The General Assembly convened in session last Wednesday, January 9th. This is the short session and is scheduled to run for 45 days. 2019 is the 400th anniversary of the Virginia General Assembly. They first convened in 1619 as the House of Burgesses and have been meeting regularly ever since.
Things move very quickly during session, especially during the short session. We will have to deal with thousands of pieces of legislation and budget amendments in just a few weeks. If you would like to come down for a visit during session, please let me know and I would be happy to schedule a tour.
State of the Commonwealth
As is tradition Governor Northam gave his state of the Commonwealth speech addressing the members of the General Assembly during a joint session last Wednesday night as well. This is where the Governor lays out his legislative agenda for the session.
This years speech was delivered with a slightly less partisan tone than last year. We oppose some of the ideas and proposals he talked about, but there may also some areas where we can find common ground.
One of the Governors priorities is a $1.2 Billion middle-class tax increase built into the his budget. I believe we should prioritize tax relief instead of increased spending. The contrast is clear: the governor wants to collect higher taxes to spend it, instead I want to leave that money in the pockets of hard-working Virginians.
House Leadership put forward a tax relief proposal to allow people to keep their itemized deductions regardless of how they file their federal taxes and increase the standard deduction. For a family that takes the standard deduction, we would provide $115 in tax relief. For a family that itemizes, we would prevent a tax increase as high as $800 or more, depending on how much they make.
Another area where I am concerned about the direction of the governor is on public safety. He mentioned in his speech tonight that Virginia’s recidivism rate was one of the lowest in the country, just before proposing big changes in criminal law. This fits an emerging pattern that suggests Democrats are going to seek fundamental changes to a criminal justice system that has made Virginia one of the safest states in the nation.
We may be able to find common ground on issues like economic development, the tech-talent pipeline, and higher education affordability. Speaker Cox has laid out a vision to bring the state, our colleges and universities, and the business community together to promote internships in high-demand fields, make college more affordable, and align curriculum to the needs of our economy.
We are also prioritizing two-dozen recommendations from the House Select Committee on School Safety. House Leadership has led the effort this year to find innovative ways to keep our children safe. We are hopeful that we can find common ground with the governor on that.
We have also talked about improving healthcare affordability. We have innovative ideas to empower consumers, create more health insurance options, and lower barriers to competition in healthcare. We hope the governor will work with us on those proposals this year.