Lawmakers crossed the midpoint of the General Assembly session earlier this week. Almost 600 bills in the House and over 500 in the Senate advanced, and only one bill passed both chambers by Feb. 7.
Stephen Farnsworth, director of the University of Mary Washington Center for Leadership and Media Studies, said there will be a delay in the passage of controversial measures. “Even things that passed in one house that are contentious will face problems in the other house, given divided government,” Farnsworth said.
“Hot-button issues” are unlikely to reach the governor’s desk, Farnsworth said, due to the Democratic-majority Senate and Republican-majority House. “The Senate won’t accept abortion restrictions and the House won’t accept gun control,” Farnsworth said. “Key issues are going to be delayed until one party ends up controlling both chambers and the governor’s office.”
The Senate passed a higher percentage of bills than the House. Almost 52% of proposed House bills advanced, and the Senate had an almost 66% success rate. The statistics don’t reflect resolutions, or bills carried over from last session.
Gianni Snidle, communications director for the Virginia Senate Democratic Caucus, said he thinks a lot less legislation will advance this session. “If they’re [House of Delegates] sending bills over that’s ripping freedoms away from LGBTQ people, from women, from Virginians, we’re going to kill those bills here,” Snidle said.
Lawmakers are debating key issues such as reproductive freedoms, gun control, rate regulation and more, Snidle said. “It’s just a flurry of common sense gun control legislation that has gotten out of the Senate and other bills helping Virginia families be able to craft and achieve their American Dream.”
Jeff Ryer, press secretary for the Senate Republican Caucus, said top issues in the second half of the session include crime—courts and penalties—as well as consolidation of workforce development programs. A high profile crime bill addresses organized retail theft, with versions in the House and Senate.
“There’s been a lot of agency bills that have passed out of both chambers, meaning things that that individual government agencies have requested to have passed,” Ryer said. Lawmakers amend the state budget in odd numbered years. The budget is a top priority, including tax cuts and spending initiatives, according to Ryer.
The two chambers will have more time to work on the budget now, as there are fewer bills to pick up after crossover day, Farnsworth said. “That may involve tax cuts, it may involve additional resources devoted to schools. “We’ll have to see where there’s going to be areas of agreement.”
General Assembly 2023 Stats
The legislative scorecard of bills passed is not the only measure of a lawmaker’s effectiveness, according to Farnsworth. “The contents of the legislation usually matter more than the won-loss ranking,” he stated. “A bill that has a tangible, direct benefit to the district or is strongly desired by a key segment of the electorate in the district is the gold standard of legislative effectiveness.”
Capital News Service analyzed some bill stats from the midpoint, using the Legislative Information System spreadsheet. In the House, 31 legislators introduced 15 bills—the most allowed. Del. Robert Bloxom Jr., R-Accomack, advanced the most bills in the House—with 14 of his 15 bills moving to the Senate. Del. Les Adams, R-Pittsylvania, had all of his 13 measures move to the other chamber. Nine delegates were unable to advance any measures, including Dels. Marie March, R-Floyd, and Sally Hudson, D-Charlottesville, who each introduced 15 bills and saw none advance.
Sen. Jeremy McPike, D-Prince William, introduced 32 bills, with an 84% pass rate. Sen. Scott Surovell, D-Fairfax, had the most bills pass out of the Senate; he advanced 28 of his 30 bills. The newly-elected Sen. Aaron Rouse, D-Virginia Beach, was the only senator with a 100% passage rate. He advanced all six bills to the House. Sen. Jennifer McClellan, D-Richmond, passed 18 of her 19 bills. Sen. Amanda Chase, R-Chesterfield, was the only senator who advanced no bills. She introduced 17 bills.
The session is slated to adjourn on Feb. 25 and reconvene for unfinished business on April 12. After that, election season begins in earnest. All 140 General Assembly seats will be up for grabs in November.
By Anna Chen / Capital News Service