VIRGINIA’S 2019 General Assembly session is now behind us. In a year that the assembly made headlines for reasons none of us wish to reflect on, the Fredericksburg Regional Chamber of Commerce remained focused on the needs of our business community, as we were in constant contact with our policy makers while we continuously monitored hundreds of bills.
Transportation again proved to be a key policy point this session. Several bills caught our attention, and in some cases, support. For example, House Joint Resolution 581, introduced by Del. Mark Cole, passed both legislative chambers. The bill requests the Commonwealth Transportation Board to conduct a study on the Interstate 95 corridor between Exit 118 and the Springfield Interchange and to develop financing options for improvements.
Transportation improvements are a top priority for our region’s quality of life and our business community’s success. We support HJ 581, as it advances our region’s agenda in combating increased traffic congestion.
We also support House Bill 2553, introduced by Del. Bob Thomas. It “provides that any mass transit provider (e.g. Virginia Railway Express) that receives funds from the Commonwealth Mass Transit Fund and that incurs a loss in operating funds as a direct result of the performance-based allocation process set forth in Chapter 854 of the Acts of Assembly of 2018 shall be eligible for supplemental funds.”
As the chamber works with local, state and federal authorities to reduce traffic congestion in our region, mass transit serves as a viable long-term solution to meet the needs of our businesses and nonprofit organizations. Long-term changes are needed to ensure that our region can compete for scarce state resources and deliver the necessary infrastructure our growing region desperately needs.
Apart from transportation, broadband and workforce development, which are also chamber priorities, gained traction. We are pleased to share our support of House Bill 2691 and House Bill 2217. Introduced by Delegate Israel D. O’Quinn, HB 2691 “requires the State Corporation Commission to establish pilot programs under which Dominion Energy and Appalachian Power may submit a proposal to provide or make available broadband capacity to non-governmental internet service providers in areas of the Commonwealth that are unserved by broadband.” The chamber supports continued investment in expanding broadband coverage. The chamber also promotes coordination through public-private partnerships to expand broadband services and lower deployment costs in areas where broadband expansion is currently not economically feasible.
HB 2217, introduced by Del. Jeffrey M. Bourne, prompts the establishment of programs that will allow for teachers in the commonwealth and in our region to earn microcredentials in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, as well as computer science. There is a demand to equip students with necessary STEM skills to navigate a growing technical economy. We recognize that a skilled, trainable and competent labor force is among the most persuasive relocation factor sought by industry today. The chamber advocates for all efforts to equip our current and future workforce for their best success, and ultimately, for our region’s prosperity.
Last year we began scoring our local delegates and senators based on their proposed legislation and votes that impacted business. Using the same policy scorecard, we will announce 2019’s Delegate and Senator of the Year at our General Assembly Wrap Up Reception in April. Our legislative committee, led by Community Advancement Manager Kyle Allwine, is continuously advancing our work in the legislative arena. To find out more about policy that impacts your business, please contact Allwine at firstname.lastname@example.org.