2020 General Assembly Session Wrap-up

On March 12, the Virginia General Assembly adjourned sine die concluding the 2020 legislative session. During the 65-day session, which lasted five days longer than scheduled, the General Assembly considered more than 3,800 bills and resolutions. At the close of the session, over 2,200 bills and resolutions were approved. The General Assembly is currently scheduled to reconvene for a one-day veto session on April 22nd to act on bills that are vetoed or amended by Governor Northam. However, due to the global outbreak of COVID-19, the reconvened session may be adjusted.  

This session for the first time since 1993, the Democrats controlled both chambers of the General Assembly as well as all three statewide offices. Following the November 5th elections, there were 18 new members out of 100 in the ­­ House of Delegates and five new members out of 40 in the Senate. The Democrats hold a 55-seat and a 21-seat majority in the House of Delegates and Senate, respectively.

NVTC's specific legislative priorities for the 2020 legislative session were outlined in a letter to policymakers before the session began and NVTC maintained a full-time presence in Richmond throughout the session to actively advocate on behalf of the technology community. NVTC's Public Policy Advocacy Team included Troy Murphy, NVTC Director of Policy, Myles Louria, Senior Director of Governmental Affairs at Hunton Andrews Kurth LLP, Eric Link, Director of Government Affairs at Hunton Andrews Kurth LLP and Brittany Zamborsky, Government Affairs Advisor at Hunton Andrews Kurth LLP.

Below you will find a breakdown of highlights from this session, including legislation of interest that was approved during the General Assembly session, legislation that did not move forward this session, as well as budget items of interest to the technology community.


Specific legislation of interest to Northern Virginia's technology community that was approved by the General Assembly

Establishment of Virginia Innovation Partnership Authority (VIPA)

SB 576 (Sen. Howell)

HB 1017 (Del. Sickles)

NVTC strongly supported legislation approving the establishment of the Virginia Innovation Partnership Authority (VIPA). VIPA will support the entire life cycle of innovation, from research, to entrepreneurship, to growth and commercialization, enhancing Virginia’s tech-based economic development by fueling company formation and creating new jobs.

VIPA’s structure is a consolidation of two current initiatives: the Innovation and Entrepreneurship Investment Authority, which governs the Center for Innovative Technology (CIT), and the Virginia Research Investment Committee (VRIC), which was created in 2016 to fuel higher education research in emerging technologies with strong commercial potential. VIPA will be made up of three divisions as follows:

  1. The first division is for entrepreneurial ecosystems.
  2. The second division will be for direct and indirect investments.
  3. The third division will be for the commercialization of research.

For additional information on the new innovation authority, please visit: https://www.commerce.virginia.gov/innovation/

The legislation was approved by the General Assembly and has been sent to Governor Northam for his review and action.

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Enhancing Virginia’s Research and Development Tax Credits

SB 110 (Sen. Howell)

HB 748 (Del. Jones)

NVTC led the effort in 2011 to establish Virginia's refundable Research & Development tax credit (R&D tax credit) for small businesses and has worked since to strengthen it. In 2016, NVTC worked with a coalition led by Raytheon to pass legislation that established a new R&D tax credit for larger businesses with research and development expenses exceeding $5 million in Virginia.

NVTC believes that both of these credits are important tools in enhancing Virginia's competitiveness as a preferred location for research investment and activity, and that incentivizing research and development is critical for a healthy economy. Nearly eighty percent (80%) of states have an R&D tax credit and among the states that compete with Virginia, many are aggressive in incentivizing R&D through a robust tax credit. The R&D tax credits serve as an important tool in attracting new employers and incentivizing existing Virginia companies to grow and expand their footprint.

In an effort to keep Virginia’s R&D credits competitive, NVTC joined a collation for the 2020 Legislative Session, again led by Raytheon, seeking to:

  • Increase the cap for the Major Innovator R&D Tax Credit;
  • Increase the cap for the R&D tax credit for small businesses; and
  • Extend the sunset date for both credits to Jan. 1, 2027.

Following a compromise between the House and Senate, the General Assembly agreed to increase the R&D credit from $20 to $24 Million for Major Innovators and $7 to $7.7 Million for small businesses. In addition, the sunset dates for both credits were extended to 2025.

The legislation was approved by the General Assembly and has been sent to Governor Northam for his review and action.

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Employment Nondiscrimination/Virginia Values Act


SB 868 (Sen. Ebbin)

HB 1663 (Del. Sickles)

The Virginia Values Act aims to grant non-discrimination protections to Virginians on the basis of sexual orientation and other characteristics.

Over the past several years, NVTC has worked to support legislation which would prohibit employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. We believe this fosters fair treatment in the workplace, benefits technology employers by promoting job creation and retention of a critical talent pool, and benefits higher education institutions in their recruitment and retention of faculty and researchers who train the workforce and help drive our innovation economy. 

The final legislation addresses some concerns from the business community including making language consistent with the federal requirements for security clearances, removing the provision allowing for unlimited punitive damages, and creating an administrative process through the Attorney General’s office for employees to utilize prior to a court process.

The General Assembly approved Sen. Ebbin’s SB 868 and it has been sent to Governor Northam for his review and action.

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Computer Trespass

SB 378 (Sen. Bell)

SB 844 (Sen. Mason)

NVTC supported SB 378 which will adjust Virginia's computer crimes laws by updating the standard of intent from actions that are “malicious” to include those that are “intentionally deceptive and without authority”.

This legislation originated from a recommendation by Governor McAuliffe’s Cybersecurity Commission. Virginia’s current computer crimes laws (including the “malicious intent” standard) resulted from the recommendation of a study conducted by the Joint Commission on Technology and Science (JCOTS) and the Virginia State Crime Commission in 2004; these laws have remained largely unchanged since  adopted by the General Assembly.

Governor McAuliffe’s Cyber commission undertook a comparative analysis of Virginia’s computer crimes laws, in partnership with other states and those on the federal level, and concluded that Virginia’s computer crimes laws are “antiquated, ineffective and out-of-step with a majority of other states.” They observed that Virginia is an outlier with the “malicious intent” standard and recommended lowering the standard.

This is the fourth attempt at passing this legislation, which is a result of a team of stakeholders that has included NVTC, industry representatives, and the Attorney General’s office.

Importantly, this legislation also includes a safe harbor provision which clarifies that the prohibitions under Virginia's computer trespass laws are not intended to proscribe legitimate commercial activity.

The legislation was approved by the General Assembly and has been sent to Governor Northam for his review and action.

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Unmanned Aerial Systems

HB 311 (Del. Gooditis)

HB 742 (Del. Bulova)

HB 1227 (Del. LaRock)

The General Assembly considered legislation that authorizes a political subdivision to adopt time, place, or manner restrictions regarding the takeoff or landing of unmanned aerial systems on property owned by the political subdivision.

During the legislative process, a substitute was adopted which includes provisions to protect commercial operators in compliance with Federal Aviation Administration regulations.

Del. Gooditis’ HB 311 and Del. LaRock’s HB 1227 were incorporated into Del. Bulova’s HB 742.

Del. Bulova’s HB 742 was approved by the General Assembly and has been signed into law by Governor Northam.  

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Electric Personal Delivery Devices

SB 758 (Sen. Marsden) 

NVTC supported SB758 which allows localities to regulate the use of personal delivery devices on sidewalks, crosswalks, or roadways but requires a locality to allow a personal delivery device to operate on the side of a roadway with a speed limit of 25 miles per hour or less if a sidewalk is not available.

The legislation was approved by the General Assembly and has been sent to Governor Northam for his review and action.

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Tax Incentives for Solar Projects Greater than 20 Megawatts

SB 763 (Sen. Barker)

NVTC supported SB 763 which will extend the sunset date of the real property tax exemption for solar projects greater than 20 megawatts from 2024 to 2030. NVTC believes that access to renewable energy is increasingly critical to Virginia’s statewide economic development efforts and competitiveness and that incentives have been an important factor in developing access to renewable energy across Virginia.

The legislation was approved by the General Assembly and has been sent to Governor Northam for his review and action.

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Public Posting of Contract Information

HB 544 (Del. Carr)

NVTC supported HB 544 which will require the Department of General Services to post executed contracts (and any modifications to such contracts) on its central electronic procurement system. The bill also would require agencies that use the Department's central procurement website to post the same information.

The legislation was approved by the General Assembly and has been signed into law by Governor Northam.

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Substitute Computer Science for Foreign Language Requirements

SB 323 (Sen. Barker)

Legislation introduced by Sen. Barker will allow students pursuing an advanced diploma to substitute computer science for foreign language requirements.

The legislation was approved by the General Assembly and has been sent to Governor Northam for his review and action.

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Transportation

SB 890 (Sen. Saslaw)

HB 1414 (Speaker Filler-Corn)

One of the key pillars of NVTC’s Policy Priority Framework is infrastructure. We believe improving infrastructure and transportation is critical to support economic development and would help Virginia companies compete both nationally and globally.

SB 890 and HB 1414 are omnibus transportation bills that, among other provisions, increase the state gas tax by 5 cents a year for two consecutive years, and then index it to inflation. This will generate additional funding which will be used for improving the state's transportation infrastructure.

NVTC has also been advocating fully restoring funding diverted from the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority (NVTA) in 2018 to provide dedicated capital funding for the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA). The redirection of that funding resulted in the delay or partial funding of over $400 million in regional transportation projects across Northern Virginia. The final omnibus legislation included $50 million specifically to fill part of Money shifted around for WMATA two years ago.

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Commonwealth Cyber Initiative (CCI)

NVTC has been advocating to restore full funding for the Commonwealth Cyber Initiative (CCI).

The General Assembly created and invested in the CCI in 2018 to serve as an engine for research, innovation, and commercialization of cybersecurity technologies in Virginia. As well as to help power Virginia's cybersecurity workforce by providing additional advanced and professional cyber degrees with the goal of positioning the Commonwealth as a world leader in cybersecurity.

Since that time, 39 institutions of higher education and 65 Virginia business leaders and organizations have worked together in support of a blueprint to operationalize CCI, which now includes an anchoring “hub” in Northern Virginia and four regional locations around the Commonwealth. Additionally, the team has already submitted roughly $60 million in research proposals.   

Funding for CCI was proposed to be significantly reduced in the Governor’s budget to $15 million over the biennium. Following budget negotiations, the General Assembly agreed to provide $25 million over the biennium for CCI.

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G3 Program

The General Assembly approved funding for the G3 program which aims to provide tuition-free community college available to low- and middle-income students who pursue jobs in high-demand fields. Following budget negotiations, the program was funded at $69 million over the biennium which is short of Governor Northam’ s introduced budget of $145 million over the biennium.


Specific legislation of interest to Northern Virginia's technology community that is no longer moving forward includes:

Right to Work/Fair Share

HB 153 (Del. Carter)
Right to work

SB 426 (Sen. Saslaw)
Fair share

NVTC advocates for policies that ensure Virginia maintains its status as a strong state for business by minimizing taxes and regulation, preserving right to work, and avoiding negative signals that drive private enterprise away from the Commonwealth.

This session, NVTC was a member of the Virginians for Employee Free Choice coalition, which is a coalition from across the Commonwealth dedicated to preserving Virginia’s Right-to-Work law.

The two pieces of Right to work legislation introduced this year were HB 153 sponsored by Del. Lee Carter which would have fully repealed right to work and Senator Dick Saslaw’s SB 426 fair share bill which would have allowed employers and unions to compel employees to pay a portion of union dues.

Del. Carter’s HB 153 passed the House Labor and Commerce Committee 12-9 but was not heard in the House Appropriations Committee prior to the cross-over deadline and thus dies for the year. Sen. Saslaw’s “Fair share” bill (SB 426) was passed by indefinitely on a 12-3 vote in Senate Commerce and Labor Committee, which means the bill will not move forward this session.

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Net Neutrality

HB 70 (Del. Carter)

Delegate Carter’s HB 70 would have prohibited a provider of broadband services from offering or renewing services to consumers within any locality in the Commonwealth in which certain media is throttled, blocked, or prioritized on the basis of its content, format, host address, or source.

Del. Carter’s HB 70 was heard in the House Counties, Cities and Towns Land Use Subcommittee and was laid on the table, which means that the bill will not move forward this year.

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Right to Repair/Deactivation or Alteration of Embedded Software

HB 68 (Del. Carter)

NVTC opposed HB 68, which aimed to prohibit the original equipment manufacturer (OEM) of a digital device from deactivating embedded software in the digital device or altering embedded software so as to substantially alter the functioning of the digital device as a response to it being repaired by an independent repair provider or owner.

NVTC believes that if enacted, this legislation would have led to unintended consequences to the operation, security and safety of those products and would have prevented OEM’s from altering embedded software potentially violating federal copyright protections.

Del. Carter’s HB 68 was heard in the House Communications, Technology and Innovations; Communications Subcommittee and failed to move forward on a 2-6 vote.

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Mandatory Time Tracking Software in State IT Contracts


HB 133 (Del. Miyares)

HB 680 (Del. LaRock)

HB 685 (Del. LaRock)

NVTC opposed legislation which would have required state agencies contracting for professional and IT project services to include provisions in their contracts that would require contractors to install software to allow for the verification of the number of hours worked on a project using a computer.

NVTC believes that if enacted, this legislation would be overly onerous and expensive to IT service providers and also would increase the costs of services to the Commonwealth.

Delegate Miyares struck HB 133 prior to it being heard in committee and it did not move forward this session.

Delegate LaRock’s HB 680 and HB 685 were heard in the House General Laws Committee and failed to move forward this session.

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Digital Privacy and Related Bills

There were several pieces of legislation introduced this year related to digital privacy and data protection, including:  

SB 641 (Sen. Surovell)
Civil action; sale of personal data.

HB 473 (Del. Sickles)
Virginia Privacy Act

HB 884 (Del. Subramanyam)
Safe destruction of records containing personal identifying information

HB 952 (Del. Ayala)
Digital services; protection for minors

HB 954 (Del. Ayala)
Cybersecurity; care and disposal of customer records; security for connected devices

HB 955 (Del. Ayala)
Children's online privacy protection

HB 956 (Del. Ayala)
Virginia Consumer Protection Act; advertising or offering for sale of Internet-connected devices targeting children; prohibition

HB 1215 (Del. Tran)Biometric data; employer policy on storage, protection, and destruction; civil penalty

Senator Surovell’s SB 641 was heard in the Senate Judiciary Civil Law Subcommittee and was carried over to the 2021 General Assembly session with a recommendation that the Joint Commission on Technology and Science (JCOTS) study the legislation in the interim.

The House bills were heard en bloc in the House Communications, Technology and Innovation Committee and were carried over to the 2021 General Assembly session with a recommendation that the Joint Commission on Technology and Science (JCOTS) study the legislation in the interim.

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Ending Tax Incentives for Solar Projects Greater than 20 Megawatts

SB 800 (Sen. Lewis)

NVTC opposed SB 800 which would advance the sunset date of the real property tax exemption for solar projects greater than 20 megawatts from 2024 to 2020.

Access to renewable energy is increasingly critical to Virginia’s statewide economic development efforts and competitiveness. NVTC believes that incentives have been an important factor in developing access to renewable energy across Virginia and that it would have been detrimental to Virginia’s economic development efforts to roll back the incentives as proposed in this legislation.

Sen. Lewis’ SB 800 did not receive a vote in the Senate Committee on Finance and Appropriations prior to the cross-over deadline and did not move forward this year.

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Relocation of call centers to a Foreign Country

HB 439 (Del. Heretick)

HB 439 would have required certain call centers that intended to relocate operations from the Commonwealth to a foreign country to give the Commissioner of Labor and Industry at least 120 days' prior notice. The measure also would have required the Commissioner to compile a semiannual list of all employers that relocate a call center from the Commonwealth to a foreign country and to distribute the list to state agencies. Subject to exceptions, an employer that appears on the list would be (i) ineligible for five years for any direct or indirect grants of state funds, any loans from or guaranteed by the state, or any tax credit or reduction in tax liability and (ii) required to repay any financial incentives the employer has previously received. The measure also required new state agency contracts for the performance of state business-related call center and customer service work to provide that such work will be performed entirely within the Commonwealth.

Del. Heretick’s HB 439 was approved in the House Labor and Commerce Committee; however it was not heard in the House Committee on Appropriations prior to the cross-over deadline and thus did not move forward this year.

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Virginia Data Commission

SB 400 (Sen. Dunnavant)

SB 400 would have established the Virginia Data Commission as a permanent legislative commission that would study, report, and make recommendations on all areas of data governance and analytics in the Commonwealth. This would help to ensure that Virginia is a National leader in data-driven policy and evidence-based decision making. The Commission would develop standards, guidelines, and best practices related to data and will seek to coordinate agency efforts to prevent duplication of data and efforts.

Sen. Dunnavant’s SB 400 passed the Senate of Virginia unanimously however it was tabled in the House Communications, Technology and Innovation committee and did not move forward this session.  


Stay Connected with NVTC's Public Policy Team

If there is anything NVTC’s policy team can do to help you or any feedback we can provide, please feel free to contact NVTC Director of Policy Troy Murphy, or Myles Louria of Hunton Andrews Kurth LLP.

Troy Murphy
Director of Policy
NVTC
tmurphy@nvtc.org
703-946-3757

Myles Louria
Senior Director of Government Affairs
Hunton Andrews Kurth LLP
mlouria@HuntonAK.com
804-788-7362