On March 8, the Virginia General Assembly adjourned sine die concluding its 2014 legislative session. However, the General Assembly adjourned without passing a budget and will reconvene for a special session beginning March 24 in order to pass a biennial budget and to determine whether Virginia will act this year to expand Medicaid coverage.
NVTC's specific legislative priorities for the 2014 Legislative Session were outlined in a letter to policymakers before the 60 day session began and NVTC maintained a full-time presence in Richmond throughout the session to actively advocate on behalf of Northern Virginia's technology community. In total, the General Assembly tackled more than 1900 bills related to a broad array of important issues. These legislative initiatives reinforce Virginia’s status as a top state for business and a global technology center.
Issues of specific interest to NVTC members that were passed by the General Assembly during the 2014 session include:
Strengthening Virginia’s R&D Tax Credit
Virginia adopted a state R&D tax credit in 2011 to promote innovation and job creation, boost industry-sponsored research and collaboration with Virginia's universities and continue to diversify Virginia’s economy. This credit is an important tool in enhancing Virginia's competitiveness as a preferred location for research investment and activity. Legislation (SB623, HB1220) sponsored by Senator Ryan McDougal (Hanover) and Delegate Barbara Comstock (McLean) and strongly supported by Governor Terry McAuliffe and NVTC strengthens Virginia’s R&D tax credit by i) increasing the statutory cap and budgetary funding from $5 million to $6 million to keep up with applications, ii) increasing the amount available per company to $35,000 ($46,800 if the research is with Virginia universities) and allows twice that amount if funding is available, iii) allowing partnership and LLCs to elect to receive the credit directly rather than providing it pro rata to individual partners and shareholders, iv) providing legislators with additional information about how the credit is used to better evaluate and determine the efficacy of the incentive, and v) extending the sunset from 2016 to 2019. In advocating for this legislation, NVTC enlisted the support of other business groups and research universities across the Commonwealth. Governor McAuliffe signed this legislation into law before the conclusion of the legislative session.
Combatting Bad Faith Patent Trolls
Attorney General Mark Herring championed legislation (SB150, HB375) sponsored by Senator Richard Stuart (Montross) and Delegate Israel O'Quinn (Bristol). The legislation, which was strongly supported by NVTC, NVTC member companies AOL and Micron, and a broad coalition of business groups, empowers the Attorney General to protect Virginia businesses targeted by patent trolls who abuse the patent system by employing bad faith assertions of patent infringement. Through new investigatory and enforcement powers, the Attorney General and Commonwealth’s Attorneys can now curtail patent abuse in the Commonwealth and its detrimental impact on innovation, job creation and Virginia's economic growth.
Boosting Private Sector Employment for Members of the Virginia National Guard
The General Assembly approved legislation (SB399, HB971) sponsored by Senator Bryce Reeves (Spotsylvania) and Delegate Rich Anderson (Woodbridge) requiring the Virginia National Guard to establish a program under which the Department of Military Affairs will, upon request of a member of the Virginia National Guard, provide information about the member to the Virginia Employment Commission so that it can be shared with employers in the business community. This legislation, which was signed into law by Governor McAuliffe before the conclusion of the legislative session, was developed through the NVTC Veterans Employment Initiative.
The NVTC Veterans Employment Initiative is a new program to connect veterans to employment opportunities within Virginia's technology community. Through this initiative, NVTC provides tools and resources to match veterans with jobs, internships, mentorships and certifications, while also providing support to member companies in their efforts to hire, train and retain qualified veteran employees. In tandem, NVTC is collaborating with state and federal policymakers to expedite legislative and/or regulatory action that enhances companies' ability to hire and train veterans.
Establishing An Entrepreneur-in-Residence Pilot Program
NVTC supported legislation (SB362, HB321) sponsored by Senator Richard Saslaw (Fairfax) and Delegate Steve Landes (Verona) creating the Entrepreneur-in-Residence Program, a pilot program allowing the Secretary of Commerce and Trade to appoint up to ten entrepreneurs per year to serve as entrepreneurs-in-residence at state agencies to improve outreach by state government to the private sector. The entrepreneurs in residence will strengthen coordination and interaction between state government and the private sector on issues relevant to entrepreneurs and small business concerns and suggest ways to make state government programs and operations simpler, easier to access, more efficient, and more responsive to the needs of small business concerns and entrepreneurs. This legislation was signed into law by Governor McAuliffe before the conclusion of the legislative session.
Providing Flexibility For Computer Science Course Credit
The General Assembly passed legislation (HB1054) sponsored by Delegate Manoli Loupassi (Richmond) and supported by NVTC which provides more flexibility to schools by allowing them to consider computer science course credits as science credits in addition to mathematics course credits or career and technical education credits in establishing course and credit requirements for high school diplomas.
Advancing Virginia’s Business One Stop
The General Assembly approved legislation (HB167)sponsored by Delegate David Ramadan (South Riding) and supported by NVTC to enhance Virginia's one stop business permitting portal to expedite the full integration of processes and forms into the Business Permitting Center administered by Virginia’s Department of Business Assistance and to provide for better functionality in the interim so entrepreneurs can launch their businesses in Virginia faster and easier.
Outlawing “Revenge Pornography”/ Safe Harbor for Tech Companies
The General Assembly approved legislation (HB49, HB326) sponsored by Delegates Marcus Simon (Falls Church) and Rob Bell (Charlottesville) providing for a new crime for those who maliciously disseminate naked pictures of others with the intent to coerce, harass, or intimidate the depicted person. The legislation was amended to include language specifically protecting third party Internet service providers from culpability for images sent by their customers.
Issues of specific interest to NVTC members that failed to pass the General Assembly during the 2014 session include:
Sexual Orientation Discrimination
NVTC advocated for legislation (SB248, HB417, HB562) sponsored by Senators Don McEachin (Richmond) and Adam Ebbin (Alexandria), and Delegates Marcus Simon (Falls Church) and Ron Villanueva (Virginia Beach) which sought to extend basic job protections by prohibiting employers from discriminating based on sexual orientation. As NVTC indicated in a January 2014 statement, in addition to fostering fair treatment in the workplace, this legislation would benefit technology employers by promoting employment and retention of a critical talent pool and also would benefit higher education institutions in their recruitment and retention of faculty and researchers who train the workforce and help drive our innovation economy.
New Technology Regulation
NVTC opposed legislation (HB13) sponsored by Delegate Bob Marshall (Manassas) which sought to impose new regulations on technology businesses. This legislation required any provider of telephone service, commercial mobile radio service, and Voice-over-Internet Protocol service to disclose whether the provider is being, or has been, directed to provide call detail records or metadata for its customers to any agency of the federal government. This legislation was overly regulatory and unworkable in concept and as drafted.
NVTC opposed HB325 sponsored by Del. Bob Marshall which provided that a person has a right to privacy in the content and metadata of the person's electronic communications, including emails, text messages, telephone calls, location data, mobile or cellular phone signals, or other forms of electronic communications. This legislation undermined the ability of technology businesses to protect their networks and their customers from cyber-attacks, virus and other threats and presented a host of other issues that would have impaired Virginia’s ability to recruit and retain technology businesses.
NVTC opposed legislation (HB794) sponsored by Delegate Jim LeMunyon (Oak Hill) which would have regulated non-solicitation agreements and shifted the balance courts have created between corporate and individual interests. This legislation was struck from the committee docket at Del. LeMunyon’s request. NVTC believes that non-solicitation agreements are an essential protection for businesses of all sizes including young, growing businesses and that Virginia courts have struck an appropriate balance.
NVTC's Public Policy Advocacy Team included NVTC Vice President of Policy Josh Levi, NVTC Public Policy Manager Troy Murphy, and Myles Louria, Director of Government Affairs of Hunton & Williams LLP. NVTC's public policy advocacy was supplemented by strong participation from NVTC technology executives and other leaders with many NVTC members providing ongoing advice and feedback through NVTC's weekly legislative conference calls, the NVTC TechPolitic Twitter feed and NVTC's online LinkedIn Public Policy Forum.
The General Assembly is scheduled to convene for a one-day Veto Session on Wednesday, April 23. In the interim, Governor McAuliffe will be reviewing more than 900 bills that were passed by the General Assembly. When the Veto Session convenes, legislators will have an opportunity to act on bills that may be vetoed or amended by the governor.