The past week of the legislative session has been filled with a sense of urgency as we head into the last scheduled week of session. The House and Senate have been reviewing legislation from the opposite chamber since Wednesday, February 8th. At this juncture, the House of Delegates has passed 142 Senate bills, and the Senate has passed 220 House bills. Next week’s focus will be largely around the budget and identifying items between both chambers that are in need of negotiation.
There is currently a $1 billion gap between the House and Senate budgets. If there is no significant movement within the next week, and the Budget is not completed by Saturday, February 25th, we may go into overtime. This would be accomplished by an extension of session called for by the General Assembly, or if they adjourn, a Special Session called by the Governor. The House budget addresses Governor Youngkin’s tax cut plan of $1 billion, whereas, the Senate budget uses those state funds mainly for K-12 education, higher education and behavioral and mental health services. The House and Senate will have to rectify those differences through a conference process in which they negotiate the final version of the budget that will be sent to the Governor for his action.
This being the last scheduled week of Session, you can expect to receive a full Session wrap-up report next week, unless the Session is extended beyond February 25th. As always, should you have any questions about legislation or actions of the General Assembly, please do not hesitate to reach out.
Below you will find a list of bills that have seen action since Crossover. To view a complete list of bills that impact the retail industry click here.
HB 1517: Virginia Consumer Protection Act; automatic renewal or continuous service offers. Passed the both the House and Senate
Virginia Consumer Protection Act; automatic renewal or continuous service offers; cancellation reminders; prohibited practices. Requires suppliers of automatic renewals or continuous service offers that include a free trial to, within 30 days of the end of any such free trial, notify the consumer of his option to cancel the free trial before the end of the trial period to avoid an obligation to pay for the goods or services. The bill provides that failure to notify a consumer of such option is a violation of the Virginia Consumer Protection Act. The bill also makes it a violation of the Virginia Consumer Protection Act for a supplier to fail to disclose the total cost of a good or service to a consumer, including any mandatory fees or charges, prior to entering into an agreement for the sale of any such good or provision of any such service.
SB 1540: Consumer protection; automatic renewal or continuous service offer to consumer, exemptions. Passed the House (99-Y 0-N)
Consumer protection; automatic renewal or continuous service offer to consumer; exemptions. Exempts extended service contract providers, and their affiliates, regulated by the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and insurers or entities regulated by Title 38.2 (Insurance) from provisions of law governing automatic renewal and continuous service offers to consumers. The bill also amends the definition of "automatic renewal" to mean a plan or arrangement in which a paid subscription or purchasing agreement is automatically renewed at the end of a definite term for a subsequent term of more than one month. Current law does not specify the length of the subsequent renewal term.
Organized Retail Crime
HB 1885: Organized retail theft; establishes as a crime, report, penalty. Reported from Senate Finance (16-Y 0-N)
Organized retail theft; report; penalty. Establishes the crime of organized retail theft that makes it a Class 3 felony for any person to (i) conspire or act in concert with another person to commit simple larceny of retail property from one or more retail mercantile establishments, with a value exceeding $1,000 aggregated over a 90-day period, with the intent to sell such retail property for monetary or other gain, and to take or cause such retail property to be placed in the control of a retail property fence or other person; (ii) receive or possess any retail property that has been obtained by simple larceny from one or more retail mercantile establishments in violation of clause (i) while knowing or having reasonable grounds to believe the property was unlawfully obtained; or (iii) conspire or act in concert with two or more other persons as an organizer, supervisor, financier, leader, or manager to engage for profit in a scheme or course of conduct to effectuate the transfer or sale of property obtained by simple larceny from one or more retail mercantile establishments in violation of either of clause (i) or clause (ii). The bill defines the terms retail mercantile establishment, retail property, and retail property fence. The bill makes it a Class 5 felony for any person to injure property during an act or attempted act of organized retail theft when the value of or damage to the property, memorial, or monument is $1,000 or more. The bill provides that any person convicted of a second larceny offense shall be confined in jail not less than 30 days nor more than 12 months and that for a third or any subsequent offense, he is guilty of a Class 6 felony. The bill also establishes the Organized Retail Crime Fund to be administered by the Attorney General solely for the purposes of awarding grants to attorneys for the Commonwealth and law-enforcement agencies to investigate, indict, and prosecute violations of organized retail theft and associated fraud and property crimes.
HB 1895: Sexual harassment; nondisclosure or confidentiality agreement. Passed the Senate with Substitute (22-Y 18-N) – If House does not accept amendments, then this goes to conference
Nondisclosure or confidentiality agreements; prohibited nondisparagement provisions; claims of sexual harassment. Provides that no employer may require an employee or prospective employee to execute or renew any provision in a nondisclosure or confidentiality agreement, including any provision regarding nondisparagement, that has the purpose or effect of concealing the details of a sexual harassment claim. Any such provision is against public policy and is void and unenforceable.
SB 886: Health care providers and grocery store workers; employers to provide paid sick leave. Failed to report House Commerce and Energy Subcommittee #5 (2-Y 4-N)
Paid sick leave; health care providers and grocery store workers. Requires employers to provide paid sick leave to health care providers and grocery store workers. Under current law, employers are only required to provide paid sick leave to certain home health workers. The bill removes requirements that workers work on average at least 20 hours per week or 90 hours per month to be eligible for paid sick leave. Under the bill, an employee of an employer with fewer than 25 employees is not considered a grocery store worker. The bill provides that certain health care providers may waive their right to accrue and use paid sick leave and provides an exemption for employers of certain other health care providers. The bill requires the Department of Labor and Industry to develop guidelines for retail employers that sell groceries to provide sick leave and to publish such guidelines by December 1, 2023. The provisions of the bill other than the requirement for the Department of Labor and Industry to develop guidelines have a delayed effective date of January 1, 2024.
SB 1040: Employee's social security number; prohibited use by employer, civil penalty. Passed the House (99-Y 0-N).
Employer use of use of employee's social security; prohibited; civil penalty. Prohibits an employer from using an employee's social security number or any derivative thereof as such employee's identification number or including an employee's social security number or any number derived thereof on any identification card or badge, any access card or badge, or any other similar card or badge issued to such employee. The bill imposes a civil penalty of up to $100 for any knowing violation of the prohibition.
SB 1101: Paid family and medical leave program; Virginia Employment Commission required to establish. Laid on the table in the House Commerce and Energy Subcommittee #5 (4-Y 2-N)
Paid family and medical leave program. Requires the Virginia Employment Commission to establish and administer a paid family and medical leave program with benefits beginning January 1, 2026. Under the program, benefits are paid to eligible employees for family and medical leave. Funding for the program is provided through premiums assessed to employers and employees beginning in 2025. The amount of a benefit is 80 percent of the employee's average weekly wage, not to exceed 80 percent of the state weekly wage, which amount is required to be adjusted annually to reflect changes in the statewide average weekly wage. The measure caps the duration of paid leave at 12 weeks in any application year. The bill provides self-employed individuals the option of participating in the program.
SB 1136: Wage or salary history; prohibition on certain inquiries. Laid on the table in the House Commerce and Energy Subcommittee #5 (4-Y 2-N)
Wage or salary history inquiries prohibited; civil penalty. Prohibits a prospective employer from (i) seeking the wage or salary history of a prospective employee; (ii) relying on the wage or salary history of a prospective employee in determining the wages or salary the prospective employee is to be paid upon hire; (iii) relying on the wage or salary history of a prospective employee in considering the prospective employee for employment; (iv) refusing to interview, hire, employ, or promote a prospective employee or otherwise retaliating against a prospective employee for not providing wage or salary history; (v) failing or refusing to provide a prospective employee the wage or salary range for the position for which the prospective employee is applying prior to discussing compensation and at any time upon the prospective employee's request; and (vi) failing to set a wage or salary range in good faith. The bill establishes a cause of action for an aggrieved prospective employee or employee and provides that an employer that violates such prohibitions is liable to the aggrieved prospective employee or employee for statutory damages between $1,000 and $10,000 or actual damages, whichever is greater; reasonable attorney fees and costs; and any other legal and equitable relief as may be appropriate. The bill also provides for civil penalties for violations not to exceed $1,000 for a first violation, $2,000 for a second violation, and $4,000 for a third or subsequent violation.
Sales Tax Increase
SB 1287: Sales and use tax, additional local; taxes to support schools. Laid on the table in House Finance Subcommittee #3 (5-Y 2-N)
Additional local sales and use tax to support schools. Adds Albemarle County and the City of Charlottesville to the list of qualifying localities that, under current law, are authorized to impose an additional local sales and use tax at a rate not to exceed one percent, with the revenue from such tax used only for capital projects for the construction or renovation of schools.
SB 1408: Sales and use tax, local; additional tax authorized in all counties & cities to support schools.
Laid on the table in House Finance Subcommittee #3 (5-Y 2-N)
Additional local sales and use tax to support schools; referendum. Authorizes all counties and cities to impose an additional local sales and use tax at a rate not to exceed one percent with the revenue used only for capital projects for the construction or renovation of schools if such levy is approved in a voter referendum. Under current law, only Charlotte, Gloucester, Halifax, Henry, Mecklenburg, Northampton, Patrick, and Pittsylvania Counties and the City of Danville are authorized to impose such a tax. This bill is a recommendation of the Commission on School Construction and Modernization