Yesterday, Feb. 7, 2023, was legislative crossover — the date by which both houses of the General Assembly must have completed work on their own legislation by midnight. Nearly half of the bills introduced will have been defeated by their respective houses, and the remaining bills face the scrutiny of the other legislative body. It is virtually impossible to define simply where the legislature will end up on controversial issues for the 100 House members with two-year terms have very different views on issues than the 40 Senate members with four-year terms and vice versa. This legislative year is complicated by the fact that all 140 seats of the General Assembly are up for election in November and the two houses are controlled by different political parties: Republicans in the House and Democrats in the Senate. For a bill to become a law it must be passed by both houses in identical form.
With all the caveats listed above, I can report that there is a great deal of chaos in the General Assembly this week that is likely to continue until adjournment on Feb. 25. At this point it appears that the gun safety laws that the Democrats put into place two years ago are safe. There have been more than a dozen bills introduced by the Republicans to roll back those safeguards, but the ones introduced in the Senate have been defeated, and the Republican bills that passed the House will be defeated in the Senate. The same is true for the Republican bills passed in the House to roll back the advances in making it easier to vote that the Democrats made while in the majority. The Senate will preserve them by voting them down.
There have been numerous rallies about women’s reproductive rights from both sides of the issue, but the Republican leadership has not been willing to have a vote on abortion-related issues with an election coming up in November and their party with such a slim margin in just one house of the Assembly.
The Governor has played little role in the hard issues, no doubt fearing a backlash that could negatively impact his presidential ambitions. He seems content to pick on school boards about minor issues such as when schools send letters to students who did not qualify for a National Merit Scholarship but were to be commended for taking the test.
Passing revisions to the biennium budget presents major challenges for the House and Senate since the Governor continues to press for tax reductions in the face of huge needs in education and mental health. Likewise the differences between environmentalist and climate change advocates and some of the business community are major and will not be resolved until the end of the session.
I wish I could be more definitive on the final outcome of the legislative session, but I fear that no one will know until the end of the session that is merely weeks away. In the meantime, check on the progress of bills of interest to you at https://legiscan.com/VA