2018 Legislative Priorities & Useful Legislative Resources

 

As the leading voice of the business community for the region since 1916, we make your business a priority by actively protecting your rights at the local, state, and federal level.

 

At the local, state and federal levels, the Fredericskburg Regional Chamber advocates for policies supporting job creation and retention and economic growth. We play an active role fostering and supporting economic development policies to protect your right to do business, improve business conditions and grow your business. We amplify the voices of our members and speak collectively on behalf of the largest business community in the Fredericksburg region.

 

 

VIRGINIA GENERAL ASSEMBLY

2018 LEGISLATIVE SESSION

Legislative Priorities & Policies

 

Transportation Priorities

 

WHEREAS, great strides have been made in deploying necessary transportation dollars across the Fredericksburg region with the passage of HB 2 and local project awards through SmartScale;

 

WHEREAS, transportation continues to be a major concern for the business community;

 

WHEREAS, the unfunded Northbound River Crossing Project would provide significant congestion relief and expand infrastructure capacity;

 

WHEREAS, the SmartScale scoring criteria does not take into account weekend traffic which is often when I-95 North through Fredericksburg is at its worst, causing major delays and significantly impacting business and the region’s quality of life;

 

WHEREAS, programmed projects such as the Southbound River Crossing and extension of the I-95 HOT lanes to RT. 17 is of critical importance to the region and must proceed on schedule and on budget;

 

WHEREAS, declining federal and state funds have put increasing pressure on local government to consider solutions to expand constrained infrastructure to help improve the region’s quality of life and capacity for economic development;

 

WHEREAS, the Chamber’s Regional Transportation Action Committee strongly advocates for continued deployment of SmartScale funds to priority projects throughout the Fredericksburg region and the opportunity for the region to explore the option of establishing a Regional Transportation Authority to leverage existing state and federal dollars to address regional transportation priorities;

 

 

 

THEREFORE, the Chamber urges members of the General Assembly to voice their support for the following:

 

  1. A change in SmartScale scoring criteria to consider weekend traffic congestion,
  2. Continued support for funded projects to ensure their on-time delivery,
  3. Continued advocacy for unfunded priority projects such as the Northbound River Crossing Project, and
  4. Legislation to reduce the minimum population required to establish a regional transportation authority so that the Fredericksburg region may explore the opportunity of raising and spending dollars locally on transportation projects of importance.

 

 

 

 

 

Policy Statements

 

Education

 

We acknowledge that high-quality early childhood education and development leads to a more skilled workforce, more employment opportunities, higher earnings, and greater economic growth and vitality for our region.

 

Early Childhood Education

 

The Chamber promotes the strengthening of early education and school readiness services for young children and their families, including access to Virginia’s Pre-K program that serves low-income, four-year-old children.

 

We support broad community awareness to expand early childhood education and a system to inform parents of the quality of specific early education providers by supporting the Virginia Quality initiative.

 

We acknowledge that high-quality early childhood education and development leads to higher earnings, more employment opportunities, an increase in family-owned businesses and economic growth and vitality in our region.

 

 

 

Public Education System             

 

The Chamber believes that a strong education system that contributes to the availability of a technically skilled and trained workforce is vital to our area’s future prosperity and quality of life.

 

The Chamber supports the following:

 

  • Continued local control of schools through locally elected or appointed school boards
  • Facilitating the active involvement of businesses and business people in the administrative, teaching and enrichment activities of schools and on state and local boards, policymaking bodies and advisory groups.
  • Ensuring that students at all education levels have appropriate understanding of the career options available to them and how to prepare for them.
  • Continue support of science, technology, engineering, math and health (STEM-H) programs.
  • The Chamber advocates strong state support for its technical schools, colleges and universities to ensure a highly skilled workforce to meet the employment demands of the regional economy.

 

Post-Secondary Education

 

The Chamber advocates strong state support for its colleges and universities to ensure a highly skilled workforce to meet the employment demands of the regional economy. 

 

Transportation

 

The Chamber supports comprehensive solutions using multiple modes of transportation in the most effective configuration including roads, rail and mass transit.  It is also essential that the Commonwealth take full advantage of new technologies, telecommuting and other innovative tools.

 

  • We encourage the General Assembly to continue to develop and evaluate long-range, sustainable funding plans dedicated to transportation to include user fees, toll roads, and private-sector investment in roads, commuter rail and mass transit.
  • We support initiatives that develop regional transportation pilot projects using appropriate funding formulas.
  • The planning, construction and maintenance of an improved statewide multi-modal transportation system that is need-based, cohesive, integrated and interconnected.

 

Military

 

The Chamber believes that the area Department of Defense bases and their hosted activities constitute a significant economic engine for the region. The Chamber supports efforts to protect and maintain area bases by mitigating the effects of potential Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) and other legislative or executive actions, encouraging partnerships between the area bases and surrounding business communities and encouraging research and development activities and studies on area bases.

 

  • The Chamber recommends state licensing authorities to recognize and give credit for equivalent military training and credentials for state licensing purposes.
  • The Chamber supports continued funding for the V-3 program at the state level as it has proven to be an extremely successful program.  The program quickly outstripped the funding available, leaving many interested employers without the opportunity to utilize the program.

 

Tort Reform

 

The Chamber supports measures to reduce the burden of excessive litigation and to improve our competitive position in world markets. Accordingly, the Chamber supports the retention of the current statutory cap on punitive damages and the current criteria for being awarded punitive damages.

 

Healthcare

 

Expanding access to healthcare throughout the Commonwealth, but especially in rural and underserved areas, is a priority of the business community.  The Chamber recognizes that many Virginians still lack access to quality, affordable healthcare.  It is vital that more individuals and families have access to physical, behavioral, and mental health care and prevention resources. 

 

The Chamber supports policies that will foster the following:

 

  • Increased access to affordable, quality healthcare through a competitive marketplace
  • A reduction in the ever-increasing costs associated with delivering healthcare products and services
  • Investments in innovation that can help lower costs and improve quality of care

 

 

 

Certificate of Public Need Reform

 

Virginia’s certificate of public need program (COPN) was put in place in 1973 and has seen very few changes despite a vastly different healthcare climate in today’s society.  COPN can serve as a useful tool in improving patient access and delivery with significant reform as the current program lacks the flexibility to accommodate the changing needs of the healthcare community.  The Chamber supports the preservation of COPN but with significant reforms to streamline and update the current statute to reflect the modern healthcare climate. 

 

Economic Development

 

The Chamber supports programs and policies that foster an expansion of economic development resulting in the creation of jobs and wealth through the growth of existing companies and the attraction of new business activity.

 

The Chamber supports a balanced approach to identify and reform regulatory barriers to economic growth while keeping in place an appropriate framework to safeguard the public, Virginia’s infrastructure and abundant natural resources.

 

The Chamber supports continued funding at current levels for proposals that foster the following:

 

  • Strong and persistent advocacy for well-funded, cohesive and aggressive economic development efforts – including continued investment in tourism – that strengthen the overall economy; reduce business taxes and excessive regulation; reduce the cost and increase the availability of healthcare; attract and retain a quality workforce; and position local businesses to better compete in a global economy.
  • Increased investments in technology and innovation with the recognition that a skilled, trainable and technically competent labor force is the most persuasive relocation factor sought by industry today
  • Promoting business ownership and entrepreneurship.

 

GO Virginia

 

The Chamber supports the GO Virginia mission of leveraging state grant dollars with private investment to bring high paying jobs to the Fredericksburg region.  Investment in the building blocks of our community such as workforce development, broadband internet access, and site development will spur additional private investment and grow jobs. 

 

 

 

Broadband

 

The Chamber recognizes the crucial role high-speed broadband Internet access plays in business, education, and quality of life.  Home-based businesses need connectivity to serve their clients, employees need access to high-speed Internet to work remotely and stay off our congested highways, students need to utilize online resources in our increasingly global culture, and residents demand high-speed connectivity at home to shop and stream entertainment.  Broadband is now a vital piece of infrastructure and in many areas of the Commonwealth and the Fredericksburg region, broadband access is either inadequate or non-existent. 

 

 

 

The Chamber supports continued investment in expanding broadband coverage and planning efforts.  The Chamber also promotes coordination through public-private partnerships to expand broadband services and lower deployment costs in areas where broadband expansion is not economically feasible.  The Chamber also encourages coordination among local broadband efforts and any GO Virginia efforts.

 

Community Service

 

The Chamber recognizes the importance of philanthropic organizations to community quality of life. The Chamber supports policy initiatives, incentives and regulations which promote a culture of charitable contributions and volunteer engagement, to support the work of local philanthropic organizations.

 

Environment

 

The Chamber supports reasonable and fair regulations that promote a balance between economic growth, protection of private property rights and stewardship of the environment.

 

  • Opposes excessive regulations that restrict the availability of energy sources, resulting in higher costs on consumers, businesses and individuals.
  • Supports adequate resources for Virginia’s environmental regulatory agencies
  • Supports managing environmental programs in a responsible manner and focus on issues that can be controlled by Virginia.
  • Promotes a balance between appropriate government oversight and permitting with economic expansion and commerce.

 

 

 

Government

 

 

 

Privatization

 

Government should carefully analyze the services it provides and, whenever feasible, devolve those functions to private industry.

 

Income Tax Predictability

 

For so long as Virginia imposes an income tax based on the federal income tax, the Chamber supports efforts between the Department of Taxation, the Legislature and the business community to implement a system of conforming the Virginia income tax with the Internal Revenue Code (with exceptions as appropriate) in advance of any tax year in order to permit businesses the opportunity to consider, budget, and otherwise prepare for compliance with the tax laws of the Commonwealth.  

 

Business Professional Occupational License Tax (BPOL)

 

The Chamber continues to oppose the BPOL tax.

 

Property Tax Authority

 

The Chamber opposes any effort to amend Virginia’s Constitution to permit localities to establish a classification system for real property allowing for different tax rates or assessment ratios for residential and commercial/industrial property, or caps on assessment growth.

 

Technology, Research and Development

 

  • Continuation of Virginia’s capacity for R&D and facilitation of new partnerships between the private sector and Virginia’s research universities in conducting and commercializing basic research, applied research and development, and university-developed intellectual property.
  • Develop programs that inform and encourage non-college bound students to earn technology-related certifications in areas critical to the continued growth of Virginia’s technology industry. Provide financial and other incentives for schools and technology companies to participate in these programs.
  • Promote the expanded use of private-sector expertise in addressing the technology needs of state government.
  • Promote creative solutions to increasing broadband access as it plays a key role in education and economic development.

 

 

 

Workforce

 

 

 

Employment-at-Will

 

The Chamber strongly supports the employment-at-will doctrine and opposes efforts to repeal, weaken, or modify it.

 

Right-to-Work Law

 

The Chamber supports the Commonwealth’s “right-to-work” law and opposes efforts to repeal, weaken, or modify it.

 

Worker’s Compensation

 

The Chamber supports the continued efforts of the General Assembly to establish a worker’s compensation schedule that is fair and equitable to all parties concerned.  

 

Workforce Training

 

The Chamber believes that workforce training programs and the availability of technically skilled people are vital to the Fredericksburg Region’s future prosperity and quality of life. 

 

The Chamber also recognizes the critical responsibility of business and industry to ensure that schools and workforce training programs are of the highest quality. The Chamber is committed to providing leadership for business cooperation with our educational institutions and those that provide workforce training services by communicating needs and expectations and by sharing resources.

 

The Chamber recognizes that the availability of a technically skilled, trainable labor forces is the most persuasive location factor sought by business today and seeks to establish programs and policies that will achieve such a workforce across the state.

 

To accomplish this goal, the Chamber supports:

 

  • Continued development in the Virginia Community College System centers of excellence that build on Virginia’s basic industrial advantages.
  • Coordination of the Commonwealth’s workforce development system to optimize understanding and access for both potential employees and employers.
  • A multi-faceted approach to workforce development involving K-12, vocational and proprietary schools, apprenticeship programs, and public and private two- and four-year institutions, which could include certification of general workplace readiness and certification of specific skills and competencies.
  • Expansion of credentialing programs that assist returning veterans with translating real world skills learned in the military to official credentials needed for available local jobs. 

 

Workforce Housing

 

The Chamber recognizes the important role that securing affordable, quality housing plays in retaining a stable workforce. The Chamber supports efforts to increase housing availability and choice by encouraging mixed-use developments, reducing the regulatory red tape to rehabilitate older housing stock, and implementing market-driven and incentive-based tools to manage growth.

 

 

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