The General Assembly just concluded their first full week of session. The 100 member House has introduced over 1,000 bills, and the 40 member Senate has introduced over 700 bills. Over the next two weeks the 14 House committees will be doing a lot of the heavy lifting to hear the bills before action could be taken on the House floor.
The House Republican caucus takes governing seriously. Therefore, we have been working since we adjourned in 2016 to develop our priorities for the 2017 session. Our policies aim to create a culture of opportunity where people can empower themselves to flourish in society. This is accomplished through private job creation and entrepreneurship, healthcare reform, and modernizing education options. This week I will highlight our agenda to improve the economy and create jobs in Virginia.
Our jobs agenda has one main goal: make it easier for people to work. We have several caucus members who are carrying regulatory reform legislation. The current regulatory system is broke. Onerous permitting requirements have made it extremely difficult, expensive, and time-consuming to do business.
Now, not all regulations are bad or should be done away with. That said, regulations should be transparent, fair, and impose minimal financial burdens on businesses and families.
Several members have submitted bills to strengthen public input requirements on newly proposed regulations, create accountability for those agencies that think they should be exempt from public input, and in general scale back the tremendous amount of regulatory burden working professionals currently experience.
We will also have comprehensive legislation to reform the Virginia Economic Development Partnership (VEPD), the state agency tasked with marketing Virginia to potential new businesses.
Last December, the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission published the worst, most disappointing report on a state agency within the last 20 years. In their briefing, they highlighted that VEDP has operated without using basic practices necessary for effective management and marketing. Further, VEDP’s unstructured and inconsistent approach to administering state incentive grant programs leaves the state vulnerable to fraud and poor use of limited resources.
Essentially, the Commonwealth’s marketing agency was operating without a marketing plan.
The systematic deficiencies at this state agency must be addressed. They are supposed to be our key management and marketing agency of Virginia’s economic development activities, but have been grossly mismanaged to the detriment of our economy. It is time to restore accountability and General Assembly oversight. Until reforms have been made, their state funding will be withheld.
We are refiling several commonsense jobs bills that Governor McAuliffe groundlessly vetoed in 2016. In fact, we’ve already passed legislation to strengthen franchisee business owner’s ability to effectively run their own business. HB 1394 (Del Head, R-Roanoke) prevents franchise employees from being considered as an employer of the franchisor for the purposes of determining union membership, passed the House 67-31.
Caucus members are carrying legislation that supports coal workers, prevents the Governor from unilaterally submitting a State Implementation Plan as part of the Clean Power Plan, and ensures that government contractors are not forced to pay artificially high wages or benefits.
All member budget requests have been made submitted and made public on the state budget website. The House and Senate will deliberate on their respective requests and come up with their own version of the budget before conferring to pass a joint budget in late February.
As previously noted, in August of last year Governor McAuliffe announced over a $1 billion shortfall. He chose to make up some of that shortfall with fee increases. For example, loggers will have to pay a $100 water quality inspection notification fee. When loggers begin to harvest timber, they are required to notify the Department of Forestry (DOF). DOF then inspects the logging operation for compliance with the silviculture water quality law. This new fee for a notification they are already providing can hurt their business. Another example is an increase in the annual restaurant permit renewal fee from $40 to $285.
In closing, we pledge to pass a structurally balanced without fee or tax increases.
I encourage you to keep in touch with me and my office over the coming months. I value the feedback you provide on a continual basis as it helps me do a better job of representing you. You can email me at DelMFariss@house.virginia.gov or call me at (804)698-1059. You can also join the conversation on our social media page www.facebook.com/DelegateMattFariss.