2018 General Assembly Session Wrap-up

On March 10, the Virginia General Assembly adjourned sine die concluding the 2018 Legislative Session. During the 60-day Legislative Session, the General Assembly considered more than 2,700 bills and resolutions related to a broad array of issues and policies. More than 900 bills were approved and sent to the Governor for his review and action. The General Assembly reconvened for a one-day Veto Session on April 18th to act on bills that were vetoed or amended by Gov. Northam.

Additionally, the legislature could not come to agreement around a new biennial state budget before the session adjourned. The General Assembly was in a special session on the budget beginning April 11, primarily debating whether Virginia will expand its Medicaid program and what that expanded Medicaid program would look like. The General Assembly voted on a final budget, which includes Medicaid expansion, on May 30. Governor Ralph Northam signed the budget bill on June 7.

NVTC's specific legislative priorities for the 2018 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 NVTC Vice President of Policy Josh Levi, NVTC Public Policy Manager Troy Murphy, and Myles Louria, Senior Director of Governmental Affairs, Hunton Andrews Kurth LLP.

Below is legislation of interest to Northern Virginia's technology community that was approved during the General Assembly session:

Creation of Virginia Chief Data Officer

NVTC was a lead advocate this session for the creation of a Chief Data Officer (CDO) within Virginia's executive branch to advance open data in Virginia and coordinate and oversee the effective sharing of data among state, regional, and local public entities and public institutions of higher education. Gov. Northam announced his support for the creation of the positon and NVTC worked throughout session with the Governor's office and legislative leaders to provide statutory and budgetary support to launch the position.

In total, more than 12 bills were introduced related to the creation of a chief data officer, data sharing, and open data, including bills by Sen. Barker (SB 830) and Del. Keam (HB 781) that were introduced at NVTC's request.

The Senate consolidated various bills into Sen. Hanger's SB 580. The legislation creates the position of Chief Data Officer, housed in the office of the Secretary of Administration, to (i) develop guidelines regarding data usage, storage, and privacy and (ii) coordinate and oversee data sharing in the Commonwealth to promote the usage of data in improving the delivery of services. The legislation also creates an advisory committee to work with the CDO in the initial establishment of guidelines and best practices and to make recommendations to the Governor and General Assembly regarding a permanent data governance structure.

SB 580 passed the General Assembly and has been signed into law by Gov. Northam.

The budget includes $197,000 per year to provide funding for the creation of the Chief Data Officer position.

Carlos Rivero was appointed Chief Data Officer on July 27th.

Permanent Moratorium on Local Regulation of UAS/ Drones

NVTC worked with other industry stakeholders in supporting SB 526 and HB 638, sponsored by Sen. Obenshain and Del. Collins, respectively. These identical bills represent an important next step in establishing a uniform Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) policy framework in Virginia. They recognize the important role of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in regulating UAS and build on the previous body of work Virginia policymakers have established related to UAS regulation, safety and privacy. The bills also signal Virginia's intention to continue distinguishing itself as a competitive location for those seeking to develop and deploy UAS technology and applications by adopting a uniform and statewide regulatory framework.

Specifically, the legislation:

  • Extends and makes permanent the three year moratorium on local government regulation of UAS that Virginia instituted under Governor McAuliffe in 2016 and clarifies that the moratorium is intended to extend to political subdivisions in addition to localities.
  • Establishes criminal penalties to allow for prosecution of those who flagrantly misuse and abuse UAS while providing protection to lawful operators who abide by federal regulations and requirements.
The General Assembly approved the legislation and approved two amendments offered by Gov. Northam which provide additional clarity and ongoing study around the legislation.


Unmanned Aircraft Systems Workgroup

SB 307, sponsored by Sen. Cosgrove, directs the Department of Aviation to convene a work group with stakeholders to explore issues related to unmanned aircraft system activities in coordination with the Federal Aviation Administration and other responsible federal agencies.

The legislation passed the General Assembly and has been approved by Gov. Northam.


Utility Regulation/ The Grid Transformation and Security Act of 2018

NVTC supported the Grid Transformation and Security Act of 2018 (SB 966 and HB 1558), which advances electric utility regulation, grid modernization and energy efficiency. The legislation was backed by a bipartisan group of legislators and supported by Governor Northam.

The legislation sets the stage for Virginia utilities to launch major grid modernization and transformation efforts, supported in large part by the prices customers already pay for electricity rather than by higher rates. It accelerates Virginia's move toward clean, renewable resources and states that 5,000 megawatts of solar and wind power - enough, when fully operating, to serve the needs of 1.25 million homes - are in the public interest. It also serves the goal of making Virginia a more energy-efficient state by requiring Virginia utilities to invest $1 billion in expanded programs to help customers save energy over the next 10 years. The bill recognizes the importance of stable and affordable energy prices now and in the future and provides immediate credits - $200 million, in the case of Dominion Energy - to electric customers and orders 100 percent of the benefits utilities obtained through the recent federal tax rate reduction be returned to customers. The legislation also restores regularly scheduled, comprehensive State Corporation Commission (SCC) reviews of utility earnings, costs and rates, revoking the temporary suspension of these reviews imposed in 2015.

The legislation was approved by the General Assembly and has been signed by Gov. Northam.


Wireless Infrastructure Deployment

  • SB 405 (Sen. McDougle) - Zoning
  • HB 1258 (Del. Kilgore) - Zoning
  • SB 823 (Sen. McDougle) - Fees structure
  • HB 1427 (Del. Kilgore) - Fees structure
NVTC was a proponent of two sets of companion bills passed by the General Assembly (HB 1258 and SB 405, and HB 1427 and SB 823) that will make the zoning process and fees for siting new wireless structures more predictable, efficient and competitive with other states, thereby creating a more attractive environment for wireless infrastructure investment.

In 2017, NVTC supported, and Virginia enacted, legislation that created a statewide process for the deployment of small cell technology on existing structures including utility poles, light poles and buildings. That important legislation is accelerating investment in areas where the wireless network was experiencing near peak demands through the use of small cell antennas that work together with the existing traditional towers to bolster capacity. However, the 2017 legislation did not address the process for locating new structures to house future small cells or traditional towers needed in rural unserved or underserved areas where no other alternative for equipment location exists.

HB 1258 and SB 405 establish a statewide consistent approval process for new wireless structures. The legislation sets up a predictable approval timeline and uniform fees while preserving a locality's jurisdiction over traditional land use regulations. HB 1427 and SB 823 establish fees for the placement of new wireless structures in the rights-of-way.

Together these bills will speed wireless infrastructure deployment to spur innovation and the integration of smart technologies to support education, telemedicine, Internet-of-things, smart highways and smart cities throughout the Commonwealth.

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


Metro Funding and Oversight/Transit

The Virginia General Assembly approved bipartisan legislation providing $154 million in annual new, sustainable and dedicated funding to support Virginia's share of Metro's $500 million in annual capital funding requirements while also implementing necessary Metro governance, operations and funding reforms that will ensure a well-maintained, safe and reliable Metro system moving forward.

NVTC had joined with other regional business organizations in a coalition led by the Northern Virginia Transportation Coalition and the Northern Virginia Chamber of Commerce in advocating for this legislation.

Gov. Northam had recommended amendments to provide for new tax revenue in Northern Virginia to help meet Virginia's funding commitment, but the House of Delegates did not approve those amendments during the Veto Session. As a result, much of the funding will be redirected from existing local and regional Northern Virginia transportation construction funds.


Office of Telework Promotion and Broadband Assistance and the Broadband Advisory Council

HB 999 and SB 991 extend the Office of Telework Promotion and Broadband Assistance and the Broadband Advisory Council sunset date from July 1, 2018, to July 1, 2019.

The legislation passed the General Assembly and has been signed into law by Gov. Northam.


Regulatory Reform Pilot Program

Gov. Northam and Speaker Cox announced a bipartisan agreement this session to support HB 883 and SB 20 establishing a three year regulatory reform pilot program. The program will focus on the Department of Professional and Occupational Regulation and the Department of Criminal Justice Services, with a goal of reducing or streamlining regulatory requirements by 25 percent. Further, the Department of Planning and Budget will track and report on the extent to which agencies comply with existing requirements to periodically review all regulations every four years.

The legislation passed the General Assembly and has been approved by Gov. Northam.


Strategic Workforce Dashboard

Del. Byron introduced legislation that would require the Virginia Board of Workforce Development to advise and oversee the development of a strategic workforce dashboard and tools that will provide information on state and regional labor market conditions, the relationship between the supply and demand for workers, workforce program outcomes, and projected employment growth or decline. The measure also directs the Board, with support from the Virginia Employment Commission (VEC), to determine and publish a list of jobs, trades and professions for which high demand for qualified workers exists or is projected.

The legislation passed the General Assembly and has been approved by Gov. Northam.


Commonwealth Broadband Chief Advisor

Del. Byron introduced legislation that would establish the position of Commonwealth Broadband Chief Advisor within the Office of the Secretary of Commerce and Trade to serve as Virginia's single point of contact and integration for broadband issues, efforts and initiatives and to increase the availability and affordability of broadband throughout all regions of the Commonwealth. The bill also creates a 15-member Advisory Board for the purpose of providing direction for the Chief Advisor and policy guidance to the General Assembly and the Commonwealth's localities.

The legislation passed the General Assembly and has been approved by Gov. Northam.


Green Job Creation Tax Credit

SB 573 and HB 1372 extend the sunset date for the green job creation tax credit through taxable year 2020.The credit was set to expire this year.

The legislation passed the General Assembly and has been approved by Gov. Northam.


Automatic Renewal Offers and Continuous Service Offers

Del. Simon introduced legislation which would place prohibitions on a supplier making an automatic renewal or continuous service offer to a consumer in the Commonwealth. The measure provides that in any case in which a supplier sends any goods, wares, merchandise, or products to a consumer under a continuous service agreement or automatic renewal of a purchase without first obtaining the consumer's affirmative consent, the goods, wares, merchandise, or products shall for all purposes be deemed an unconditional gift to the consumer.

The legislation passed the General Assembly and has been approved by Gov. Northam.

Legislation of interest to Northern Virginia's technology community that failed to move forward this session includes:

Data Center Reporting Requirements

NVTC opposed SB 299, which sought to require data centers to report in granular detail every purchase made under Virginia's sales and use tax exemption for data center equipment over the past three years. In addition to compliance concerns, NVTC expressed concerns regarding the purpose of the legislation, the use of the data and its implications regarding Virginia's short- and long-term commitment to the incentive. Sen. Norment was responsive to those concerns and indicated he would not move the bill forward this session.


Tax on Streaming Video, Audio

NVTC opposed HB 1051, which would have expanded Virginia's Communications Sales and Use Tax to include services related to the streaming of audio and visual data. The legislation was broadly drafted and would have taxed App-based services ranging from Netflix to Uber.

The legislation was defeated 22-0 in the House Finance Committee.


Fair Repair Act

NVTC opposed HB 20, which would have required the original equipment manufacturer (OEM) of digital electronic equipment to make available to independent repair providers and any owner of equipment the same diagnostic, schematics, access to parts and repair information the OEM makes available to its authorized repair providers.

This legislation would have jeopardized the operation, security and safety of digital products. Agreements between OEMs and authorized repair networks, which include businesses of all sizes, would be undermined and provide no protection or quality assurance for consumers. Further, such legislation would have mandated the disclosure of proprietary information that may violate federal copyright protection and state trade secrets laws.

The legislation was defeated 6-1 in a House Commerce and Labor Subcommittee.


Embedded Software - Independent Repair

NVTC opposed HB 468, 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. If enacted, this legislation would have led to unintended consequences to the operation, security and safety of those products and would have prevented OEMs from altering embedded software potentially violating federal copyright protections.

The legislation was defeated 12-9 in the House Science and Technology Committee.


Employment Nondiscrimination

NVTC is an advocate for legislation that would prohibit public sector employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. This legislation fosters fair treatment in the workplace, benefits technology employers by promoting employment 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. NVTC supported SB 202 this legislative session, which aimed to prohibit public sector employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.

SB 202 passed the Senate 29-10. However, it was defeated 5-2 in a House General Laws Subcommittee.


Mandatory Internet Filters on Every Device Sold in Virginia

NVTC opposed HB 1592 which would have prohibited the distribution or sale of any electronic product that makes content accessible on the Internet unless such product possessed an operating digital content blocking capability that rendered obscene content inaccessible. The bill provided that a customer could unlock/remove the filter from the device if they paid $20 toward a fund for human trafficking victims. While NVTC and its members support efforts to reduce and eliminate human trafficking, NVTC opposed this legislation as unconstitutional and unworkable.

The legislation did not move forward in the House Courts of Justice Subcommittee.


Net Neutrality

Sen. Wexton and Del. Carter introduced legislation aimed to institute net neutrality requirements at the state level, either directly or through procurement policy.

SB 949 was defeated in the Senate General Laws and Technology Committee.
SB 948 was stricken at the request of Sen. Wexton.
HB 705 was defeated 5-0 in a House Commerce and Labor Subcommittee.


Computer Trespass

NVTC supported legislation that sought to update Virginia's computer crimes laws by lowering the standard of intent from actions that are "malicious" to those that are "intentionally deceptive and without authority." This legislation also included a safe harbor provision to clarify that the prohibitions under Virginia's computer trespass laws are not intended to proscribe legitimate commercial activity. This was the third attempt at passing this bill, which was a recommendation of Governor McAuliffe's Cyber commission.

SB 533 passed the Senate 39-0.
HB 258 was defeated 5-3 in a House Courts of Justice Subcommittee.


In-State Tuition for Dreamers

NVTC supported SB 237, which aimed to provide in-state tuition to individuals currently granted Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (i.e. Dreamers) by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

The legislation was defeated 8-7 in the Senate Education and Health Committee.


Cybersecurity Student Loan Repayment Grant Program

Del. Ransone introduced legislation to establish a Cybersecurity Student Loan Repayment Grant Program, to be administered by the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia, where renewable grants of up to $20,000 of matching state and employer funds will be provided on a competitive basis.

HB 685 passed the House but was not approved in the Senate.


STEAM Education Fund

NVTC supported HB 1111, which sought to establish the STEAM Education Fund for the purpose of awarding grants in amounts not to exceed $50,000 annually to any public elementary or secondary school in the Commonwealth, at which at least 25 percent of students qualify for free or reduced lunch, that provides an academic class, curriculum or activity focused on a science, technology, engineering, arts, or mathematics (STEAM) discipline.

The legislation was approved by the House Science and Technology Committee, but then died in the House Appropriations Committee.


Veteran Businesses Procurement Enhancement Program

Sen. DeSteph introduced legislation that aimed to establish a statewide service disabled veteran business procurement enhancement program. The bill would establish a statewide goal of five percent service disabled veteran business utilization in all discretionary spending by state agencies in procurement orders, prime contracts and subcontracts.

The legislation passed the Senate 40-0 but failed in the House General Laws Committee.


Traffic Electronic Routing Registry

SB 623 would have allowed localities to submit certain route data to a central registry and required that a digital routing provider (i.e. services like Waze or Mapquest) remove the items placed on the registry from its routing algorithms within six months of such placement. The bill provided that any digital routing provider who violated such requirement would be subject to a $500 civil penalty for each day it was in violation.

The legislation was defeated in the Senate Transportation Committee 6-6-1.


Database Breach of Personal Information

HB 679 would have defined the term "unreasonable delay" as a period not to exceed 30 days for purposes of the disclosure requirements imposed when there is a security breach involving personal information.

The legislation was defeated 8-0 in a House Courts of Justice Subcommittee.

Specific budget actions of interest to the technology community include:

CyberX Initiative

The budget includes $20 million in General Funds and $5 million in capital funds to launch the Commonwealth Cyber Initiative or CyberX. CyberX is intended to serve as an engine for research, innovation, and commercialization of cybersecurity technologies, and to help power Virginia's cyber security workforce by providing more advanced and professional cyber degrees. CyberX will consist of a primary hub, located in Northern Virginia, and a network of spokes across the Commonwealth with collaborating public institutions of higher education in Virginia and industry partners to build an ecosystem of cyber-related research, education, and engagement that positions the Commonwealth as a world leader of cybersecurity. Virginia Tech will serve as the anchoring institution in collaboration with George Mason University, the Northern Virginia Community College and other public higher education institutions in the Commonwealth.


Chief Broadband Advisor

The budget includes $140,000 per year to provide funding for the creation of the Chief Broadband Advisor position within the Office of the Secretary of Commerce and Trade


Chief Data Officer

The budget includes $197,000 per year to provide funding for the creation of the Chief Data Officer position in the Office of the Secretary of Administration.


Center for Innovative Technology

The budget includes $1.25 million in additional base funding support for CIT and maintained funding for the CIT GAP Funds at $3.1 million per year and the Commonwealth Research Commercialization Fund (CRCF) at $2.8 million per year.


Development of Unmanned Systems Industry

The budget provides $1 million over the biennium to support the advancement of unmanned systems companies and development of the unmanned systems industry in the Commonwealth.

The budget also provides $1 million to be made available for the establishment of an Unmanned Aerial Systems Commercial Center of Excellence and business accelerator in collaboration with the Mid-Atlantic Aviation Partnership and the Virginia Commercial Spaceflight Authority for:
  • The development of a strategic plan and roadmap for the recruitment and expansion of commercial UAS entities, and
  • Advancing collaborative public-private UAS partnerships across the Commonwealth at the direction of the Secretary of Commerce and Trade.


Customized Workforce Recruitment and Training Incentive Program

NVTC supported the funding proposal included in the Governor's budget to create a turnkey, customized workforce recruitment and training incentive program with direct delivery of services for eligible economic development projects. Virginia currently has no such offering that is available statewide.

Customized workforce recruitment and training incentive programs provide industry experts to work closely with company subject matter experts to design and deliver turnkey workforce solutions, including recruitment, screening, development of customized training, and delivery of that training, all at no cost to participating firms. This incentive program would be in addition to Virginia's current workforce efforts and would offer a specific tool for prospects or expansions as an incentive to grow in Virginia.

The budget repurposes $3 million in funding from the Virginia Jobs Investment Program to support the customized workforce development initiative within the Virginia Economic Development Partnership.


Cybersecurity Student Loan Repayment Grant Program

The budget includes $500,000 each year for the Cybersecurity Student Loan Repayment Grant Program which serves as a public-private initiative for the purpose of attracting and retaining talented recent graduates and veterans to meet qualified employers' growing demand for cybersecurity professionals. The Program will provide renewable grants of up to $20,000 of state funding to match employer funding on a competitive basis.


Energy Storage Capacity Study

The budget includes $100,000 over the biennium for the Virginia Solar Development Authority, working with the Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy, to conduct a study to determine whether regulatory reforms and incentives will prove productive in encouraging emerging energy storage capacity in the Commonwealth.


Extension of Broadband to Unserved Areas

The budget provides $8.0 million over the biennium to the Virginia Telecommunication Initiative to support the extension of broadband networks by the private sector in unserved areas of the Commonwealth.


GO Virginia

NVTC supports the GO Virginia initiative, which is a bipartisan and business-led effort focused on creating economic incentives for localities and regions to collaborate together to make meaningful progress on infrastructure and other regional investments. Specifically, Go Virginia incentivizes localities and public and private sector entities to collaborate and act together, and money from the state would only go to those localities or projects where there is significant public sector and/or private sector collaboration. The budget increases funding by $15 million over the FY18 base and in total provides $64 million over two years to support the GO Virginia initiative.

Additionally, the budget includes language to:
  • Increase the minimum regional funding under the per-capita grants to $1.0 million
  • Eliminate language in Introduced Budget that removed the caps on allotments
  • Enable the GO VA Board to grant waivers for matching funds if requested by region
  • Direct the GO VA Board to begin activity in broadband initiatives


Marketing Virginia for Business

The budget includes $1 million over the biennium for an expanded international and domestic marketing campaign to market Virginia to attract additional businesses to the Commonwealth.


Virginia Research Investment Fund

The budget provides $16 million over the biennium to support the Virginia Research Investment Fund which will be used to:
  • Promote research and development excellence in the Commonwealth;
  • Foster innovative and collaborative research, development, and commercialization efforts in projects and programs with a high potential for economic development and job creation opportunities;
  • Position the Commonwealth as a national leader in science-based and technology-based research, development, and commercialization; and
  • Attract and recruit eminent researchers that enhance research superiority at public institutions of higher education.


New Economy Workforce Credential Grant Program (aka Fast Forward)

In 2016, NVTC participated in a coalition in support of legislation sponsored by Sen. Frank Ruff and Del. Kathy Byron which established the "New Economy Workforce Credentials Grant Fund" with the aim of focusing the alignment of workforce training programs with the needs of business and industry.

This legislation was the first pay-for-performance program for award of workforce credentials in the country where the state will pay up to $3,000 per student who receives a credential in a high demand field (including cybersecurity and other technology areas).

This session, the budget included $19 million over the biennium to support the New Economy Workforce Credential Grant Program

For more information about NVTC's advocacy efforts, please visit us online at www.nvtc.org/advocacy.