Industries Government

House Republicans will push for an overhaul of VEDP and its board

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Print this page By Paula C. Squires

Virginia House Republicans said Thursday that they plan to introduce legislation during the 2017 General Assembly session that would dissolve the 24-member board of the Virginia Economic Development Partnership.

As part of a package of proposals that would overhaul the state’s premiere business recruiting authority, Del. Jimmie Massie, R-Henrico County, said the Republican plan would include “dissolving, reconstituting, and significantly reducing and professionalizing the board of the VEDP.”

Massie said during a press conference call that the legislation would require the existing board to meet monthly during 2017 with VEDP’s new CEO, Stephen Moret, so that they could come up with a comprehensive strategic plan that responds to criticisms about VEDP leveled by the stage’s investigative arm in a recent report. On Nov. 14, the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission issued a scathing, 132-page review with 35 recommendations to shore up what it depicted as gross organizational deficiencies that compromise VEDP’s effectiveness and could make the state vulnerable to fraud.

“Within nine months they would have to report back to the governor and the General Assembly on which recommendations they have implemented and which ones have not been implemented and why,” said Massie, a JLARC member.

The Republican legislators said they don’t agree with a legislative proposal floated last month by Gov. Terry McAuliffe to make the state’s secretary of commerce and trade the permanent VEDP board chairman. And they disagree with the governor’s proposal to shorten board terms from six to four years.

“I’m not very excited about that,” said Chris Jones, R-Suffolk, a JLARC member and chairman of the House Appropriations Committee. “You want to have the terms extend beyond one governor for continuity’s sake … I don’t want to politicize this board. We want it to be a business board that focuses on nothing but economic growth.”

The House legislation also calls for the position of an internal auditor within VEDP, which is in sync with McAuliffe’s proposed reform legislation. In addition, it would postpone the already approved spinoff of VEDP’s international trade unit as a separate agency, set for April 1, until July 1, 2018.  “That will give us an opportunity to look at where things stand and to figure out if that’s the best way to go,” said Massie.

The proposal would also withhold $1.5 million in new marketing monies for VEDP that were supposed to be available on July 1.

If passed, the bill would have an emergency clause, meaning that it could become law immediately upon the governor’s signature.

The VEDP reform legislation was part of an overall package of laws that House Republicans said they plan to propose. Besides an overhaul of VEDP, they want to balance the budget, which is facing a $1.5 billion shortfall, without tax or fee increases. They plan to submit “commonsense economic growth bills,” including one that would prohibit local governments from setting artificially high wage floors for private contractors.

Under regulatory reform, Del. Michael Webert, R-Marshall, said he will introduce three bills. One would install a chief of regulatory management officer and a Red Tape Reduction Commission whose goal would be to reduce the state’s regulatory requirements by 35 percent.

Another bill would push for occupational licensing reform. The 2017 General Assembly begins Jan. 11.

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