Monday, January 7, 2019

Are You Ready for the 2019 General Assembly Session?

Ready or not, legislators are back in town.

The gavel will go down at noon on Wednesday, January 9 for the 400th anniversary of the the oldest, continuous, law-making body in the New World, Virginia's General Assembly. The Assembly was established on July 30, 1619. There will be all sorts of commemorations and celebrations this year to mark the anniversary. You can visit The American Evolution web site to learn more about all the events this year.

Even though session doesn't start until Wednesday, most legislators are either in Richmond or on their way. Bill drafts are being considered, patrons are lining up, and bills are dropping into the queue for committee referrals. If you are interested in looking at all the bills that have filed so far, you can go to the Legislative Information System (LIS) web site to find out everything you want or care to know about session. Legislators have until 5pm this Friday to file their bills and, even with bill limits this session, we expect about 3,000 bills to drop. Session is always busy and chaotic.

This session is in an odd year, so it is a short session lasting only about 45 days. Virginia operates on a biennial budget that is adopted during even-years, so those sessions are longer (60 days). Of course last session lasted for more than 5 months when the House and Senate failed to come to agreement on a budget until May 30. In odd years, they will only be considering amendments to the biennial budget, so we don't expect to go into extra innings, but that doesn't mean there won't be big budget fights to fight.

On December 18, Governor Northam delivered his proposed budget amendments to the General Assembly for consideration. There will be more about that tomorrow. Ultimately the members of the General Assembly determine how state dollars are allocated, so they will create their own budget, but the Governor's is always the starting point. If you went to one of VEA's Pre-legislative Dinners, you know that the Governor really doesn't have the final say on how state dollars are allocated. It's the members of the General Assembly who do that, so we need to make sure they know how we feel about how state dollars are allocated. If you don't know who your legislators are, you can click here to find out.

As always, the VEA will follow every bill and have coverage in every committee and sub-committee meeting the entire session. We do this by bringing in a team of lobbyists from our membership and staff who work very long days, walk miles, take notes, and keep your GR Director updated. Of course VEA President Jim Livingston and Vice-President James Fedderman will lead a good portion of this work, but they are happy to be joined by members Kelly Walker and Dave Palanzi and VEA staff Brenda Pike, Joel Coon, Jay Deck, Lisa Staib, Bekah Saxon, and Dena Rosenkrantz.

So let's get ready. Wednesday is coming!