The 2019 General Assembly Session adjourned Sine Die Sunday, February 24, one day past the day they were scheduled to adjourn. As you will see in the 2019 General Assembly wrap-up below, this was a very successful Session for the Retail Industry. For a complete list of bills we followed, please visit virginiaretailfederation.com.
SALES TAX FAIRNESS
Great news, Sales Tax Fairness is coming to Virginia! Governor Northam signed HB1722 and SB1083 into law, and the playing field will be leveled for Virginia’s retailers as of July 1, 2019. In other words, online retailers will now be required to collect sales tax in the Commonwealth just as our members are already required to do. This new law is the result of a lot of hard work and negotiation between interested parties over the 2019 Session. Virginia Retail Federation is very appreciative to our patrons, Senator Frank Ruff and Delegate Rob Bloxom, for their continued work on this important issue for our members. VRF is also appreciative to the Administration for their support of Sales Tax Fairness.
ACCELERATED SALES TAX
The threshold for Accelerated Sales Tax will be increased from $4 million to $10 million in 2020. The threshold will remain at $4 million for your remittance in 2019.
This issue came down to the wire again this year. Senator Obenshain introduced SB1619 which mirrored the Federal Rules on the issue of Spoliation, and was therefore not opposed by the business community. However, during the last week of Session the bill was put into Conference and was initially amended to be similar to the bill we opposed last year. The Business Community again worked together to make sure this burdensome legislation was not passed. Ultimately, both the House and Senate adopted a conference report that was not identical to the Federal Rule but was much closer than the Substitute initially proposed by the Senator. This was the result of an agreement, between Legislators and the Business Community, not to revisit this issue for the next four to five years if this version passed. The bill is now before the Governor for signature.
There have been several bills introduced this year that would have had a negative impact on businesses in Virginia in regards to labor. The issues include Minimum Wage Increase, prohibiting Salary Inquiries, Eliminating Right to work, Mandated Paid Leave, and much more. Most of the negative labor bills were defeated this year.
NON-PAYMENT OF WAGES:
Several bills were introduced that try to alleviate the issue of non-payment of wages. The issue with several of these bills is that they would open employers up to a private cause of action. The remainder of the bills were defeated in their respective bodies. In addition to the private cause of action legislation, both Delegate Aird and Senator Wagner introduced legislation that requires employers to provide employees with a paystub. The employer is already required to provide this information upon request, therefore both pieces of legislation passed the Legislature and are now before the Governor for Signature. Both bills include a delayed enactment clause, allowing businesses the opportunity to prepare for this law change. If the bills are signed by the Governor, they will not go into effect until January 1, 2020.
Delegate Ayala introduced legislation (HB 2793) similar to California’s overreaching privacy laws. There was a long line that stood up in opposition and the bill was defeated in Commerce and Labor Committee.
DIESEL FUEL TAX PROPOSAL / I-81
The legislation has passed the House and Senate, Creates the Interstate 81 Corridor Improvement Fund and establishes a 15-member Commission to determine how to fund Interstate 81 Corridor Improvement Fund. There were no tolls, diesel fuels tax, and/or truck registration fee adopted at the time General Assembly adjourned. We will continue to monitor to see if the Governor amends the legislation and/or the budget to add the Truck only Tolls or Diesel Fuel only tax.
As expected, there were several bills introduced this year to either ban or tax plastic/paper bags. In addition to the bills that applied specifically to bags, there was one bill that banned single use plastic in general and would apply to much more than just plastic bags including any cotton swab stick, tobacco product filter, food container, beverage cup or bottle, piece of cutlery, plate, stirrer, straw, etc.
Senator Surovell introduced legislation to require all employers of independent contractors to report their new “hires” to the Commonwealth within 20 days of hiring. It also required employers of independent contractors to garnish employees’ wages for child support. VRF opposed this legislation because of the burden it would place on our members. The reporting requirement was taken out, but the legislation was still very broad in who was considered an independent contractor, and therefore was defeated in the House.
FELONY LARCENY THRESHOLD
After last year’s Grand Compromise, we did not see as many bills seeking to increase the Felony Larceny Threshold this year. However, there was one bill introduced to raise the threshold from the current $500 level, to $750. The bill was never heard in committee and was therefore defeated once Crossover occurred.
There were two bills introduced to fix the issue caused by a recent VA Supreme Court decision that impacted commercial leases. These bills have passed the Legislature and have been signed by the Governor. Due to the “Emergency Clause” the law goes into effect immediately rather than the July 1 effective date for all other legislation.
Senator Surovell introduced SB1553 which is similar to legislation he has introduced in years past. This piece of legislation, in particular, would apply to Fairfax County. It holds the retailer liable for what happens to shopping carts after they are stolen from the retailer’s property. The legislation created an undue burden on retailers by seeking to hold the retailer responsible for other people’s actions. The legislation narrowly made it out of the Senate, however was defeated in House Counties, Cities & Towns Committee.