2020 Legislative Session Recap - June 1, 2020
The 2020 legislative session was productive and successful for RVATech and other technology sector advocates. Legislation that we supported became law and budget priorities were funded. RVATech tracked and provided weekly updates on more than 60 pieces of legislation, 26 of which became law.
Here are a few key pieces of legislation that were approved this session:
1 - The Virginia Innovation Partnership Authority
RVATech and other advocates have long envisioned a consolidated entity to bring together various technology and startup based economic development programs and resources. This new entity will align programs previously at the Center for Innovative Technology and other agencies to oversee and support research, development, and commercialization, as well as related investment and seed-stage funding. The Authority will be headquartered in Richmond and play an active role in developing Virginia’s innovation ecosystem in all regions of the Commonwealth. The Authority is governed by an eleven member Board, consisting of the Secretary of Commerce and Trade, six citizen members appointed by the Governor, and four citizen members appointed by the Joint Rules Committee. (HB1017/SB576)
2 - Transparency in IT Procurement Contracts
RVATech supported legislation from 2019 legislator of the year, Delegate Betsy Carr (D-Richmond), to require online public posting of any executed contracts and modifications to them. This legislation will increase transparency and empower technology vendors to be as competitive as possible in doing business with the Commonwealth’s agencies. (HB544)
3 - Research & Development Tax Credits
RVATech supported legislation to increase the cap for Virginia’s two research and development tax credit programs. This initiative will increase capacity for the program which helps bring private sector technology jobs and investments to Virginia. The programs received a combined roughly $5 million increase in allowable credits per year. (HB748/SB110)
4 - Computer Science Credits for Advanced Diploma
Senator George Barker introduced legislation this year to allow any student who is pursuing an advanced studies diploma to meet the requirements by substituting two standard units of credit in computer science for two standard units of credit in a foreign language. Virginia has made great progress in recent years to incorporate computer science education into the curriculum and to increase computer science training for public school teachers. (SB323)
5 - Locating Broadband in Public Utility Easements
Delegate Carroll Foy and Senator Lynwood Lewis advanced legislation to make it easier for broadband to be deployed along existing electric and communications easements. The legislation will enable broader deployment of broadband and reduce costs by enabling providers to utilize existing easements under certain conditions. (HB831/SB794)
The General Assembly as a whole considered nearly 4,000 bills and resolutions during the traditional 60-day session, which was extended by five days to complete work on the new biennial budget. In all the governor approved 1289 pieces of legislation and vetoed just four. By the time the legislature reconvened to act on gubernatorial amendment and vetoes the pandemic had taken hold and unprecedented measures were put in place for the House to meet on the capitol lawn and the Senate to convene in a more spacious room at the Science Museum of Virginia. The legislature is expected to reconvene for a special session in August or September to reassess the budget based on an updated revenue forecast, which will be significantly lower due to the economic fallout of COVID-19. We will monitor this process and look forward to updating you as things progress.
RVATECH 2020 Policy Agenda
Innovation and Economic Development
Virginia’s technology industry is a growing portion of our economy, supporting hundreds of thousands of high-paying jobs across the Commonwealth. Technology is driving innovation and economic development across all sectors, and it’s important we build on public policy that is making Virginia a national and global hub for the industry. Supporting entrepreneurs and spurring innovation is key to Virginia’s economic success. Innovation is what creates expanding opportunities for all Virginians. Research partnerships are critical to driving innovation. Business, education and government leaders must continue to work together to identify and reduce barriers to startups and growth, and create and support incubators, accelerators, innovation zones, and other tools that have proven successful in helping entrepreneurs translate research into commercially-viable businesses. According to TEConomy’s January 2018 report, Research-Asset Assessment Study, Virginia is behind peer states and the country in commercialization of research, technology innovation, and overall high-growth tech-enabled entrepreneurial success. It is important for the Commonwealth to support the entire life cycle of innovation, from translational research, to entrepreneurship, to pre-seed and seed-stage funding, to acceleration, growth, and commercialization, thereby enhancing Virginia’s tech-based economic development.
• RVATECH supports the governor’s efforts to align startup, innovation, research and commercialization efforts, including the creation of a new, consolidated Authority for innovation and tech-based economic development.
• RVATECH supports raising the cap on the Major Innovator R&D tax credit and the Major Research R&D tax credit.
• RVATECH supports maintaining Virginia’s competitive position as a global leader in the data center market by protecting the data center investment incentives.
Education & Workforce
In order for businesses to thrive, they need well-trained and highly skilled employees. Workforce skills drive innovation and support.
• RVATECH supports increased focus on STEM instruction at all levels of education, including K-12 and higher education. To recruit, retain, create, and grow jobs here in Virginia, our workforce must be trained and educated in these areas.
• RVATECH supports innovative partnerships to get students real-world learning experiences to be better positioned for gainful employment after finishing school.
• RVATECH supports increasing STEM work based learning by incentivizing Virginia businesses to provide additional opportunities for students.
• RVATECH supports efforts to increase the tech talent pipeline at Virginia universities.
Universal access to broadband is essential to every Virginian in order to compete in today’s global economy, Virginians need access to high-speed Internet. Increasing access to high-speed internet will help individuals access more education opportunities and ultimately help spur innovation and entrepreneurism. We applaud the efforts of Governor Northam and the General Assembly to expand broadband for all Virginians.
• RVATECH supports the administration’s goal of universal broadband coverage in 10 years.
• RVATECH supports efforts state investments and other efforts to expand broadband access across the Commonwealth, including schools, businesses, and homes.
Information Technology Procurement
The Commonwealth is home to a vibrant industry of technology companies employing thousands of Virginians. Many of these technology companies offer high-value, innovative solutions increasing access to and improving the efficiency of our state government. It is essential the Commonwealth’s procurement process be open and transparent and promote a culture of creativity and competition.
• RVATECH supports efforts to make Virginia an attractive state for businesses to compete and supply agencies with innovative and cost-effective IT solutions.
• RVATECH opposes codifying unnecessary and burdensome requirements on IT vendors, which would require third-party vendors to track employees and reveal sensitive data.
January 1, 2020
Limitation of Liability Reforms in IT Procurement
Over the course of several years, RVATech has worked with stakeholders to reform and improve how VITA and other state agencies handle liability in IT contracting. Legislation passed in 2016 moved liability matters to the negotiation phase of a procurement, and then legislation passed in 2019 finally placed a 2x limitation on liability for the vendor in a Major IT Project with some exceptions.
January 1, 2020
Virginia Innovation Partnership Authority
RVATech supported successful efforts in 2019 and 2020 to create a consolidated entity to bring together various technology and startup based economic development programs and resources. This new entity will align programs previously at the Center for Innovative Technology and other agencies to oversee and support research, development, and commercialization, as well as related investment and seed-stage funding. The Authority will be headquartered in Richmond and play an active role in developing Virginia’s innovation ecosystem in all regions of the Commonwealth. This effort continued progress made in 2017 through legislation that strengthened the Virginia Research Investment Committee and its role in research and commercialization.
January 1, 2019
Protecting Data Center Tax Incentives
Virginia's tax incentives for data centers has put us on the map as one of the top locations in the world for data centers, further growing our local technology sector. While some elected officials have wanted to reduce or eliminate those incentives in recent years, RVATech and other advocates have successfully protected them to benefit our industry. We supported efforts to extend the incentives through 2035 during the 2016 session.
January 1, 2019
Tech Talent Investment Program
In 2019, we supported legislation to create the tech talent investment program that significantly increased the number of computer science graduates from Virginia colleges and universities in all regions of the Commonwealth. The legislation provided the framework for an additional 25,000 degrees by 2039 in computer science, computer engineering, and other closely related fields. This landmark legislation will grow our tech talent pipeline and help Virginia remain competitive for growing our technology industry.
January 1, 2018
Broadband Deployment Funding
Every year, RVATech advocates for increasing access to high speed internet both in urban and rural areas of Virginia. Our modern economy requires it in order for students to learn and businesses to grow. Through the Virginia Telecommunication Initiative, we have successfully advocated for funding to expand broadband access across Virginia, including an additional $70 million in funding for the 2020-2021 biennium.
January 1, 2016
Computer Science Teacher Training and K12 Curriculum
In recent years, RVATech has supported successful legislation and funding to boost K12 teacher training in computer science, to incorporate computer science education into the general curriculum, and to give students more options for meeting advanced degree requirements through computer science education.
January 1, 2015
Lighthouse Labs Seed Funding
RVATech worked with the General Assembly to secure funding in the state budget that helped launch Lighthouse Labs into the premier seed stage accelerator in Virginia.
January 1, 2014
Expansion of Technology Supporting R&D Tax Credits
RVATech supported successful efforts to expand the Research and Development tax credits that help recruit technology jobs to Virginia. These credits have been widely utilized by companies large and small to expand their footprint in Virginia, the majority of which has been in technology related jobs. Legislation was approved in 2014 and again in 2020 to increase their capacity in the Commonwealth.
Note From Policy Specialist Andrew Lamar
The General Assembly as a whole considered nearly 4,000 bills and resolutions during the traditional 60-day session, which was extended by five days to complete work on the new biennial budget. In all the governor approved 1289 pieces of legislation and vetoed just four. By the time the legislature reconvened to act on gubernatorial amendment and vetoes the pandemic had taken hold and unprecedented measures were put in place for the House to meet on the capitol lawn and the Senate to convene in a more spacious room at the Science Museum of Virginia.
This summer, policy efforts are focused on the impending special session of the General Assembly that is likely to take place in August. The purpose of the session will be to address the state budget and the anticipated revenue shortfall resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic and the governor's executive orders. There are a number of important technology-related funding items in the budget including the new Virginia Innovation Partnership Authority and significant new investments in broadband deployment, and we will be closely monitoring those and other matters for the special session.
Policy Committee Members
Carrie Roth - CHAIR,
Christy Bonifant ,
John Barrar ,
Jonathan Bransky ,
Patrick Cushing ,
Thought Logic Consulting
Kevin Hughes ,
Two Capitals Consulting
Dave Rudolph ,
Bob Stolle ,
Center for Innovative Technology
Cindy Sullivan ,