to businesses and our economy.
Legislation we're tracking in Taxes:

HB884 and SB58 are bills introduced by Delegate Tim Hugo (R-Fairfax) and Senator McDougle (R-Mechanicsville) aimed at making strategic enhancements and additions to research and development tax credits in Virginia. The legislation modifies the existing small business tax credit by increasing from $6 million to $7 million the maximum amount of tax credits that may be granted by the Department of Taxation. The legislation also creates a new R&D tax credit for large businesses with research and development expenses in excess of $5 million dollars and allows the Department of Taxation to grant up to $25 million in tax credits. The Chamber supports this legislation and is proud to be a member of an R&D Coalition made up of business groups across the Commonwealth advocating on behalf of this important legislation for the future of Virginia's economy. Research and Development is an important part of our economy's future and we want to ensure the best resources are available for research institutes to grow jobs and investment in our region.


HB66 is legislation introduced by Delegate Kathy Byron (R-Lynchburg) that establishes a grant program that would pay certain individuals who complete eight hours of community service and subsequently complete a noncredit workforce training program and earn the related credential through a Virginia community college in a determined high-demand field. The grant would be for $2,000 and limited to the payment of tuition, textbooks or exams required to earn the credential. The Chamber supports this bill and innovative funding approaches for post-secondary education to provide essential workforce training and continuing education opportunities in our region.


Governor McAuliffe has proposed an increase in the cap on Virginia's Angel Investor Tax Credit, from $5 million to $9 million with a portion earmarked for bioscience. The Chamber supports the appropriation of resources to boost the Angel Investor Tax Credit as an integral component of continuing to diversify our region's economy and encourage entrepreneurial growth.


We Advocate for a competitive tax environment with greater transparency and oversight of Virginia's tax incentives. 

ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT  

"Sharing economy" legislation is back in the General Assembly. Last year it was Uber and the taxi companies. This year it is Airbnb and the hospitality industry that will be at odds. We are still tracking the GO Virginia Initiative and working to ensure that the best interests of our region are incorporated into final legislation. However, we are confident that GO Virginia is a positive step for Virginia and ask business leaders to join us in support. Read below to find out how.
Legislation we're monitoring in Economic Development:

 HB812 is legislation from Delegate Chris Peace (R-Mechanicsville) and establishes the Limited Residential Lodging Act which allows property owners to rent out their homes for periods of less than 30 consecutive days. In short, the bill is written to replace local laws that regulate temporary lodging. Advocates see the bill as an opportunity for localities that want to establish themselves as a tourist destination but do not have the traditional lodging to accommodate large amounts of visitors. Opponents worry that the bill does not do enough to level the playing field between airbnb and hotels.

The  GO Virginia Initiative is asking the business community to express support to their elected officials. The Chamber supports GO Virginia and believes that the initiative aligns with our support of results-oriented economic development programs that encourage regional cooperation.  Please join us in support of this important initiative  by  clicking here  to contact your elected official and stating your support.

The Good Stuff



-Virginia Chamber of Commerce elects new chairman
Roanoke Regional Chamber | 540-983-0700 | jbaumgartner@roanokechamber.org
| http://www.roanokechamber.org
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Roanoke, VA 24011