Division of Legislative Services > Legislative Record > 2010

Small Business Commission

July 19, 2010

The Small Business Commission (Commission) held its first meeting of the interim in Richmond. The Commission elected Senator Reynolds and Delegate Oder as co-chairmen. Presentations made to the Commission can be found on the Commission’s website at http://dls.virginia.gov/business.htm.

Virginia Chamber of Commerce Small Business Committee

Robert Archer, Small Business Committee, Virginia Chamber of Commerce

Mr. Archer began by noting that 55 percent of the membership of the Virginia Chamber of Commerce is classified as small business owners, approximately 97 percent of all firms in Virginia employ 99 or fewer employees, and small companies create between 65 and 75 percent of all new jobs in the Commonwealth.

After a year of developing the structure, purpose, and function of the Small Business Committee, and polling small businesses as to their needs, the Small Business Committee has identified three major recommendations for the Commission and established working groups to fully develop these recommendations. The recommendations include:

  • Restructuring state-funded small business programs to best address the needs of small businesses
  • Developing a series of “access to working capital” seminars to be held around the Commonwealth.
  • Considering a small business risk pool for health insurance.

The Virginia Chamber of Commerce continues to improve its ability to provide information to its members through its website and other social media tools and to establish meaningful contact with members of the new administration.

Virginia Department of Business Assistance

Peter S. Su, VA Dept. of Business Assistance (VDBA)/Assistant Secretary of Commerce and Trade

Mr. Su reported on the activities and identified the current needs of the VDBA. The VDBA has three business program categories:

  • Financing, in the form of the Virginia Small Business Financing Authority.
  • Information, in the form of Business Information Services.
  • Workforce development, in the form of the Virginia Jobs Investment Program.

Mr. Su highlighted the success of the VDBA’s Virginia Business Information Center and the Business One Stop portal as well as new initiatives such as regionally focused seminars and adventure tourism seminars. For fiscal year 2010, the VDBA has provided financing to 80 companies and technical assistance to 1,420 companies and assisted with the creation or retention of 3,784 jobs in the Commonwealth.

Mr. Su identified funding cuts and a lack of flexibility in the use of funds, staffing reductions that impair client support, lack of a marketing budget, and concern about the outcome of the Governor’s Commission on Government Reform and Restructuring as factors having a negative impact on the VDBA. Mr. Su called special attention to the $700,000 balance in the Direct Loan Program and the need for further funds and the need for wider participation in Business One Stop by state agencies.

HB 309/HB 310 (2010)

Delegate John M. O’Bannon and Tyler Craddock, Director of Government Affairs, Virginia Chamber of Commerce

Delegate O’Bannon and Mr. Craddock spoke about HB 309, related to the use of depositions and other documents as the basis of a motion for summary judgment, and HB 310, related to the assignment of court costs based on settlement offer and verdict amounts. The Virginia Chamber of Commerce supports both bills.

Jayne Pemberton, Sands Anderson

Ms. Pemberton, a member of the Virginia Association of Defense Attorneys (VADA), spoke at Delegate O’Bannon’s invitation in favor of both HB 309 and HB 310. In response to questions about HB 310, Ms. Pemberton gave examples of cases where facts admitted during a party deposition that would be sufficient to grant summary judgment would be later denied and the case would continue unnecessarily to trial. It was noted that Virginia was the only state not to have a similar law allowing the use of deposition for motions of summary judgment, and that Virginia was consistently ranked as having conservative, business-friendly torts. Ms. Pemberton explained that HB 310 mirrors federal rules of civil procedure and allows a defendant to make a settlement offer to a plaintiff up to 10 days before trial. If the plaintiff refuses the offer and receives a lower verdict than the settlement offer, the plaintiff must pay all court costs accrued from the time of the offer.

Richard Samet, Florance Gordon Brown

Mr. Samet, a member of VADA, spoke in favor of HB 310. He discussed the fact that Virginia civil procedure does not mirror the federal system while other states’ civil procedure does. A member pointed out that Virginia has adopted comparative fault, considered to be the bedrock of tort reform. In response to questions, Mr. Samet explained that adopting HB 310 would add a currently unavailable element to aid in evaluating the value and reducing the risk in a case.

Joe Owen, Owen and Owens

Mr. Owen, representing the Chesterfield County Chamber of Commerce, spoke in favor of HB 309, asserting that layers of cost could be avoided if depositions were allowed in support of summary judgment.

Steve Pearson, Virginia Trial Lawyers Association

Mr. Pearson spoke in opposition to HB 309 and HB 310, reporting that only three percent of cases result in trials in Virginia. For HB 309, Mr. Pearson stressed the importance of depositions as a discovery tool and predicted that allowing the use of depositions and other documents as the basis for summary judgment would lead to a more aggressive posture in defending depositions. In response to questions, Mr. Pearson stated that the debate on HB 309 could be seen as evaluating a reduced risk of going to trial versus the additional time a judge would take to make an early decision. Mr. Pearson also raised the point that a defendant only makes a settlement offer after admitting liability and conjectured that defendants’ attorneys will engage in gamesmanship. In conclusion, Mr. Pearson pointed out to the Commission that small businesses were often the plaintiffs in cases with big businesses and that HB 309 and HB 310 could affect their access to a fair trial as well.

Work Plan

The Commission decided to form a working group to further deliberate the merits of HB 309 and HB 310.

Next Meeting

The next meeting date will be posted on the Commission’s website and the General Assembly website as soon as information is available.

The Hon. Roscoe Reynolds
The Hon. Glenn Oder

For information, contact:
David Cotter, DLS Staff

Division of Legislative Services > Legislative Record > 2010