The first week of the General Assembly session was filled with ceremony and change. In the Senate, the second week was filled with time-consuming work for the people of Virginia.
Governor Northam, Lt. Governor Fairfax, and Attorney General Herring were sworn-in on Saturday, during a ceremony where the sun broke through the rain clouds for just long enough to illuminate the podium where they were reciting their respective oaths of office.
Monday evening, Governor Northam addressed a joint session of the House and Senate, detailing his plans and proposals for this year’s session.
Like many of my fellow legislators, I had hoped that the departure of Governor McAuliffe would signal at least some relief from the polarizing partisanship of the last four years. With an eye toward higher office and the early contests in Iowa and New Hampshire for his party’s 2020 presidential nomination, the last year of the McAuliffe Administration had developed the feel of an exploratory campaign committee.
Having served in the General Assembly, first as a senator and then as lieutenant governor, for ten years, there was genuine optimism that Governor Northam would bring a more workmanlike approach to the office.
The Inaugural Address and the Address to the Joint Assembly were both dominated by a legislative wish list of the extreme left of the Democrat party. The word “bipartisanship” only made it into the speech once, around two-thirds of the way through. And when it did appear, it came in the middle of a lengthy plea to fully enact Obamacare in Virginia by adopting its Medicaid expansion scheme.
After a week of ceremonies, the work we’ve been doing considering bills in the Senate continued at a very quick pace. It has to. On the eve of Friday’s deadline for filing bills, Senators had already filed nearly 1,000 pieces of legislation. Based on past history, that number will be even higher after all the bills are submitted.
We had a very productive, if very long meeting this week in the Senate Education and Health Committee, which I chair. Crossover, the day on which the House and Senate must have completed all work on legislation filed by its respective members falls on February 13 this session. That doesn’t allow for a lot of time to consider all the bills that have been filed.
Not only am I hearing about bills and resolutions that were submitted by my fellow senators, I am also busy presenting legislation I filed for their consideration. I’ll have more about these bills in the coming weeks.
This week, we had visitors representing the Concerned Women of America, Lynchburg Community Action, many teachers and the Virginia Citizens Defense League.
If you’re planning to see Virginia’s government in action between now and March 10, please make it a point to stop by our offices in Room E604 of the Pocahontas Building. You can also contact us by writing us at District23@senate.virginia.gov or calling our office at (804) 698-7523.