RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC)- The 2022 regular session of the General Assembly is over but some unfinished business remains.
Governor Glenn Youngkin is expected to call lawmakers back to the State Capitol to reach a deal on the two-year spending plan after a key budget deadline was missed, though no date has been set for that yet.
The 60-day session laid bare the reality of a divided government, highlighted the consequences of a pivotal power shift and underscored the stakes of future elections.
Unlike recent sessions where liberal policies often sailed through the legislature, this year’s gridlock was the result of razor thin majorities in the Republican-led House and the Democrat-controlled Senate. Lawmakers were able to find some common ground but often rejected each other’s priorities.
“Virginia voters should realize their vote really makes a difference,” said Rich Meagher, a political analyst from Randolph-Macon College. “If partisan control shifted in the Senate, where even just one vote can make a difference, Youngkin can find a much friendlier place in the legislature and be able to accomplish a lot more.”
According to the latest statistics from Virginia’s Legislative Information System, about 56% of the 3,143 measures introduced in the 2022 session passed both chambers while roughly a third of proposals failed. Governor Youngkin has vetoed only one bill so far and 47 proposals are awaiting further action.
One of Youngkin’s most notable wins came when some Democrats sided with Republicans to expedite a bill allowing parents to opt of school masking.
Youngkin racked up more victories when the Senate passed bills reinstating reporting requirements for certain misdemeanors committed by students, requiring parental notification of sexually explicit classroom material and banning discrimination in Governor’s school admissions, though some proposals were watered down in order to win bipartisan support.
Meanwhile, Youngkin-backed bills banning certain “divisive concepts” in public education and making it easier to expand charter schools were swiftly shot down by a Democrat-controlled committee.
In the latest escalation of an ongoing staffing battle, Democrats refused to approve the majority of Youngkin’s picks appointed to replace the entire Virginia Parole Board, which was embroiled in scandal under Governor Ralph Northam. The skirmish started when the Senate derailed the confirmation of Secretary-designee Andrew Wheeler, who headed the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency under former President Donald Trump.
On the other side of the State Capitol, House Republicans spoiled a big Democratic priority when they punted decisions on the future of recreational marijuana sales to next year’s session. A bill to crack down on the cannabis compound Delta-8 got bipartisan support.
Negotiations between the House and Senate continue when it comes to tax cuts and new investments in the two-year budget.
The final plan is likely to cut the grocery tax, give back one-time tax rebates and provide a tax break on a portion of veteran retirement pay, though the plans have different approaches. The House wants to go further by doubling the standard deduction and temporarily suspending a gas tax increase.
A handful of closely watched bills are still being negotiated ahead of a special session, including those increasing the penalty for college hazing, creating a financing structure to lure a professional football team to Virginia, and paving the way for the expansion of “lab schools” in partnership with certain colleges and universities.