While most of us are focusing on the upcoming holiday season and the numerous responsibilities that come with end-of-year planning, Virginia elected officials are busily preparing for the 2015 General Assembly session. We are in the heart of the prefiling calendar which means that members of both the House of Representatives and Senate have started introducing legislation which they hope to introduce next year for a vote. If last week’s elections taught us anything in Virginia, it is that both sides of the aisle are going to be pushing hard for their specific agenda – even at the state level. Republicans believe that the closeness of the vote between Sen. Mark Warner and challenger Ed Gillespie, coupled with their stronghold on Virginia’s congressional delegation have given them a mandate to push a more conservative agenda. Meanwhile, Democrats are energized to do the same since their party controls the state’s top three seats of power.
This partisan divide is why it is important for all industries involved in economic development to take a very proactive approach to the upcoming session. Now is the time to push for legislative agendas which will benefit the continued growth of our local economy. Here are some things to keep in mind as you prepare:
- Monitor the Virginia Legislative Information System closely. There have already been several papers introduced which could impact real estate in a major way. For example, HB60 which has been deferred for the past two years would limit the number of Enterprise Zones per locality to one. It is unlikely that this bill will be deferred again and economic development departments/authorities are closely watching what could happen.
- Begin working now on your legislative agenda. The Virginia Association for Commercial Real Estate (“VACRE”), which represents the National Association of Industrial and Office Properties – Northern Virginia Chapter, the Greater Richmond Association for Commercial Real Estate, and the Hampton Roads Association for Commercial Real Estate, has already started working with its member organizations on a variety of bills in order to keep the momentum going on issues related to growth. Organizations such as VACRE are strong advocates for the real estate, transportation, and A/C/E industries and have a track record of success due to their large memberships. Strength in numbers is always best in pushing a legislative agenda.
- Walk the halls during General Assembly. Just because you get a piece of legislation in the mix doesn’t mean you are there yet. Organize an “On the Hill” event with like-minded advocates where you visit with key committee members and other elected officials who will be influential in the success of your cause. Remember that members of the House and Senate are not going to be as well-versed on a topic as you are so it is essential that you educate them. Be prepared to illustrate how certain legislation can boost or harm economic development opportunities in the Commonwealth.
Real estate developers, A/C/E professionals, transportation advocates, and others must be active in the upcoming General Assembly session. That is the only way to keep bad legislation from being passed.