Northam’s Tax Hikes Keeping Virginia Afloat


One quarter into the new fiscal year, despite the ongoing COVID-19 recession, Virginia state government is blowing the roof off its revenue estimates. The reason is tax increases Governor Ralph Northam has signed.

Secretary of Finance Aubrey Layne recently reviewed the July through September 2020 results with state legislators, offering his standard slide presentation. Compared to the year before – before COVID — the state’s total General Fund revenue was up 9.9%, sales tax revenue was up 7.5%, corporate income tax receipts up 36% and estimated individual tax payments (those not withheld from paychecks) up 59%.

Now more tax increases are being proposed for the 2021 General Assembly. The Transportation and Climate Initiative in particular is a new carbon tax on gasoline and diesel. The proposal to restore a state inheritance tax on large estates is back. Virginia’s leading progressive group is actually hiring a “revenue campaign manager” to lead the 2021 and 2022 fight “to secure expanded progressive revenue options.” The tax changes already in place will see our revenue “progress” quickly.

In the early days of the COVID pandemic, just as the ink dried on a new state budget, Northam and Layne wisely assumed a major drop in revenue and froze large parts of the budget. The adjusted forecast for the fiscal year that began July 1 was based on a projected drop in revenue from last year of 1.8%. So far, the opposite has happened.

Yes, Northam was less strict in shutting down the state’s economy than some of his fellow governors and Virginia’s economic sugar daddy – Uncle Sam – has kept paychecks and contracts flowing. But three tax increases passed and signed in 2019 and 2020 have made the biggest difference.

Federal Conformity: Two years ago, it was clear the federal Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, with its restrictions on tax deductions and other preferences, would create a bonanza of state revenue, perhaps $4.5 billion over six years. These were estimates provided by the state’s own consultants, and the Northam Administration was not interested in giving that back. It conformed Virginia law to the various federal rule changes but made no adjustment to tax rates to compensate.

The 2019 General Assembly authorized a small, one-time tax rebate for individuals, paid out just in time for the 2019 elections. It also tweaked Virginia’s standard deduction. But at best about one-third of the conformity tax harvest was returned to taxpayers, with close to $3 billion over six years retained. You are now seeing that in the various income tax categories.

The General Assembly also voted to impose a wealth tax through what is called the Pease Limitation. That cap on deductions was waived for 2018 and restored in 2019, in time to fatten coffers during the recession. That added to the non-withholding tax growth.

Virginia grabbed every dollar created by conformity to the federal changes on corporate taxes, partly behind the 36% jump in that levy last quarter. The Thomas Jefferson Institute’s 2019 proposal to reduce corporate rates and forestall that received bipartisan dismissal.

Internet Sales Taxes: The 2019 General Assembly expanded Virginia’s sales and use tax to cover most online retail transactions, following a Supreme Court decision involving the retailer Wayfair. The tax policy was sound and also had bipartisan support, and Secretary Layne has been open in attributing the stability and even growth in sales tax revenue to that change. He’s right.

Transportation Taxes: It was the 2020 General Assembly that imposed the transportation tax increases, again in bipartisan votes. The basic statewide fuel tax went up 5 cents a gallon, but in many parts of the state a supplemental regional tax increase added another 7.6 cents. Diesel saw comparable changes, and a new Highway User Fee was imposed to extract revenue from high mileage, electric and hybrid vehicles.

These changes were not enough to overcome the impact of the COVID recession on driving in the spring and summer, but vehicle usage is coming back strong. September 2020’s fuel tax revenue of $96 million was up 19% from the year before. The Wayfair sales tax is also increasing the sales tax dollars dedicated to transportation. Overall 1Q transportation revenue was up 2.3% over the previous year, not down.

Those three were not the only tax hikes of the Northam years. Tobacco, vaping and gaming taxes also rose. They may not be the last of the Northam tax hikes. But those three have kept state government in the black.

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The War on Asians, the Death of Meritocracy, and the Assault on STEM

FAIRFAX COUNTY, Va. — This past weekend (this article originally published October 20), about 100 families, students, alumni and community members Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology stood on the grassy lawn in front of the school and held a symbolic memorial service for the nation’s No. 1 high school.

“Remember the glory of TJ,” said Yuyan Zhou, a Chinese-American alumni mother, as friends stood around her with trophies and medals that symbolized many of the shining moments from the school’s history. “How many of you know that a high school can launch a rocket into space?” she asked, holding a medal around her neck and saying, “I have the medal…Help us preserve that spirit and keep TJ alive!”

They (and I, as a TJ parent) were also grieving something else: a war on Asian Americans by educrats and activists pushing the controversial ideology of critical race theory that is sowing racial discord and division in K-12 school districts around the country. Today, parents and community members launched a Change.org petition to have Fairfax County Superintendent Scott Brabrand and TJ Principal Ann Bonitatibus lose their jobs, following months of behind-the-scenes activities by the two officials supporting the anti-Asian attack on the school’s students and families. Yesterday evening, the Chinese American Parents Association of Fairfax County sent a three-page letter to the Fairfax County Board of Education, opposing the lack of “respect” that Asian Americans have been facing in the debate over TJ admissions.

Since the school’s birth in 1985 as a “Governor’s School,” specializing in science, technology, engineering and math, it had taken the community 35 years to build the school’s reputation as a premier high school. But it took the 12 Democratic members of the Fairfax County School Board only 12 minutes and 11 seconds in the dark of the night on Tuesday, October 6, during an online meeting in the middle of pandemic, to kill the school, eliminating its race-blind, merit-based admissions test.

Ideologues in the dangerous philosophy of critical race theory had just scored a major victory in their war on Asian-Americans. Like bigots and racists in the 20th century targeted Jewish students who secured admission to America’s Ivy League schools, activists are putting a hit on Asian-Americans who defy their thesis that “systemic racism” and “white supremacy” so oppress minorities that they cannot advance.

National War on Asians

This war on Asians is spreading nationally, with schools with large Asian student populations under fire to be decimated. In California, the San Francisco Unified School District is set to vote tonight to replace the merit admissions process to Lowell High School with a lottery. As I write, educrats there a ramming a lottery through a Zoom call, attempting to shame the school’s Asian American parents and students and others opposed to the lottery and blasting the racist “toxic culture” at the school, where Asian American students are 61 percent of the student body — rhetoric identical to the anti-Asian campaign in Virginia. In New York City, parents are facing a campaign to remove the academic test to the city’s selective STEM schools, including Stuyvesant High School and the Bronx High School of Science.

In Massachusetts on Sunday, as families in northern Virginia held their memorial service for TJ, parents, students and community members in the Boston Public Schools system held a protest to oppose a plan proposed last week for a “racial equity planning tool” to eliminate the academic exam to the school district’s three top schools, including the O’Bryant School of Mathematics and Science. Like educarats in San Francisco, northern Virginia and New York City, Boston school officials argue that STEM school’s racial demographics “don’t mirror” the district’s demographics. They note “Asian and white students” are “meeting or exceeding expectations at higher rates” than Black and Hispanic students.

This summer, leaders at the Illinois Math and Science Academy, the state’s No. 1 STEM school, circulated a PowerPoint that reprinted the claim, “Math was never neutral.” They cited critical race theory and the “implicit bias in STEM,” to allege that “white male identity” dominates “what it means to be a scientist,” that “feminine and ethnic identities are not valued” and that mathematics should be called “mathematx,” to “signify a humanizing re-imagination of mathematics free from dominance of Eurocentric and White culture.

Fairfax County, Va., Battlefront

The rhetoric nationwide mirrors the language in Fairfax County, Va., where a small but vocal group of radical TJ alumni activists, espousing ideas of “social justice” and “anti-racism,” have been working with the Fairfax County Superintendent Brabrand, the 12 Democratic members of the local school board, the Virginia Education Secretary Atif Qarni, state Democratic politicians like Sen. Scott Surovell and TJ Principal Bonitatibus in an organized campaign to not only undermine the school’s selective admissions process but also the very idea of STEM at the school.

They targeted the TJ admissions test — and its successful test takers, so many of them Asian — to achieve the unconstitutional goal of “race balancing,” a form of social engineering based on race. The Pacific Legal Foundation, which battles civil rights issues nationwide, issued a stern warning that school board officials were acting unconstitutionally — with bigotry.

How does this war on Asian-Americans play out? With months of building a narrative of Asian students as doping illegally for tests, as the Education Secretary alleged, and then questionable parliamentary shenanigans.

12 Minutes, 11 Seconds of Shenanigans

On the night of October 6, Superintendent Scott Brabrand and his staff presented a “merit lottery” proposal to overhaul TJ admissions. Principal Bonitatibus said she would recruit a diversity of TJ students by going to “barbershops,” “cultural street fairs,” “soccer games” and “Special Olympics,” where the inspiring athletes qualify because they have intellectual disabilities.

As a tick-tock of the transcript of the “work session” reveals, School Board Chair Ricardy Anderson, a former principal and teacher, interrupted the start of follow-up questions, known as “go-backs,” to capture a “pulse of the board” on the question of “the assessment.”

The TJ “assessment” is a Quant-Q math and logic test and ACT Aspire Reading and Science test, an objective measure for identifying northern Virginia’s most advanced students in math and science. Over the next minutes, she benignly said she wanted to get a “consensus” and a “concurrence” to upend the TJ merit-based admissions test.

TJ parents watched at home, stunned. They had filed an ethics complaint against Anderson for speaking two days earlier at a protest by 15 people from a lobbying group, TJ Alumni Action Group, rallying to nix the text. “I speak for the board,” Anderson had shouted into a microphone, to cheers, saying that the board members believed in immediate action “now,” in an “imperative” moment.

In a YouTube video, I captured the the ethical lapse that happened two days before the “work session” and the highlights of the parliamentary high jinx. (The full video of the meeting is visible in the official Fairfax County Public Schools video, with the death knell to TJ starting at 2 hours and 37 minutes into the meeting.)


Anderson asked fellow board members to “please lower their hands,” so she could get the “pulse of the board,” “some feedback to the superintendent,” some “consensus taking” on the “assessment” to TJ.

Board members responded, saying they were “confused.”

Was she talking about the TJ “test?” asked a board member.

The TJ admissions director weighed in that there was actually a “battery” of tests.

Board member Megan McLaughlin wanted to “bring clarity” on the vote, and she asked if this was “for this year” and wasn’t a “long-term decision.”

“Are we talking about forever and ever?” she asked.

Anderson handed the baton to board member Karen Keys-Gamarra, speaking about the “Quant-T” and the “barrier” tests.

The tests now had a new name: the “barrier” tests.

McLaughlin said she still felt “uncomfortable.”

Keys-Gamarra said she had circulated some material to the board “that might help.”

It was still chaos.

‘A Little Confused’

“Are we in this moment directing the superintendent? Because I’m a little confused,” said Rachna Sizemore-Hizer, the only Asian American on the board.

No, Anderson insisted, interrupting and saying that she wanted to just help the superintendent: “We’re looking to get consensus, because we want to be able to give him substance of how to move on for Thursday, when he brings the next part of this presentation.”

Anderson kept diminishing what the board was doing, saying, “We’re not necessarily looking to give a direction” to the superintendent.

And then she asked for the vote, but then instructed board members to “lower their hands” because she had some “confounded” some issues, then told them to “raise your hand at this time,” when she wanted to get a vote on “removal of the assessment.”

The votes came in: 12-0. Kill the test.

Parents watching knew what this would mean: the death of TJ.

Sure enough, the next day, the TJ admissions office quietly added a new update to its website, rushing so quickly it misspelt the word “consensus,” stating:

“Based upon the School Board Work Session discussion on October 6, the school board consensus [sic] was that testing (Quant-Q, ACT Aspire Reading and Science) will be eliminated for this year, the application fee will be eliminated and there will be an increase in student enrollment at TJHSST. We do not have a window for the application process at this time.”

The test was gone. The lynchpin of evaluating STEM merit was gone. Instead of asking why school officials had consistently failed to educate Black and Hispanic students so they had high aptitude in math and science, the school board, superintendent and school principal had demonized not just the test but the Asian American students who do well on it.

The next night, Thursday, October 8, at the school board’s regular monthly meeting, parent after parent spoke up to protest the elimination of the test. I was among them, arguing that the elimination of the test represented the death of meritocracy and the death of TJ.

But the fix had long been in. The test was gone.

“It was a snow job in the middle of the night in the middle of a pandemic over videoconferencing,” says one TJ parent. “The Fairfax County school board was judge, jury and executioner to our amazing school.”

The school board and the school superintendent, Brabrand, had ignored our protests. Instead, that Thursday night, the school board struck through the word “merit” in a resolution they rejected anyway related to new public engagement.

For his part, Brabrand, the embattled superintendent, shared on the screen a response he would be sending to Virginia Governor Ralph Northam and Virginia Education Secretary Qarni, with his “diversity plan” for admission to the storied STEM school.

He forgot to include a critical word among the qualifications he’d be seeking from students: “STEM.”

Ten days later, this past Sunday, as students, parents, alumni and community members gathered for their memorial service for TJ, the iconic dome of the school rose high above them. They were mourning a loss but they were not abandoning the battle.

Zhou, the TJ alumni mother who stood before the group with a medal, declared loud and clear to friends: “We must continue to fight for our beloved TJ!”

Asra Q. Nomani, a former Wall Street Journal reporter, is the mother of a Thomas Jefferson High School student. This article was published originally on October 20, 2020 on Substack.

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And the Beat Goes on…

My first post election observations are consistent with my pre-election ones. 

America is a deeply divided country led by a deeply divided dominant generation that is ending its political reign and that the 2024 election will be far more important than this one.

The first All Baby Boomer election was November 7, 2000 and was finally decided over a month later on December 12th with the court case Bush v. Gore. 

Twenty years later, the last All Boomer election could end later today, next week, or in early January being decided by state delegations. 

My prediction was an overtime 269-269 tie. 

“We’ll see” said the Zen master about the final outcome of the POTUS race and many others as the votes get all lawyered up. 

Here are some other observations: (feel free to use in sound bites or Zoom calls later this week. No attribution necessary.)

  1. The Framers should be canonized. Just when this country was headed for violent protests, the republic’s guardrails kept the two drunken bumper car driving political parties on the road. Well done, Mr. Madison. 
  2. Like I have said about Virginia (which makes this statement not only mouthwash level painful for a former House guy but also non-partisan) Thank GOD for the Senate. 
  3. Elections bring out the best and worst in us. Always have and always will. It’s about power. Cable news just always brings out the worst in us. They are only about ratings and money. They’re all awful. I haven’t watched any news since Monday and don’t plan to for a very long time. I have watched Ted Lasso’s first season four times. Highly recommend. 
  4. Journalism is waiting for a life-saving experimental drug or a decision to move into hospice care. Hand me a pillow…
  5. Super Duper Extra Liberal Off the Backboard with a Twist Liberal California voters soundly defeated bringing back Affirmative Action in public employment, contracting, and admissions by 56-44. They also exempted gig companies like Uber and Lyft from a new state labor law with 58% support. Biden won California 65-33.
  6. More than 60% of Florida voters supported a constitutional amendment increasing the minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2026. Trump won Florida. 
  7. Illinois, deep in debt and deeper in corruption (those two are always linked #people), rejected with 55% against a Graduated or “Progressive” Income Tax. Illinois went for Biden 55-45. 
  8. Virginia went 53.7 – 44.43 Biden. Clinton won with 49.75 to Trump’s 44.43. Trump’s Virginia numbers were the exact same. Nothing changed except the higher numbers for Libertarian, Green, and Independent went more against Clinton. This year, those who would have voted a third way held their nose and voted for Biden. Likely the same story will hold up in the battlegrounds. But, hey Virginia is real close to Illinois. Universities bearing state’s name even have the same colors – Blue and Orange. 
  9. Staunton. Did. It. Again. Biden won Virginia 53.7 – 44.43 Trump, 1.56 Libertarian and Write Ins .41. Staunton went 53.66 – 43.94 – 1.9 – .48. That place is scary accurate for Virginia statewide numbers and I’m proud of my hometown’s place as Virginia’s Political Mirror. Previous column on Staunton’s accuracy over the last twelve years. The Queen City is bang on the dot. Every. Time. 
  10. If Biden wins, the 2022 midterms will have the U.S. House likely switch back to the GOP control whose numbers went UP this year and the Senate probably remains in GOP control as well. They could increase their numbers to 55+ if the Biden Administration tries to do what the Biden campaign ran on. See California, Illinois, and Florida above. 
  11. If Trump wins, the U.S House probably sees Democrats get back to 240+ House seats and also control of the Senate as 22 Republican seats need to be defended. 
  12. Republicans found electoral success with the nomination of female and minority candidates. Expect that trend to continue. Hard to call them sexist and racist. Well, it’s harder anyway. 
  13. Virginia Democrats broke that code several cycles ago and are firmly in control of electoral outcomes here. For now. They are making the same mistakes the Virginia GOP did. It’s called being human in the world of politics. 
  14. The two party system is unhealthy for the republic. I suggest diet and exercise with a big supply of probiotics. Stein’s Law “If something cannot go on forever, it will stop.” Expect the two party system to stop by 2024. 
  15. Listen to and/or watch Sonny and Cher’s Beat Goes On and read the lyrics here. 

Here’s the refrain:

And the beat goes on, the beat goes on

Drums keep pounding a rhythm to the brain

La de da de de, la de da de da

Virginia’s 2021 primaries are 215 days away. 

Yeah, the beat goes on….

 

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Richmond to Parents: “You’re on Your Own”

A week after party-line votes killed Republican initiatives to assist parents of school-aged children financially with federal COVID-19 dollars, Governor Ralph Northam proposed sending another $223 million of those dollars to public schools, adding to millions already sent.

There is a major divide in the way Republicans and Democrats view the role of parents in a child’s education. In this age of COVID, parents need bipartisan support. They are not receiving it.

Northam’s proposal sends funds to public schools for testing supplies, personal protective equipment, sanitation supplies and technology for distance learning. While public schools have mostly not been open for in-school classes, they will receive $175 per pupil. Private schools, which mostly have been open, have not been told whether they will receive an equal per-pupil share of the funding to protect the children attending their schools.

The first GOP proposal came from Delegate Kirk Cox, a retired high school social studies teacher. Cox’s budget amendment would have helped parents desperately trying to ensure their child receives an education while the schools are limited by inadequate online programs. Cox proposed taking $100 million from federal COVID funds and allow parents to use them for tutoring services, educational therapies, private online tuition, nationally-normed achievement tests or college admission exams, transportation, technology, or other education consumables.

His proposal died in a straight party-line vote, despite his having first voted to protect public school funding despite pandemic-related enrollment losses. Democrats leading the House of Delegates did not permit debate on his proposal, they just voted no.

Senator Steve Newman offered a similar benefit, raising the figure to $300 million, offered only to public school parents and capped at $500 per child.

Senator Siobhan Dunnavant, an obstetrician who sees plenty of mothers and children, noted she had talked “with women every day who really are on the brink of exhaustion … this is an opportunity for us to fulfill that commitment that we support them in the education of their children.”

The stresses are especially hard on low-income parents. By last month workers with bachelor’s degrees had nearly recovered the jobs lost in spring. But there were still almost 12 percent fewer jobs for those with just a high school diploma and more than 18 percent fewer for those who had dropped out.

State Senator Jen Kiggans, a nurse practitioner who is also a former Navy helicopter pilot and knows something about military families, echoed their concerns: “These guys don’t have a choice, they can’t work virtually, many of them deploy, and many don’t have family in the area so they can’t call their parents to come watch their kids. If both people are in the military, these are people who just have to go to work.”

The GOP proposals offered parents options, allowing them to decide what their family needs to fill in huge gaps left by inadequate online “schooling.” For one family it might be more internet bandwidth. For another, a tutor. For others, books. For a child with disabilities, educational therapies. What is needed most is decided by the parents closest to the needs.

The loss of in-classroom teaching hurts all children but is especially dire for low-income parents unable to afford the resources or the parents of children with disabilities for whom falling further behind without in-school instruction can have tragic consequences. These parents are struggling for their children, in a unique situation that is forcing expenses on them they would not have were schools open.

“For the families, for the children, for the working Mom, for those who are trying to make ends meet in a year where there is unusual financial stress in the home,” said Dunnavant, as the Senate voted the proposal down. “We should not just abandon them.”

Federal COVID-19 funds have been distributed to local governments, to businesses large and small, to those who can’t pay their rent and to those who can’t pay their electric bill.

But the message from Richmond is clear: Parents, you’re on your own.

Chris Braunlich is president of the Thomas Jefferson Institute for Public Policy and a former president of the Virginia State Board of Education. A version of this commentary originally appeared in the October 16, 2020 edition of the Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star.

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Session Makes Economic Recovery Harder

Now that the Virginia General Assembly’s “Cops and COVID” special session is all but finished, will it be easier or harder for the state’s struggling economy to recover in 2021?  It will be harder, probably.

The initial reason Governor Ralph Northam recalled legislators starting August 18 was to review the state budget for COVID recession-related changes. Then a series of confrontations between police and Black Americans added law enforcement and criminal punishment to the agenda.

But the legislators reached far beyond those issues in the 270 pieces of legislation introduced, of which 56 have now passed (many of them duplicates).  The Assembly merely recessed October 16, it did not adjourn, and that will delay the effective date of the various new laws until at least March 1.

What did the legislature do for or to the business climate in Virginia?

It made it much more likely that a local or state inspector will impose a cash fine on any business deemed to be in violation of Northam’s various executive orders related to the pandemic.  Previously only a criminal penalty could be imposed, very unlikely for most violations.  House Bill 5093 will allow that $500 civil penalty instead, which may become quite common.

If some customer thinks you have unfairly raised prices on some scarce product or service (and the shortages we went through in March may repeat), House Bill 5047 adds far more authority for the state to investigate and punish you.  The so-called anti-gouging statute will now apply to manufacturers and distributors, not just retailers.

If you are a residential landlord,  both approved bills and a provision in the new budget will protect your non-paying tenants from eviction, and dictate the terms of re-payment you must accept.  The restrictions are in place until the official emergency ends, probably well into 2021.  Only dwelling units are covered, so any commercial lease is still enforceable by eviction or other legal means.

If you are a creditor of a different kind, any funds which the debtor has received in the form of government COVID-19 relief may not be sought to cover the debt.  House Bill 5068 was one of the few to pass with an emergency clause, so it will go into effect as soon as Northam signs it.  It may not mean much unless another round of stimulus payments is made.

Another aspect of the debt crisis spawned by the pandemic and layoffs involves customers not paying their electricity, natural gas, water, and sewer bills.  That moratorium on disconnections is also extended by language in the budget, and the State Corporation Commission is directed to

raise future bills for everybody to make the utilities whole.  The legislature did commit $100 million from federal COVID funds toward paying down the bad debts, but it won’t be enough.

As with the rental provisions, only residential customers are protected.   No business struggling to pay utility bills is offered protection or relief or extended payments.  But if there are also utility bad debts from businesses, they will also be among those collected by raising rates on remaining customers.

The utilities are the only private businesses the General Assembly acted to protect from bad debts during the recession.

There is a special provision for the state’s largest electricity provider, Dominion Energy Virginia.  It will fully forgive the unpaid bills of certain residential customers as of August 31, restarting the clock for them.  The estimated $78 million that will cost will be recovered next year, in the scheduled utility rate case, by reducing any customer credits due because of excess profits over four years.

Those excess profits were, of course, extracted from both residential and business customers of the utility, and any rebates would have gone to both, as well. Business ratepayers will also be told to pay extra on their bills to repay the utilities their pandemic bad debts next year.  Like residential customers, they face higher utility bills as they seek to rebuild next year.

Certain medical facilities received some protection from lawsuits.  Nothing else that passed the General Assembly and was sent to the Governor made things easier for businesses or employers.  Several such bills were introduced – efforts to limit COVID legal liability for most businesses, to limit taxes on COVID financial assistance received by businesses, and to provide a tax break for landlords who allowed tenants to skip rent.  All those failed, usually without a hearing.

It was almost worse.  Several other proposals which would add huge costs to doing business in Virginia during the pandemic were defeated, but only by a handful of votes.  Advocates for both will be back in January pushing hard for them during the 2021 regular session.

Most of the Assembly’s Democrats were ready to create a presumption that COVID-19 is caught at work, and that employers are thus responsible for health care, leave pay and even disability through the Workers Compensation system.  The bill passed in the House but failed in a Senate committee, mainly because of the expected cost to the government for its own workers.

That was also the fate of legislation mandating paid leave for employees who were dealing with COVID, either their own disease or someone they care for. That was also a Democratic priority, especially within the House. In that case, there is a current federal mandate that businesses could point to, arguing they didn’t need a second and different set of rules.  Expect another full court press in January.

The attitude of the special session toward Virginia’s employers was an extension of that demonstrated during the 2020 regular session, before the pandemic.  At that gathering employer mandates and new employee grievance options proliferated, many subject to state investigations or punished by civil lawsuits.  The balance in Richmond has shifted against businesses and employers, except a favored few.

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