Va. leaders reflect on first half of General Assembly session

WAVY Photo/Evanne Armour

RICHMOND, Va. (WAVY) — We’ve reached the halfway point of the 2018 General Assembly session. Lawmakers have sorted through thousands of bills, already killing hundreds of them.

The House and Senate have wrapped up work on their own bills. Now, those bills cross over to the other chamber for consideration.

It’s a process known as “crossover,” signaling the midpoint of session.

“I haven’t seen this much bipartisan support in a long time, so I think it’s good for Virginia. It’s really a breath of fresh air,” said Governor Ralph Northam.

Republicans hold a slim majority in both chambers — 21 to 19 in the Senate and 51 to 49 in the House.

“The power of 49 makes a really big difference in how some of these votes turn out,” said Minority Leader Del. David Toscano (D-Charlottesville).

Democrats are highlighting their work on the school to prison pipeline and increasing the grand larceny threshold.

“We think that we’ve made some pretty good progress up to crossover on the things that Democrats feel are important,” said Toscano. “There are still things that we would like to have done that, because we are in the minority, we haven’t been able to pass.”

He pointed to stricter gun laws and legislation against discrimination in the workplace.

House Speaker Kirk Cox. WAVY Photo/Evanne Armour

Republicans have been busy pushing their agenda — “Practical Solutions to Everyday Issues.”

“It’s been very smooth. A lot’s gotten done. A lot’s gotten accomplished,” said House Speaker Kirk Cox.

Cox said regulatory reform, restitution and killing bills that would have jacked up taxes on things like Netflix and Uber are high points on his side of the aisle.

“When you can accomplish something like that, it feels very good,” he said.

Cox said things will slow down a bit for the House while work ramps up in the Senate.

“The House dealt with about 1,600 bills and we’re 100 members. The simple math is there are 40 senators and so they suddenly have this flood of House bills,” he said.

But there are still two big topics keeping all lawmakers busy for the second half of session.

First, they will have to pass a budget.

Former Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s budget proposal was already revealed before he left office. Cox said the Republican budget proposal will come out next week.

They will also need to figure out whether they can compromise on Medicaid expansion. It’s something Northam and Democrats have been pushing hard.

Republicans have made it clear they will not support expanding Medicaid as is. They are looking for reforms like a work requirement and strong taxpayer safeguards.

It’s an ongoing discussion on both sides. Northam is optimistic.

“I’m confident in the next few weeks we’re going to have a plan that will be good for both parties and, most of all, it’ll be good for the commonwealth of Virginia,” he said.

The last day of session is March 10.