ZEV-LEV Legislation, Right-to-Work Debate Likely in 2021 Va. Assembly Session

As the Virginia General Assembly prepares to gather, both in-person and virtually, for its 2021 legislative session, legislators in both chambers have proposed legislation that could impact the buying choices of car consumers in the commonwealth.

Del. David Reid (D-Ashburn) is proposing a bill that would authorize rebates of up to $2,500 for those who purchase new electric vehicles, while allowing additional payments for low-income buyers. Under his proposal, some older EVs and hybrids could qualify as well.

Del. Lamont Bagby (D-Richmond) is also planning to introduce legislation that would compel OEMs to provide Virginia dealerships with more EVs. Advocacy groups have said that neighboring Maryland, with more than 2 million fewer residents, gets a higher level of EV inventory, despite selling fewer cars overall than Virginia.

There is also a question of whether Virginia will sign the regional Transportation and Climate Initiative’s memorandum of understanding that commits to lowering transportation emissions by 30 percent by 2032. Gov. Ralph Northam has been non-committal about signing it, but the General Assembly could force his hand by passing a bill that would force him to either sign it or veto the bill.

Virginia previously joined the 11 other TCI jurisdictions in pledging “continued collaboration and individual actions to equitably reduce air pollution, create healthier communities, and invest in cleaner transportation.” Virginia is, notably, one of the only TCI-participating states that has not fully adopted California’s state emission standards.

Also, another debate over Virginia’s future as a “right-to-work” state could be in the offing. The rule, which forbids unions from requiring membership as a condition of employment (and as such requires unions to provide representation to non-dues paying employees in a bargaining unit), has been in effect since the 1940s.

Gov. Ralph Northam has long said he opposed repeal, both in the state Senate and as governor. Senate Majority Leader Dick Saslaw (D-Springfield) has also been non-committal about repeal, having sought last year to reach a compromise that would keep Virginia’s right-to-work status. That said, there will likely be a strong push for a repeal once again, given the strong support that it has among Democratic legislators in both chambers of the Assembly.

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