RICHMOND, Va. — Virginia’s Democratic Governor and Republican leadership released some of their top priorities on Friday ahead of the 2019 legislative session.
Governor Ralph Northam is trying to get lawmakers to back a series of seven proposals to combat gun violence and to increase safety. Some of these bills include creating universal background checks for when people purchase a firearm, banning assault weapons and requiring individuals to report stolen or missing firearms to law enforcement.
Another idea includes reinstating Virginia One Handgun a Month Law, which Gov. Northam says would prevent people from coming in from out of state to stockpile guns.
Northam says his time serving in the military influenced what he thinks.
“I know all too well what weapons of war do to human beings and we do not need weapons of war on our streets or in our society,” he explained.
When he returned from the front lines and became a pediatric doctor, Northam says he saw gun violence rip apart a family he grew close. A young woman he cared for as a child was shot and killed by her husband after an argument. The woman’s 5-month-old child was in the room when it happened.
“That was the most difficult phone call that I have ever received. So because of these experiences that I’ve had and you all have had, we need to address this,” Gov. Northam said.
Northam hopes to reach a middle ground with lawmakers on the other side of the aisle on these issues.
Meanwhile, Republican leadership says their main focus the first few weeks of session will be on creating legislation to give tax cuts to middle-class taxpayers.
This is mainly in response to the Governor’s $2.2 billion budget amendment proposals, which were released just before Christmas. A portion of the initiatives would be funded from revenues collected if Virginia fully conforms to the federal tax code changes.
House Speaker Kirk Cox (R – District 66) says these projects would end up being paid for by the middle class. So, the GOP is proposing to allow taxpayers to items their state taxes regardless of how they file their federal ones. Right now, if you get a standard deduction from the federal government you can’t itemize under the state.
Also, the bill raises the state’s standard deduction from $3,000 for an individual person to $4,000 and $6,000 to $8,000 for a couple.
“People who do choose the standard deduction, we’re going to increase that standard deduction,” Cox said. “That will probably help the lower-class more.”
Republicans estimate 2.7 million Virginians would be impacted if they took the standard deduction.
The 2019 Legislative Session starts next Wednesday. The governor will also be giving his State of the Commonwealth Address that evening.