Last Wednesday, the Virginia General Assembly held its annual reconvened session, during which the House and Senate consider amendments and vetoes offered by the Governor to bills passed during the 45-day regular session. The Chamber was present in Richmond during the session to meet with legislators and key stakeholders on items under consideration.
Two bills with amendments offered by the Governor were of primary importance to the Northern Virginia Chamber during the reconvened session:
- The Governor offered amendments to Senate Bill 1689 and House Bill 2443, identical bills supported by the Chamber that allow associations, like Chambers of Commerce, to offer health plan options to their members through the formation of a benefits consortium. This concept, successful in Virginia and other states, offers new options for small businesses to provide benefits they might not otherwise be able to provide to their employees without this pooling model. The amendments to SB1689/HB2443 negated the intent of the original bill, increasing the cost of insurance for businesses and excluding a wide range of small businesses and individuals from being able to participate and access affordable coverage.
The Governor’s amendments were rejected by the General Assembly by a vote of 64-34 in the House and 32-6 in the Senate. The Governor will have the option to sign or veto the original bill as it passed the General Assembly. If the Governor vetoes the bill, stakeholders will likely work in the interim to craft an association health plan model that addresses stakeholder concerns for consideration during the 2020 session.
- Governor Northam additionally offered amendments to House Bill 2718 and Senate Bill 1716, bills that addressed the Interstate 81 corridor and its transportation challenges. The Governor’s amendments provided a significant amount of funding to address those challenges through three funding sources – a statewide increase in the diesel tax and an increase in the heavy-truck registration fee that placed Virginia closer to the average of states on the I-81 corridor, and a regional gas tax increase in the I-81 corridor similar to the one implemented in Northern Virginia in 2013. Importantly for Northern Virginia, this proposal provides an ancillary benefit of $20 million annually for the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority for regional transportation projects, as well as additional annual funding for the I-95 corridor. On Wednesday, the Chamber expressed its support with legislators for the increased regional transportation funding in this proposal, concurrent with our longstanding position supporting a balanced approach to regional transportation funding.
The full package of amendments were approved by the General Assembly by a vote of 58-39 in the House and 22-14 in the Senate.
For more information on the Chamber’s advocacy agenda as well as a full recap of the General Assembly session and the Chamber’s priorities, visit the Chamber website linked here.