One week is all that remains between now and adjournment sine die of the 2020 Session. We are scheduled to adjourn on Saturday, March 7 by midnight. We have accomplished a lot this session, and I guess history will judge the effectiveness of our work. [Read more…]
We are now past the midpoint of the 2020 General Assembly Session. Crossover — the day when the Senate must complete work on all Senate Bills and the House on all House Bills — occurred this past Tuesday. The bills then cross over to the other chamber for consideration. The Senate will spend the remainder of the session considering legislation passed by the House of Delegates.
Crossover day in the Senate was extraordinary. [Read more…]
The first full work week of the 2020 General Assembly, the week beginning January 13, has fulfilled its promise of being hectic, frustrating and productive.
The 2020 Session has of course seen new majorities. In the Senate, where Democrats and Republicans have traded the majority several times over the past 12 years, work proceeds. Redistricting and demographic change meant that this Democratic majority is significantly different than past ones. [Read more…]
Only one week remains of the 2019 Session the General Assembly. Bills are being heard and meeting their fates at an ever quicker pace. Multiple meetings are scheduled at the same time. Legislators, staff, interested citizens, and lobbyists are all running around trying to protect their turf or see that their interests are being met.
This past week, any legislation dealing with revenues had to be considered by both houses and put into conference if the two chambers had any disagreement over the language of the bills. Conference committees generally are made up of three senators and three delegates. The most significant conference committee appointed every year is on the budget. Seven members of each chamber achieve that coveted assignment. Unlike past years, broad agreement exists already on key elements of the budget. Over $900 million of the surplus will be returned to citizens over the biennium through larger tax returns and in a one-time payment later this year.
Even with the rebates, this budget invests considerable new money into a number of priorities. The budget will include a 5% pay increase for teachers and significant expenditures on mental health services. The full funding of the earned income tax credit, as the Governor proposed, is no longer under consideration. That proposal would have helped those who struggle the most financially. [Read more…]
The first full week of the General Assembly is now under our belts. A few significant bills have reached the floor, but most are awaiting action in committee. The committees are running full bore. Visitors from around the Commonwealth fill the halls trying to meet their legislators and talk about issues of concern to them, but often legislators are running from commitment to commitment. The constitutional limit on the session does not allow for breaks.
Under Virginia’s Constitution, the General Assembly meets for 60 days in even-numbered years and 30 days in odd years. The sessions can be extended by a 2/3 vote of the General Assembly; traditionally the short session is extended to 46 days. The daily count includes weekends, holidays, snow days and every day until we adjourn. In Virginia, odd years are election years, which can drive the introduction of more bills. While we do not typically work on weekends, we do not stop for holidays or bad weather. This can present real challenges during these winter months. Some legislators may have difficulty getting back to Richmond from their districts, or even getting to the Capitol from within the city limits.
The legislature could address this in a number of ways. We could work on weekends, which is not unprecedented. Back in the ’90s, House of Delegates committees met frequently on weekends. Occasionally we held floor sessions on Sundays. This approach would cause some people discomfort but would not require constitutional change, unlike other alternatives. We could simply write into the Constitution that the weekends do not count, which would extend the session out a few weeks. Or we could just extend the session to 60 days every year. Every odd year, we try to cram 60 days’ worth of work into 46 days.
This past week saw the Senate pass legislation on a 26-14 vote to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The bill now moves to the House of Delegates for consideration. All along, I felt this bill would pass the Senate if it came to floor. The real test will be in the House of Delegates. The primary effort will be to get it out of committee, as I expect it has the support of a majority of delegates. [Read more…]