Four Major Progressive Goals Still Advancing

By Steve HanerThe aggressive progressive agenda working its way through the 2024 Virginia General Assembly has lost some steam at the halfway point, but at least four of the major Democratic goals discussed earlier are still advancing.   The two bills which will have the greatest impact on the Virginia economy are the proposed minimum wage increase and a new state-managed employee benefit for workers taking time off under the Family and Medical Leave Act. The two other bills the Democratic majorities in both the Virginia Senate and House of Delegates have now approved are a major expansion of procurement preferences for minority vendors and allowing class actions in civil litigation.  The good news is that several bills stalled on Tuesday, when the first legislative deadline for action passed, including a bill to create a system of local rent controls, a bill to allow more local and state employees to unionize, and a bill to remove exemptions to the statutory cap on cash awards for medical malpractice.   The failure of those bills, however, does not mean the Assembly could not find some way to revive the issues before the planned adjournment in March, and the bills which are still alive still have time to stall — especially if the two chambers passed slightly different versions. There is no conflict in the two versions raising the minimum wage to $13.50 per hour beginning next year, and to $15 per hour as of 2026.  The House has also passed a bill removing the exemptions from minimum wage that once covered farm workers and certain temporary foreign workers.  Beginning in 2027, the minimum wage will begin an annual adjustment up for inflation. This is like the inflation kicker Democrats imposed on Virginia’s gas taxes when they last had full control of state government.  The fiscal impact statement on the minimum wage bills provides some insight into how much this will cost state and local governments, both for their own employees who do not meet the new wage levels and for the cost of contracted work. It does not delve into the costs in the private sector in the form of higher payrolls and lost jobs, and ignores how much additional income tax revenue the state will reap.  No effort was made to counteract that revenue gain by indexing Virginia’s tax brackets, as we proposed.   One state agency with a big bill for higher wages would be the Department of Medical Assistance Services, which pays for personal assistance for many Medicaid patients, in or out of nursing homes. By 2027 it would exceed $300 million in higher wages and by 2030 it would approach $700 million. Half of that would come from federal funds paid from federal taxes, of course.  The fiscal impact statement on the proposed Family and Medical Leave Act wage replacement program is also a key document. The bill which passed the Senate Tuesday is a substitute but does not seem to be much different from the introduced bill.  The House did not act on a similar bill on its side, but that could mean it was merely waiting for the Senate bill.   The federal FMLA dictates employers must allow employees who have a covered event (illness, birth, sick family member) to take 12 weeks off. But there is no pay unless they have accrued leave of their own or the company provides a short-term disability plan, which many do.  This new state program would exempt employers who have such a plan, if (and only if) it provides benefits equal to or greater than mandated by the state.  As the bill is now drafted all employers without a qualified plan of their own, not just those above a certain size, will have to pay into the trust fund for these benefits, which can be claimed once per year, every year, providing workers 80 percent of their pre-leave wage, or 80 percent of the average weekly wage (the average is currently $1,410) in Virginia, whatever is lower.  The tax rate used to do the fiscal impact projection was just under 1% of payroll, half paid by the employer and half deducted from the employee’s pay, just as with the Social Security and Medicare taxes. Will the availability of wage replacement encourage more employees to take FMLA leave or stay out longer than they do now?  That is not a question the FIS delved into, but it is a critically important question.  Nor did it probe the idea that employers with a private plan might opt to drop and go with the state system instead to socialize the cost.  The bill gives the state a year or more to design all this, and that task itself will be a major undertaking, overseen by a board with union representation.    Also ripe with potential unintended consequences is the expansion of the state’s vendor preferences for small, woman-owned and minority-owned businesses, or SWaM. Again, the substitute which has passed the House is much changed from the original bill, but anybody who does business with the state, its universities or local governments should read the bill and the fiscal impact statement Businesses owned by disabled veterans would be added to the list of preferred vendors. A new Division of Procurement Enhancement would be created, and a new Small SWaM Business Enhancement Program created, with a target of 23% of contracts going to SWaM vendors, 42% to small businesses and in some cases 50% of construction subcontracts to preferred vendors. State executive branch agencies and the universities will have additional reporting requirements and will be subject to regular “disparity studies” of their contracting efforts.  According to the impact statement, during fiscal year 2023 the state spent $10 billion through its electronic procurement process on 650,000 purchase orders. This bill is not yet getting the notice it deserves despite the major impact it will have on Virginia contractors.   The final issue from the earlier tracking list still alive in both House and Senate is allowing state courts to entertain civil suits for an entire class of plaintiffs. Virginia is only one of a handful of states not allowing that yet, and our absence from the list also complicates efforts by Virginians to join actions in other states. A worthless fiscal impact statement ducks every single issue of cost, but this is bound to add work for the courts and added liability risks to businesses. Most of these bills, except for the procurement bill, passed on party line or near party line votes. That may make it easier for Governor Glenn Youngkin (R) to contemplate vetoes or amendments to water them down, but so far, the minimum wage is the only one he has spoken about publicly.   First published this morning by the Thomas Jefferson Institute for Public Policy.


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47 responses to “Four Major Progressive Goals Still Advancing”

  1. Stephen Haner Avatar
    Stephen Haner

    My focus is clearly economic and energy issues. The progressive wave has risen to a tsunami in other parts of the Code, like gun control, but others are better suited to discuss that. And the energy bill that has me exercised now is hardly progressive, but a regression to the bad old days of the GA micromanaging energy policy it doesn’t understand. Basically the Rs are passing it. 🙂

  2. LarrytheG Avatar

    Don’t have much of a doubt, these will get swatted down by Youngkin and no way in heck they override.

    Youngkin does have some ability to amend but not clear on how that process works or if any will be “salvageable” by amendment.

    The Founding Fathers knew about divided govt and how legislation would go forward (or not) with divided govt.

    The chance that the GOP could win the Gov and both houses was not at all inconceivable but even without, The GOv still does have some major power and moderating force even if only for one-term.

    Or am I way wrong on this view?

    1. Stephen Haner Avatar
      Stephen Haner

      It will take a majority in both chambers to make any amendment. So at least two Dems in each would have to support (I can’t remember if the LG can vote on those, but I think not.)

    2. Dick Hall-Sizemore Avatar
      Dick Hall-Sizemore

      To expand on Steve’s answer: The governor can propose amendments. If the amendments does not receive a majority affirmative votes in either house, the bill goes back to the governor as it passed and he can then sign it or veto it.

      I think the LG can vote in the case of a tie vote on amendments on any bill other than the budget bill. The wording in Article IV of the state constitution says that only members elected to each house may vote on appropriations. Bill Bolling cited this provision when he declined to break a tie vote when he was LG.

      1. LarrytheG Avatar

        Is it majority vote for veto overrides and amendment concurrence of super majority?

  3. Stephen Haner Avatar
    Stephen Haner

    My focus is clearly economic and energy issues. The progressive wave has risen to a tsunami in other parts of the Code, like gun control, but others are better suited to discuss that. And the energy bill that has me exercised now is hardly progressive, but a regression to the bad old days of the GA micromanaging energy policy it doesn’t understand. Basically the Rs are passing it. 🙁

    1. energyNOW_Fan Avatar
      energyNOW_Fan

      I keep expecting Dems to pay (more) money to people who buy EV’s, but I guess not yet?

      1. Stephen Haner Avatar
        Stephen Haner

        Watch the budget Sunday. A member amendment sought to appropriate $40M.

    2. Matt Adams Avatar

      What are you thoughts on the impact of SB231 on the budget?

        1. Matt Adams Avatar

          Nice caveat “at first”. Nothing like a 33% increase in funding requirements in 5 years.

  4. The affirmative action procurement mandate was re-drafted, squeezing through holes in recent court cases saying affirmative action is unconstitutional. Affirmative action can’t be permanent. So they stuffed in make-believe sunset provisions, periodically kicking the can down the road. Affirmative action must remedy actual, provable, previous discrimination in contracting. There isn’t any in the last 60 years so they substitute statistics. A way of shoehorning in group-grievance. “There are lies, damn lies, and statistics,” said Mark Twain. Creates a massive new affirmative action bureaucracy, inflates the cost of everything Virginia state and city and county governments buy — but in a Presidential election year, with the NAACP behind this bill one wonders what Youngkin will do.

    1. Stephen Haner Avatar
      Stephen Haner

      A similar bill also sailing under the radar is the effort to create a state bureaucracy to set drug prices. The Democrats have an unbounded faith that more and more government is always the answer, and taxpayer A should subsidize taxpayer B. Virginia’s best days are behind her.

      1. LarrytheG Avatar

        re: ” The Democrats have an unbounded faith that more and more government is always the answer,”

        like regulations for abortion, buying birth control, transgender, book bans, highe ed tuition, etc?

        You ought clarify a bit!

        how many bills in the GA from the GOP?

        😉

      2. LarrytheG Avatar

        re: ” The Democrats have an unbounded faith that more and more government is always the answer,”

        like regulations for abortion, buying birth control, transgender, book bans, highe ed tuition, etc?

        You ought clarify a bit!

        how many bills in the GA from the GOP?

        😉

        1. Chrissy Taylor Avatar
          Chrissy Taylor

          As a Transwoman myself, I can honestly say the majority of us are sickened by the Democrats pro-trans nonsense they keep shoving down the average American throats!🤦‍♀️ These Marxist progressives who claim that they speak for us are going to get us all killed! The only thing they’ve accomplished is causing the entire nation to distrust and hate us! 🤦‍♀️ Honestly I believe they want the trans Community to be the new black community…… So they could relive their ’60s civil rights Glory Days via a new demographic. 😒

          1. LarrytheG Avatar

            Interesting. So you pretty much represent the thinking of many or most transgenders?

          2. Chrissy Taylor Avatar
            Chrissy Taylor

            I represent the thinking of most transsexuals…..🤷‍♀️
            “Transgender” is a made-up term by the left so they could include crossdressers, weirdos, and freaks under the trans umbrella. Believe me us real transsexuals have been around for quite a while. But once these transgenders popped up on the scene, they turned everything into a shitshow! And by them doing that it drags all us real trans people down along with them. We’re basically guilty by association! Even though most of us don’t associate with the transgender clowns. 😒

        2. Chrissy Taylor Avatar
          Chrissy Taylor

          As a Transwoman myself, I can honestly say the majority of us are sickened by the Democrats pro-trans nonsense they keep shoving down the average American throats!🤦‍♀️ These Marxist progressives who claim that they speak for us are going to get us all killed! The only thing they’ve accomplished is causing the entire nation to distrust and hate us! 🤦‍♀️ Honestly I believe they want the trans Community to be the new black community…… So they could relive their ’60s civil rights Glory Days via a new demographic. 😒

        3. William O'Keefe Avatar
          William O’Keefe

          Larry, have you ever read the Road to Serfdom? You should. By the way, government action is best when it focuses on causes and not consequences.

          1. LarrytheG Avatar

            Bill, you know who wrote that book, RIght? And what his viewpoints were? He essentially advocated for countries that run like 3rd world countries, right?

          2. William O'Keefe Avatar
            William O’Keefe

            You have either not read it or didn’t understand it. He was drawing attention to the problems caused by an over g0verned society.

          3. LarrytheG Avatar

            I understand his philosophy pretty well. Name countries on earth today that operate according to his philosophy.

            The truth is that countries with many laws and regulations are, in fact, the highest productivity countries and the ones with fewer are much lower productivity.

          4. William O'Keefe Avatar
            William O’Keefe

            Is that why Germany is deindustrializing? You have far too much faith in the administrative state.
            Hayek’s audience was Britain and the best evidence is what happened to its economy when Thatcherism replaced socialism.
            You and I have NO common ground.

          5. LarrytheG Avatar

            I deal with realities BIll. German is not deindustrializing or anything like it. Germany is
            dealing with a competitiveness issue with regard to the cost of the things it produces.
            Central Planning countries are the biggest competitors on world trade , not 3rd world “small govt”
            countries.

          6. William O'Keefe Avatar
            William O’Keefe

            You are wrong about Germany and what is driving the costs that is leading to deindustrialization.

          7. LarrytheG Avatar

            It’s a world economy Bill and the majority of countries that participate in it that do have high GDP per capita
            are countries with central planning. The countries with the least central planning are largely 3rd world
            with atrocious literacy and per capita GDP.

          8. LarrytheG Avatar

            “Centralized planning is inherently undemocratic in Hayek’s view, because it requires “that the will of a small minority be imposed upon the people”.[20] The power of these minorities to act by taking money or property in pursuit of centralized goals, destroys the Rule of Law and individual freedoms.[21]”

            Tell me how we do public roads, Bill.

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Road_to_Serfdom

          9. William O'Keefe Avatar
            William O’Keefe

            Hayek never said that there was no role for government. Public goods are a perfect example of where it has a comparative advantage.

      3. LarrytheG Avatar

        Here’s a question. Is it possible for the govt to spend tax money on something that improves/increases productivity?

        So, for instance, If taxpayers pay for child care, does that increase productivity?

        1. William O'Keefe Avatar
          William O’Keefe

          By your logic and political philosophy there is no problem with the level of our national debt and confiscatory taxation is the solution for all of our problems.
          If you think that China’s centrally controlled economy is how the world should work, you are in a very distinct minority. You can live there but I would never.

  5. Chrissy Taylor Avatar
    Chrissy Taylor

    Well?…..it looks like all the folks who fled New York and moved to Hampton roads recently will now find themselves having to move again! 🙄🤦‍♀️
    This is in NO WAY SUSTAINABLE for the businesses here in the seven cities! Small business out here in this area is already on life support…… And this will do nothing but ring to death bell! 😒
    Looks like Democrats only solution to all of the inflation they caused is to create more inflation by raising wages. 🤦‍♀️ But just wait till California raises minimum wage to $50 an hour! 🤷‍♀️….. There won’t be anybody left in that state to pay taxes! 😒

  6. Chrissy Taylor Avatar
    Chrissy Taylor

    Well?…..it looks like all the folks who fled New York and moved to Hampton roads recently will now find themselves having to move again! 🙄🤦‍♀️
    This is in NO WAY SUSTAINABLE for the businesses here in the seven cities! Small business out here in this area is already on life support…… And this will do nothing but ring to death bell! 😒
    Looks like Democrats only solution to all of the inflation they caused is to create more inflation by raising wages. 🤦‍♀️ But just wait till California raises minimum wage to $50 an hour! 🤷‍♀️….. There won’t be anybody left in that state to pay taxes! 😒

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