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03.21.2024 Legal News

General Assembly “Hot Topic” Bills as of the End of the 2024 Virginia Legislative Session

Williams Mullen has represented clients before the Virginia General Assembly and executive branch for over 30 years. The 2024 legislative session, Virginia’s 405th legislative session, adjourned on March 9th. There were a total of 3,128 bills and resolutions filed, of which 1,098 House and Senate bills were approved. 

In addition, a biennial budget was passed and sent to the governor. In Virginia, the governor has line-item veto and amendment power. The governor has 30 days to veto, amend or sign these bills. The legislature will reconvene on April 17th to consider the governor’s actions.

Your Williams Mullen Government Relations Group selected 34 issues which they believe were important this year. Obviously, there are hundreds more that are not discussed below. Also, please note that these are merely summaries, and by definition, these summaries leave out details. Thus, if you want to look at the full language of these bills or view bills not listed here, click here to access the Virginia Legislative Information System to access the bill summaries, legislative history, and full bill text and amendments.

Metro FundingBudget Item 433#2c Passed.

Metro is experiencing a shortfall due to, among other things, post-pandemic loss of ridership (down about 30%) and inflation. Metro requested and was awarded, on top of what it already receives, $65 million for FY 2025 (this year) and $84.5 million in FY 2026. The NOVA local governments will match this. All Northern VA transit systems will also now subject of a study to determine cost savings and future funding needs.

NOVA Casino SB 675 (Sen. Marsden) Failed.

Senator Marsden proposed a casino in Tysons Corner. Supporters cite the fact that the MGM Casino in Maryland on the border of Alexandria generated over $70 million in revenue just in the month of December. Estimates are that half of this revenue comes from Virginia residents and Virginia sees no tax revenue from this gaming activity. Supporters of a casino in NOVA estimate it would deliver over $150 million in state and local tax revenue.

ABC Food/beverage Ratio Elimination – SB 168 (Sen. Reeves) Failed.

It is often said that “there are no bars in Virginia.” This is because if a restaurant sells mixed beverages (liquor) it must generate at least 45% of its revenue from food and non-alcoholic beverages. Many nightclubs and “restaurants” featuring live music complain that they cannot meet this ratio because patrons don’t go there to eat. They go eat a meal at a sit-down restaurant and then go to their entertainment venue. This bill would have eliminated the ratio for any restaurant that serves more than $10,000 per year in food and non-alcoholic beverages. The bill passed the Senate and passed House General Laws but was ultimately sent back to the House General Laws committee from the House floor where it failed to advance.

Sales Tax on Software & Communications Transactions. Budget Item 4-14 #1c Passed.

Traditionally, Virginia has not taxed business-to-business transactions (only sales to an end user), nor has it taxed services. In an effort to eliminate the local government personal property tax on motor vehicles (“Car Tax”) and offset the resulting revenue loss, the governor proposed applying sales tax to a category of services not previously taxed, including:

           1. Software application services

           2. Computer-related services

           3. Website hosting and design 

           4. Data storage 

           5. Streaming services

The House and Senate removed the Car Tax repeal but kept this tax increase.

EV mandate Repeal – SB 3 (Sen. Stuart) / SB 53 (McDougle) / SB 160 (McGuire) / HB 3 (Del. Wilt) / HB 7 (Del. Fowler). Failed.

In a previous legislative session, a law was passed to copy California’s strict automobile emissions standards. California passed a rule that phased in a mandate that by 2035, all new cars sold must be electric vehicles (EV’s). A number of bills were introduced this year that would have repealed this rule in Virginia, but all failed.

Create Vaping Directory & Prohibition of Non-FDA Authorized Vapes. SB 550 (Sen. Deeds) / HB 1069 (Del. Willet). Passed.

If you were to go into a vape shop or look at the products at a local convenience store, you would see hundreds of handheld vaping products in numerous flavors (berry, vanilla, mango). Most of these are made in China and very few have been authorized by the FDA to be sold in the United States. Most have been manufactured in factories not approved by the FDA. This bill creates a directory of vapes that have been authorized by the FDA. Retailers who sell vapes not in the directory face stiff civil fines.          

Minimum WageSB 1 (Sen. Lucas) / HB 1 (Del. Ward) Passed.

This legislation increases the minimum wage from the current rate of $12.00 per hour to $13.50 per hour effective January 1, 2025, and to $15.00 per hour effective January 1, 2026.

Recreational Marijuana – HB 698 (Del. Krizek) / SB 448 (Sen. Rouse) Passed.

Currently, adults 21 and older in Virginia can legally possess up to 1 oz of marijuana. Additionally, adults can grow up to 4 plants. Currently, sales of marijuana are only permitted for licensed pharmaceutical processors, and even then potential customers must first receive a recommendation from a doctor for a medical license. This legislation would expand the system to allow for adult-use sales. In other words, this would allow for recreational sales of marijuana to anyone over the age of 21.

1% Sales Tax for all Counties & Cities for School ConstructionSB 14 (Sen. McPike) / HB 805 (Del. Rasoul) Passed.

Currently, only a handful of local governments have the ability to impose a 1% sales tax increase (subject to approval by a local referendum) to be used for school construction. This bill gives all localities the ability to conduct a referendum and impose this 1% tax increase.

Paid Family & Medical LeaveSB 373 (Sen. Boysko) Passed.

Sets up a paid family and medical leave insurance program. Funding for the program is provided through premiums assessed to employers and employees beginning January 1, 2026. The bill provides that the amount of a benefit is up to 12 weeks at 80% of the employee's average weekly wage, not to exceed 80% of the regional average weekly wage.

Creation of a Stadium in Alexandria for Wizards and Capitols. SB 718 (Sen. Surovell) / HB 1514 (Del. Torian). Failed.

Creates the stadium authority and financing mechanism to build the stadium. In short, Virginia sells bonds to build it and then is paid back by certain tax revenue generated at the stadium.

Mandated Health Insurance Coverage for Diabetes Care. HB 610 (Del. Price) Failed.

This bill would have required commercial insurance coverage for all FDA-approved insulin, continuous blood glucose monitoring, regular foot care and eye care exams. The bill also would have prohibited insurers from imposing cost-sharing requirements for diabetes care and supplies. As required by the existing Code of Virginia language, the bill was referred to the Health Insurance Reform Commission (HIRC). The HIRC is required to analyze and report to the legislature if the bill will increase the cost of commercial insurance before the legislature can vote on it.

Continuous Coverage When a Health Care Provider Terminates Contract with an Insurer. HB 218 (Del. Orrock) Passed.

This bill requires a health care provider to continue to render health care services to patients for at least 90 days when a contract between the provider and insurer ends. If the patient is pregnant, the provider is required to continue care through the postpartum period. If the patient is determined to be terminally ill, the provider is required to continue care for the remainder of the patient’s life. If the patient has a life-threatening condition, the provider is required to continue care for up to 180 days.

Medical Aid in Dying SB 280 (Sen. Hashmi)HB 858 (Del. Hope) Failed.

This legislation would have allowed an adult diagnosed with a terminal condition to request an attending health care provider to prescribe a self-administered controlled substance for the purpose of ending the patient's life. The bill required the patient to orally ask on two occasions and in writing for the controlled substance. The request had to be signed by the patient and one witness.

Public schools Must Possess and School Personnel Must be Able to Administer Opioid Overdose Reversal Agents. HB 732 (Del. Sewell) SB 726 (Sen. Pillion) Passed.

This legislation requires all K-12 public schools to possess at least two doses of opioid overdose reversal agents by the 2026 – 2027 school year. The bill also requires designated school personnel to be trained in the administration of the reversal agents in the event a student experiences an overdose during regular school hours, on school premises, or during a school-sponsored activity.            

Real Estate Disclosure Prohibition; Local Ordinance – HB467 (Del. Simon) / SB 354 (Locke) Passed.

This legislation, on its face, was to prohibit individual localities from establishing or enforcing mandatory real estate disclosures on the sale of real estate in the commonwealth. However, this legislation also repeals an existing local ordinance requiring disclosure for new homebuyers in the flight path of Dulles International Airport. Dulles opposed due to the fact that potential homebuyers in the area will not be warned that in the future their peace and quietude may be affected by air traffic using a yet to be constructed future runway and expected expansion of flight activity.

Defining “Value” for the Purposes of Calculating Recording Taxes on Real Estate Sales.  HB 574  (Del. Thomas)  Passed.

Provides that for purposes of recordation taxes, the value of a property interest conveyed shall be the higher of either (a) the consideration (the sales price) or (b) if it is a non-market transaction, such as parents gifting a home to a child, the most recent property tax assessment for such property at the time the property is conveyed. In 2023, some taxes were calculated on lender’s appraisal, which usually resulted in higher taxes.

Skill Games Regulation – SB 212 (Sen. Rouse) Passed.

The slot-like betting machines (a.k.a. skill games because the proponents state that there is an element of skill in playing the game) are a recent fixture in gas stations and convenience stores across the commonwealth. This bill would regulate these arcade-style games; four machines at ABC-licensed retail establishments and 10 machines in truck stops. Receipts from the machines will be taxed at a 25% rate and the Virginia Lottery Board will promulgate regulations no later than January 1, 2026. This is expected to bring in $126 Million a year in tax revenue. 

Hampton Roads Toll Relief – Budget Item 441#1c Passed.

A key priority of Senator Louise Lucas, the new Senate finance and appropriations chair, was to provide additional support for the existing Toll Relief program in the commonwealth’s Tidewater and Hampton Roads area. This budget item would expand toll relief by providing an additional $101 million over the next two years to support eligible drivers who earn less than $50,000 per year.

2024 Solheim Cup Funding – Budget Item 114 #2h Passed.

In partnership with the Virginia Tourism Authority, Item 114 #2h will help support the sponsorship, partnership, and promotion of the Solheim Cup, the second most watched women’s sporting event in the world. The golf tournament between Team USA and Team Europe, which will be held at RTJ Gainesville in Prince William County, will host 150,000 attendees and generate an estimated economic impact of over $60 million to the Commonwealth of Virginia during the six-day tournament.

Bad Faith Refusal of Motor Vehicle Insurance Claims – SB 256 (Sen. Surovell) Passed.

This bill enables a cause of action for “bad faith” refusal of claims for underinsured and uninsured motorist coverage. It attempts to deal with the problem of an insurance company not promptly or fairly dealing with its own insured when the insured needs to access his/her own underinsured motorist policy. It stipulates that if an insurance company’s denial, refusal or failure to pay a property damage claim, medical expense benefit, or loss of income claim to its own insured was not made in good faith, the insurance company shall be liable to the insured party in an amount double the amount of the judgment, up to $500,000, plus interest from 30 days after the date the claim was submitted. It also includes reasonable attorney fees and expenses.

Construction Management and Design-Build Contracting. SB 18 (Sen. Locke) / HB 1108 (Del. Carr) Passed.

This year’s biggest procurement issue once again dealt with the use of construction management or design-build contracting for state and local government projects. These bills establish new protocols for when and how different methods of construction delivery are selected.

Small Women and Minority (SWaM) Business Procurement Enhancement Program HB 1404 (Del. Ward) Passed.

This bill establishes the Small SWaM Business Procurement Enhancement Program. This program has a statewide goal of 42% of certified small SWaM business utilization in all discretionary spending by executive branch agencies and covered institutions in procurement orders, prime contracts, and subcontracts as well as a 50% goal for subcontracting to small SWaM businesses in instances where the prime contractor is not a small SWaM business for all new capital outlay construction solicitations that are issued. The bill provides for a small SWaM business set aside for state agency and covered institution purchases of goods, services, and construction, requiring that purchases up to $100,000 be set aside for award to certified small SWaM businesses.

Shared Solar SB 255 (Sen. Surovell) / HB 108 (Del. Sullivan) and SB 253 (Sen. Surovell) / HB 106 (Del. Sullivan). Passed.

The General Assembly passed four bills dealing with shared solar (also known as community solar) in Virginia. Shared solar offers customers a chance to subscribe to a small solar facility rather than install solar panels on their own roofs. Two bills, SB 255 (Sen. Surovell) and HB 108 (Del. Sullivan), establish a new 50MW shared solar program in Appalachian Power territory. The other two bills, SB 253 (Sen. Surovell) and HB 106 (Del. Sullivan), expand the current shared solar program in Dominion territory by up to 150MW and direct the SCC to recalculate the minimum bill. Both bills also direct Virginia Energy to convene a stakeholder workgroup to determine how to incentivize locating shared solar developments on rooftops, brownfields, and landfills or as dual-use agricultural facilities.

Minimum Period of Validity for Solar, Energy Storage, and Residential Development Permits. HB 650 (Del. Coyner) Passed.

This Legislation stipulates that for any special exception, special use permit, or conditional use permit for solar, energy storage, or residential projects, there shall be a minimum of three years to commence the project.

Review and Appeal of Department of Environmental Equality DEQ Decisions. SB 580 (Sen. Deeds) / HB 122 (Del. Sullivan) Passed.

This bill requires any party seeking judicial review for a final decision from the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) to file action in the circuit court for the City of Richmond rather than in other jurisdictions that DEQ offices are located in. This pulls the DEQ appeal process into what the common practice is for other state agencies.

Mandatory Solar Disclosures. SB 313 (Sen. VanValkenburg) Passed.

This bill seeks to bolster consumer protections related to solar development by requiring the commissioner of the Virginia Department of Agricultural and Consumer Services (VDACS) to promulgate regulations for mandatory disclosures that must be included in any marketing materials that promote the sale, lease, or installation of any solar energy facility and to be included in any contract between a seller and consumer involving the sale, lease, or installation of any solar energy facility.

Net Metering and Rooftop Solar Leasing. SB 217 (Sen. Subramanyam) / HB 1062 (Del. Willet) Passed.

This legislation makes important clarifications to Virginia’s net metering and solar rooftop leasing policies that will result in allowing more customers and businesses to embrace solar energy.

Solar Permitting Reform SB 567 (Sen. Deeds) / HB 636 (Del. Sullivan) Failed.

Increasingly, solar developers are running into more and more roadblocks to solar deployment across Virginia and are struggling with localities that continue to vote down solar projects. This is particularly troubling as Virginia is required to meet certain clean energy goals of the Virginia Clean Economy Act and must generate more electricity to meet growing demands. This legislation was an attempt to address these concerns and establish a procedure for the siting of solar developments to be approved by the State Corporation Commission instead of a local government.

Ban the Bans on Solar SB 697 (Sen. VanValkenburg) Failed.

This legislation sought to prohibit localities from outright banning (or de facto banning) solar and energy storage projects. The bill made clear that no locality shall be required to approve any application for a solar or storage project but rather would have ensured that the locality actually consider and vote on any project that was brought to it.

Practice of Geology SB 184 (Sen. Rouse) / HB 287 (Del. Wiley) Passed.

This legislation modernizes the definition of the practice of geology by expanding the definition of the practice of geology to include the performance of any professional service or work wherein the principles and methods of geology are applied, including (i) investigating, evaluating, and consulting; (ii) geological mapping; (iii) describing the natural processes that act upon the earth's materials; (iv) predicting the probable occurrence of natural processes; and (v) inspecting, planning, and performing and supervising geological work in order to enhance and protect the health, safety, and welfare of the public and the environment.

Broadband Deployment (Make Ready Legislation) SB 713 (Sen. Marsden) / HB 800 (Del. Herring) Passed.

As billions continue to be spent by the State and Federal Government for broadband deployment to hard-to-reach (mostly rural) areas, one issue that internet service providers continue to grapple with is the time and expenses required to upgrade, replace, and connect lines to electric utility poles. This legislation requires power companies in Virginia to comply with specific pole attachment practices and procedures.

Artificial Intelligence Use in Public Bodies SB 487 (Sen. Aird) Passed.

This legislation directs the Joint Commission on Technology and Science (JCOTS) to examine the use of artificial intelligence by public bodies in the Commonwealth and the creation of a Commission on Artificial Intelligence. The Commission shall submit a comprehensive report of its findings and legislative/policy recommendations to the General Assembly no later than December 1, 2024.

Data Centers

Data centers were a major point of focus this legislative session. Amongst the numerous bills introduced, there were efforts to reduce tax incentives for data centers, impose new parameters or prohibitions on the siting of data centers, impose noise abatement requirements, and impose new requirements regarding energy use.

In order to make sure decisions were being based on actual facts and on good information, the General Assembly decided to continue most bills until the next legislative session in 2025 and requested a study to be done by the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission (JLARC). This study will be completed by the end of 2024 and thus will give legislators the information they need to intelligently vote on key data center issues.

Here is a list of many of the most important bills dealing with data centers. All were failed or carried over to the 2025 Session.