With only one week left to go in the 2021 legislative (special) session, successful House bills are being considered in the Senate and vice versa. Bills originating in one chamber that are similar to bills from the other will soon be assigned to conference committees, which are groupings of a few legislators from each body that work to find compromise between the two similar bills. If and when a compromise is reached, this "conference report" is then sent back to the floor of both the House and Senate for a final vote.
As we reach this final stretch, the focus on remaining bills of importance to our business community will intensify.
This continues to be a main focus heading into session's conclusion. If you have not seen the Roanoke Regional Chamber's action alert on tax conformity, please give it a read. The General Assembly is debating legislation that could have a direct effect on your bottom line and tax burden this year if you have taken and spent funds through the Paycheck Protection Program. Click on the action alert link above to learn how you can advocate for tax relief for your business.
Environmental Justice Legislation
This bill would have required any applicant for a number of permits, to include a Virginia Stormwater Management Program permit, to undergo a number of public notification requirements before a project could occur. This includes signage at the site location, hosting a public hearing, and advertising that hearing in two languages in a newspaper and on social media. This would have been particularly onerous for developers, contractors, and any other business seeking such permits. Fortunately, this bill was left in the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Conservation and Natural Resources without an affirmative vote.
Styrofoam Container Ban
A bill that would ban restaurants from using styrofoam food containers has passed the House and a Senate Committee, and is now poised for a vote on the floor of the Senate. If passed and signed by the Governor, this bill would require that all restaurants stop using these containers by 2025, and chain restaurants by 2023. While the goal of reducing waste is admirable, this bill will likely harm those businesses who have been hit the hardest by the pandemic by banning a cheap and effective method of providing food to take-out customers.
If you are the owner or representative of a restaurant and this bill will negatively impact you, please contact our representatives and share your thoughts.
Paid Sick Leave
The remaining legislation seeking to impose a one-size fits all paid sick leave requirement on those who employ workers deemed "essential" will likely receive a hearing in the Senate Committee on Commerce and Labor on Monday. We continue to believe that employers should be given latitude to provide leave policies that work best for their business and employees, and the imposition of a civil fine for violations adds another burden.
New River Valley Passenger Rail
Legislation seeking to establish a passenger rail authority in the New River Valley continues to see success. Expansion of passenger rail in our region is vital to mitigate traffic congestion—especially on I-81—as well as necessary to provide a new link to Amazon HQ2 and Virginia Tech’s Innovation Campus in northern Virginia.