Public Policy Update - April 2020
Webinar with Senator Tim Kaine
In case you missed it - Senator Tim Kaine was hosted by our Chamber on Tuesday, May 5th to discuss recent federal actions to stem the spread of COVID-19 and a way forward to build and repair our economy. His remarks including the Q&A session can be found here .

We also hosted Governor Ralph Northam for a webinar on April 7th, in which he discussed state-level actions being taken against COVID-19 and resources available to business owners.

Keeping Chamber members informed on policy decisions at the local, state, and federal level that may affect our business community is one of our top priorities. The RRCC public policy team will continue to connect you to your elected representatives directly so that you can stay informed and have your voice heard on the issues that affect your business.
Blueprint for Getting Virginians Back to Work
The VA Chamber is creating a Blueprint for Getting Virginians Back to Work meant to provide guidance to lawmakers on how to open back up the economy as safely and quickly as possible. We are encouraging members of the business community to take their very brief survey in support of this initiative.
Salem City Council Elections
Governor Northam has exercised his executive prerogative to move Salem City Elections from May 5th to May 19th. While the General Assembly could still meet in a special session to delay the election day further, that action is not anticipated at this time. Candidates for Salem City Council are listed alphabetically below and links to their websites can be found by clicking on their names:

You can find information on how to locate your polling place or receive an absentee ballot at the Virginia Department of Elections website . Salem residents are encouraged to vote absentee if possible to reduce the likelihood of coming in to contact with COVID-19. The deadline to request an absentee ballot is May 12th , so please request an application soon if you wish to vote absentee.
Roanoke City Council Elections
The Roanoke City Democratic Committee held a virtual primary on May 2nd to select candidates for Roanoke city council. As you may know, the general election for city candidates has been moved to the federal election date of November 3rd. The Democratic candidates whom will be running in the general election and links to their websites can be found below.

We will be sure to keep you informed as other candidates for city council are nominated and begin their campaigns.
State & Local
News from the Executive Branch - Reopening Virginia
On April 24th, Governor Northam announced his administration's blueprint for easing public health restrictions . A safe re-opening of the economy will be heavily dependent on increased testing, a decrease in positive COVID-19 cases, and a stable PPE supply to healthcare workers.

On May 4th, Governor Northam provided a more definitive timetable for the re-opening of Virginia in three phases, with phase 1 scheduled to begin on May 14th. Virginia Business provided a good write-up on the process and you can find more information here .

Governor Northam has been participating in weekly press conferences to give updates on the status of COVID-19 in Virginia and new actions being taken by his administration. These usually take place at 2:00pm on Mondays and you can watch them live on his Facebook page .
Reconvened Session Recap
The General Assembly met on April 22nd for reconvened session to debate and vote on Governor Northam's amendments to scores of bills, as well as the state budget. While the budget debate is likely to continue later on in the summer during a special session due to declining state revenues, several bills were acted on that we have been following closely.

  • HB 395 and SB 7, which raise the Commonwealth's minimum wage on a tiered basis, were both amended by the governor and agreed to by the General Assembly to make their effective dates May 1, 2021.
  • HB 582 and SB 939, which provide permission to localities to engage in collective bargaining agreements with public employees, were also amended to an effective date of May 1, 2021.
  • As with the previously mentioned bills, HB 358 and SB 182, which allow localities to require Project Labor Agreements for public works projects, were amended to an effective date of May 1, 2021.

In addition to the legislation above, Governor Northam also amended the bills below to assist small business owners and localities in recovering from COVID-19

  • NEW: HB 1505 provides additional funding for the Small Business Investment Grant Fund. More information about this fund can be found by clicking this link.
  • NEW: HB 881 and SB 971 permit the usage of "gray machines", or gambling "games of skill" for the next year with an additional tax to be levied. The revenue from this tax will be distributed in part to localities as well as a state-run COVID-19 Relief Fund.

A Chamber priority bill which would expand healthcare options for small businesses ( SB 861 ) is now before the Governor for either his approval or veto. We strongly urge Governor Northam to pass this bill so small business owners have more healthcare options to provide for their employees.
Roanoke County Board of Supervisors Press Conference
Chairman David Radford and members of the Roanoke County Board of Supervisors held a press conference on Friday, May 1 to ask Governor Northam to consider re-opening the Commonwealth on a regional basis. You can find that press conference here .
Congress recently replenished the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) by $310 billion, with an additional $60 billion going towards SBA Economic Injury Disaster Loans. As with the previous update, I'm including   a guide and checklist from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce  to help your small business through the process.

Congress is expected to meet again shortly to debate a potential "phase-4" legislative package that would provide more support and funding for our healthcare system, as well as iron out issues in the PPP/CARES Act.
In the News


Terry Durkin
Vice President of Public Policy
 Roanoke Regional Chamber