The Prince William Chamber of Commerce held a Legislative Wrap-Up at the Old Hickory Golf Club on April 18.
During the event, representatives from the Virginia Senate and House of Delegates were asked questions about the 2017 General Assembly and new laws that will take effect July 1.
Senators George Barker, Scott Surovell and Jeremy McPike, and Delegates Richard Anderson, Robert Marshall and Scott Lingamfelter were in attendance.
What is your favorite business-friendly legislation that you worked on during this most recent session? (51:14)
McPike: This session I was hoping to pass a bill that allows our contractors -contractor A and B license to post a bond, or get their license in Virginia. There’s currently about a 6 to 8-week delay in that time in getting both new businesses and those who work. So we’re actually able to monetize that, because currently the DPOR (Department of Professional and Occupational Regulation) does a process where they do background checks before issuing the license. So this allowed companies to monetize, post a bond and get people to work.
Surovell: I’m going to go outside the box a little bit. I’m going to talk about a budget issue I worked on. Being a practicing lawyer – actually as soon as I leave here I’m supposed to be in Prince William Circuit Court at 10 a.m. I need to hurry up. Under the budget we just passed, we took away one of Prince William County’s circuit court judges. Lon Farris announced his retirement. He actually leaves the bench in two months and 30 days, or so. That takes away about 20 percent of Prince William County’s judging capacity in Circuit Court. And Prince William is the second largest jurisdiction in the state. So that leaves us only five circuit judges … Richmond has half of Prince William County, Manassas and Manassas Park’s population and seven circuit judges. We also, I think, have 55 or 58 pending murder trials in Prince William County right now. There’s been, I think, 14 murders or something, but because of the co-defendants there’s actually 55 trials. That’s 11 or 12 murder trials per judge. Criminal cases get priority on the docket because it’s a speed trial under the constitution. If you have a business dispute that needs to be litigated that’s going to take any serious time, good luck. Because I don’t know when we’re you’re going to get in court. When I had some child custody cases – I had a child custody case in Prince William back when it had five judges about three years ago. I got pushed three times waiting for my case to be heard, because they didn’t have a judge to hear me. And so when get everyone … you get the witnesses there and ready to go and the lawyer spends the whole time getting ready and they can’t hear their case because there’s no judge, it becomes incredibly expensive. Lucrative for me, but expensive for my clients and in the business … predictability and certainty are important. And this doesn’t do it. I put a budget on the floor to get that judgeship funded, notwithstanding budget, and then failed. But I’m hopeful that we get that spot restored next year. … But in terms of getting your getting your disputes resolved, the judicial system works really efficiently and predictably.
Barker: I sit on the Senate Finance Committee dealing with the budget and those types of issues and this year we worked on restoring funding for the Go Virginia … We got a meeting in Richmond on Thursday on that. I think there’s significant progress being made. I’m very optimistic about what we can accomplish there. So I worked on that a little bit, but what I worked on the most, really, some of the business issues because I was on the committee and the conference committee in restructuring the Virginia Economic Development partnership. And I think that is something that is going to be more tiny structured and is going to provide more benefits to businesses, big and small businesses in Virginia.
Anderson: Probably the most business-friendly bill I have is in the pamphlets you have – we were all graded on it – and it’s House Bill 1738 that relates to retail sales and used tax for aviation parts, maintenance and engines on aircraft. Presently, aircraft maintenance in Virginia, the labor on an aircraft, is exempt from sales tax. However, the parts that are placed on the aircraft are not. So what this bill does is provide an exemption, not only from general aviation or privately owned light aircraft but also to business aviation aircraft. I chair what we created this year that’s called the Virginia General Assembly Aviation Caucase. As an aviator, I chaired the thing and working with the Virginia Business Aircraft Association, we carried that. The premise of the bill on a study done by Price Waterhouse – pretty significant name – that concluded that if Virginia does this in the out years, it will double our $1.1 billion aircraft maintenance industry and double the 30,000 jobs in the aircraft maintenance industry across the state. That’s based on the experience of other states. Presently, around us other states have this exemption and I’ll give you an example. Nobody comes to Virginia and a lot of aircrafts leave Virginia for maintenance. Example: The two King Airs that provide executive transport to senior officials of Virginia state government go to Illinois for all of their aircraft maintenance. That is not good in Richmond. So I would like to see this rejuvenate the aircraft maintenance industry in Virginia, and especially bring it right here to Prince William County at the Manassas Regional Airport. And bring some of those businesses into the chamber.
Marshall: It wasn’t legislation but it was an activity in Prince William County that’s going to have far-reaching, economic consequences. Amazon whose owner, Jeff Bezos is the second richest person in the world, has resulted in a decision of the State Corporation Commission, which is basically they’re punting the decision. They want supervisors to make decisions I haven’t seen before. One, they want them to vacate a land that was received from the Somerset Crossings and let Dominion go through it, or they want to carve a railroad wrap with a carbon wrap. Both of these involve taking private property. The only wrap they could have selected that wouldn’t involve taking private property was down 66 either overhead or partially underground. What this has done is litigants will come up on either of these routes, because they are having private property taken from them, and it’s being taken for economic development purposes. Where do I reach that conclusion? The SCC (State Corporation Commission state, “It is uncontested that a retail customer of the company is driving the bona fide need for this project. The project will promote economic development in Virginia, including the Haymarket area, by serving the customers planned data centers.” I did Freedom of Information press both to the county and to the state and was told that I can’t have this information, because this is a business deal basically. … Well, when you condemn property for economic development purposes, you’re running against the constitutional amendment that voters in this state approved in 2012. This is going to be a test case if anyone wants to take it. Scott, you’re an attorney, you might want to do this. … Because you’re taking property for economic development purposes. It’s very clear. The SCC has said it, the FOIAs for the denial of theses grounds to be – this is a case waiting to happen, so I’m just letting you know that it’s coming down the road.
Lingamfelter: The business legislation I spent most of my time on this session was around Deregulation. Deregulation is kind of like the weather – everybody talks about, nobody knows anything about it. And I decided last summer that enough was enough and wrote my own bill from scratch … And what I did was I required that the state and every agency in the state look at all the regulations for which they’re responsible at least 10 percent per year over a decade. And right now it’s four years. They look at all of them in four years, but they don’t look very carefully in four years. So what I wanted to do was assign some performance metrics to our regulations. Are these things actually doing what the thing it was designed and logged to do or are they, frankly, unnecessary? I also had the agencies assess the cost of what the state has to pay to enforce the regulations as well as what it costs businesses and people to abide by them. If we take a comprehensive yardstick approach to looking at regulations low and behold it’s like the old pogo cartoon years ago “We have found the enemy, and it is us.” It is the General Assembly that passes the laws that reduces the regulations that govern so much of what we do. And if we have a rational mechanism that would tea up to us in the General Assembly that the regulations which are completely unnecessary or too burdensome or, frankly speaking, not doing what they were designed to do, then we would be in a place to do something about it. And I really think that would have been the right approach for us to do. I’m sad to report to you that the governor’s veto … said this: “The arguments of overregulation are a straw man argument.” Are a straw man argument. And I gotta tell you something: I told some of my colleagues in the house when the governor vetoed this bill,” I want you to go back to your chambers and to your business groups where you live and I want you to look them in the face and tell them, ‘We don’t have a problem with overregulation.’ And I can guarantee you they’re going to pull you aside later on and say, ‘You know what? You’re wrong.’” So, guess what, folks. Next year, that bill’s coming back.
Here are other questions the representatives were asked:
How do you feel about COPN (Certificate of Public Need) and why do you believe it’s important, specifically in terms of businesses needing solid health care systems for their employees? What do you see happening in 2018 in regards to health care? (17:35)
Do you anticipate any changes to, or repeal of, the Proffer reform legislation from the 2016 session in this next upcoming year? (24:18)
There will be a new speaker of the house, Curt Cox, and a new majority leader, Todd Gilbert, next session. What are the top issues that they plan to address and what does that mean for northern Virginia? (31:43)
There are some programs in place that are recognizing certain credentials and licensing that military receive on active duty. However, many don’t transfer over into the civilian sector of Virginia law. Can we hear more about what the state is doing across the various industries, not just medical? (33:48)
Gerrymandering has been cited as one of the prime drivers of the deep partisan divide in politics today. How would you describe Virginia’s current process for redrawing legislative districts? Do you believe that the process is nonpartisan or does it need to be altered? (38:36)