2018 Legislative Session in Richmond Reaches Halfway Mark

Tuesday, February 13 marks crossover at the Virginia General Assembly, the deadline for each chamber to act on its own bills. Beginning Wednesday, February 14, the House will review and act on Senate bills and the Senate will review and act on House bills. Crossover marks the mid-point of the legislative session and provides a clear look at legislation that was approved by at least one chamber as well as legislation that will not move forward this session.

In total, more than 2,600 bills were introduced this session. As the session reaches the half-way mark, legislative leaders in the House and Senate and the Northam administration are making efforts to find consensus on big issues including the potential for Medicaid expansion, Metro funding and oversight, and utility regulation/energy policy.

Additionally, both the House and Senate are working on their amendments to Virginia's biennial budget. The House and Senate money committees will announce their competing budget proposals on Sunday, February 18. Budget conferees will then spend the final few weeks of the legislative session negotiating and reconciling budget priorities and approving a budget bill that will be sent to Governor Northam for his review and action. The 60 day session is scheduled to conclude on March 10.

Specific legislation of interest to Northern Virginia's technology community that is currently moving forward includes:

Creation of Virginia Chief Data Officer

NVTC is advocating for the creation of a chief data officer within Virginia's executive branch to coordinate and oversee the effective sharing of data among state, regional, and local public entities and public institutions of higher education and to implement effective data governance strategies to maintain data integrity and security and promote access to open data. Governor Northam has announced his support for the creation of the positon and NVTC has been working with the Governor's office and legislative leaders to provide statutory and budgetary support to launch the position.

More than 12 bills were introduced this session related to the creation of a chief data officer, data sharing, and open data, including bills by Sen. Barker (SB 830) and Del. Keam (HB 781) that were introduced at NVTC's request.

The Senate consolidated SB 830 and other Senate bills into SB 580 and the legislation passed the Senate 40-0.

The House unanimously passed HB 1277, which partially tracks the Senate proposal. Delegates Boysko and Keam struck their legislation in favor of the Senate legislation.

Legislation Providing for Permanent Moratorium on Local Regulation of UAS/ Drones

NVTC supported legislation in 2016 to put in place a three year moratorium on local regulation of Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS)/Drones to prevent a patchwork of rules and regulations across Virginia. SB 526 and HB 638 would make this moratorium permanent while also ensuring that licensed and authorized UAS operators are permitted to operate an unmanned system in the Commonwealth as long as the individuals operate the UAS in a manner consistent with federal regulations. Both bills also prohibit individuals who are on the Sex Offender Registry or subject to a protective order to use UAS for certain purposes. Additionally, HB 638 creates new criminal provisions involving trespass by UAS or other electronic devices. SB 526 does not have these criminal provisions.

SB 526 passed the Senate 39-0.
HB 638 passed the House 80-19.

Unmanned Aircraft Systems Workgroup

Sen. Cosgrove introduced legislation that directs the Department of Aviation to convene a work group with stakeholders to explore issues related to unmanned aircraft system activities in coordination with the Federal Aviation Administration and other responsible federal agencies.

SB 307 passed the Senate 39-0.

Utility Regulation/ The Grid Transformation and Security Act of 2018

NVTC supports The Grid Transformation and Security Act of 2018 (SB 966 and HB 1558), which deals with electric utility regulation, grid modernization and energy efficiency.

In 2015, the General Assembly passed legislation that froze the ability of regulators at the State Corporation Commission (SCC) to order refunds on excessive earnings by Dominion and Appalachian Power. The legislation was intended to shield ratepayers from the potential compliance costs of the federal Clean Power Plan. With the Clean Power Plan now stalled, legislators and the electric utilities have signaled a willingness to end the rate freeze.

Backed by a bipartisan group of legislators, the proposed act would give the Commonwealth and its utilities new and valuable tools to strengthen the system and improve its reliability to meet today's rigorous expectations. The bill in its current form is supported by Governor Northam and has evolved through a consensus-building effort involving the governor's office and numerous other parties that resulted in many positive changes.

The legislation sets the stage for Virginia utilities to launch major grid modernization and transformation efforts, supported in large part by the prices customers already pay for electricity rather than by higher rates. It accelerates Virginia's move toward clean, renewable resources and states that 5,000 megawatts of solar and wind power - enough, when fully operating, to serve the needs of 1.25 million homes - are in the public interest. It also serves the goal of making Virginia a more energy-efficient state by requiring Virginia utilities to invest $1 billion in expanded programs to help customers save energy over the next 10 years. The bill recognizes the importance of stable and affordable energy prices now and in the future and provides immediate credits - $200 million, in the case of Dominion Energy - to electric customers and orders 100 percent of the benefits utilities obtained through the recent federal tax rate reduction be returned to customers. The legislation also restores regularly scheduled, comprehensive SCC reviews of utility earnings, costs and rates, revoking the temporary suspension of these reviews imposed in 2015.

SB 966 passed the Senate 26-13.
HB 1558 passed the House 63-35-2.

Wireless Infrastructure

  • SB 405 (Sen. McDougle) - Zoning
  • HB 1258 (Del. Kilgore) - Zoning
  • SB 823 (Sen. McDougle) - Fees structure
  • HB 1427 (Del. Kilgore) - Fees structure

NVTC supports SB 405, HB 1258, SB 823 ad HB1427, which streamline and standardize the permitting process and fees for wireless infrastructure projects across the Commonwealth.

SB 405 passed the Senate 22-13.
HB 1258 passed the House 56-41.

SB 823 passed the Senate 40-0.
HB 1427 passed the House 83-14-2.

Metro Funding and Oversight/Transit

NVTC supports legislation to identify and allocate approximately $150 million annually to meet Virginia's share of a $15.5 billion, 10-year plan between Virginia, Maryland and Washington D.C. to rebuild the Metro system and reform its governing board, the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority.

There are currently competing plans in the House and Senate and negations to determine the level and sources of the funding and specific reforms are ongoing. Currently, the Senate proposal would provide $154 million through mix of reallocation of existing statewide resources and regional taxes and the House proposal would provide $105 million funded solely through existing revenue streams/resources.

HB 1539 passed the House 78-21.
SB 896 passed the Senate 26-12.
SB 856 passed the Senate 25-15.

Office of Telework Promotion and Broadband Assistance and the Broadband Advisory Council

Del. Byron introduced HB 999 which seeks to extend the expiration of the Office of Telework Promotion and Broadband Assistance and the Broadband Advisory Council from July 1, 2018 to July 1, 2028.

The legislation passed the House 98-0.

Regulatory Reform Pilot Program

Gov. Northam and House Speaker Cox announced a bipartisan agreement this session to support HB 883 establishing a three year regulatory reform pilot program. The program will focus on the Department of Professional and Occupational Regulation and the Department of Criminal Justice Services, with a goal of reducing or streamlining regulatory requirements by 25 percent. Further, the Department of Planning and Budget will track and report on the extent to which agencies comply with existing requirements to periodically review all regulations every four years.

The legislation passed the House 96-3.

Strategic Workforce Dashboard

Del. Byron introduced legislation that would require the Virginia Board of Workforce Development (Board) to advise and oversee the development of a strategic workforce dashboard and tools that will provide information on state and regional labor market conditions, the relationship between the supply and demand for workers, workforce program outcomes, and projected employment growth or decline. The measure also directs the Board, with support from the Virginia Employment Commission (VEC), to determine and publish a list of jobs, trades and professions for which high demand for qualified workers exists or is projected.

The legislation passed the House 98-0.

Veteran Businesses Procurement Enhancement Program

Sen. DeSteph introduced legislation that aims to establish a statewide service disabled veteran business procurement enhancement program. The bill would establish a statewide goal of five percent service disabled veteran business utilization in all discretionary spending by state agencies in procurement orders, prime contracts and subcontracts.

The legislation passed the Senate 40-0.

Commonwealth Broadband Chief Advisor

Del. Byron introduced legislation that would establish the position of Commonwealth Broadband Chief Advisor (Chief Advisor) within the Office of the Secretary of Commerce and Trade to serve as Virginia's single point of contact and integration for broadband issues, efforts and initiatives and to increase the availability and affordability of broadband throughout all regions of the Commonwealth. The bill also would create a 15-member Advisory Board for the purpose of providing direction for the Chief Advisor and policy guidance to the General Assembly and the Commonwealth's localities.

The legislation passed the House 100-0.

Cybersecurity Student Loan Repayment Grant Program

Del. Ransone introduced legislation to establish a Cybersecurity Student Loan Repayment Grant Program, to be administered by the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia, where renewable grants of up to $20,000 of matching state and employer funds will be provided on a competitive basis.

HB 685 passed the House 100-0.

Green Job Creation Tax Credit

This legislation extends the sunset date for the green job creation tax credit through taxable year 2020.The credit was set to expire this year.

SB 573 passed the Senate 37-3.
HB 1372 passed the House 79-19-1.

Automatic Renewal Offers and Continuous Service Offers

Del. Simon introduced legislation which would place prohibitions on a supplier making an automatic renewal or continuous service offer to a consumer in the Commonwealth. The measure provides that in any case in which a supplier sends any goods, wares, merchandise, or products to a consumer under a continuous service agreement or automatic renewal of a purchase without first obtaining the consumer's affirmative consent, the goods, wares, merchandise, or products shall for all purposes be deemed an unconditional gift to the consumer.

The legislation passed the House 99-0.

Computer Trespass

NVTC supports legislation that seeks to update Virginia's computer crimes laws by lowering the standard of intent from actions that are "malicious" to those that are "intentionally deceptive and without authority." This legislation also includes a safe harbor provision to clarify that the prohibitions under Virginia's computer trespass laws are not intended to proscribe legitimate commercial activity. This is the third attempt at passing this bill which was a recommendation of Governor McAuliffe's Cyber commission.

SB 533 passed the Senate 39-0.
HB 258 was defeated 5-3 in the House Courts of Justice Subcommittee.

Specific legislation of interest to Northern Virginia's technology community that is no longer moving forward includes:

Employment Nondiscrimination

Over the past several years, NVTC has worked to support legislation which would prohibit public sector employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. This legislation fosters fair treatment in the workplace, benefits technology employers by promoting employment and retention of a critical talent pool and benefits higher education institutions in their recruitment and retention of faculty and researchers who train the workforce and help drive our innovation economy. In that effort, NVTC supported SB 202, which aimed to prohibit public sector employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.

SB 202 passed the Senate 29-10. However, it was defeated 5-2 in House General Laws Subcommittee #1.

Data Center Reporting Requirements

NVTC opposed SB 299, which sought to require data centers to report in granular detail every purchase they have made under Virginia's sales and use tax exemption over the past three years. In addition to compliance concerns, NVTC also expressed concerns regarding the purpose of the legislation, the use of the data and its implications regarding Virginia's short- and long-term commitment to the incentive. Sen. Norment was responsive to those concerns and indicated he will not move the bill forward this session.

STEAM Education Fund

NVTC supported HB 1111, which sought to establish the STEAM Education Fund for the purpose of awarding grants in amounts not to exceed $50,000 annually to any public elementary or secondary school in the Commonwealth, at which at least 25 percent of students qualify for free or reduced lunch, that provides an academic class, curriculum or activity focused on a science, technology, engineering, arts, or mathematics (STEAM) discipline.

The legislation was approved by the House Science and Technology Committee, but then died in the House Appropriations Committee.

In-State Tuition for Dreamers

NVTC supported SB 237, which aimed to provide in-state tuition to individual currently granted Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (i.e. Dreamers) by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

The legislation was defeated 8-7 in the Senate Education and Health Committee.

Online Streaming Tax

NVTC opposed HB 1051, which would have expanded Virginia's Communications Sales and Use Tax to include services related to the streaming of audio and visual data. The legislation was broadly drafted and included App-based services ranging from Netflix to Uber.

The legislation was defeated 22-0 in the House Finance Committee.

Fair Repair Act

NVTC opposed HB 20, which would have required the original equipment manufacturer (OEM) of digital electronic equipment to make available to independent repair providers and any owner of equipment the same diagnostic, schematics, access to parts and repair information the OEM makes available to its authorized repair providers.

NVTC believes that this legislation would have jeopardized the operation, security and safety of digital products. Agreements between OEMs and authorized repair networks, which include businesses of all sizes, would be undermined and provide no protection or quality assurance for consumers. Further, such legislation would have mandated the disclosure of proprietary information that may violate federal copyright protection and state trade secrets laws.

The legislation was defeated 6-1 in the House Commerce and Labor Subcommittee #1.

Embedded Software - Independent Repair

NVTC opposed HB 468, which aimed to prohibit the original equipment manufacturer (OEM) of a digital device from deactivating embedded software in the digital device or altering embedded software so as to substantially alter the functioning of the digital device as a response to it being repaired by an independent repair provider or owner. Similar to the Fair Repair Act, NVTC believes that if enacted, this legislation would have led to unintended consequences to the operation, security and safety of those products and would have prevented OEM's from altering embedded software potentially violating federal copyright protections.

The legislation was defeated 12-9 in the House Science and Technology Committee.

Mandatory Internet Filters on Every Device Sold in Virginia

NVTC opposed HB 1592 which would have prohibited the distribution or sale of any electronic product that makes content accessible on the Internet unless such product possessed an operating digital content blocking capability that rendered obscene content inaccessible. The bill provided that a customer could unlock/remove the filter from the device if they paid $20 toward a fund for human trafficking victims. While NVTC and its members support efforts to reduce and eliminate human trafficking, NVTC opposed this legislation as unconstitutional and unworkable.

The legislation did not move forward in the House Courts of Justice Subcommittee #2.

Traffic Electronic Routing Registry

SB 623 would have allowed localities to submit certain route data to a central registry and required that a digital routing provider (i.e. services like Waze or Mapquest) remove the items placed on the registry from its routing algorithms within six months of such placement. The bill provided that any digital routing provider who violated such requirement would be subject to a $500 civil penalty for each day it was in violation.
The legislation we defeated in the Senate Transportation Committee 6-6-1.

Net Neutrality

Sen. Wexton and Del. Carter introduced legislation which aimed to institute net neutrality requirements at the state level, either directly or through procurement policy.

SB 949 was defeated in the Senate General Laws and Technology Committee.
SB 948 was stricken at the request of Sen. Wexton.
HB 705 was defeated 5-0 in the House Commerce and Labor Subcommittee #2.

Database Breach of Personal Information

HB 679 would have defined the term "unreasonable delay" as a period not to exceed 30 days for purposes of the disclosure requirements imposed when there is a security breach involving personal information.

The legislation was defeated 8-0 in the House Courts of Justice Subcommittee #2.

Stay Connected with NVTC's Advocacy Team in Richmond

NVTC's public policy team is in Richmond for the duration of the session advocating for the needs of the Northern Virginia technology community and we welcome your feedback. Feel free to contact us at any time with questions, ideas or suggestions:

NVTC Vice President of Policy Josh Levi (jlevi@nvtc.org; 703-904-7878 x214)

NVTC Public Policy Manager Troy Murphy (tmurphy@nvtc.org; 703-904-7878 x218)

Weekly legislative conference calls with the NVTC advocacy team will continue for the remainder of the session through Friday, March 9. Please send an email to Troy Murphy (tmurphy@nvtc.org) if you would like to receive notice and call-in information for NVTC's weekly conference calls.

For more information about NVTC's advocacy efforts, please visit us online at www.nvtc.org/advocacy.