General Assembly 2023 Update – Week 5
The General Assembly has passed the halfway point, known as Crossover, and now each Chamber is considering bills introduced by the opposite body. The majority of committees this week saw legislation that had companion bills. This is when a member of the House and the Senate introduce bills with similar or identical language. If the bill makes it out of both Chambers, then committee members must ensure the language is identical before moving it on to final voting. For bills that do not have companions that made it through Crossover, these bills will likely be in committee in the next 10 days.
One example of two bills that started as companion bills, but ended up very different are HB 1770 sponsored by House Republican Majority Leader Delegate Terry Kilgore and SB 1265 sponsored by Senate Democrat Majority Leader Richard Saslaw.
The Senate bill passed on a bipartisan vote, whereas the House bill passed on a party line vote. The two bills now differ substantially and will likely be headed to a conference committee. A conference committee is a small group of members from both chambers who meet to resolve the differences in the two pieces of legislation.
When these bills were initially introduced, they contained provisions that would have increased Dominion’s return on equity. This measure of profitability is set by the State Corporation Commission (SCC). Dominion asked for this change to maintain a competitive advantage in raising capital for the billions of dollars needed to develop renewable energy projects like the Offshore Wind Farm off the coast of Virginia Beach.
A coalition of environmental groups and businesses have opposed the legislation as it is going through the process. The Hampton Roads Chamber has not taken a position on either bill, but has expressed the need to keep energy bills low for our members.
The version of the bill that passed the House removed the return on equity provision. The version of the bill that passed the Senate leaves the return on equity provisions in place through the end of 2027.
The Senate bill also has a provision that would allow the company to convert $350 million in riders into base rates, which Dominion says will lower the customer’s monthly bill by an average of $7 a month. This version also would permit the company to issue bonds to manage the increases in fuel costs over a 10-year period.
Both versions of the bill change Dominion’s time frame for appearing before the SCC to determine rates from three years to two years and it would provide the SCC with additional discretion to adjust rates.
Last Sunday the House and Senate released the budget bills that included amendment requests made by legislators this year. Work on conforming the two budgets will be done by budget conferees.
- Chesapeake Career Technical Education – the House included $20 million for Chesapeake Public Schools establishment of a regional CTE facility for students in Chesapeake, Portsmouth and Norfolk.
- Urban Renewal Center – the House included $800,000 to support the Wholeness Social Support Initiative, a hospital-based violence intervention program provided by the Norfolk based non-profit The Urban Renewal Center. This amendment was requested by Chamber member Dr. Antipas Harris.
- Virginia Business Ready Sites Program Fund – the House included $250 million to the Virginia Business Ready Sites Program Fund and $200.0 million to the Virginia Business Ready Sites Acquisition Fund over the biennium. Funding provided in the second year of the biennium for each of these site development programs is contingent on the Commonwealth meeting or exceeding its fiscal year 2023 revenue forecast.
- Workforce Development – the House included $30.0 million in fiscal year 2024 to support workforce development through the GO Virginia program. These investments support the development of a new Talent Pathways Program, emerging talent pathways initiatives, and targeted workforce development efforts for the agriculture technology industry.
- Specific to Hampton Roads – The department shall provide $2,500,000 to the GO Virginia Region 5 Council to advance workforce development initiatives related to shipbuilding, offshore wind, and road and tunnel construction. The department may award these funds to Region 5 for the purposes of supporting the Hampton Roads Regional Training System under the Hampton Roads Workforce Council.
- Jefferson Laboratory – the House included language to allow the Department of Planning and Budget to approve loans to support establishing a high performance data facility center at the Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility (Jefferson Lab). This loan is contingent on the U. S. Department of Energy approving the project.
- EVMS/ODU Merger – the House budget included $80 million to support the merger of EVMS and ODU. This budget amendment is associated with HB 1840 that permits Old Dominion University to provide medical and health sciences education and related research through the teaching hospitals. This bill passed the House and will be heard in Senate Committee on Finance and Appropriations. The Senate version has $10 million included in the budget for the merger.
- Public Safety – the Senate budget included $10.0 million to establish the Safer Communities Program and the Office of Safer Communities. This amendment adds three positions for the Office of Safer Communities, bringing the total number of positions allotted for firearm violence prevention and intervention to seven. At least $9.5 million shall be provided directly to the City of Norfolk, the City of Portsmouth, and the City of Richmond, which had the highest incidence of gun-related murders in 2021 based on Virginia crime data.
Vice President of Governmental Affairs
|Wednesday, February 15||Last day to act on Budget Bills and revenue bills of other house and appoint conferees|
|Monday, February 20||Last day for committee action on remaining bills|
|Thursday, February 23||Last day to act on remaining bills and appoint conferees|
|Saturday, February 25||Session adjourns sine die|
|Monday, March 27||Last day for Governor’s action on legislation|
|Wednesday, April 12||Reconvened session|