Legislative Priorities & Resources
VIRGINIA GENERAL ASSEMBLY
2022 LEGISLATIVE SESSION
The Chamber’s Legislative Priority Positions are all related to sustaining and growing our regional economy. These issues are gathered from our diverse membership, discussed by the Legislative Affairs Committee, and approved by the Board of Directors. The Chamber has significant resources and data on each priority and can furnish more detailed information upon request.
- The Chamber requests that Right-to-Work Legislation be maintained in Virginia.
It is vital to Virginia’s business climate that the Right-to-Work is preserved. Compulsory participation in unions will raise the cost of doing business in Virginia and take money out of the paychecks of low- and middle-income Virginians. The Commonwealth has a long history of affirming an individual’s right to make the decision that best serves their personal situation.
Without Right-to-Work protections, workers in Virginia will be deprived the ability to bargain for themselves with employers. Virginia’s status as “the most northern Right-to-Work state” has contributed to its economic success. According to Department of Labor statistics, Right-to-Work states typically have greater economic vitality, with faster growth in manufacturing and nonagricultural jobs, lower unemployment rates, and fewer work stoppages.
- The Chamber requests the legislative ability 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.
In 2017, the data analysis firm INRIX rated the stretch of I-95 South from Fairfax County to Stafford County as the worst traffic hot spot in the country. This crisis level congestion on our interstate highway system puts significant strain on our local, secondary roads turning them into a nightmare of delays for area residents. These delays impact people driving to their jobs in the area, those trying to access local businesses, students going to and from school, and public safety members responding to emergencies. Declining federal and state revenue makes it even more difficult to address our local infrastructure needs.
The Chamber’s Regional Transportation Action Committee strongly advocates for the opportunity to establish a Regional Transportation Authority to leverage existing state and federal dollars to address regional transportation priorities.
At the current time, the Fredericksburg region cannot even engage in a real dialogue since the statute needs to change before any action can be taken. A regional transportation authority would provide a strong tool for the region to address current and future infrastructure issues.
- The Chamber requests legislation to permit the creation of association health plans so that small businesses like those represented by the Chamber can band together and negotiate for lower healthcare premiums.
According to a July 2021 Chamber poll, 45% of surveyed businesses selected health insurance access and affordability as the top issue facing their business. The high premiums and lack of choice on the federal healthcare exchanges drive many businesses and employees to pay an exorbitant amount of their take-home pay on insurance or forgo it all together. The establishment of association health plans would allow small businesses to come together through the Chamber or other membership organizations and bargain directly with health insurance companies to achieve economies of scale and lower premiums.
Expanding access to AHPs will not significantly impact the federal healthcare exchanges as many of the small businesses that would benefit from the change are already paying for expensive employer-funded plans. Their employees are not in the exchange market to start with and AHPs would simply allow them to collectively negotiate for better rates and coverage.
- The Chamber requests that the General Assembly consider all legislation during the 2022 session with a keen eye towards the challenges presented by the current labor shortage.
During the summer of 2021, the Chamber surveyed its membership to gather information about current pain points being experienced by local businesses. Nearly 50% of respondents said that a shortage of workers was the biggest issue facing their business. The reason for those shortages varies to include issues about access to childcare, the instability of school and daycare schedules due to COVID mitigation regulations, extended government safety net funding, and fears about contracting COVID-19.
It is vital that the legislation considered in the 2022 General Assembly not provide further disincentives to work while also acknowledging and attempting to reduce the hurdles being faced by those who are trying to rejoin the workforce.
Standing Policy Positions
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
- Collaboration among small businesses to secure healthcare whether through the small group plan market or association health plans
- 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
The Chamber strongly supports the employment-at-will doctrine and opposes efforts to repeal, weaken, or modify it.
The Chamber supports the Commonwealth’s “right-to-work” law and opposes efforts to repeal, weaken, or modify it.
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.
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.
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.