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Governor Proposes Amendments to Legislation in Advance of April 22 Reconvened Session

In addition to extensive amendments to the FY 2020 “caboose” and 2020-2022 biennium budget bills, the General Assembly will consider amendments to 94 bills at the reconvened session on April 22 (the General Assembly already approved gubernatorial amendments to six bills before the adjournment of the regular session on March 12).  Below is an overview of legislation with gubernatorial amendments of particular interest to localities.

Taxing authority for counties:  HB 785 (Watts)/SB 588 (Hanger) provide additional authority to counties to collect taxes on meals, transient occupancy, cigarettes, and admissions.  The Governor’s amendments delay the effective date of the provisions governing transient occupancy taxes until May 1, 2021, and clarify that the provisions dealing with cigarette taxes take effect July 1, 2021.  The bills’ remaining provisions would take effect in due course on July 1, 2020.

Absentee voting:  HB 207 (VanValkenburg) permits any voter to vote by absentee ballot and creates a permanent absentee list to which a voter may opt-in, beginning July 1, 2021.  The Governor’s amendments repeal the delayed enactment clause that was included in legislation in 2019 authorizing no-excuse absentee voting beginning with the November 2020 general election, which would appear to authorize no-excuse absentee voting beginning July 1, 2020.

Project labor agreements: HB 358 (Lopez)/SB 182 (Saslaw) authorize public bodies to require bidders to enter into or adhere to project labor agreements for public works projects.  The Governor’s amendment delays the effective date of the legislation to May 1, 2021. (An additional amendment to SB 182 revises the definition of “public works” to make it consistent with HB 358.)

Minimum wage:  HB 395 (Ward)/SB 7 (Saslaw) increase the minimum wage from $7.25 per hour to $9.50 per hour, effective January 1, 2021; to $11.00 per hour, effective January 1, 2022; to $12.00 per hour, effective January 1, 2023; to $13.50 per hour, effective January 1, 2025 (subject to General Assembly approval by July 1, 2024); and to $15.00 per hour effective January 1, 2026 (similarly subject to General Assembly approval).  For January 1, 2027, and thereafter, the annual minimum wage shall be adjusted to reflect increases in the consumer price index.  The Governor’s amendments delay the first increase until May 1, 2021.

PTSD and workers’ compensation:  HB 438 (Heretick)/SB 561 (Vogel) provide that Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) incurred by a law-enforcement officer or firefighter is an occupational disease compensable under the Virginia Workers’ Compensation Act and define qualifying PTSD events.  The Governor’s amendment requires the Department of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS) to establish compulsory training standards for basic training of law enforcement officers for recognizing and managing stress, self-care techniques, and resiliency.

Collective bargaining:  HB 582 (Guzman)/SB 939 (Saslaw) authorize collective bargaining for employees of local governments and employees of local school boards at local option.  The Governor’s amendment delays the bills’ effective date until May 1, 2021.

Prevailing wage in public works contracts:  HB 833 (Carroll Foy)/SB 8 (Saslaw) require public works contractors for state projects to pay wages at the prevailing wage rate and authorize any locality to adopt an ordinance with similar requirements.  The Governor’s amendments delay the effective date of the legislation until May 1, 2021, and clarify the definition of “prevailing wage rate.”

Agriculture and forestry development grants:  HB 1002 (Guzman) creates the Agriculture and Forestry Industries Development Planning Grant Program and authorizes the Governor to award grants to political subdivisions to encourage efforts by political subdivisions to support agriculture and forestry.  The Governor’s amendment adds an emergency clause to the bill.

Tax exemptions for utility-scale solar:  HB 1131 (Jones)/SB 762 (Barker) extend a state mandate to exempt utility-scale solar projects from local tax to 2030 (the exemption is currently set to expire in 2024).  Specifically, current law mandates an 80 percent exemption from local machinery and tools tax (M&T) for solar projects greater than 5 megawatts (MW) in energy capacity. For projects greater than 20 MW and less than 150 MW, the mandatory exemption expires for any project that has not begun construction by Jan. 1, 2024. The legislation also provides the option for a locality, by local ordinance, to replace the M&T tax with an energy tax of $1,400 per MW of capacity installed per project. The Governor’s amendments are technical in nature and do not substantially alter the substance or application of the legislation.

Transportation funding:  HB 1414 (Filler-Corn)/SB 890 (Saslaw) make numerous changes related to transportation revenue funds, sources, and safety programs.  This includes raising the Commonwealth’s gas tax 5 cents per gallon per year for two years beginning on July 1, 2020, and after July 1, 2022, adjusting the rate to the United States Average Consumer Price Index, all urban consumers (CPI-U); raising the diesel fuel tax to 27 cents per gallon by July 1, 2021 and also pegging the rate to CPI-U; imposing a 7.6 cent per gallon tax on gas distributors in any County or City that currently does not have a regional fuel tax, such as the ones existing in Northern Virginia, Hampton Roads, and the I-81 corridor, effective July 1, 2021, and also pegging it to CPI-U; creating a new highway use fee on fuel-efficient vehicles; reducing the state’s annual vehicle registration fee for motor vehicles by $10 while maintaining local registration fee rates; creating a new entity known as the Virginia Passenger Rail Authority, whose purpose is to develop, maintain, and improve passenger rail facilities and increase passenger rail capacity in the Commonwealth; and diverting all existing and proposed revenues into a single account known as the Commonwealth Transportation Fund.  The Governor’s amendments clarify the authority of the Passenger Rail Authority to enter into agreements with other states and employ eminent domain; advance to July 1, 2020, the reduction of annual distribution of recordation tax revenues to cities and counties from $40 million to $20 million; reduce the excise tax on diesel fuel effective July 1, 2020 from 21.2 cents per gallon to 20.2 cents per gallon; and delay the reduction in regional WMATA capital fees, the creation of the regional congestion relief fee, and the increase in Transient Occupancy Tax in Northern Virginia, to May 1, 2021.

Central Virginia Transportation Authority:  HB 1541 (McQuinn) creates the Central Virginia Transportation Authority, composed of the Counties and Cities located in Planning District 15 (Goochland, Powhatan, Chesterfield, Colonial Heights, Henrico, Hanover, New Kent, Charles City, Richmond City) to administer transportation funding generated through the imposition of an additional regional 0.7 percent sales and use tax and 7.6 cent per gallon gas tax and 7.7 cents per gallon diesel fuel tax pegged to CPI-U.  This authority follows similar authorities created in Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads.  The Governor’s amendments require a cost benefit analysis component to the transportation project prioritization process; clarify membership on the Authority’s Board to include a member of the Commonwealth Transportation Board who resides in Planning District 15; stipulate that any locality included in the authority shall not reduce its transit funding by more than 50 percent of what has been appropriated as of July 1, 2019 instead of July 1, 2020; and peg increases required of localities to changes in CPI-U beginning in FY 2023; require the Authority to evaluate and report to the General Assembly by December 1, 2020, on the governance structure of transit service in the Richmond region; and delay the implementation of the tax increases dedicated to the Authority to October 1, 2020.

Hampton Roads transit funding:  HB 1726 (Askew)/SB 1038 (Lucas) create the Hampton Roads Regional Transit Program and Fund to develop, maintain, and improve a regional network of transit routes and related infrastructure, in Planning District 23.  The program would be funded by an additional (i) regional grantor’s tax at a rate of $0.06 per $100 of the consideration for the conveyance and (ii) regional transient occupancy tax (TOT) at a rate of one percent of the charge for the occupancy, both imposed in localities in the Hampton Roads Transportation District.  The legislation also dedicates $20 million of revenues from existing recordation taxes to funding the program.  The Governor’s amendments prevent participating localities from reducing funds appropriated for public transportation to levels less than those appropriated on July 1, 2019; clarify the relationship between the Hampton Roads Transportation Accountability Commission (HRTAC) and the new Transit Program; and delay the increases in regional TOT to May 1, 2021.

Reports on death investigations in local and regional jails:  SB 215 (Suetterlein), as passed by the General Assembly, requires the Board of Corrections to report annually on any reviews conducted on deaths of inmates in local correctional facilities, including trends or similarities among deaths and recommendations to reduce the number of deaths in local correctional facilities.  The Governor’s substitute expands this reporting requirement to include the results of the inspections and audits of local, regional, or community correctional facilities in addition to death reviews, and requires the report to include recommendations for changes to the standards established for these correctional facilities.

Date of June primary:  SB 316 (Kiggans) would delay the primary election held in June from the second Tuesday to the third Tuesday in June.   The Governor’s amendment adds a reenactment clause to the bill, so it would need to be passed again next year to take effect.

Peer-to-peer car rentals:  SB 735 (Newman) is a compromise bill dealing with the regulation and taxation of peer-to-peer car rental services.  As passed by the General Assembly, from July 1, 2020, to June 30, 2021, the bill would impose a tax on such rentals of 6.5 percent of the gross proceeds for vehicle owners listing no more than ten vehicles for rent at any given time, with the tax increasing to seven percent beginning July 1, 2021.  The Governor’s amendments delay the effective date of the tax provisions to October 1, 2020.

Split precincts:  SB 740 (Obenshain) requires localities to adjust local precinct lines so that precincts are not split between General Assembly or Congressional districts.  VACo has traditionally supported addressing this situation through technical adjustments made by the state to state-drawn lines; however, this approach has been unsuccessful in recent years.  VACo had requested amendments to make the bill more workable for localities with respect to the timing of elections held in November of years in which redistricting is held.  The Governor’s amendments would require precincts to be established for November elections based on districts as they exist on June 15 of a redistricting year; if new districts have not been established by that time, localities could use the June 15 districts to establish precinct lines to be used in November elections and then make further adjustments later to reflect subsequent changes to district lines.

Electric personal delivery devices:  SB 758 (Marsden) makes several changes related to electric personal delivery devices (aka delivery robots), including changing the weight limit of such devices from 50 to 500 pounds and allowing their use of sidewalks or crosswalks unless prohibited by local ordinance.  The Governor’s amendments require the delivery devices to yield to pedestrian rights-of-way and to have device operator identifying information visibly displayed.

Additional Bills of Interest

HB 4 (Knight)/SB 36 (Lucas) authorize casino gaming in the Commonwealth and specify the use of revenues from taxes to be levied on the adjusted gross receipts of licensed operators.  In the enrolled versions of the bills, revenues left over after allocations to the cities housing the casinos, the Virginia Indigenous People’s Trust Fund, the Problem Gambling Treatment and Support Fund, and the Family and Children’s Trust Fund would be General Fund revenues.  The Governor’s amendments would provide that these funds would be used instead for programs established to address public school capital needs.

HB 340 (Price), as passed by the General Assembly, would provide protections against evictions or foreclosures for individuals affected by federal government furloughs associated with government shutdowns.  The Governor’s substitute adds similar protections during the public health state of emergency for individuals who experience losses in income as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

HB 881 (Bulova)/SB 971 (Howell) as passed by the General Assembly would treat “games of skill” as illegal gambling.  The Governor’s substitute proposal would allow games existing as of June 30, 2020, to operate until July 1, 2021, and require distributors to remit a monthly tax on each skill game.  Revenue generated by the tax would be split among the localities in which the games are located, the Problem Gambling Treatment and Support Fund, the Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control Authority, and a new COVID-19 Relief Fund that would be used by the Governor to respond to the pandemic.

HB 1255 (Price)/SB 717 (McClellan) specify criteria for the drawing of congressional and General Assembly districts, including provisions requiring an individual incarcerated in a correctional facility to be counted for redistricting purposes either at his or her address prior to incarceration (if located within the Commonwealth) or at the facility (if his or her address was located outside the Commonwealth or is not known).  The enactment clause proposed by the Governor requires such data to be collected and provided to the Division of Legislative Services in fall 2020.

SB 548 (Edwards), as passed by the General Assembly, deals with various aspects of unemployment compensation, such as a requirement for all employers to file payroll and tax reports electronically with the Virginia Employment Commission.  The Governor’s substitute adds new language directing the Virginia Employment Commission to establish a short-time compensation program that would allow approval of work-sharing programs in which hours are reduced in lieu of layoffs.

VACo Contact: VACo Legislative Team


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