The General Assembly adjourned Sine Die on Saturday, March 12th after 60 contentious but rewarding days with a number of legislative decisions and the conflicting House and Senate biennial budget proposals still unresolved. The central cause of this delay was the somewhat unearned but unabated inertia of the recent campaign cycle. Governor Youngkin, who won by a margin of only 63,000 votes, one of the narrowest in Virginia’s history, and a House majority that won their seats by a total of less than 500 votes in two districts, entered the session claiming a “mandate” from the voters on their agenda. While the Senate budget prioritizes investing our historic surplus in valuable services, infrastructure, and people while also providing tax relief, the House version is singularly focused on reducing ongoing revenue to these programs for short term tax reductions. This view has moved us away from compromise and towards the partisan disputes which so often lead to roadblocks.
Things are in limbo – however I expect our experienced budget conferees to soon strike a deal, at which point we will be called back for a special session to take up unresolved legislation and pass a final compromise budget. In the meantime, despite much still to be resolved, there are successes to report.
Some of these include the banning of negative dark money ads in political campaigns, an expansion of state funding for free and reduced fare transit programs, and banning abusive juvenile detention “boot camps.” This session we also passed legislation to extend the popular “cocktails to go” program, train law enforcement officers and hotel industry workers to recognize and support victims of human trafficking, enhance criminal penalties for persons with power of attorney to financially abuse the elderly in their care, remove sales tax from drugs prescribed by veterinarians, and create penalties and enforcement for the use of loud, altered exhaust systems on vehicles. Importantly, we passed comprehensive legislation to begin much needed reforms to the Virginia Employment Commission.
Several key priorities still remain in “conference committees” where the sticking points between House and Senate positions will need to be hashed out before we return for the Special Session. These include legislation I oppose to create an incentive package for the Washington Commanders to locate their next stadium in Virginia, which unfortunately I believe will pass. Still up for debate are proposals to create “lab schools” which are public schools administered by public universities, increase rates of reparations for those wrongfully incarcerated, and to expand the membership of our Board of Elections.
For my part, I was glad to get twelve bills to the Governor’s desk. While their fate remains unclear until his signature is inscribed on them, I believe each represents strong and needed public policy and merits his approval, even in this hyperpartisan environment.
I look forward to returning to the District to share updates on this session and work together to plan for the year ahead. I hope you will join myself and Delegate Elizabeth Bennett-Parker for a virtual town hall this Saturday at 10AM. You can register in advance at this link: https://bit.ly/LegTownHall2022.
It is my continued honor to serve the 30th District.
Adam P. Ebbin
Member, Senate of Virginia
P.S. If you are a member of a civic group or organization and would like me to provide a post-session legislative update in the late spring or early summer, please email my office at firstname.lastname@example.org