Capitol Briefs 2021 | Issue 6

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Measures boosting EVs pass General Assembly

More state funding urgently needed; class action lawsuits coming to Virginia?

Session 2021, Issue 6
February 23, 2021

The General Assembly spent last week finishing up their work on bills in advance of the Monday, February 22 deadline for committees to complete their dockets. The remainder of the special session, set to adjourn on March 1 (next Monday), will be spent passing the remaining bills, then working out any differences between the versions of legislation passed by the House and Senate. Legislators will also finish work on the new two-year budget for the Commonwealth.

The final weeks in the General Assembly includes some of the thorniest issues still producing vigorous debate, and we were involved in a couple of those issues.

The first involves the legislation relating to electric vehicles.

As you are aware, we have supported a package of bills to promote adoption of electric vehicles, including the ZEV mandate from California. We are pleased to report that the House of Delegates and Senate of Virginia passed a sweeping legislative package — four bills that now head to the Governor — that open a pathway to greater demand and adoption of electric vehicles. There is still much work to be done, but this is a positive start. These mandates need state funding — a lot of it, and far more than is currently available especially in a time when there is overwhelming demand on the state’s coffers. This will be a top VADA priority for the foreseeable future.

This legislation is in your best interests, even if some in our industry may not feel that way. As we have seen from the direction of manufacturers and in global politics, electric is the future of transportation and passage of these bills positions Virginia as a leader in a worldwide movement. Taken together, these bills are in line with our long-held position that the issue of EV adoption should be considered comprehensively. Adoption will be achieved only with the investment of all parties: manufacturers, dealers, electric utilities, environmental groups, government, and consumers. We are doing our part. More on the status of each bill is below.

Check out this article from the Virginia Mercury and the coverage from the Associated Press about Senate passage of the ZEV mandate from California. Automotive News also had an article today (access here; subscription required).

The second issue involved the creation of class action lawsuits in Virginia.

The Commonwealth is one of only two states that do not allow class action for state claims. Class actions allow a plaintiff or small group of plaintiffs to bring a lawsuit for the benefit of a larger group of affected people. This type of litigation can increase the costs and complexity of litigation for business.

We joined a large group of business interests in opposing the bill, which narrowly passed the Senate and was considered by a subcommittee in the House Courts of Justice Committee. The bill received a tie vote in the subcommittee. That means it could not move forward in the full committee without the support of one of the members who voted no, or by action of the committee chair.

Given the close vote on the matter, the business community continued to work with the bill’s patron towards a compromise solution. The patron agreed to several procedural protections that made the class-action remedy more palatable for business.

At a meeting of the full committee on Saturday (February 20), the proponents of the bill tried to have it considered further, but their attempts were unsuccessful. The compromise was never discussed.

The deadline for the full committee to act was Monday, February 22 (yesterday). At its last meeting, late yesterday, the bill was not considered. So the measure is dead for this year.

But make no mistake about it, this bill is likely to return. The General Assembly has made broad scale changes to the judiciary in Virginia including increasing the number of judges on the Court of Appeals and providing an automatic right of appeal for all cases, civil and criminal, to the that Court. These developments represent significant shifts, the impact of which will affect every Virginian in some way.

More on the EV Legislation Package

Here’s a summary of the four bills in the EV package. All four head to the Governor’s desk for signing.

ZEV Mandates – HB 1965 – Bagby

Requires adoption of California Air Resources Board (CARB) LEV and ZEV mandates.

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.

Status: Passed the Senate (21-15) on Friday

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 $2,500 rebate for the purchase of a new or used EV, along with an additional $2,000 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.

Status:  Passed the Senate (21-17) on Friday

EV Infrastructure and Incentives Study – HB 2282 (Sullivan)

Requires the SCC, in cooperation with the Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy and the Department of Environmental Quality, to recommend policy proposals to advance transportation electrification in consultation with a wide list of interested parties, including dealers. 

Status: Passed Senate (38-1) on Thursday.

Inclusion of Transportation Electrification in VA Energy Plan – SB 1223 (Boyko)

Amends the VA Energy Plan to ensure that the promotion of transportation electrification is considered as a critical component of the plan.

Status: Passed House (57-42) on Friday

Also: Test Drives – HB 2318 (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.

Status: Passed Senate (21-18) on Feb. 16.

As always, it is our pleasure to work for the interests of Virginia dealers at the General Assembly.

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