2021 General Assembly Session Summary
The Virginia General Assembly adjourned on March 1. The COVID-19 pandemic, economic uncertainty, and a nationwide focus on social and environmental justice combined to create a unique legislative session. VTCA and our lobbying team from Hunton, Andrews, Kurth worked diligently to protect your ability to perform transportation projects for the citizens of the Commonwealth safely, on time and on budget. The end result of this Session is much better than what we were facing at the very beginning.
- Our top legislative priority was to establish transparency guidelines on future Project Labor Agreements (PLAs). While we believe we had the votes to mandate PLA guidelines on public projects (both state and local), Speaker Filler-Corn would not allow the bill to be heard in Committee. We will address her concerns and bring the bill back next year to ensure there are guardrails on the criteria for when a PLA should be used. (HB2237/SB1419)
- Out-of-state unions see Virginia as ground zero to grow their memberships. Their activities are front-and-center on construction projects. Rest assured that unionization efforts will intensify.
- These efforts tie into pressure to erode Virginia’s longstanding, and well-respected, right-to-work laws.
- Accusations of “wage theft” ran rampant during the Session. Wage theft implies that employers are denying employees wages or benefits rightfully owed. This can be done by failing to pay overtime, violating minimum wage laws, or misclassifying employees as independent contractors. The Davis-Bacon Act protects employees performing work on Virginia’s public works projects; VTCA was successful in stopping several of these proposals but the issue will return.
- The concept of environmental justice will impact transportation construction projects going forward. While efforts to establish an Environmental Justice Study Commission failed in the Senate (but passed in the House), the issue will return in 2022. (HB2074). Additional onerous and complex “environmental justice” bills were introduced that failed to report out of the Senate. HB2221/SB1373.
- SWaM goals were the subject of intense debate. While Governor Northam’s proposed legislation did not change the definition of small business (less than 250 employees or $10 million in gross revenue), it did seek to codify the 42% SWaM goal with a 23.1% goal specifically for women and minority-owned businesses. The legislation included onerous penalties, including debarment for contractors who do not in good faith attain the goals. While the legislation failed to report out of the Senate, we expect a renewed effort very soon. (HB5002)
- An effort to mandate apprenticeship for all construction projects over $250,000 for each trade on the job was amended to study a mandate of apprenticeships on construction projects. (HB 1849)
- A bill requiring contractors to list all subcontractors they intend to use on contracts for construction of $250,000 Passed the House but failed to reach a consensus in the Senate. HB 2288.
- Complicated legislation that would have negatively affected aggregate producers and their right to conduct core drilling as an investigative, minimally impactive activity was closely monitored by VTCA and our aggregate producer members. In the end, the legislation only studies the impact of gold mining. HB2213.
- The Commonwealth’s two-year spending plan was passed overwhelmingly in both the Senate (29 to 10) and the House (67 to 32). Some federal COVID money will be allocated, along with HOT lanes and other funding, to fully wideningI-64 from Richmond to Hampton Roads. One amendment provides $500,000 for construction “boot camps” as a pilot project at two community colleges. Another directs the Department of General Services to lead an annual work group of public procurement agencies, such as VDOT, to study all legislation proposed on procurement and SWaM and their impacts on the state budget and procurement processes. VTCA will attend the workgroup meetings and provide expertise on the impacts on transportation construction.
This is only a brief synopsis of some of the legislation VTCA actively engaged in. If you would like information on any other legislation, or if you have questions about any of the efforts described above, please contact VTCA’s Executive Vice President Gordon Dixon, Gordon@vtca.org, 804-330-3312.