The current state of government of Virginia is divided as not one political party currently holds power in both legislative chambers and the governor’s office simultaneously. Currently, the governor’s office is held by a Democrat and the house and senate are controlled by Republicans. In the 2019 legislative session, Republicans are currently the majority with Sen. Thomas Norment Jr. serving as Senate Majority leader and Rep. Todd Gilbert serving as House Majority leader accompanied by Kirk Cox as speaker. Sen. Dick Saslaw and Rep. David Toscano serve as Senate and House Minority leaders respectively, however, Democrats have maintained control of the governor’s office with the election of Ralph Norton and the president of the Senate Lt. Governor Justin Fairfax. In both chambers’ republicans hold a slim margin of three in both the House and the Senate which could pose some issues in accomplishing its legislative goals.
The major legislative goal for this session is job creation, unemployment, farmland preservation, environmental justice, DACA recipients and tax policy. Governor Norton signed an executive order establishing the Virginia Council on Environmental Justice and in a bipartisan win with legislative leaders, backed a coal ash clean-up bill enforcing Dominion Energy to clean up four coal ash ponds around the state with some dating back to the 1930s. In response to the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act that President Donald Trump signed more than a year ago, the Senate Finance subcommittee is brainstorming options for helping Virginians who might pay higher state taxes this spring because of changes in federal law. The Senate Committee on Education and Health approved Bill 1640 that DACA recipients and others who applied for permeant U.S. residency would pay in-state triton rates at state schools. Lastly, Governor Norton announced Virginias Unemployment Rate is at 2.8% which is driving the fixation on job creation due to it being the lowest rate since April 2001. This legislative session in its short time frame has shown effective bipartisanship focused on ensuring the betterment of the state and its people.
I am from Maryland’s 19th district represented in the Senate by Democrat Benjamin Kramer and in the house by Democrats Charlotte Crutchfield, Bonnie Cullison and Vaughn Stewart under Republican Governor Larry Hogan. The issues Senator Kramer has focused on this legislative season are Seniors, Environmental Protection, Public Safety, Animal Welfare, and support for those with Special Needs. As a delegate, Sen. Kramer was instrumental in passing the states strongest drunk driving law “Noah’s Law” after an officer who was killed by a drunk driver while completing a traffic stop and now currently sits on the Finance Committee and working on the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program monitoring data for possible misuse and abuse of prescription drugs. Delegate Cullison prioritizes issues such as support for small business, high-quality education, safe and secure communities, environmental protection, the economy, and access to affordable healthcare. As a three-term incumbent, Cullison served on the health & Government Operations committee and has sponsored the Student Data Privacy Council to review practices and the implementation of the Student Data Privacy Act in 2015. Delegate Charlotte Crutchfileds who serves on the Judiciary Committee, prioritizes strong public schools, economy, public safety, and health. Freshman delegate Vaughn Stewart has set his agenda are healthcare, transportation, education, environment, gun sense, fiscal responsibility, Economy and honesty, and accountability. Stewart currently sits on the House Environment and Transportation Committee. As a first-time voter in the last election cycle, I am very optimistic in my representatives and the work they will do this legislative session.