Skip to main content

News / Announcements

2024 Greater Williamsburg Chamber of Commerce Leg. Forum

Karen Siracusa | Published on 1/4/2024

2024 Greater Williamsburg Chamber of Commerce Pre-Session Legislative Forum

The Great Williamsburg Chamber of Commerce’s Pre-Session Legislative Forum was held January 3 from 8am-9am at WRL Theater. Over 100 people registered for the event.

These Virginia General Assembly Senators and Delegates representing the Great Williamsburg area made up the panel: Sen. Ryan McDougle (R), Sen.-elect Danny Diggs (R), Delegate Amanda Batten (R), Delegate A.C. Cordoza (R), and Delegate-elect Chad Green (R).

The 2024 Virginia legislative session will begin January 10.

Based on the Chamber’s legislative priorities, a moderator asked a number of questions. Each Forum member had the opportunity to address any or all questions. The Chamber engages a local company, Access Point Public Affairs, to advocate for the Chamber. The Access team moderated the Forum.

The Chamber’s questions all came from its 2024 priorities (see

  1. Support Improvements to the Education System to Create a Well-Trained, Skilled Workforce
  2. Build Talent Pathways for In Demand Jobs that Include Work Based Learning and Credentialing Opportunities
  3. Improve Literacy Rates Among Virginia Students
  4. Improve Access to Affordable Housing Options to Meet Workforce Needs
  5. Increase Funding and Access to Broadband
  6. Maintain a Business-Friendly Climate and Invest in and Continue to Develop a Safe, Reliable, Efficient, Multimodal Transportation Network

The moderator and panel emphasized how many new members there will be in the General Assembly: of the 40 member Senate, 15 are new members in 2024; of the 100 member House of Delegates, 32 are new members in 2024. The Democrats have majorities in the Senate (21-19) and the House of Delegates (51-49).

The panelists all emphasized

  • The need to reach across the aisle and work in a bi-partisan manner to advance issues where there can be common ground.
  • The Hampton Roads area now has a more powerful legislative voice because its delegates and senators hold a larger share of leadership positions in the General Assembly.
  • Politically, regional concerns and priorities – South Virginia, North Virginia, Southwest Virginia – can be more significant than party affiliation.
  • To achieve a social, economic, public policy, legislators need to affect, alter, and massage the Virginia State Budget.

On the Education priority, panelists mentioned importance of emphasizing and promoting school attendance, school discipline, supporting high-end students as well as low-performance students.  Sen.-elect Diggs acknowledged the financial burden of pre-K childcare on families and that there needs to be more resources allocated to pre-K childcare. Del. Batten noted the bipartisan Virginia Literacy Act  passed in 2022 and Governor’s  All In Virginia plan have allocated funds to help students catch up. 

Little time was spent discussing environmental concerns. Del. A.C. Cordoza opposed any mandated change to move Virginia towards a more fully electrical vehicle transportation system but supports improving the availability of EV charging stations. Sen.-elect Diggs opposed the “California Mandate” …. Del. Batten and Sen. McDougal are concerned that the sewage systems of Alexandria and Richmond pollute the river and bays. They applaud the Governor’s budget for allocated more funds to address this.

On lack of affordable housing, the panel opposed government measures that would mandate a certain amount/percentage of affordable housing; they supported measures that would push local authorities to allow faster builds. Delegate Batten noted that sometimes State government can promote desired outcomes by passing laws that enable local government entities to raise funds for schools and local infrastructure. Del.-elect Green believes the State government should stay out of local zoning issues. But Sen. McDougal believes there should be some consistency throughout Virginia so that building infrastructure can be easier and more efficient.

On Mental/Behavioral Health issues, Sen.-elect Diggs and Del.-elect Green support more funding for staffing and infrastructure.  Sen. McDougle noted there’s a focus on funding for crisis services, but  we also need to fund long term behavioral health care.  Del. Batten feels low pay for behavioral health employees workers causes hiring problems which leads to safety issues for staff.  Generally, the panel recognized the need to improve financing and staffing of county behavioral health services.

The moderator asked the panel how Virginia can bring down the cost of drugs/prescriptions. Sen McDougal was skeptical that State efforts could help. Del. Batten did not think Federal legislation has helped.

The entire panel supports Virginia’s Right to Work law. Such laws limit the power of labor unions. 27 states have such laws which were widely adopted by Southern states in the 1940s and 1950s.  Virginia did so in 1947. Employees in right-to-work states can opt out of union dues and union membership. Employers can more easily terminate employees. Sen. McDougal opposed collective bargaining by government workers.  Del. Green believes if VA lost  Right to Work laws,  we would lose the area's shipbuilding business.

There was a discussion of skilled work force issues. Del. Cordoza wants community colleges to issue degrees that are attached to nationally recognized certificates/certification, particularly in information technology fields. Sen.-elect Diggs would like licensure for various trades to easily cross state lines and be recognized among many states.  Del. Batten would like to see more high school dual enrollment programs - so students may earn college credit while in high school.

The panel supports more funding for broadband access in under-served areas.

On transportation, the panel mentioned support for Rt 64 improvements.

On business community-education partnerships, the panel supports more education that is easily transferable to the job market with only a high school or 2-year college degree. Sen. McDougle feels students who want to learn a trade are as valuable as students who pursue college, but we put too much emphasis on 4 year higher education degrees. 

When asked about key priorities that both sides of the ‘aisle’ can collaborate on, the panel mentioned transportation and education.

The panel endorsed making personal connections with members of the opposing party. Interpersonal relationships can help advance common good.

Follow Us

Serving Williamsburg, James City County, York County

LWV of Williamsburg Area

P O Box 1086

Williamsburg, VA 23187-1086
[501(c)(4) organization]