Dear Members and Friends,
Let’s talk Public Policy.
The Virginia General Assembly has convened, and lawmaking is in bloom in Richmond. The GA has a different balance and feel, after the startling results of the November election. At this early point things feel more fluid, and we’ve not been shelled by volleys of polarizing bills from either side. In one of the areas Virginia Bio prioritizes - economic development and the innovation and entrepreneurship agenda, there’s a sense of steadiness. VEDP reform has rebuilt the confidence of policymakers, and there are many bills to strengthen that organization. There appears to be agreement that the Governor’s consolidation of functions and organizations under the Secretary of Commerce and Trade is a wise direction. Perhaps the parties are appraising their opponents. Perhaps we are trying to lead the nation to a less confrontational public politics and policy.
In our close watch and work at the GA we are helped greatly by Scott Johnson and the team at First Choice Consulting. We also draw on the expertise of public policy pros among our members, and the public policy staffs at our ally organizations BIO, PhRMA, AdvaMed, MDMA and We Work for Health.
Now for some specifics. Last Friday was the deadline for filing new bills. We’ve combed the 3,000+ bills introduced in House and Senate, and sifted to the ones we may track. On our website you’ll find a table of those and our position to date. Last week was the deadline for budget amendments, and relevant ones also are included on the table.
This Friday, January 25 at 10:30 am, we’ll have a webinar/open call on these bills and issues, and you are all welcome to join and provide your feedback. Scott Johnson and I will lead the discussion, and we’ll look to hear from our members your opinions and priorities.
So far, on the priorities we track year to year, this seems like a level-flight session.
Tax credits have been continued in Governor’s introduced budget at as-is levels, and we’ve seen no budget amendments nor legislation, introduced to reduce or impair them. This includes the refundable R&D Tax credit; the (new) major R&D tax credit; and the Angel investor tax credit. Similarly, funding for the Catalyst (Virginia Bioscience Health Research Corporation) was included in the Governor’s introduced budget at $3.75M/yr. for both years, and no budget amendments nor bills have been introduced to reduce that unique and effective grant program. Nor is there any change to the authority or funding for the GGBRI (Global Genomics and Bioinformatics Research Institute).
The wild card in all funding decisions, however, is the final determination, to be made late in the Session, of the amount of revenue in the budget. Under state law this strictly limits the expenditures. The Governor’s introduced budget includes significant revenue from Medicaid expansion, though it is uncertain that will become law. Moreover, this year projections of revenue based on tax receipts are especially difficult to make because of the significant recent changes in the federal tax law.
The two major new economic development programs created together two years ago, VRIC and GoVirginia, have developed cautiously and retain solid support of the Administration and in the General Assembly. VRIC (Virginia Research Investment Committee) funding is continued at same level, and without significant legislative change, with a mission of accelerating and commercializing research at our research universities. VRIC engaged outside consultants who just delivered a strategic report which suggested sharp changes in the state’s strategy, so look for changes in program priorities and operations to be considered, decided and implemented this Spring. GoVirginia funding remains steady and attention is being directed at how to refine and improve the program, which aims to incentivize local economic development systems to work collaboratively with one another and industry to recruit and grow companies and high paying jobs.
There have been a number of bills introduced to regulate in miscellaneous ways our industry. These are usually unpredictable and unique, and we meet them as they come. Bills we are tracking and speaking to at the GA now include (among many others) proposals: to create a state “right to repair” digital electronic equipment, including medical devices; to legislate state level drug pricing data disclosure; to extend the statute of limitations on personal injury claims arising from drugs, and imposing state level cold chain requirements for prescribed drugs. On our website we keep an updated table of these and other bills we are tracking, sponsors, issues, our position and status in the General Assembly, so that you can stay as informed as you like.
In Washington, a two-year extension of the suspension of the medical device tax was included in the tax package that ended the government shutdown earlier this week. This is great news for our medical device members, and we were happy to add our voice to many hundreds from across the country to remind our Congressional Representatives of the horrible impact of the tax on US innovation and jobs.
For those of you interested in helping up present the case of the industry to our Congressional delegation and their staffs, there will be two opportunities in the coming months, when like minded people from across the US fly in and a coordinated day of lobbying. We and our national ally organizations set up the meetings and provide briefings. Visit our website for how to join me and others from around Virginia and the US on these important days:
AdvaMed Fly-In, February 27-28, for the medical device portion of our industry
BIO Fly-In, April 17-18, centered on the biological and pharmaceutical part of the industry, but extending to innovation and entrepreneurship
Please give me a call with any questions, or if you would like to become more involved