The 2020 Session of the General Assembly is now past crossover. The Senate and House of Delegates both acted on the budget this week beginning with the release of subcommittee reports on Sunday by the Senate Finance and Appropriations Committee and the House Appropriations Committee. The final two weeks of the session will be spent trying to reconcile the differences between bills that passed, including the budget. [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…]
The 2019 Session has almost reached crossover, the point at which the Senate and House can only consider legislation introduced in the other chamber. While the date falls just past the midpoint of each session, it is considered halftime. The big issues remain unresolved.
Hundreds of bills have been discussed and have met their fates. For example, the ERA does not appear that it will pass although there was talk of resurrecting the legislation in the House. Many of the Governor’s gun safety proposals were rejected in both the House and the Senate. While many more conversations remain on the transportation bills, many of the big issues seem unresolved. The budget remains in the state of flux. [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…]
We are now ending the last full week of the 2018 Session prior to crossover. As explained last week, the Senate and House will have to finish work on bills originating in their own chambers by Tuesday. This has been a week full of contention.
One of the most contentious issues of the session relates to rate setting for utility companies. In 2015, Dominion Power pushed a bill through the legislature which essentially froze part of their rates, disabled the State Corporation Commission from rate-setting reviews for a period of years, and locked in Dominion’s revenues. Dominion argued that action was needed because of the expected financial impacts of adoption of the federal Clean Power Plan. I voted against that bill because I thought it was a bad deal for the ratepayers. Interestingly, one of the “concessions” that Dominion made in that deal to get the Governor’s support and that of some environmentally-minded Democrats was a commitment to produce 500 megawatts of solar energy by 2020. That goal was attained in 2017. As anyone who watches the markets knows, the cost of solar energy is going down and the demand is going up. Hindsight being 20-20, we now know that the “concession” made in 2015 was a low bar. [Read more…]