With the elections in November the talk at dinner might soon turn to state politics. In order to join the discussion it might help to learn the terms and acronyms that could well be tossed around. If you don't know what a BPOL is your opinion on other matters might not be taken so seriously. More people are using their computers to follow and analyze things and you might want to build a list of links yourself. Here are some of the more essential acronyms, terms and links.
Business, professional and occupational licensing in the campaigns it will refer to the local taxes on that licensing. The legislature is trying to eliminate that and other local taxes, "M&T" machine and Tool taxes, and "MC" Merchants' Capital taxes. House Joint Resolution 755, should it ever receive Senate approval, would direct various groups to submit a plan for smooth transition to alternative funding options. http://lis.virginia.gov/cgi-bin/legp604.exe?131+ful+HJ755H1
VML and VACo
Notice that the Virginia Municipal League and the Virginia Association of Counties would be directed to help solve the problem. Those two groups represent local governments.
VSBC and VMDC
The other two, the Virginia Small Business Commission and the Virginia Manufacturing Development Commission, are established, selected and appointed by the state government to represent various interests.
The Virginia Municipal League has many other concerns as well as BPOL and you can read about them on their legislative agenda page. http://www.vml.org/LEG/13LegProgram/13VMLLegProBro_web.pdf
Similarly the Virginia Association of Counties has a variety of legislative concerns. http://www.vaco.org/LegislativePublications/LegislativePriorities/LegPriorities13.pdf
You can follow the state commissions on the Virginia Legislature's website. Their work is much more ad hoc and limited in scope. Their findings won't likely be ready till December.
Labor and education
With the first word out of all the candidates campaigns being "jobs" or job related, you might want to link these sites.
The Science, Technology, Engineering and Math coalition is a national organization working with government to promote a systematic approach to education in those fields. The local group working within the Virginia Department of Education can be found here http://www.doe.virginia.gov/instruction/career_technical/career_clusters/sci_tech_eng_math/index.shtml
The National Assessment of Educational Progress maintains statistics on school performance in grades 4, 8 and 12. The site linked here might have a disagreement in number between a subject and a verb that you should perhaps blame on computers. http://nces.ed.gov/nationsreportcard/
Like other groups already listed the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia has a legislative agenda. http://www.schev.edu/Policy/GAsessionIndex.asp
The Virginia Education Association also has web resources regarding its legislative concerns. http://www.veanea.org/home/legislative.htm
A reputable source for economic data is the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This page is very convenient; Bureau of Labor Statistics > Economy at a Glance > Virginia http://www.bls.gov/eag/eag.va.htm
Clicking the little dinosaurs shows some very easy to read graphs.