The Virginia General Assembly convened last week and one of the major initiatives for this year’s short session is jobs. With federal sequestration impacting both the Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads economies, the legislature and the Governor’s Office are trying to develop new programs which will help to spur economic growth across the Commonwealth. Here are some of the key bills:
- House Bill No. 1805: Delegate Joseph C. Lindsey has introduced a Bill which will create the Veteran Entrepreneurship Grant Fund and Program to be administered by the Department of Veterans Services. This piece of legislation will establish a new program that will create employment opportunities for veterans by assisting businesses to attract, hire, train, and retain veterans. A program similar to this exists at the Federal level but not in Virginia. Additionally, this new program will allow veterans to apply to the Department for a grant of up to $5,000 or 10 percent of anticipated business start-up costs of a new business beginning in 2016.
- House Bill No. 1588: Delegate R. Steven Landes has introduced legislation which will add the Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry to the committee established to assist the Secretary of Commerce and Trade develop a comprehensive economic development policy for the Commonwealth during the first year of each new gubernatorial administration. This has been a key push from Gov. McAuliffe who is seeking to expand Virginia’s agricultural exports in an effort to create more jobs.
- House Bill No. 1556: Introduced by Delegate Peter Farrell, this piece of legislation seeks to allow localities to recover funds they have expended for economic development purposes. The program requires that an application for the funds be filed and shall not exceed $5 million for any single economic development project. This bill could be a major incentive for localities seeking to invest more in bringing businesses to their communities.
- House Bill No. 1677: Delegate Kathy J. Byron introduced legislation which will establish a grant program that would pay grants to certain individuals successfully completing a noncredit workforce training program and earning the related credential in a high-demand field. The grant, up to a total of $1,000, would be limited to payment of tuition charged for the training program, the cost of any required textbooks, and the cost of any examination required to earn the credential. This is another major initiative that Gov. McAuliffe has been pressing as new reports indicate a skill level gap between available jobs and existing workforces.
One bill which could have a negative impact on economic development comes from Delegate M. Keith Hodges with House Bill No. 1740 which will limit enterprise zones in each county and city to an aggregate of 10 square miles. The bill would also allow up to four contiguous municipalities to enter into an enterprise zone together which is an increase from the two which is the law now. However, this bill could negatively impact larger urban areas.
We will be tracking all of the legislation as it makes its way through the General Assembly and will keep you up-to-date on this blog and on social media.