The Virginia General Assembly legislative session 2023 is well underway, with various laws and legislative priorities in discussion and voting among the various committees, House and Senate. The Northern Virginia business community is most directly represented by various Chambers and advocacy groups (such as the NVTC) – local business interests are funneled from legislative priority statements, sometimes through municipal review and their own legislative objectives, to area and industry lobbyists and ultimately local representatives (i.e. House Representatives and State Senators).
What issues and solutions are in play this year that are important to Northern Virginia businesses in light of extremely challenging and persistent economic conditions? Here’s some feedback from our WestXDC business network.
A conversation with Alexandria Chamber of Commerce (ALXC) President & CEO Joseph Haggerty elicited feedback about the recent City of Alexandria (i.e. the “City”) delegation visit to Richmond, meeting with many GA members, delegates and supporters. Many of the ALXC priorities (available to members) shared with the City were retained in the City’s legislative package and shared via committee conversations, with specific legislative outcomes (i.e. new or updated Virginia laws) to be reported in the near future (by end of March). Key items included:
- Enhancing the electrical grid and controlling user rates
- Expanding the availability and performance of broadband Internet access and hotspots
- Incentives and solutions for workforce development and attraction – including childcare options
- Continued and expanded funding for transportation solutions, including more HOV lanes from Springfield to the Wilson bridge, and additional river crossing options
Mr. Haggerty made a very interesting point about the resilience of “close-in” suburban communities like Alexandria and Arlington, where so many residents are already close to retail businesses and their workplace, and therefore both residents and businesses are somewhat sheltered from economic challenges driven by significant drop-offs in commuter traffic. .
The primary categories of legislative priorities important for local businesses in the City’s package include:
- Economic Recovery – i.e. stewardship of Covid relief funds, availability of electronic access to Richmond sessions, etc. We’re finding here at WestXDC, that macro-economic challenges are currently the most significant roadblock to local business economic recovery, growth and opportunity.
- Attracting and Retaining Businesses – i.e supporting the Go Virginia program (like the GMU “Accelerate” initiative), Federal Opportunity Zones, access to Childcare Funds and Services, ABC legislation modernization (i.e. more “take-home” options), expanded resource for transportation (via WMATA and NVTA), equity in healthcare policies and maintenance of “Right to Work”. At WestXDC we’re finding that while the major legislative structures are adequate to support successful Economic Development goals, persistent macro industry economics (recession, inflation, supply chain), consumer spending, workforce productivity and availability are the very key factors influencing current, local business success in the area.
We are following closely the much-needed, helpful, and bi-partisan tax relief objectives espoused by Governor Youngkin and passed in the House, particularly for small business relief, and now passed to the Virginia Senate Finance and Appropriations committee for review and adjudication in the coming weeks. This relief appears to be broadly supported by the Northern Virginia business community, in our informal conversations and interaction with many business owners and network leadership.
[Update – this legislation was rejected without debate 1/31 by Virginia Senate Democrats.]
Other representative legislative input and advocacy (with more updating to come during the Session) includes: