The General Assembly gaveled into the 2023 legislative session on Wednesday, January 11th at noon. We began the session just one day after three special elections occurred across Virginia. In the House, the partisan makeup remains unchanged at 52 Republicans and 48 Democrats, with Delegate-elect Holly Seibold (D-Fairfax) replacing former Delegate Mark Keam, who resigned from his seat to join the Biden Administration, and Delegate-elect Ellen Hamilton Campbell (R-Rockbridge) succeeding her late husband, former Delegate Ronnie Campbell, who sadly passed away from cancer in December.
In a hotly contested race to replace former senator, now Congresswoman Jen Kiggans in Virginia Beach, Democrat Aaron Rouse defeated Republican candidate Kevin Adams. I look forward to welcoming Senator-Elect Rouse to Richmond this week, where his swearing in will expand our Democratic majority to 22-18.
With this split legislature and a Republican executive branch, I expect the session will play out much like the 2022 session – in which compromise on nonpartisan issues created some incremental progress, and tie-breaking votes moved forward portions of the Governor’s agenda, creating unnecessary and deleterious backslides. My legislative agenda contains a number of pragmatic, nonpartisan proposals to benefit the 30th District, including battling inland flooding, regulating intentionally loud modified car mufflers, protecting the privacy of our genetic data information, and protecting election officials from harassment and intimidation. But I will also continue to push on crucial, progressive priorities including the regulation marijuana sales, gun violence prevention, and LGBT marriage equality. For these proposals to become law this year, it will require political courage from members of the legislature to vote their conscience.
Nevertheless, I am hopeful that over the next 46 days, my colleagues and I will make significant progress for Virginians. We expect to hear up to 2,000 pieces of legislation and will amend the second year of our biennial budget. The Governor laid out his priorities in early December and provided the Money Committees with a starting point. I feel strongly that the Governor’s proposals fall short in many areas, continuing to prioritize tax gimmicks over funding of core services like public education. I look forward to working with my colleagues to make meaningful investments in the needs of the Commonwealth as a whole, rather than reducing taxes for major corporations and the wealthiest Virginians.
I also expect that my Democratic Senate colleagues and I will have our work cut out for us defending the progress Virginia has made over the last several years. Already we have seen bills filed to restrict reproductive rights, siphon public dollars to private schools, and discriminate against transgender students. I look forward to working with my colleagues, and using my new chairmanship over the Senate General Laws and Technology Committee to both move forward the operation and efficiency of Virginia government, and to defeat any antiquated, backwards proposals and defend our shared priorities and rights.