The General Assembly returned to Richmond on April 3 for our 2019 reconvened session to consider gubernatorial vetoes and amendments. The governor has 30 days from the adjournment of the regular session to sign, veto, or offer amendments to legislation. The authority of Virginia’s governor to amend legislation is atypical compared to the president and many other governors. This power provides an opportunity to impact policy in a significant way. [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…]
A lot of turmoil has embroiled many of the top officials in Richmond over the past week. Amidst the uncertainty and onslaught of national media, we must focus on the work at hand. We only have until February 23 to act on hundreds of bills and finalize the budget. With crossover behind us, I can report on a number of controversial topics.
We came into the 2019 session with bold ideas to fix Interstate 81. As I’ve said before, I-81 is the economic lifeline of western Virginia. Due in large part to the high volume of truck traffic, drivers cannot rely upon traveling on I-81 in a timely manner. Traffic is often stopped, sometimes for long periods of time, due to accidents. Last year the General Assembly directed the Commonwealth Transportation Board to develop a plan (Interstate 81 Corridor Improvement Plan) to address the problems. While a plan was developed, consensus was not reached. As a result, multiple approaches developed and were put forward by legislators in the corridor. [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 2019 Session of the General Assembly is underway. This is a short session, set to adjourn on the 23rd of February. The Session began with a committee meeting and a speech from the Governor.
Usually it takes several days of preliminary work before the real action begins. This year, however, on the first day of session, the Senate Committee on Privileges and Elections met to consider certain constitutional amendments. Most constitutional amendments simply aim to put a matter on the ballot to let the people decide. Typically I have had no problem putting things on the ballot so the people could have their voices heard. The one notable exception to the rule this year was the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA). The ERA legislation does not require a ballot initiative rather it only requires ratification by the Virginia General Assembly to make the ERA part of the U.S. Constitution.[Read more…]