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Pro-business legislation

At a meeting over the weekend, the leadership of the Democratic Party of Virginia voted unanimously to endorse the Virginia Green New Deal (VA GND), a far-left package of ideals and policy proposals designed to radically reshape Virginia’s energy sector — and every other facet of life in the Commonwealth.

The party’s leadership committee voted unanimously to endorse the VA GND, the state-level counterpart of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s national policy — best remembered for its emphasis on stopping cow farts.

Nationally, the plan would put the government in charge of virtually every sector of the economy, from energy to how food is grown to what we eat. The Virginia version is modest by comparison, but still horrifyingly huge — a complete redraw of Virginia’s energy, transportation, and agriculture sectors.

Democrats brought the first plank of the VA GND to the floor of the House earlier this year, Del. Sam Rasoul’s HB 1635. It failed miserably. The bill was so radical that Democrats introduced a number of amendments to scale it back on the floor. When Republicans refused to let them water it down, all but 12 Democrats defected and voted against the bill.

The bill would have, as of January 2020, put an end to any fossil fuel exploration in Virginia, any new power plants that use fossil fuels, any new pipelines, collector lines, or even maintenance of certain fossil fuel infrastructure.

It would also have required a full 80 percent of all power to be generated by wind, solar, or renewables by 2028, with 100 percent by 2035. This is yet another example of a split developing inside the Democrat party, as Governor Northam issued an executive order last week with a goal of 30 percent renewable in the same time period.

Even worse, the bill created standing for any resident or organization in the Commonwealth to sue over violations of the clean energy plan the VA GND created.

As of June, electricity in Virginia came primarily from natural gas and nuclear power. Utilities provided 13 times more power from natural gas than they did from renewables. Shutting down those plants would drive electricity prices sky high — and curtail one of the most reliable and plentiful sources of energy, according to the most recent data from the Energy Information Administration.

As drawn, the VA GND does more than overturn Virginia’s existing energy grid. It calls for “large investments” in renewables and job training programs. Roughly 30,000 Virginians are employed in sectors that would be directly impacted.

The plan also calls for an emphasis on “local scale agriculture,” a shift from large, efficient farms to small, farmers-market style operations — driving up the costs of food.

VA GND also calls for “prioritizing equitable, affordable, clean transportation systems” — a clear shift away from funding for roads and highways. Places like Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads would no longer get funding based on congestion relief, but instead for busses and trains.

Instead of fixing our congestion problems, the VA GND would spend more money on projects like The Tide Light Rail system in Hampton Roads — which in 2016 was losing more than $5 for every rider who stepped onto the train.

Last week, the Virginia Chamber of Commerce released their 2019 Legislative Report Card which grades members of the General Assembly on legislation related to key business issues.

The Chamber’s Report Card highlights legislation defeated by Republicans that saved small and large businesses over $17 billion in new costs and protected over 150,000 Virginia jobs.

Legislators were scored on their position for bills that would keep Virginia’s economy strong, such as the creation of the Tech Talent Investment Program, offering more health care choices for consumers, and tax reform.

They received negative marks for bills that would cost Virginia jobs and have an adverse effect on our economic growth and competitiveness.

The average score for House Republicans was 96.8, while the average score for House Democrats was 70.8 — barely above passing. In total, 8 House Democrats were given “F” grades by the Chamber.

I am happy to announce I received a score of 100, an A+ rating, from the Chamber. I believe that supporting businesses, large and small, will only grow our economy and as your delegate I will continue to vote for pro-business legislation.

Del. C. Matthew Fariss represents Buckingham in the Virginia House of Delegates. His email address is DelMFariss@house.virginia.gov.