New Democratic Leadership
At the end of a whirlwind 2023 election season, Virginians retained the Senate Democratic majority, and delivered Democrats a majority in the House of Delegates, marking the first instance in Virginia since the late 1990s of a fully-Democratic legislature and a Republican Governor.
In the weeks following Election Day, newly-elected and returning Senate Democrats conferred and elected colleagues to serve in leadership positions. We elected the following Senate Democratic Leaders:
As Senate Democrats chose their leadership, House Democrats also moved forward with selecting the leaders of their newly-elected Democratic Majority.
House Democrats elected Minority Leader Don Scott (Portsmouth) to serve as the 58th Speaker of the Virginia House of Delegates, and the first African-American to serve in the role in the General Assembly’s 405-year history.
House Democrats also reelected my fellow-Alexandrian Delegate Charniele Herring as House Majority Leader, a role in which she previously served from 2020-2021.
Delegate Kathy Tran (Fairfax) was elected to serve as House Caucus Chair. Congratulations to these Democratic leaders.
I look forward to working alongside them.
This Election Day, I was humbled by the support of the voters of the 39th Senate District who reelected me with more than 78 percent of the vote.
Thank you for the honor of representing you in the State Senate. I’ve worked hard to get results for our community’s progressive values, including protecting access to reproductive health care, safeguarding tenants from unlawful evictions, investing in our schools, banning guns from state buildings, and passing protections for LGBTQ+ Virginians.
But there’s more work to do, and I’m up for the fight.
Two weeks ago, I was proud to endorse Congresswoman Abigail Spanberger’s campaign for Virginia Governor. She’s proven she can bring people together to get results for Virginia, which she will do for us as our next Governor. With her in the Governor’s Office, we’ll get to work preventing gun violence, protecting access to reproductive health care, and delivering on the promise of equality for all Virginians.
Lastly, I would like to give special thanks to Alexandria Mayor Justin Wilson, who has served Alexandria for years as an unqualified progressive champion, councilman and mayor. His tireless work has made the city a better place to live, work, and enjoy life. I wish him all of the best in his future professional endeavors.
SENATE GENERAL LAWS AND TECHNOLOGY COMMITTEE
In addition to being elected Vice Chair of the Senate Democratic Caucus, I was pleased to be selected by my colleagues to continue my service as Chairman of the influential Senate Committee on General Laws and Technology. I look forward to continuing my work pursuing solutions for all Virginians, particularly in the areas of affordable housing, renter’s rights, consumer protection and emerging technologies.
VIRGINIA'S BUDGET OUTLOOK
Last month, the Senate Finance and Appropriations Committee held its annual meeting - located this year in Tysons Corner, Virginia. Every mid-November, the committee holds an annual meeting outside of Richmond, where committee staff and economists provide presentations to committee members on the budget process, Virginia's economic outlook, and the major issues that are expected to demand much of the committee’s time in the coming legislative session.
To mitigate the risk of an unanticipated revenue loss, the staff of the Senate Finance Committee – like the Governor’s Joint Advisory Board of Economists – recommend that the next state budget assume a mild recession over the next year. A soft landing may be possible, however. Recent economic performance continues to push any slowdown further out in the calendar.
An economic slowdown could create a tenuous situation for Virginia’s budget, and would be exacerbated by the additional proposals for tax cuts expected from Governor Youngkin and Republicans. As the nonpartisan staff director of Senate Finance told members, including myself, last month: “Recent increases to the standard deduction have reduced individual income tax revenue, the primary GF [general fund revenue] source, and staff would caution against further changes without adjusting spending or increasing other revenue sources.”
Unfortunately, what this means is – if the economy turns bad – the General Assembly may be forced to cut spending just to afford certain ongoing programs that we have previously funded. To establish significant – and new – programs, or to further reduce revenues, the General Assembly would be forced to make even deeper budget cuts, or raise revenue.
For the reasons outlined, the upcoming budget is not the time to pursue additional tax cuts that would further erode revenue for public safety, public education, health programs, and much more.
Governor Youngkin has directed state agencies to propose budget cuts, which will likely be included in the governor's budget that he proposes to legislators on December 20th.
As a returning member of the Senate Finance and Appropriations Committee, I will scrutinize the Youngkin Budget and do everything I can to protect investments in Virginia’s people. In particular, I will look to defend – and increase where possible – Virginia’s investments in affordable housing, Metro, mental health, and public education.
2024 LEGISLATIVE PREVIEW
In preparing for the coming legislative session, Senate Democrats have coalesced around several major priorities, including:
And finally, stripping the discriminatory ban on marriage equality from the Virginia Constitution, and enshrining an affirmative right to marry – which I will be proud to carry in the Senate, and Delegate Mark Sickles (D-Fairfax) will carry in the House.
In addition, I will continue to fight for common-sense gun safety reforms, and push forward on establishing the adult use cannabis recreational market. I will also keep up the fight for more affordable housing and renter’s rights, as well as looking out for the rights of Virginia consumers, particularly in emerging technological fields.
I have represented portions of Alexandria, Arlington, and Fairfax in the Virginia Senate since 2011, and for eight years in the House of Delegates before that. With unprecedented turnover in the General Assembly as a result of retirements and redistricting, I look forward to continuing my service as an experienced progressive leader for Northern Virginia.