Thursday, January 21, 2016

2016 Session & State of the Commonwealth

The 2016 General Assembly session is underway.  This year is a long session, lasting 60 days, during which the General Assembly will pass a biennial state budget based largely on the budget proposed by Governor Terry McAuliffe. We will also hold committee meetings and subcommittee meetings to consider more than 1200 bills and have floor votes and debates on several hundred of those.  

State of the Commonwealth 

Governor McAuliffe delivered his third State of the Commonwealth address last Wednesday evening, outlining his plan to expand economic opportunities and move beyond partisan issues to focus on legislative priorities on which we can all agree. 

As I said in the Washington Post article covering the State of the Commonwealth, I absolutely agree with the Governor that we need to concentrate on the things that both parties can find common ground on. The campaigns are over and it is time to get to work on the 2016 Session.
Session Issues & Priorities 

In addition to the budget, which will take up a large part of the Assembly’s time, several other themes have emerged that may present us with opportunities to have a healthy and vigorous debate over what direction the Commonwealth should go.  Many of us want to adopt laws and policies that will bring Virginia into the 21st century, transforming our economy and way of life, and ensuring the Commonwealth is a place that all sorts of Americans can be proud to call home.  

One area of potential friction and fireworks will be how the General Assembly reacts to the recent Supreme Court Decision that made same sex marriage legal in all fifty states, including Virginia.  Some members of the legislature have introduced legislation that presumes that those who would discriminate against Virginians on the basis of their gender identity or their choice to marry someone of the same sex are in fact the real victims, rather than those against whom they seek to discriminate. 

Fortunately, I have been working to reach across party lines to find like-minded members from all over the state to advance the issues and values that we share.  I’m pleased to be able to report that I will have GOP members Chief Co-Patron two of my signature initiatives in 2016. 

Delegate Glenn Davis (R-Virginia Beach) and I will work together on the creation of a Student Loan Debt refinancing authority. 

Another Republican Delegate from Virginia Beach, Scott Taylor, will work with me on my annual effort to add sexual orientation and gender identity to Virginia’s list of protected classes under our state’s fair housing law. 
You can by visiting and finding my name under the General Assembly Members heading. 

Budget amendments 

I submitted a few budget amendments this Session, mostly in response to fiscal impact statements linked to my legislation. However, I also submitted a couple of amendments for important causes like paid sick days for providers of Medicaid home and community-based waiver services and for funding for the Tinner Hill Historic Site to continue its historic preservation work. 
All budget amendments submitted this Session will be available online by noon on Thursday, January 21st.  

Falls Church & McLean Town Hall Meetings 

This past Saturday, I held my Falls Church and McLean Town Hall meetings to discuss the Session and answer questions from the community. Several issues were raised, including raising the minimum wage, bipartisan redistricting, restrictions on TANF, gun violence prevention initiatives, and accountability for VDOT projects. It was great to have so many in attendance and learning of your priorities helps me better represent you!