The 2020 Session wrapped up Sunday, March 8th with the General Assembly adopting the budget on Thursday, March 12th. This Session was difficult for the Retail Industry with an exorbitant amount of bills that were bad for business, but we did have a few wins over the course of the 60 plus day Session. Below you will find a review of the issues that the VRF worked on throughout Virginia’s fast paced legislative process. The General Assembly will return for Veto Session April 22nd. VRF will provide updates via email.

Minimum Wage:

Minimum Wage was one of our major issues for the 2020 Session. VRF worked hard to make sure that the retail voice was heard throughout the process. Both the House and the Senate each had a version of this legislation. The Senate’s version included several amendments that attempted to mitigate the impact on business, while the House version was going to have an even bigger negative impact on business because those amendments were not included in their version. Both bills ended up in Conference at the end of Session to come up with a compromise between the two chambers.

House Bill 395 and Senate Bill 7 have passed both chambers and are now before the Governor for signature. The minimum wage will increase to $9.50 as of January 1, 2021, to $11 as of January 1, 2022, and $12 as of January 1, 2023. It will freeze at $12 for two years (January 1, 2023 – January 1, 2025). In order for the increase to continue after 2025, the General Assembly must Re-enact this legislation prior to July 1, 2024. This means they must vote on the legislation again and it must pass both bodies and be signed by the Governor. If this occurs, the increase will continue and as of January 1, 2025 minimum wage will be $13.50, and then January 1, 2026 it increases to $15. Each year thereafter it will increase based on the CPI-U.

Another aspect of this legislation is that a study of the impact of a regional minimum wage is included as well. Beginning January 1, 2022 the Virginia Department of House and Community Development, the Virginia Economic Development Partnership Authority, and the Virginia Employment Commission will conduct a study of the feasibility and potential impact of instituting a regional minimum wage.

Right to Work/Fair Share:

Both House Bill 153, Right to Work Repeal, and Senate Bill 426, Fair Share, were defeated in their bodies of origin. Had they passed they would have had an extreme negative impact on the economy for Virginia.

Right to Work was established in Virginia in 1947, and guarantees that no person can be compelled, as condition of employment, to join or not to join, nor to pay dues to a labor union. It also assures that no person or organization may use intimidation, use of force, threat of use of force, reprisal or threat of reprisal, or interrupt the work on any employee. If Right to Work were eliminated employees could be forced to join unions as condition of employment with an employer. This has the potential to give unions control in the Commonwealth.

Unlike elimination of Right to Work, Fair Share legislation would not allow a worker to be forced to join a union, however it would allow a worker to be forced to pay their “fair share” of union dues for the work that union does on their behalf whether said worker is a member of the union or not.

HB 153 Right to work; repeals provisions of Code that refers to denial or abridgement – Left in Committee (Defeated)
SB 426 Fair share fees – Defeated in Senate Commerce and Labor Committee

Paid Leave:

Several different versions of Paid Leave were introduced in the 2020 Session. As the Session was winding down only one version remained and that was Senate Bill 481. With a lot of hard work from the business community, we were able to defeat this bill on the last day of Session. Had the legislation passed it would have applied to employers with more than 15 employees (full and part time), and would have required the employer give 40 hours of paid sick leave as well as an additional 16 hours of unpaid leave to ALL employees. That means this would have applied to both full time and part time employees. In addition, there was an immediate private cause of action against employers for any perceived discrimination by employees with regard to both the paid and unpaid leave. Not to mention the many other burdens on employers throughout this legislation including notice requirements, record keeping, and much more.

HB 64 Child’s school activities; employers to allow parental leave for activities – Laid on Table (Defeated) in House Commerce and Labor Committee
HB 328 Family and Medical Leave Insurance Program; funding by employee and employer taxes – Left in Appropriations Committee (defeated)
HB 403 Safe days for employees; private employers required to allow days – Carried over to 2021
HB 418 Employees; paid earned sick leave, civil penalties – Rolled into HB 898
HB 825 Paid family and medical leave program; Virginia Employment Commission to establish – Left in House Appropriations Committee
HB 898 Employees; earned sick leave, civil penalties – Left in House Appropriations Committee
HB 1684 Public and private employers; earned paid sick time for employees. – Rolled into HB 898
SB 481 Employees; earned sick leave, civil penalties. – Conference Report Passed by House but left in Senate as of adjournment – Defeated
SB 770 Paid family and medical leave program; Virginia Employment Commission to establish – Passed By Indefinitely (defeated)

Felony Threshold for Larceny:

There were several bills introduced to raise the felony larceny threshold in Virginia. If you remember, the threshold was just raised two years ago from $200 to $500 with the understanding that it would not be raised again for some time. However, this year there is legislation to raise it to $1,000, $1,500, and $2,000. The Governor’s Criminal Reform package included the initiative of raising it to $1,000 as seen in House Bill 995 and Senate Bill 788.

Both House Bill 995 and Senate Bill 788 passed the General Assembly. House Bill 995 has been signed by the Governor and Senate Bill 788 is awaiting signature.

VRF opposed these bills because of the negative impact they have on the retail industry, and we will work to pass legislation in the 2021 Session that will mitigate the impact of Organized Retail Crime on the Retail Industry in Virginia.

HB 101 Grand larceny; increases threshold amount – Laid on table in House Courts Committee
HB 263 Grand larceny; threshold – Rolled into HB 995
HB 286 Grand larceny; increases threshold amount – Left in committee
HB 995 Grand larceny; increases threshold amount – Signed by Governor
SB 788 Grand larceny; increases threshold amount – Before Governor for Signature

Shopping Carts:

Senate Bill 631 passed this session. This legislation holds the retailer responsible for someone stealing their shopping carts off of the retailer’s property and dumping them elsewhere. This means that the victim of a crime has to pay a fee because someone stole their property, if the victim (the retailer) does not pick the shopping cart up within 15 days notice. If notified by the locality, the retailer must go pick up the stolen shopping cart, wherever it may be; otherwise the retailer will be charged a $300 fee per shopping cart. This is only applicable in two localities in Arlington and Fairfax for now.

SB 631 Abandoned and stolen shopping carts; local regulation – Before Governor for Signature

Plastic Bag Tax:

Senate Bill 11 and House Bill 534 are now before the Governor for Signature. These Bills implement a local option $0.05 tax on plastic bags from Grocery Stores, convenience stores, or drug stores with a delayed enactment of January 1, 2021. Retailers will receive $0.02 back for the for two years, and then $0.01 back there after. This “retailer discount” shall be accounted for in the form of a deduction when submitting the tax return and paying the amount due in a timely manner. This tax will be administered, collected, and enforced by the Tax Commissioner in the same manner that retail sales and use tax is done.

HB 534 Disposable plastic bag; local tax – Passed the House – applies to plastic bags only and is statewide
HB 1151 Single-use plastic and expanded polystyrene products; local prohibition, local tax. – Passed the House with Amendments – applies to plastic bags only and is a local option for implementing the tax
HB 1673 Plastic bag tax; use of revenues – Rolled into HB 1151
SB 11 Disposable paper and plastic bags; local taxation per bag when provided to consumers – Passed the Senate with Amendments — applies to plastic bags only and applies to planning district 8 (NOVA) with the option for other localities to opt in
SB 26 Plastic bags; tax in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed – Rolled into SB 11
SB 193 Single-use plastic and expanded polystyrene products; local prohibition, local tax – Stricken at request of patron
SB 198 Disposable plastic shopping bags; local option – Rolled into SB 11 v

For a complete list of all bills relevant to retail, visit virginiaretailfederation.com