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Business-related legislation

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Even though this year’s session was short, the Virginia General Assembly passed several notable business-related bills. Below is some legislation of interest.

Virginia Economic Development Partnership (VEDP) reform (HB2471/SB1574): The legislation was created in response to a 2016 Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission (JLARC) report that deemed VEDP was poorly run and had inadequate oversight of its incentives program. The law creates an internal auditor to monitor VEDP’s operations, stipulates that the board update a strategic plan every two years and creates a division responsible for monitoring incentives.

The legislation reduces the number of VEDP board members from 24 to 17, requires that all nine regions of GO Virginia be represented on the board and stipulates the GO Virginia board chairman and the executive director of the Port of Virginia serve on the board. The Virginia International Trade division, which in 2016 was slated to be created as a separate state entity, will remain under VEDP.

Funds to remain with Virginia Coalfield Economic Development Authority (VCEDA): McAuliffe vetoed a budget item that would have diverted $500,000 from the VCEDA to the Lenowisco and Cumberland Plateau planning district commissions to support international investment in Southwest Virginia. In a statement addressing the veto, McAuliffe said several communities had asked him to veto the measure. He said those initiatives could be handled by GO Virginia.

Port of Virginia board of commissioners (HB2367/SB1415): The legislation says the governor may remove members of the Virginia Port Authority Board of Commissioners before the expiration of their term only for cause. Previously, members of the board served “at the pleasure of the governor.” In 2011, then-Gov. Bob McDonnell replaced 10 of 11 members of the board. McAuliffe removed five members soon after he became governor in 2014.

Airbnb/short-term rentals (SB1578): Gives localities the option to require residents offering short-term rentals of their properties (less than 30 days) to register. The bill allows localities to impose penalties of up to $500 per violation.
Alcohol at outside commercial centers (HB1987/SB1391): Creates a new nonretail alcohol license for commercial lifestyle centers. Allows commercial centers with at least 100,000 square feet of space and covering at least 25 acres to apply for a license that would allow patrons to carry open alcoholic drinks in the common areas.

Solar power (HB2303/SB1394): The General Assembly passed several bills encouraging the development of solar energy. HB 2303 establishes a way for agricultural facilities to sell solar-generated electricity to a utility. Other legislation created solar pilot programs, increased the size of renewable projects eligible for a permit by rule process and authorized localities to create “green development zones” that provide tax and zoning incentives to energy-efficient buildings or manufacturers of products beneficial to the environment. 

Education (HB2341): Requires that the Board of Education include at least two members representing business and industry in the private sector. “We’re hoping that businesspeople can be at the table and help shape the development of what will be high school redesign, and be a partner in establishing skillsets needed for the 21st century,” says Keith Martin, vice president for public policy and general counsel for the Virginia Chamber of Commerce.

Regulatory legislation

HB1943/SB1431: Requires the Department of Planning and Budget to consider input from the business community or other affected entities when the agency conducts an economic impact analysis.

HB1731: Requires the Joint Commission on Administrative Rules to review state agencies’ exemptions under the Administrative Process Act.  According to the Virginia Chamber of Commerce, about 45 to 50 percent of state agencies are exempt from the law, which requires agencies to hold public hearings and provide notice before implementation of regulations. The process would determine whether the exemptions are still necessary.

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