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Legislators praised for business stances

As far as a business-based legislative watchdog group is concerned, one of Suffolk’s representatives is one of the most effective legislators from the Hampton Roads area and one of the strongest pro-business officials in the state.

Delegate Chris Jones (R-Suffolk) was ranked as the most effective delegate, and second overall, among the 20 Hampton Roads delegates in a scoring released Tuesday by the Virginia Foundation for Research and Economic Education, Inc. (Virginia FREE).

“I am pleased with the ranking, but I do not keep their scores in mind when making my decisions in Richmond,” Jones said Tuesday afternoon. “I have always been pro-business because I understand that if you don’t have jobs, then you do not have prosperity.”

Around since 1988, Virginia FREE is billed as a non-partisan evaluation of incumbents and their votes on issues and bills important to business organizations throughout Virginia.

The rankings released Tuesday are reflective of the votes each delegate and senator made during the most recent legislative session on the bills Virginia FREE determined to be the most important business-related legislation.

Ira Agricola, senior vice president for government affairs for the Hampton Roads Chamber of Commerce, is a volunteer on Virginia FREE’s evaluations committee and said the organization’s scoring is based on business-related legislative targets each session.

“I know that I spend a lot of time meeting physically with each of the members of the area delegation and detailing what is important to our members and the business community,” Agricola said. “It really isn’t a secret of what is important to us.”

“A lot of the topics that are important to us are bright line issues. There’s not much gray area on these topics.”

Another of Suffolk’s legislative delegation, Sen. Fred Quayle (R-Suffolk), also scored well among his legislative colleagues, ranking fourth among the 10 Hampton Roads senators.

“That is pretty much where I end up each year,” Quayle said. “I am pleased with the scoring, but don’t base my votes on how I may or may not score.”

“There are times when I vote with business, but there are other issues that are more important.”

Quayle said Virginia FREE’s scoring is well-respected by legislators as a business indicator.

Agricola added the rankings also have an impact when it comes to campaign financing on re-election bids for senators and delegates.

“We know that business PACs (political action committees) look at these findings in determining which candidates they plan to support,” Agricola said. “It really does reflect who is for business and who is not.”

Local delegate Johnny Joannou, who represents a portion of Suffolk, ranked ninth overall among the 20 Hampton Road delegates.

Senators Louise Lucas (D-Portsmouth) and Mamie Locke (D-Hampton), who each represent a portion of Suffolk, were two of the three lowest scored senatorial candidates.