Northam seeks to include part-time workers in state IRA fund
Other bills expanding rail service, broadband and alcohol service signed into law
Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam has proposed a change to a bill to allow part-time employees to participate in a newly created state-administered retirement fund for workers without 401(k) access, the governor’s office announced Friday.
Northam also has signed legislation expanding an existing broadband pilot program to increase internet access in underserved areas of the state, and another measure codifying restaurants’ right to serve alcohol outside and during permitted events, which became policy during the COVID-19 pandemic. The governor also signed into law a measure creating an authority to support passenger rail expansion west of Roanoke.
Del. Luke Torian, D-Prince William, sponsored HB 2174, which directs the Virginia College Savings Plan to create the VirginiaSaves individual retirement account for eligible nongovernmental employees of small businesses who don’t have access to retirement plans. Under the current legislation, the program was available only to people employed at least 30 hours a week — a requirement the governor suggested striking. The House of Delegates will have to take up the recommended change when it reconvenes on April 7.
In response, Nicole Riley, director of the Virginia chapter of the National Federation of Independent Business, released a statement: “Small business owners across Virginia are deeply concerned with this move by the governor. Here’s why this bill is bad for small business: It would require our already struggling small business owners to participate in a government-mandated program at a time when they are already burdened with COVID-19 mandates and revenue losses.
“Our members ask legislators to reject the governor’s amendment and support employees’ choice as well as mitigate the administrative burden on small businesses,” Riley added.
Northam signed a measure that creates the New River Valley Passenger Rail Station Authority, which would support passenger rail expansion west of Roanoke in Planning District 4, legislation sponsored by Sen. John Edwards, D-Roanoke, and Del. Chris Hurst, D-Roanoke. He also signed legislation sponsored by Del. Hala Ayala, D-Prince William, and Edwards to expand the broadband pilot program authorizing Dominion Energy Inc. and Appalachian Power to make capacity available to internet service providers. The current program is restricted to nongovernmental internet service providers.
Finally, the governor signed into law a current pandemic policy allowing restaurants more leeway to serve alcohol outside, which was included in state policy to help restaurants suffering financially. Identical bills sponsored by Ayala and Sen. Siobhan Dunnavant, R-Henrico, allow the board of directors of the Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control Authority to increase the number of events held by a business per year — currently limited to 16 — if a locality adopts an ordinance seeking expansion. The law also increases state and local license fees for such outdoor events.