Last week, the 2017 Virginia General Assembly session began with a call from Governor McAuliffe for us to work across partisan divides in order to help nurture the New Virginia Economy and make the Commonwealth a place that we all want to live in. In the past year we have seen unexpected election results, economic downturn in states that prosecute our LGBT brothers and sisters, and other states that have raised the minimum wage have seen a positive impact on their economies. We can all agree that we need to work to make our economy strong. However, what have we seen in our current Virginia legislative session? Legislation that is distinctly similar to North Carolina’s infamous HB 2 has been filed and once again a woman’s right to choose is under attack. We have seen bills that would basically prohibit localities from providing better broadband access and put guns in the hands of untrained individuals.
As always, my focus is working together to help make sure that we grow Virginia’s economy and make this the kind of place a person wants to live and raise their family. However, I feel that it is important to take the time and stand up against HB 1612 the “Physical Privacy Act,” which is the same type of bathroom bill which is bringing turmoil to North Carolina. Businesses left because this type of legislation gave the message that North Carolina isn’t welcoming to individuals who are different.
What happened because of that message? Simple, It is 2017 and we’re talking about discriminating against a group of individuals. This bathroom bill is a job killer. We saw what happened last year to our neighbors in North Carolina. According to a November estimate by Forbes Magazine, HB2 has cost North Carolina at least $630 million since March. Deutsche Bank, PayPal, the NBA, and the NCAA have withdrawn investments in that state. The tourism industry is a critical to Virginia’s economy, and it is most at risk by this kind of legislation. In 2015, tourists spent $23 billion on transportation, lodging, food, amusement and recreation, as well as retail shopping in Virginia. Our tourism industry is the fifth largest private employer in the state and directly supports 222,000 jobs. Tourists spent $63 million a day in Virginia during 2015, which yielded $1.6 billion in tax revenue. We can’t afford to damage this industry in Alexandria or the Commonwealth.
It is my hope that this legislation will be defeated, though Governor McAuliffe has already signaled his intention to veto it, should it reach his desk. While this type of anti-business legislation has been presented and we are fighting back against it, I am happy to note my colleagues in the House Democratic Caucus have proposed legislation to ease the burden of student loan debt, raise the minimum wage, and I have proposed my own legislation to encourage youth entrepreneurship. All of these are all focused on growing our economy.
Charniele Herring represents Alexandria City’s 46th District in the Virginia General Assembly where she serves as House Minority Caucus chair and on the Courts of Justice and Counties, Cities, and Towns committees. You can follow Delegate Herring online at www.charnieleherring.com.