Kemper Consulting Principal again named to Best Lawyers in America

Norfolk, VA – John-Garrett Kemper, Vice President and Counsel, at Kemper Consulting has been selected by his peers to be included in the 24th Edition of The Best Lawyers in America in the practice area of Government Relations Practice by BestLawyers.com.

The oldest and most respected peer-review publication in the legal profession, Best Lawyers, is widely regarded as a significant honor, conferred on a lawyer by his or her peers. They have, over more than three decades, been respected as an unbiased source of legal referrals anywhere.

Congratulations to John-Garrett on this honor. The team at Kemper Consulting is a widely respected Virginia Government Relations firm with offices in Norfolk and Richmond.

Virginia’s Fiscal Year End Update

On August 26, Governor Terry McAuliffe presented his fiscal year end address to a joint meeting of the General Assembly’s “money committees” (the committees of House Appropriations, House Finance and Senate Finance). As foreshadowed, the revenue news is disappointing. State general fund revenues rose by only 1.7 percent in fiscal year 2016 or $268.9 million short of the adopted forecast of 3.2 percent growth. Coupled with a $10.4 million decrease in transfers, the total FY 2016 shortfall is $279.3 million.

The revised interim forecast of today reduces FY 2017 revenues from 3.2 percent to 1.7 percent for a decrease of $564.4 million, and FY 2018 revenues from 3.9 percent to 3.6 percent for a reduction of $632.7 million. The total 2017-2018 biennial budget shortfall is just under $1.2 billion, but the combined budget shortfall is $1.476 billion (when factoring in the FY 2016 reduction).

Unlike the FY 2014 revenue shortfall that was driven largely by a fall in capital gains earnings, this downturn is driven by lower than expected payroll withholding and state sales tax revenues. These two sources combined account for the lion’s share of the current shortfall.

The good news is in the Commonwealth’s rate of job growth. More than 86,000 jobs were created in FY 2016. After five straight years of job growth hovering at one percent, Virginia saw a 2.3 percent gain last budget year, the strongest rate since FY 2005. And Virginia’s growth is above the national average of 2.0 percent.

While more jobs were created, state tax revenues have not increased. 47.6 percent of the new jobs are considered “low wage” with an average weekly salary range of $267 to $940. Comparatively, 15.1 percent of the new jobs are considered “high wage” with an average weekly salary wage range of $1,514 to $2,087. This wage trend translates to a budget problem.

Since actual FY 2016 revenues were more than one percent below the forecasted estimate, the Governor was required to revise the official 2017-2018 biennial budget revenue estimate. As required, the Commonwealth’s Joint Advisory Board of Economists met on July 15 to discuss the economic outlook, and the Governor’s separate Advisory Council on Revenue Estimates (GACRE) met just last week. Relying on available data, counsel from his budget team and the advisory groups, the Governor chose a “standard forecast” rather than a more pessimistic one. (The difference between the standard and the gloomy estimates is approximately $700 million.)

As a result of the revenue downturn, the Governor announced that the previously authorized FY 2017 state, teacher and state-local employee raises are on hold. This action saves more than $125 million the first year. Additionally, the Governor indicated that up to $378 million is available from the Rainy Day Fund to help shore up FY 2017. These two actions, if adopted by the General Assembly, would address 89 percent of the FY 2017 shortfall.

Moving forward, the Governor will immediately start to identify and implement budget actions. Consequently, state agencies may reduce spending upwards of 15 percent.

Over the next three months, significant revenue milestones will be incorporated into the fall forecasting process culminating with the GACRE review of state revenues through FY 2020. In December, the Governor will unveil an updated revenue forecast and introduce his amended biennial budget. His proposals will suggest implemented savings for the 2017-2018 biennial budget. The General Assembly will convene on January 11, 2017.

Kemper Consulting will continue to keep you apprised of major budget events or actions. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact us.

Kemper Consulting Principal again named to Best Lawyers in America

Norfolk, VA – John-Garrett Kemper, Vice President and Counsel, at Kemper Consulting has been selected by his peers to be included in the 23nd Edition of The Best Lawyers in America in the practice area of Government Relations Practice by BestLawyers.com.

The oldest and most respected peer-review publication in the legal profession, Best Lawyers, is widely regarded as a significant honor, conferred on a lawyer by his or her peers. They have, over more than three decades, been respected as an unbiased source of legal referrals anywhere.

Congratulations to John-Garrett on this honor. The team at Kemper Consulting is a widely respected Virginia Government Relations firm with offices in Norfolk and Richmond.

Kemper Consulting Announces that Former Senator Marty Williams will join the firm as a Senior Affiliated Consultant

Untitled

For Immediate Release
Contact: Marianne Radcliff, 804-649-7945

RICHMOND, VA (December 4, 2015) — Kemper Consulting is pleased to announce that former Senator Marty Williams, President of River City Strategies LLC, has joined the firm as a Senior Affiliated Consultant.

Mr. Williams served in the Virginia Senate for twelve years, chairing the Senate Transportation Committee and the Joint Republican Caucus. Prior to serving in the Virginia Senate, he served on the Newport News City Council where he was Vice Mayor. Currently, Mr. Williams serves as President of River City Strategies LLC, a Richmond based consulting firm specializing in private sector development services. Mr. Williams also currently serves on the Commonwealth Transportation Board.

Mr. Williams will continue in his primary role as President of River City Strategies while providing strategic, targeted assistance to Kemper Consulting and its clients. Mr. Williams will play a similar role as past senior affiliated consultants at Kemper Consulting such as former Delegate Glenn R. Croshaw and former Senator Wiley F. Mitchell.

Kemper Consulting is a full service government relations firm with offices in Hampton Roads and Richmond. Kemper Consulting provides government relations services to Fortune 500 companies, private corporations, large trade associations, and local governments.

Kemper Consulting Named Top Tier Government Relations Firm by US News & World Report

Norfolk, VA – Today Kemper Consulting was again named a top tier government relations firm in the U.S. News & World Report and Best Lawyers “Best Law Firms” 2016 Edition. These two publications have issued the law firm rankings for the sixth consecutive year.

Firms included in the 2016 “Best Law Firms” list are recognized for professional excellence with persistently impressive ratings from clients and peers. Achieving a tiered ranking signals a unique combination of quality law practice and breadth of legal expertise.

“For thirty years, U.S. News has provided consumers with accurate, in-depth information and rankings of a wide range of institutions,” says Tim Smart, Executive Editor of U.S. News & World Report. “Law firms are an integral part of our rankings and a natural accompaniment to the law school rankings.”

The 2016 “Best Law Firms” rankings can be seen in their entirety by visiting www.bestlawyers.com

Kemper Consulting is a full service government relations firm with offices in Hampton Roads and Richmond. Kemper Consulting provides government relations services to Fortune 500 companies, private corporations, large trade associations, and local governments.

Kemper Consulting Named Top Small Lobbying Firm in Virginia

RICHMOND, VA (October 8, 2015) —Southern Political Report Magazine (SPR) has named Kemper Consulting the number one small lobbying firm in Virginia. The SPR rankings are divided into two categories for each state: large law firms and small lobbying firms.

John-Garrett Kemper, Vice-President and Counsel, Kemper Consulting, said, “It is a privilege to be named among the top lobbying firms in the South. This honor is a credit to the hard work and ethics of the entire Kemper Consulting team in both of our Virginia offices.”

Phil Kent, SPR Publisher, said, “Rating top government affairs firms and lobbyists in order of distinction is a thorny enterprise. But The Southern Political Report believes it is a service to our readers to attempt to rank the top government affairs firms and lobbyists who labor diligently in the legislative vineyards. After all, these men and woman shape public policy all over the South. That’s why we regularly talk to various movers-and-shakers in 13 Southern states ‘in the know.’ Some are accomplished lobbyists themselves, or they are the clients big and small that they serve. They know who the best are and, with this issue, now you will know who they are!”

Kemper Consulting is a full service government relations firm with offices in Hampton Roads and Richmond. Kemper Consulting provides government relations services to Fortune 500 companies, private corporations, large trade associations, and local governments.

SPR is a leading political magazine based in Atlanta, GA that compiles lobbyist rankings in all southern states and featured the current rankings in their Summer 2015 issue.

Kemper Consulting Principal Named to Best Lawyers in America

Norfolk, VA – John-Garrett Kemper, Vice President and Counsel, at Kemper Consulting has been selected by his peers to be included in the 22nd Edition of The Best Lawyers in America in the practice area of Government Relations Practice by BestLawyers.com.

The oldest and most respected peer-review publication in the legal profession, Best Lawyers, is widely regarded as a significant honor, conferred on a lawyer by his or her peers. They have, over more than three decades, been respected as an unbiased source of legal referrals anywhere.

Congratulations to John-Garrett on this honor. The team at Kemper Consulting is a widely respected Virginia Government Relations firm with offices in Norfolk and Richmond.

Virginia General Assembly Adjourns Sine Die

This evening the General Assembly adjourned the 2015 session early for the first time in recent memory. While the session overall was fairly uneventful from a headline perspective, a number of significant policy items were addressed.

First, a budget agreement was reached last weekend and passed both chambers yesterday with overwhelmingly bi-partisan majorities. The agreement includes $129.5 million in rainy-day fund pre-payment for FY17, eliminates $11.7 million in fees from the introduced budget, and provides $153.5 million in funding for a comprehensive compensation package for state employees, state police officers, state-supported local employees, teachers, and college faculty.

Second, comprehensive sexual assault reform on college campuses was addressed including mandatory reporting requirements and support services. Schools are required to establish a memorandum of understanding with an unaffiliated sexual assault support service to make sure every victim can get support and advice from an unbiased group. All decisions regarding public safety will be made by a review team and every charge of felony sexual assault will either be released immediately to the police or sent for review to the Commonwealth’s Attorney.

Third, two major transportation reform initiatives, championed by Governor McAuliffe, passed. HB 1887 creates a new formula to allocate transportation dollars, replacing the current $500 million CTB and 40-30-30 formulas, becoming effective in 2020. Some dollars will transition through the new formula starting next year. The new formula allocates 45 percent of transportation construction dollars to a new “state of good repair” program, 27.5 percent to a newly established “high priority” projects program, and 27.5 percent to a highway construction district grant program. HB 1886 requires that a finding of public interest be made before procurement on all projects undertaking pursuant to the PPTA.

Fourth, two bills created a regulatory framework for the operation of Transportation Network Companies (TNC) like Uber and Lyft. While they have been operating in the Commonwealth since last summer, this legislation provides a permanent solution to their ongoing operations.

Fifth, legislation increasing the regulations on family day homes passed both chambers. The bill increases the background screening required of day home care providers plus adds additional barrier crimes to those who are not permitted to provide care. Homes providing care for five or more children, not including children that reside in the home, must be licensed by the Department of Social Services. The bill also requires the department develop additional regulations to implement these safeguards.

Finally, as their last action before adjourning members agreed on a comprehensive ethics reform bill. The annual lobbyist registration fee was increased from $50 to $100. All gifts to elected officials, both tangible and intangible, were capped at $100. Due to the new gift ban, the bill added an exemption for “widely attended events” where at least 25 people have been invited. Last, the Council was given the power to approve travel paid for by certain third parties. In doing so, the Council must consider how the travel relates to the official duties of the requester.

These are just a few of the highlights from the last two months. Members will be returning on April 15th for the reconvened session where they will consider amendments and/or vetoes from the Governor. Lastly, with the members adjourning this evening we are officially in campaign mode. As a reminder, all 140 members of the General Assembly are up for reelection this November and with eight members already announcing they won’t return there is sure to be some turnover.

2015 General Assembly Halftime Report

The 2015 General Assembly Session has just two full weeks left but there have been some big issues on the table so far. Below are the highlights of just a few key areas.

Budget
Just-in-time for the release of the respective House and Senate amendments to the fiscal year 2014-2016 state budget, a new revenue forecast arrived on the desks of the Governor and legislative budget leaders. The revisions provided an additional and welcomed $400 million. Key economic indicators including income tax withholding revenues, corporate tax receipts, income tax refunds, and insurance premiums taxes, suggest that Virginia’s economy may be turning a proverbial corner.

The new dollars allowed both chambers to fund across-the-board salary increases. Although the dollar amounts and timing of some of the increases vary, state employees, including State Troopers and college and university faculty, will receive near term increases. State-local employees, for example sheriffs and regional jails, and teachers may also see near term increases. The budgets also address the problem of salary compression for high-turnover, higher-risk state jobs. In his State of the Commonwealth address on Wednesday, January 14, Governor McAuliffe signaled his willingness to approve salary increases enacted by the General Assembly.

The House and Senate disagree on a several subject areas, including the use of cash or debt for specific capital projects, as well as the level of higher education spending. However and in general, the two sides are not far apart on several significant issues including Rainy Day or reserve fund transfers, accelerated state retirement system payments, mental health spending increases and public education or K-12 adjustments.
Technically, the House and Senate must enter budget negotiations no later than midnight next Wednesday, February 18. In reality, the two sides have been in regular communication about key spending priorities throughout this scheduled short session of 46-days and the respective and prospective budget conferees and their staffs began work this past weekend.

While House-Senate budget conference outcomes rarely are predictable, Kemper Consulting foresees a spending agreement prior to the scheduled Sine Die adjournment date of Saturday, February 28. In other words and unlike last year, conventional wisdom suggests that the General Assembly will not progress to budget “overtime.”

Ethics
In response to the federal conviction of former Governor McDonnell this past year, both the House and Senate have passed major ethics legislation. While similar, the chambers’ proposals are not identical and likely will head to a committee of conference. The House and the Senate:
· Ban gifts over $100 and no longer distinguish between tangible and intangible;
· Create a mechanism for the Ethics Council to pre-approve legislative travel, similar to Congress;
· Include money for the ethics council in their budgets. The House appropriates $500,000 in FY16 and the Senate appropriates $300,000 in FY16;
· Ban gifts from individuals or companies seeking Governor’s Opportunity Fund Grants – economic development grants; and
· Include an event exemption to allow members to attend meetings, conferences and other events without concern of violating the gift ban.
· The House adds immediate family and spouse to the list of people who can’t receive gifts.
· The Senate raises the lobbyist registration fee from $50 to $100.
· The Senate also removes the disclosure forms from being prescribed in the Code, and instead gives the Ethics Council the power to develop the necessary forms.

Transportation
After two legislative sessions with multiple transportation policy changes, the 2015 General Assembly has had fewer bills of note. After crossover relatively few bills have broad impact. Attempts to roll back the changes made last year to increase statewide and regional revenue were thwarted. Two bills of note this session are the administration’s Omnibus Transportation Bill and legislation codifying Public Private Transportation Act (PPTA) reforms. Both are carried by House Appropriations Committee Chairman Chris Jones.

The PPTA reform bill (HB1886) incorporates General Assembly members and others into a steering committee that assesses the risk-reward and determines whether a project is in the public interest at an early stage in the process. The bill assures more transparency and public involvement in the process at various stages. The bill is widely supported and has no notable opposition at this time.

The major transportation legislation of the 2015 Session is the Governor’s Omnibus Transportation Bill (HB 1887.) Its key provisions include providing local governments with transportation funds in a manner that encourages the full funding of projects, addressing repairs and reconstruction of aging bridges and pavements, increasing transit capital funding, and strengthening independence for the Commonwealth Transportation Board (CTB) and its members.

Notably, the legislation replaces the traditional CTB funding formula, which as a result of reduced funding and other factors, has not been operational in the manner that it was originally intended. The new formula is designed to get funds to local governments for approved projects, ensure a state of good repair for structurally deficient bridges and deteriorated interstate and primary pavements and result in a higher degree of transparency by allocating more money through a functioning formula. The new formula allocates 40% for state of good repair purposes, 30% for high priority projects and 30% for Construction District Grants beginning in FY2021.

High priority projects considered for funding will be projects on corridors of statewide or regional significance. Local governments will apply for funds within their district under the Construction District Grant Program.

The bill as introduced provides an additional $50 million to address transit capital needs statewide starting in FY 2017. Those funds are to be transferred from all the remaining modes of transportation including roads, aviation and the ports. The highway funding that was to be transferred has since been adjusted downward in the substitute from $37 million to $27 million reducing the overall total for the time being to $40 million dollars.

Utility Legislation
A. Incumbent Utility Rate Regulation
SB 1349 (Wagner)
SB 1349 would eliminate the current biennial State Corporation Commission (SCC) review of the base electric rates of Virginia’s two dominant utilities, Dominion Virginia Power and Appalachian Power. Currently, the SCC reviews the utilities’ rate structure every two years and, in recent years, the SCC has determined that both utilities have “over-earned” necessitating across the board customer refunds. Under SB 1349, the SCC could not review the utilities until 2020. During this period, base rates (which account for about half of a customer’s bill) would be frozen. The rest of a customer’s bill — including fuel costs; rate adjustment clauses, which pay for specific SCC-approved projects; transmission costs; and taxes — still could increase.

Dominion asserts that, under the requirements of the new EPA Clean Power Plan, it could be forced to close a number of coal-fired power plants, which generate 1/5th of its current Virginia capacity. These plants are currently valued at $2.1 billion and the cost of writing off these plants would be borne by customers through a significant rate hike without the legislation. Further, Dominion asserts that it will immediately file a plan with the SCC to reduce its fuel charge pass through resulting in a 5% decrease in residential bills and a 10% decrease in commercial bills.
– STATUS: PASSED THE SENATE

B. Natural Gas Related Bills
HB 1475 (Ware)/SB 1163 (Saslaw)
The legislation allows Virginia’s certificated natural gas utilities to extend new service to unserved areas of their current certificated territory by using a rate rider system. Under the rider, only those receiving new gas services would pay the additional rider costs and existing customers would not subsidize the expansion of new gas service.
– STATUS: PASSED THE HOUSES OF ORIGIN

SB 1331 (Petersen)
The bill mandates that the SCC assign administrative costs attributable to a natural gas utility’s energy efficiency portfolio across all of the included program components and not to one individual program. Outreach and education costs would be allocated at the program level and not to each individual measure. The effect of these changes is that SCC approval of a broad range of energy efficiency programs will be made easier thus improving the public effectiveness of these programs.
– STATUS: PASSED THE SENATE

C. Interstate Natural Gas Pipelines
HB 1696 (Bell)
The bill provided that public service corporations using eminent domain for new projects are subject to the Virginia FOIA statute.
– STATUS: KILLED IN COMMITTEE

HB 2352 (MARSHALL, D.)
The bill required any new interstate or intrastate pipeline that crosses the state border or more than one county to provide for co-location of broadband fiber optic cable.
– STATUS: KILLED IN COMMITTEE W/ LETTER

SB 1338 (HANGER)
The bill repealed the “right of entry” survey statute for interstate and intrastate natural gas pipeline companies.
– STATUS: KILLED IN COMMITTEE

SB 1166 (HANGER)
The legislation provided that public service corporations using eminent domain for new projects are subject to the Virginia FOIA statute.
– STATUS: KILLED IN COMMITTEE W/ LETTER

SB 1169 (HANGER)
The bill conditioned the “right of entry” provided to natural gas pipeline companies for surveying upon the formal adoption of a resolution by the local governing body endorsing the proposed pipeline.
– STATUS: KILLED IN COMMITTEE

Alcoholic Beverage Control
Just a few years ago the General Assembly rejected proposals to privatize the state’s liquor monopoly. This year, legislative proposals focused on updating or modernizing the state agency’s business and back office operations.

Legislation allowing the processing of license renewals online and allowing online sales has passed both chambers. Additionally both chambers have passed legislation reorganizing or converting the agency overseeing the Commonwealth’s liquor monopoly to an independent authority. As an authority, Alcoholic Beverage Control will have the independence to operate more like a business, increasing annual profits for the state, i.e. putting more money back into the state’s General Fund. Legislation also has passed the House that simplifying the way restaurants calculate their food and mixed beverage ratio. It would lower the existing ratio by six 6 points allowing more flexibility for restaurant owners all over the Commonwealth. Its fate in the Senate is uncertain.

Healthcare
While the 2014 General Assembly Session was dominated by discussions surrounding Medicaid expansion, Medicaid expansion has been little more than an after thought during the 2015 General Assembly Session. The major health care discussion this yea has centered on Certificate of Public Need (COPN) reform and potential deregulation.

This debate has left the health care community somewhat divided. While some health care institutions have pushed for select deregulation, others have opposed all deregulation unless it is comprehensive and thoroughly vetted with all stakeholders. The bill that has passed the House (HB177) and the bill that passed the Senate (SB1283) simply modifies the COPN requirements for non-medical capital projects. It also requires Secretary of Health and Human Resources to convene a workgroup to review the current COPN process and recommend changes. While no significant reforms have been adopted by the General Assembly, this has been the most serious discussion around COPN in several years.

Fred Helm Elected Chairman of the Virginia Lottery Board

Richmond – Today Kemper Consulting Vice President and Counsel, Fred Helm, was elected Chairman of the Virginia Lottery Board. Mr. Helm was appointed by Governor McDonnell in 2014 to a five-year term ending on June 30, 2018.

The Virginia Lottery Board consists of citizens and residents of the Commonwealth. Board members are appointed by and serve at the pleasure of the Governor. And like all Virginia Lottery enthusiasts, the board members strive to keep the Lottery at the top of its game!

Kemper Consulting is a full service government relations firm with offices in Hampton Roads and Richmond. Kemper Consulting provides government relations services to Fortune 500 companies, privates corporations, large trade associations, and local governments.