Capitol Briefs 6 (2.17.20)

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After crossover, work continues for the General Assembly and VADA. More Democratic bills are still alive in 2020 compared to the last 60-day session. Plus, read for an update on headline legislation and industry specific bills.


Session 2020, Issue 6

February 17, 2020

We are in the latter half of the General Assembly’s 2020 Regular Session. “Crossover,” the date when all legislation passed by one chamber moves to the other for consideration, effectively serves as the midpoint for the legislative calendar. A lot has happened thus far, but a lot remains, as the March 7 close of the session draws near.

If you have not done so, please listen to our latest VADA High Octane Podcast—Parts 1 and 2—addressing the session to date.

3,292 pieces of legislation have been introduced this year. As of Monday, February 17, 1,640 are still pending. So there is plenty of work left for the General Assembly and for the VADA legislative team, as bills addressing safety inspections, peer-to-peer vehicle sharing, budget amendments, specialty plates for dealers tags, and general business measures work their way through the legislative process.

We’ve written extensively about how this is the first year in nearly 30 years the Democrats have been in complete control of state government. As the session progresses, you may wonder, how does this compare to the last long session—recall, we alternate every year between 45 and 60 days. Has there been that big of a difference between 2018 and 2020? Both in terms of policy and number of highly contested bills, the answer is yes.

Statistics indicate the bills still alive are considerably more Democratic than was the case two years ago, a reality unsurprising given the shift in party control.

Most Democrats introduced more bills in 2020 than they did in 2018, and most Republicans introduced fewer. Also, Democrats have enjoyed a much higher success rate with their bills this year compared to two years ago. Again, the reverse is true for Republicans in both chambers, who are seeing more of their bills fail to reach the finish line.

The Virginia Public Access Project (VPAP) notes that the House passed more than 50% of the House bills Democrats introduced this year. Just over 30% of Republican House bills made the cut. Compare that to 2018, when less than 20% of Democratic House bills made it through the lower chamber. Republican House bills had a roughly 50% success rate through crossover that year.

In the Senate, where fewer bills are introduced overall, 60% of Democratic Senate bills were successful by session’s midpoint. That number was less than 40% in 2018. Republican Senate bills had only a slight drop off in success rate this year compared to two years ago. But again, these numbers are exacerbated when combined with the reality that there were more Democratic bills, and less Republican bills, at the start of this session.

There are also way more “close votes” this year than during the last long session.

In 2018, only 76 Senate bills were “close votes,” which VPAP describes as garnering “No” votes from at least one-third of the voting members. That number jumped from 76 to 151 in 2020 as of Monday, February 17. In the House, there were 54 close votes in 2018. That number skyrocketed to 219 this year.

We will continue working with friends on both sides of the aisle and in both chambers to push for and against legislation that could impact your stores. Please see below for a rundown of some topics that have earned headlines statewide. Thereafter, you will find a list of those bills we are tracking that are specific to our industry.

Headline Legislation

What’s the latest with safety inspections?

As we indicated last week, the House has staked out its position to require safety inspections once every two years, while the Senate’s approach is to maintain annual inspections. We remain in the middle of this discussion. We believe consumer safety means inspections every year, but we appreciate the Governor’s office, Speaker Eileen Filler-Corn, and Del. Jay Jones for changing their approach from outright removal to a once-every-24-months requirement. If the House and Senate remain firm in their differing takes on safety inspections, this will be sorted out in a conference committee involving members of both chambers. And the Governor can also veto or amend bills and return them to the legislature. In short, there is work left to do.

Is Virginia getting a casino—or casinos?

For at least two years now, the General Assembly has given serious thought to allowing a casino, or several casinos, in Virginia. Legislation was introduced in the 2019 session. Numerous interested stakeholders, including localities vying for the sort of economic boom they believe a casino would bring, met over the last year, and bills that resulted are still alive in the House and Senate.

Last week, the House passed HB 4, carried by Del. Barry Knight of Virginia Beach, which would allow casinos in the cities of Bristol, Danville, Norfolk, Richmond, and Portsmouth. Sen. Louise Lucas, the Senate Pro Tempore, carried companion legislation with SB 36. Should the measures be passed by the legislature and signed by the Governor, casinos will only come to fruition in any of the above cities if voters therein approve the idea in referendums this November.

What’s the deal with minimum wage?

Virginia is going to see an increase in the minimum wage. What will it be? That much is very unclear, and it could depend on where you live. The House, with its HB 395, has adopted the idea of gradually increasing the minimum wage over the next six years. It would be $10 per hour July 1, 2020 and incrementally rise to $15 per hour in 2025.

The Senate’s proposed language is a bit murkier, to put it lightly. Should SB 7 prevail, Virginia would be divided into regions, with increases based on median incomes in the regions. As written, Northern Virginia would serve as a sort of measuring stick for the other parts of the state. Northern Virginia would be the only region to see a gradual increase reaching $15 over the next six years. All other regions in the Commonwealth would have incremental increases of lesser amounts based on how their median income compares to that of Northern Virginia. Stay tuned.

Safety Inspections

Originally, there were five bills—two in the House, three in the Senate—addressing Virginia’s annual safety inspection program. As part of his budget proposal, Gov. Ralph Northam announced his desire to repeal the program. He asked Del. Jay Jones (D-Norfolk) and Sen. Louise Lucas (D-Southside & Hampton Roads) to carry legislation including such repeal in addition to other transportation safety initiatives.

As we reach the halfway point of this session, the House has staked out its position to require safety inspections once every two years, while the Senate’s approach is to maintain annual inspections.

Throughout this session, we have highlighted consumer safety reasons for keeping the program, providing data to back up our points. We have also discussed how even the newest vehicles cannot alert drivers to every deficiency in a vehicle an inspection would catch.

  • HB 1414 – Speaker Filler-Corn
    • Bill would, among furthering other administration-backed transportation initiatives, alter the safety inspection program to require inspections once every 24 months. The House passed the bill 56-42. Referred to Senate Committee on Finance and Appropriations and could be heard as early as Tuesday, February 18.
  • HB 1439 – Del. Jones
    • As amended, HB 1439 would alter Virginia’s safety inspection program to require inspections once every 24 months. Bill also includes other transportation safety measures. The House passed the bill 52-48. Referred to the Senate Transportation Committee and could be heard Thursday, February 20.
  • SB 890 – Sen. Saslaw
    • Bill contains the same transportation measures as HB 1414 but maintains the annual inspection system. The Senate passed the bill 23-17. Referred to House Finance Committee.
  • SB 907 – Sen. Lucas
    • Bill contains some of the same measures as HB 1439 but maintains the annual inspection system. The Senate passed the bill 26-14. Referred to the House Transportation Committee and could be heard as early as Tuesday, February 18.

California Cars

  • HB 577 – Del. Keam
    • Bill would put in place California emissions standards, potentially both low emissions (LEV) and zero emissions (ZEV) standards. This bill died in House Appropriations.

Dealer Plates

  • HB 595 – Del. Bourne
    • Bill would authorize the Department of Motor Vehicles to issue, upon request of a licensed dealer, a license plate that is a combination of a special license plate and a dealer tag. VADA asked Del. Bourne to carry this legislation. The House passed the bill 98-0. Referred to Senate Transportation Committee. Senate Transportation unanimously approved it 15-0. We anticipate the Senate will pass the bill this week.

Peer-to-Peer Vehicle Sharing

Marketed by some as Airbnb for cars, peer-to-peer vehicle sharing is an emerging technology that would allow one to rent—or share, depending on whom you ask—their vehicle to another through an online platform. The sharing platforms asked patrons to carry their preferred legislation. A rental car company asked patrons to carry theirs. Taxation was the main point of contention, with the platforms wanting less than the 10% rental tax applied to their transactions. 

Why are we involved? We want everyone—including the car sharing platforms and/or their users—to pay their fair share to the Commonwealth so as to prevent Virginia from needing to increase the sales and use tax as a way of accounting for any deficits.

Additionally, we want to prevent a platform company—owned or funded by a large auto manufacturer—from titling a fleet of vehicles in another state, never paying Virginia’s sales and use tax, and bringing cars into Virginia to operate just as a traditional rental company but with a tax break.

With VADA’s help, the two sides reached agreement. Whenever a single owner has 11 or more vehicles on a shared platform, the tax on transactions shall be 10%, same as the rental tax. A single owner who has 10 or fewer vehicles on a shared platform will be taxed at 6.5% for the first year of this law and 7% thereafter. This is a win for VADA. It preserves transportation revenue, and it prevents large manufacturer owned fleets from circumventing the rental rules.

  • SB 735 – Sen. Newman
    • SB 735 reflects the consensus language and will be the vehicle for the agreed upon language moving forward. There is no need for HB 891, HB 892, HB 1539, SB 749, or SB 750 and, as such, all died before crossover. The Senate passed the bill 40-0. Referred to House Finance Committee and will be heard in subcommittee Monday, February 17. We anticipate it will be before full committee this week.

Employer Issues

As always, we are monitoring various employer-employee legislation. This year, such bills include those addressing employee purchases of necessary tools and equipment, non-compete agreements, an increase in the minimum wage, and paid sick leave.

Consumer Data Security 

Various bills dealing with consumer data will be studied over the coming year in preparation for legislation in 2021.

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