(The Center Square) – A Virginia state board voted against a measure Tuesday that would make COVID-19 restrictions on businesses expire in six months and have yet to vote on a measure to make them permanent.
The Virginia Department of Labor and Industry Safety and Health Codes Board is considering language that would make the business regulations permanent, which means they would not expire until the board takes action to repeal them.
Board member Courtney Malveaux proposed an amendment that would set an expiration date in six months and require the board to meet again to decide whether to make the restrictions permanent, extend them longer or sunset the regulations. His amendment failed.
Supporters of the amendment argued the board cannot know how the COVID-19 pandemic will look six months from now, particularly considering the vaccine rollout could ease the dangers of the pandemic.
Board member Tina Hoover said she opposed making the restrictions permanent because of the time it would take to get the board back together to repeal those restrictions if they become unnecessary at a later date. She said she does not understand why the board can’t set an end date and then regroup.
Opponents of the amendment, including the Department of Labor, claimed that they do not believe the board has the authority to extend the expiration of the amendment. They argued the law, as written, only permits them to take no action and allow the restrictions to expire or to make them permanent.
Members of the business community overwhelmingly have opposed to making these restrictions permanent, warning it’s unnecessary and places additional burdens on small businesses.
“It’s unfortunate the board did not reissue an Emergency Temporary Standard so the regulations would end in another six months," Nicole Riley, the Virginia state director of the National Federation of Independent Business, told The Center Square. The NFIB is the largest small business association in the country.
"Our members understand the coronavirus is still here but believe the rules put in place to handle workplace safety should be temporary," Riley said. "As the vaccinations are distributed and we expect an end to the pandemic, it doesn’t make sense to make these burdensome rules permanent.”
Jodi Roth, the director of government relations for the Virginia Retail Association, had similar concerns.
“Small business owners faced intense stress during closures and restrictions and the loss of significant revenue, so now they must focus on their economic recovery, making it a terrible time to burden them with a new, complex and permanent regulation,” Roth said. “The emergency regulation should end as planned when the declared emergency ends in Virginia. We need policymakers to show support for small businesses at this tough time by not making their recovery more difficult.”
A vote on making these restrictions permanent is expected Wednesday.