Twenty-four little hours
Brought the sun and the flowers
Where there used to be rain
~Dinah Washington, "What a Difference a Day Makes"
The Speaker just gavelled out the 2018 Session and I wanted to give you an update on what happened with some outstanding pieces of business.
Last year at the end of session, I referenced the movie La La Land, highlighting the stark contrast between the hyper-partisan legislative agenda that my Republican colleagues pursued versus the working families-focused legislative agenda that I and my Democratic colleagues championed.
What an incredible difference a year and another election makes.
During the 2018 Session, there was still some contentious legislation, but far less than in previous years. This had a lot to do with the new makeup of the House - we picked up 15 seats last November and several of these pickups replaced conservative members that were well known for their outrageous and headline-grabbing legislation. Having a Democratic Governor with veto power in addition to 49 Democrats in the House doesn't hurt either.
So, 2018 has really been different. My personal bill stats:
- 6 bills through the House of Delegates vs ZERO in 2017
- 5 bills made it through the Senate
- 3 bills had to go to Conference committees but all passed
Nothing earth shattering, but some little things that should make life a little better for some of you, I hope.
I also spoke against HB 715, which would have allowed EMS and firefighters to carry a concealed weapon while on duty. Not only did EMS personnel and firefighters not ask for this bill, but the Virginia Department of Criminal Justices Services, Virginia Association of Fire Chiefs, the Professional Firefighters, Office of Emergency Medical Services, and Virginia Association of Volunteer Rescue Squads opposed the bill. Fortunately, the majority of my colleagues agreed and it was defeated in the House on a vote of 35 to 62.
On a lighter side, my seat-mate, Delegate Bagby, and I hosted the 1st Annual Coffee Awards in which we awarded coffee mugs to winners in 6 specific categories. You can view the whole awards "ceremony" here.
For my own part, I was awarded The Pop Up Award from the other side of the aisle for regularly "popping up" to speak on legislation that wasn't my own.
Unfortunately, the path to reconciling the House and Senate versions of the 2018-202 Biennial Budget remains a long one. Since the Senate version did not contain Medicaid expansion, the differences to be ironed out were large to begin with. It was confirmed yesterday that we wouldn't have a compromise budget to vote on today. Instead, we will return for a special session in a few weeks to vote. As I learn more information about what the compromise will look like, I will share it with you.
Governor's Vetoes and Reconvene Session
While Governor Northam has not vetoed any legislation yet, chances are good that there will be at least a couple of them for the House and Senate to review during the Reconvene Session on April 18th. At that time, we will also address any recommendations that the Governor has made to legislation as well as any amendments he has to the compromise budget.