On August 18th, the Virginia General Assembly convened for a special session to revisit the recently passed biennial budget ravaged by COVID-19 and to take up legislation predominantly focused on pandemic impacts, criminal justice, and police reform. At the onset, the House met at VCU’s Siegel Center and the Senate used the Science Museum of Virginia as its meeting venue. The House chamber got off to a delayed start eventually deciding to conduct its business virtually.

The Virginia Secretary of Finance announced that the Commonwealth is faced with a $2.7 billion revenue shortfall in the two-year budget. To balance the budget, the Governor proposed cuts to one-time spending and canceling deposits into the Commonwealth’s rainy-day fund. The General Assembly is currently in the process of considering the Governor’s amendments.  The major issue we are tracking in the budget is funding for capital projects. As you may recall, during the Reconvene Session in April the Governor was given the authority to suspend or delay capital expenditures. At this time any delay in capital project spending at the state level has been based on a project by project basis. After reviewing the Governor’s amendments and discussions with the Administration, we do not see or anticipate any across the board cuts to capital spending.

AIA Virginia is monitoring the following two pieces of legislation that may impact your firm:

HB 5116Guzman – Public and private employers; required to provide eligible employees paid quarantine leave, etc.

This legislation would require employers to provide paid quarantine leave. The bill would require 80 hours of paid sick leave if an employee or family member contracted COVID or if an employee or a family member must quarantine. Senator Barbara Favola (D-Arlington) introduced a similar bill (SB 5076) which failed to pass the Committee on Commerce and Labor with a 12-3 vote. Delegate Guzman’s bill passed the House with a 54-44 after being heavily amended several times. Based on the action in the Senate we anticipate this bill may fail, but are uncertain as to whether future amendments may increase its likelihood of success.

SB 5067Saslaw and HB 5074Sullivan – COVID-19 virus; immunity from civil claims related to transmission of or exposure to the virus.

Various legislators have introduced bills that provide immunity from civil claims related to the transmission or exposure to COVID-19 if the organization has complied with applicable local, state, and federal policies and guidance. Typically, when a number of legislators introduce similar bills, the result is one combined bill. In this case, the Senate Majority Leader Richard “Dick” Saslaw (D-Springfield) is carrying the combined bill in the Senate and Delegate Rip Sullivan (D-Arlington) is carrying the companion in the House.

SB 5106Lewis – Local land use approvals; extension of approvals to address the COVID-19 pandemic.

SB 5106 extends until at least July 1, 2022, the sunset date for various local land use approvals that were valid and outstanding as of July 1, 2020. This measure was introduced at the request of the Homebuilders Association of Virginia and is supported by many organizations who are concerned with COVID-19 slowdowns in construction projects that rely on various local land use approvals. The bill has passed the Senate and we are awaiting committee assignment in the House.

If you have any questions, please feel free to submit them to Corey Clayborne, FAIA at cclayborne@aiava.org