The General Assembly, the oldest democratically-elected legislative body in the New World, opened on January 11 in Richmond. The eventful day kicked off at 7:00 am with the Commonwealth Prayer Breakfast. According to the event’s website, “For more than a half-century, the Commonwealth Prayer Breakfast has been held on the day when the General Assembly convenes and the Governor delivers the State of the Commonwealth address. It is fitting to start such an important day by acknowledging our dependence on our Creator.
Our nation is divided today in many ways, and we face significant challenges. Yet, through faith there is much that unites us and much to be thankful for. As the new year begins, we look forward to praying with you for wisdom and guidance for our public servant leaders.”
At noon, the General Assembly gaveled into session. That lawmaking body is comprised of two chambers. Virginia, like much of the country, is narrowly-divided politically. The 100-member House of Delegates has a 52-48 GOP majority, while the 40-member State Senate has a 22-18 Democrat majority. In the event of a tie in the Senate, Lieutenant Governor Winsome Sears (R) breaks the tie.
Democrats added their 22nd Senator after they picked up a seat in the Virginia Beach/Norfolk area in a special election on January 10. That election was close, with the Democrat eking out a win with less than a 1% margin over his GOP competitor in a district that Republicans had held for about 25 years. That election was called to find a replacement for Jen Kiggans (R), who formerly represented that seat but won a seat in the US House of Representatives last November.
Governor Glen Youngkin (R) outlined some of his key goals and celebrated some of Virginia’s recent accomplishments in his speech to the General Assembly in the afternoon.
Even though Republicans currently hold the positions of governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general, and House of Delegates Speaker, the Democrat-controlled Senate will likely continue to be a brake on many of the Republicans’ initiatives. Thus, to make legislation, there will need to be areas of compromise.
Striking a negative tone toward bipartisanship, Senate Democrat leader Louise Lucas (D-Portsmouth) had this to say about GOP efforts to cut taxes: “We need to make sure we put money into the pockets of hard-working families and into education. To [expletive] with the governor’s budget proposal.”
In addition to taxes and government spending, other key issues the General Assembly and Governor will deal with in this session include school choice options, educational reforms, abortion, affordable vs. unaffordable energy sources, the definition of marriage in the state constitution, electricity prices, possibly repealing the controversial law that mandates Virginia motorists to abide by emissions standards as set by California bureaucrats, and much more.
Contrary to popular belief, the federal government does not have the biggest impact on citizens’ daily lives. State and local government plays a bigger role.
Here in and around the Roanoke Valley, two key State Senators are Democrat John Edwards and Republican David Suetterlein. Some of the local members in the House of Delegates include Salam “Sam” Rasoul (D-Roanoke City), Chris Head (R-Botetourt/Roanoke Co.), and Joe McNamara (R-Salem/Roanoke Co.), who is the only CPA in the House of Delegates.
All 140 members of the General Assembly will be up for re-election this coming November. Moreover, due to recent redistricting, many of the district lines will be vastly different from what they have been in recent years.
Check The Roanoke Star often for General Assembly updates.