Legislative Newsletter - November 2019
Roanoke City Election Day Change
The Roanoke City Council voted 5-2 on November 18 th to move city elections from May to November in even years, starting with the 2020 general election. The Roanoke Regional Chamber supported a move to November odd-year elections, with the preference that the change be made via a referendum. Roanoke Regional Chamber Chairman John D’Orazio wrote an op-ed to The Roanoke Times preceding the council vote.
New Leaders in the General Assembly 
There will be new leadership in the General Assembly following the results of this November’s election.  Speaker-designee Eileen Filler-Corn is set to become the Commonwealth’s first female Speaker of the House, with Charnielle Herring and Richard “Rip” Sullivan rounding out the new House majority’s leadership team as Majority Leader and Caucus Chairman, respectively.  The Senate will be led by Senator Dick Saslaw as Majority Leader and Senator Mamie Locke as Caucus Chair, with Sen. Louise Lucas being elected as President Pro Tempore. Locally, Senator John Edwards has been named Chairman of the Senate Committee for Courts of Justice. The upper echelons of influence in both legislative chambers are skewed greatly towards northern Virginia and Hampton Roads, which makes strong advocacy for our region all the more important heading in to the 2020 legislative session.
Pre-filing of Bills for 2020 Virginia General Assembly Session
As we head into the 2020 legislative session for the Virginia General Assembly, legislation has begun to be pre-filed as of November 18 th . The Roanoke Regional Chamber is monitoring these bills closely for approaches that may affect our business community, both directly and indirectly. Of particular concern are bills seeking to repeal Virginia’s right-to-work statute as well as to raise the statewide minimum wage to $15 per hour within the next five years. To be certain, a $15 per hour minimum wage will have a different impact on business in southwest and southern Virginia than in northern Virginia, and it could adversely affect businesses ranging from those offering child and senior care to restaurateurs.  Here is an article detailing the specific issues that restaurant owners in Denver are facing with a rapidly rising minimum wage, and another story about how a restaurant group is threatening lawsuits against the city.
Legislator Visits 
Chamber CEO Joyce Waugh and Vice President of Public Policy Terry Durkin have been meeting with local Delegates and Senators to share the Chamber’s 2020 legislative agenda in advance of the upcoming legislative session. Strengthening relationships with our regional delegation will be of the utmost importance as the 2020 General Assembly tackles legislation of great economic significance. You can find the Chamber’s legislative agenda on our website.
State of the County of Roanoke Recap
Roanoke County Board of Supervisors Chairman Phil North recently spoke to local business leaders and elected officials to outline the County’s economic successes and outlook for the future. There is much to be excited about in the County, from transportation improvements and advances in our local healthcare fields to a low unemployment rate and hosting of the upcoming Ironman Triathlon. School Board Chairman Donald Butzer also gave a State of the Schools address in which he made clear that the goal was to continue to make students “Opportunity Ready”. In addition to these speeches, attendees were furnished with the 2019 Community Strategic Plan Annual Report. The report, as well as video and downloadable copies of the Chairman’s remarks, can be found by clicking this link .
Upcoming Census
The start-date for the 2020 Census is rapidly approaching and it’s important that the count be as accurate as possible. Data from the U.S. Census is used for apportionment in the U.S. House of Representatives, as well as to determine how much federal funding a locality may receive for community development (among other items). Be sure to be on the lookout for a postcard or a letter on how to take the survey online, by phone, or by mail this coming March. Additional information can be found here.
Route 460 Open House 
A public informational meeting was held by VDOT representatives at the Berglund Center on November 21 st to solicit public input on potential improvements to Route 460 (Orange/Challenger Avenue). You can learn more about the study by visiting the study’s VDOT webpage , where you can also submit your comments. An additional meeting will be scheduled in late January or early February, with the study set to be concluded by this upcoming May. Please be sure to submit any comment by December 1.
Mark Your Calendar
The Roanoke Regional Chamber of Commerce is partnering with the Virginia Chamber for the 10 th Annual Virginia Economic Summit, to be held in Richmond on Friday, December 6 th 2019 at the Greater Richmond Convention Center. We hope you will consider registering for this event , which will include remarks from Senator Tim Kaine, Former Senator and Governor George Allen, and panel discussions focusing on economic development conducted in concert with statewide business leaders.

January 8th: Session Begins
January 22nd: VA West Capital Reception
March 7th: Session Adjourns