Northern Virginia business leaders are flexing their muscles in this pivotal election year, rating all local legislators on how they stand on taxes, transportation, growth, health, technology and other issues near and dear to heart of the Fairfax County Chamber of Commerce.

The chamber, which includes 2,400 member companies with more than 650,000 employees, singled out five Republican delegates as their champions, voting in favor of business all the time, and two Republicans and four Democrats voting the chamber line on taxes, transportation and growth issues.

All 100 seats in the House of Delegates and every spot in the 40-member state Senate will be on the ballot Nov. 2.

The Republican champions with the perfect chamber record included Dels. David B. Albo (Fairfax), Jeannemarie Devolites (Fairfax), Roger J. McClure (Fairfax), James K. "Jay" O'Brien Jr. (Fairfax) and John H. "Jack" Rust Jr. (Fairfax).

The chamber's "Friends of Business" included Republicans Warren E. Barry (Fairfax) and Vincent F. Callahan Jr. (Fairfax), state senator and longtime delegate, respectively. The group's Democratic pals were Sen. Richard L. Saslaw (Fairfax) and Dels. Robert D. Hull (Fairfax), Brian J. Moran (Alexandria) and Linda T. "Toddy" Puller (Fairfax), who is leaving the House to run for the state Senate.

Democrats with the lowest pro-business rankings were several of the leading liberals of the General Assembly, including retiring Sen. Joseph V. Gartlan Jr. (Fairfax), Sen. Mary Margaret Whipple (Arlington) and Del. Gladys B. Keating (Fairfax).

Republicans in Cyperspace

State Republicans made a bit of Internet history the other day, unveiling a Web site devoted exclusively to legislative candidates in the fall elections.

"In the past, we've printed a thick booklet on all our campaigns," said state Sen. J. Randy Forbes (Chesapeake), the state GOP chairman. "This year, we're on the leading edge of campaigning."

The new Web site, www.gopmajority.com, is also accessible from the party's existing site: www.rpv.org.

A Full Saturday

Does Lt. Gov. John H. Hager (R) ever take a day off?

Look at last Saturday, when he had a full-blown, campaign-style swing through south-central Virginia: Petersburg at 8 a.m., next a stop in Hopewell, then on to Dinwiddie County, Wakefield, Smithfield and Surry County Court House.

Hager is waging an extremely energetic campaign for the GOP nomination for governor, which he hopes to capture in 2001.

Government Employees Increase

Virginia's state and local government work force increased more than 20 percent during the last decade in spite of a series of concerted efforts to shrink the public payroll, according to a new study.

The New York-based Center for the Study of the States reported a new high of 455,000 local and state workers, up from 377,500 in 1989, a growth rate that ranked Virginia 21st among 50 states.

Much of the growth was among teachers, who account for 60 percent of all local government employees.

Other data from the University of Virginia showed county and city employees surpassing the state work force, which has been stable in recent years.

U-Va. said that local government employees grew from fewer than 248,000 in 1989 to more than 315,000 this year and that the number of state employees grew from 136,000 to 140,000 during the same period.

Fund-Raising Development

Fairfax lawyer William Thomas, of the land-use law firm of Hazel & Thomas, has invited about 20 people to his office tomorrow morning for a $100-a-plate breakfast fund-raiser for Fairfax Supervisor Penelope A. Gross (D-Mason).

Gross's Republican opponent in November, former supervisor Christine R. Trapnell, criticized the event on two fronts, saying that holding it at the office of a development law firm raises questions and that direct solicitation of people who represent development interests in the county is improper.

Trapnell admits to having accepted developer money but said her circumstances are different because she's not the incumbent.

In his invitation, Thomas praised Gross, who is in her first term, and asked for "a $100 contribution" to her reelection--an amount Trapnell said seemed designed to avoid having to disclose the source. Under state law, candidates must name contributors who give more than $100.

Gross defended the fund-raiser, saying people who give to her campaign understand they will not get special treatment in return.

Thomas said the $100 amount was not intended to get around reporting rules: "That couldn't be farther from the truth." He also said he practices little land-use law in Fairfax, though he acknowledged that other lawyers in his firm do considerable work there.

As of July 15, Gross was ahead in the money race, with $43,049.64 on hand to Trapnell's $37,770.52.

High-Tech Certificate

Looking to turn that low-tech liberal arts degree into a high-tech, and hopefully high-paying, job? The University of Virginia can help.

Starting this September, U-Va. will offer an Information Technology Certificate at its Northern Virginia Center in Falls Church. The certificate is a seven-course, 19-credit program that introduces "concepts, terminology, business processes and computer applications [needed] to work effectively in a high-tech environment," according to a university news release.

The aim is to turn liberal arts majors into "technically savvy employees" in the fields of systems analysis, information architecture, Web design, technical writing and sales and marketing, customer service, quality assurance and administration. The accelerated program, which will take nine months to complete, is also targeted at workers looking to sharpen their skills for a better job.

An orientation session for the new program will be Aug. 18 at the university center, 7054 Haycock Rd., Falls Church. To reserve a spot, call 703-536-1146. Classes begin the week of Sept. 13.

Staff writers Jay Mathews and Marylou Tousignant and the Associated Press contributed to this report.