Now that Governor McDonnell has left office, we are greeted by the bipartisan aspirations of Governor McAuliffe. There are a select number of common goals that have been mentioned time and time again by Governor McAuliffe that I believe are a necessity for good public policy. We as legislators need to focus on growing our economy, improving our children’s schools, safeguarding our environment, promoting healthy families, and protecting public safety.
With the legislative session well underway, there is a lot of work to get done. We are guaranteed a very busy and robust legislative session with no shortage of introduced bills and budget amendments. To name a few, there are over 40 bills on guns and weapons, 5 on women’s reproductive health, and 8 to repeal the hybrid car tax. Once again, several bills to make “technical adjustments” in Senate districts are before the legislature.
Mental health reform is a top priority for this session. In addition to funding, look for an extension of emergency custodial times as well as a more comprehensive system for identifying appropriate beds and placement.
One highlight of the week was the reporting of SB16 from committee, a bill that will allow for Virginians 65 and older to vote absentee without any excuse. Given the legislature’s recent history with attempts to erode voting rights, this is a significant step in the right direction. The bill is now on the Senate floor where it will be voted on by the entire chamber.
The Senate is currently composed of 20 Republicans and 18 Democrats due to the election of Lieutenant Governor Ralph Northam and Attorney General Mark Herring. On January 7th, Lynwood Lewis was elected to fill the seat of Lieutenant Governor Ralph Northam. However, this race has gone into a recount. Next Tuesday, January 21st, there will be a special election to fill Attorney General Mark Herring’s Senate Seat. We are working hard to ensure a Democratic victory so that the Senate remains 20-20 with Ralph Northam having the tie breaking vote.
I will continue to lead the fight for more balanced government and continued fiscal responsibility. Thank you for your continued interest and support of my leadership efforts. During the General Assembly session, you can reach my office online at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 804-698-7535. If you find yourself in Richmond during the legislative session, please stop by my office in the General Assembly Building located at 9th and Broad Street. We are in Room 613.