Getting down to legislative work.
Session 2021, Issue 2
January 25, 2021
The first full week of the 2021 General Assembly has come and gone. Legislators really got down to work in the virtual world — not without hiccups and limitations, but generally conducting business.
Anyone who wants to testify on a bill before a committee must sign up and then allowed into the virtual meeting of the committee at the appropriate time. In navigating this new process, our lobbyists, Don Hall and Anne Gambardella, have been testifying from the VADA conference room so that both participate on the bills we are addressing.
Like the rest of the nation, all eyes were turned northward to Washington, D.C. this past week, as incidents there affected the General Assembly. In the aftermath of the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol, the City of Richmond prepared for the traditional “Lobby Day” at the General Assembly, held annually on the first Monday of session. With legislators not in Richmond, and with increased security and pandemic concerns, no groups held gatherings and the day was largely quiet.
On Wednesday, the United States inaugurated President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris. Most Virginia Capitol observers expect a Presidency and Congress controlled by Democrats to accelerate issues being pursued by Democrats in Virginia.
Under Democratic control, the General Assembly passed legislation last year on employment-related issues, such as minimum wage, employment discrimination, wage theft, etc. This year, we see more efforts on that front, including establishing a Secretary of Labor in the Governor’s cabinet. For auto dealers, there is renewed energy behind measures to spur the adoption of electric vehicles. Virginia is fast cementing its status as a blue state.
Bills Being Addressed by VADA
There are issues we are working on that will impact our dealer members. Here is a rundown of some of the most important bills we are addressing:
ZEV Mandates – HB 1965 – Bagby
Requires adoption of California Air Resources Board (CARB) LEV and ZEV mandates.
Virginia dealers support the adoption of EVs. They have adapted to changes in their industry for generations, and electric vehicles represent just the latest in a long line of advancements. The adoption of electric vehicles will be achieved, but only with the investment of all parties: manufacturers, dealers, electric utilities, environmental groups, government, and consumers. Virginia dealers are doing their part. Adoption of California Air Resources Board (CARB) ZEV mandates is but a small step that requires significant investments by both the public and private sectors. Because ZEV mandates have the potential to affect dealers most significantly, we must ensure legislators understand the potential adverse impacts. Virginia should only consider ZEV mandates in conjunction with the necessary commitment of resources to assure successful implementation of the regulations without unfair impact on any party, including dealers.
Electric Vehicle Rebate Program – HB 1979 – Reid
Establishes a point-of-sale rebate program for EVs.
This bill would provide rebates to reduce the cost of EVs. Currently the bill calls for a $2,000 rebate for the purchase of a new or used EV, along with an additional $2,500 for lower income purchasers. This is a critical part of efforts to spur the adoption of EVs. However, sufficient funding for this program would run into the tens of millions of dollars, and only several million are on the table right now.
Test Drives – HB 2183 - Roem
Allows localities to regulate test drives in residential areas.
As originally drafted, the bill would allow a locality to pass an ordinance prohibiting test drives in residential areas. Any driver operating a vehicle on a dealer tag in a residential area would be subject to a traffic infraction. However, the bill could result in police stops on any person driving on a dealer tag in a residential area in a locality that adopts an ordinance, whether or not the person is on a test drive.
We worked with Del. Roem and the City of Manassas Park (which requested the bill), and the proposed measure is now much more limited in its impact on dealers and their customers. Dealers in any locality that adopt an ordinance regarding test drives in an enhanced speed area under §46.2-878.2 (Virginia’s code section on maximum speed limits in residential areas) must give notice of the ordinance and areas to avoid on a test drive. If a customer violates the speed limit or runs a stop sign in that enhanced speed area, the locality may contact the Dealer Board so the Board can determine if the notice was given by the dealer. If so, end of inquiry. If not, the dealer may be subject to a civil penalty by the Board.
The language solves the problem of the potential for anyone driving on a dealer tag to be stopped in a residential area, while also providing for enforcement against a dealer who does not provide the required notice. It also clarifies what a test drive is, making clear it does not include a prospective purchaser who is driving a vehicle to their residence when the dealer allows them to take a vehicle for several days.
We appreciate Delegate Roem’s willingness to address our concerns.
Other Measures We Are Watching
- Tax conformity measures to address the tax implications of the proceeds of PPP loans. The administration is proposing that expenses paid for with PPP funds NOT be deductible for state tax purposes. This is different from the federal tax treatment of those expenses.
- COVID-related issues, including sales tax exemptions for PPE and liability protections.
- Employer-related issues, including paid sick leave, equal pay and right to work.
- Consumer data bills. We are working to ensure no new restrictions are placed on dealers in handling their customer information.
You might be thinking our bill list looks shorter than it usually does. You’re not wrong. Legislators have very strict limits on the number of bills they can introduce this year. Here are the numbers of bills introduced by year to give you an idea of the reduction in numbers: 2021 - 1,161; 2020 – 3,911; 2019 – 3,128.