Preceded by a flurry of negotiations on Rules and reorganization, the House of Delegates convened at noon on Wednesday, January 10, 2018. I was pleased to see a smooth opening to the session, which occurred largely because of advance negotiations and cooperative endeavors designed to reflect the new dynamic in the House. With 51 Republicans and 49 Democrats, cooperation will be more important than ever. Democrats were able to obtain the ability to have recorded votes in subcommittees; something we had pushed for years has become a reality. Beyond that, Democrats and Republicans now have membership on committees proportional to our numbers in the House, with the exception of the Rules Committee (on which I sit). Aside from that, each committee has 22 members; 12 will be Republicans and 10 will be Democrats. In addition, proportionality will now also apply to subcommittees, with the result that Democrats will have more influence on these important bodies than ever before.
State of the Commonwealth Address
The House heard from Gov. Terry McAuliffe in his last address to the joint General Assembly. The McAuliffe legacy is significant, especially in the areas of economic opportunity and jobs. McAuliffe broke all records for new capital investment during his term (more than $20 billion), helped to create 207,000 new jobs, and lowered the unemployment rate from 5.4 percent to 3.7 percent. Personal income rose by 12.3 percent during the McAuliffe years and the Governor was ever present in efforts to bring new businesses to the Commonwealth. We will miss this energetic and inspiring figure in Richmond.
The 73rd Governor and Thousands of New Bills
We are very excited about the inauguration of Dr. Ralph Northam as the 73rd Governor of the Commonwealth of Virginia. Dr. Northam’s experience with the legislature bodes well for the prospects of passing new legislation to help Virginians. Most notable will be efforts to expand Medicaid to 400,000 more Virginians, using federal tax dollars that Virginians have sent to Washington. Because of our failure to expand Medicaid, Virginia has lost $10 billion over the last five years. Now is the time for us to move forward on this important initiative.
In the next several weeks, we will be considering thousands of bills and initiatives. My bill to provide authority to local governments to make decisions about war monuments in their public spaces will be heard in the next two weeks.
Commerce and Labor Committee
In a new development, I was appointed to the Commerce and Labor Committee and therefore will be in the middle of the discussion about how to handle efforts to repeal Dominion’s “rate freeze” bill of several years ago. This could be the most significant legislation of the session, with hundreds of millions of dollars at stake not just for rate payers, but for potential modernization of our grid, weatherization assistance in low income neighborhoods, and the expansion of renewable energy across the state.
Let Your Voice Be Heard
If you have not already done so, please take our Session Survey that was mailed to you. If you do not receive a paper copy to complete and mail back to us, you can take the Constituent Survey online. Your input helps me understand what is significant to you as the 2018 session unfolds.
View the Session Live
It is a pleasure representing the 57th District in the General Assembly. I hope that you will watch the House of Delegates online; this year, you can also view livestream coverage of committee meetings for the first time. If you are in Richmond in January, February, or early March, visit with us in Room E601 of the Pocahontas Building, 900 East Main Street. This is the temporary home of the General Assembly for the next few years as the new General Assembly building is constructed.