More Than a Bowl: Virginia's 2018 Legislative Session

Jan 9, 2018

 

Workers move equipment used to construct the inaugural stand for the inauguration of Gov.-elect, Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam, at the Capitol in Richmond, Va., Tuesday, Jan. 9, 2018. Northam will be sworn in on Saturday.
Credit Steve Helber / AP

An infamous bowl has brought more attention than usual to Virginia’s legislative session. In case you want to look beyond the random drawing, we’ve provided this roundup, and preview, of Virginia’s 2018 legislative session.

 

 

Balance of Power

  • As things stand, Republicans have 51 seats and Democrats have 49 in the House of Delegates. Some crazy things would have to happen for that to change, but then again it has been a crazy election season.

  • Shelly Simonds, the Democrat who ran to represent the 94th District in Newport News would have to request a recount in the race she lost when her opponent’s name, Republican David Yancey, was drawn from a bowl. Then she’d have to win that recount. She has until January 16th to decide.

  • In the 28th district a federal court would have to intervene. Democrats have asked for a re-election because of ballot errors. They’ve already lost an initial court ruling, and have now appealed.

Chance for Bipartisanship?

  • Republicans have lost their supermajority in the House of Delegates, meaning governing could require more working across the aisle than in the past.

  • Republican Majority Leader Todd Gilbert has said he expects there to be more bipartisanship and compromise.

  • Republican Speaker Kirk Cox has committed to proportional representation on committees, meaning Democrats could wield greater influence.

Republican Priorities:

  • Creating a conservative budget with no tax increases and refilling Virginia’s rainy day fund

  • Improving business climate by taking a critical look at the state’s regulations

  • Making it easier for people to connect to in-demand jobs through workforce credentials, and college affordability

 

Democratic Priorities:

  • Expanding health insurance to the poor through Medicaid

  • Reducing gun violence by requiring universal background checks and giving localities greater control on banning guns

  • Taking redistricting out of the hands of lawmakers and creating an independent, nonpartisan commission

 

 

 

Things to Keep an Eye On:

  • Budget: Every other year in Virginia is a budget year, and legislative priorities show when it comes to how much money lawmakers put towards agencies. How much will public schools get? Raises for law enforcement? Funding for drug courts?

  • Medicaid: Medicaid is the fastest growing part of Virginia’s budget, it accounts for more than 20-percent of the general fund. Democrat Governor-Elect Ralph Northam says he’s open to reducing costs and looking at ways to make the program more efficient, in addition to expanding. Republicans have said they’re open to more coverage, but that it might look different than what Democrats say they want.

  • Transportation: Metro in Northern Virginia has long been in need of a dedicated stream of money. Governor McAuliffe has proposed tax increases in NoVA specifically for regional transportation. Republicans say they could be on board, but not without reforms to the system.

  • Gun Control: Calling for universal background checks is nothing new from Democrats, but there are other measures that might be ripe for bipartisanship. Those include prohibiting the sale of bump stocks, giving localities more power to ban guns in certain situations, and exempting gun safes from sales tax.  

  • Marijuana: As always, there are Democratically sponsored bills to decriminalize the drug. But this year there’s also a proposal from Republican Senator Tommy Norment eliminating jail time as a punishment for first-offense possession. His bill would also make it easier to expunge possession from someone’s criminal record. This, coming from a Senator who not long ago said Virginia was not ready for a “Rocky Mountain High.”