RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Virginia lawmakers are in Richmond for the first day of the General Assembly’s 2023 session.

They will consider proposals on issues such as abortion, taxes, education, gun control, marijuana, housing and the state’s minimum wage over the legislative session, which is set for 30 days but will likely last longer.

After a prayer breakfast and two Wednesday morning press conferences, state senators and delegates convened in their respective chambers in the Virginia State Capitol to officially begin work for the 2023 session.

Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R) will lay out his “Day Two Agenda for Virginia” in front of the General Assembly when he delivers his State of the Commonwealth address at 4 p.m.

Virginia state Capitol
Virginia state Capitol in Richmond, Va., Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2020. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

Power in the General Assembly is divided, with Democrats holding a majority in the Virginia Senate and Republicans controlling the House of Delegates. The margins in each chamber will allow either to block proposals put forward by the other, requiring lawmakers to cooperate on the priorities they want to pass into law.

The 30-day session — typically extended to 46 days so legislators can wrap up their work — comes before all 140 seats in the General Assembly are on the ballot later this year.

With these factors in mind, Randolph-Macon College politics professor Richard Meagher told 8News he doesn’t expect to see many major legislative initiatives move forward this year.

“Obviously, important stuff will happen, but I feel like it’s going to be more like, what happened today is this thing, and then we move on to something else tomorrow,” he said. “And then at the end of the session, we’ll look back and say, ‘well, the governor got a thing or two, the Democrats got a thing or two, Republicans got a thing or two, but no big ticket item.”

A woman holds a sign saying “stop abortion now,” at a protest outside of the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington on May 5, 2022, left, and another woman holds a sign during a news conference for reproductive rights in response to the leaked draft of the Supreme Court’s opinion to overturn Roe v. Wade, in West Hollywood, Calif., on March 3, 2022. (AP Photo)

The biggest-ticket item for the session was expected to be abortion access after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the constitutional right to a procedure last June, putting women’s reproductive rights in the control of the states.

While there are several measures on abortion, the focus has centered on Gov. Youngkin’s pursuit of a ban on the procedure after 15 weeks of pregnancy.

Democrats have vowed to use their Senate majority to again protect a right to an abortion in Virginia — which currently allows procedures up until about 26 weeks and during the third trimester when three doctors conclude the mother’s life is in danger — including a push to enshrine it in the state constitution.

Republicans would likely block any effort to amend the constitution, but House Speaker Todd Gilbert (R-Shenandoah) acknowledged Monday that he would be “very surprised if anything of substance comes out” of the session on abortion due to the split government.

Todd Gilbert, Eileen Filler-Corn, Israel O’Quinn
Virginia House Speaker, Del. Todd Gilbert, R-Shenandoah, left, speaks with former Speaker Eileen Filler-Corn, right, D-Fairfax, and Del. Israel O’Quinn, R-Bristol, center, during the House session at the Capitol Tuesday Feb. 1, 2022, in Richmond, Va. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

On Tuesday night, Democrat Aaron Rouse declared victory over Republican Kevin Adams in the special Virginia Senate election for the seat left vacant after Rep. Jen Kiggans (R-Va.) took her seat in Congress.

If Rouse is certified as the winner, Democrats would be protected from any defections on abortion access, most notably from state Sen. Joe Morrissey (D-Richmond), with a 22-18 majority.

Another key issue, and point of contention, for the General Assembly, is establishing a regulatory system for marijuana sales.

Virginia allows people to possess small amounts of cannabis — up to an ounce — and grow up to four plants. But there’s still no way to legally purchase it.

Marijuana plants are close to harvest in a grow room at the Greenleaf Medical Cannabis facility in Richmond, Va., on June 17, 2021. (AP Photo/Steve Helber, File)

There are different bills to set up a framework for recreational cannabis sales introduced for the session, including a Republican measure that proposes scrapping “social equity” provisions that Democrats said were priorities when legalization was proposed.

Speaker Gilbert criticized Democrats for a lack of a regulatory framework, saying the party left Virginia with a “mess” for allowing legalization to move forward without it.

“We’ve got that friction, that natural friction between the people who want this and the people who don’t and the people who could have fixed it when they had a chance,” Gilbert said during a virtual press gaggle Monday.

Gilbert added that he’s weighing how much time to focus on efforts to establish a system, saying House Republicans will await Youngkin’s guidance because they don’t yet know what the governor intends to do with the legislation.

Virginia Del. Don Scott (D-Portsmouth), who is now House Minority leader, gestured during a point of personal privilege during the House session at the Capitol Wednesday, Jan. 26, 2022, in Richmond, Va. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

General Assembly Democrats outlined their priorities for the session last week, a framework that includes plans for gun control measures, ensuring the state’s minimum wage continues to increase and stopping Youngkin’s administration from pulling Virginia out of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative.

“Our vision for the Commonwealth is to see to it that we deliver on real issues: common sense gun reforms, a world class education, and building an economy that works more for hardworking Virginians,” House Minority Leader Don Scott (D-Portsmouth) said in a statement.

The Democratic platform calls for blocking Republicans from rolling back gun laws, such as Virginia’s “red-flag” law, and closing loopholes that allow people barred from owning a gun from buying them.

State Democrats will also seek to defend the minimum wage increase plan that was passed under the party’s leadership in 2020. The plan calls for it to rise to $15 per hour by 2026, but it requires approval in the state legislature.

Glenn Youngkin
Gov. Glenn Youngkin. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

Gov. Youngkin (R) wants lawmakers to approve $1 billion in tax cuts in the two-year budget. The governor’s proposed budget amendments include major tax cuts for corporations, a tax break for small businesses and lower income taxes for Virginians.

Youngkin is also pitching more than $2.6 billion in new spending, including more than $420 million for public education and nearly $150 million to address behavioral health. Despite showing support for some of Youngkin’s proposals, Democrats have also raised concerns about the governor’s plan to cut the tax rate for corporations.

Virginia Democrats do want to make the state’s earned income tax credit for low-income households fully refundable, according to the platform. Currently, 15% of the federal credit available for eligible Virginians is refundable on state tax returns.

Lawmakers will also debate and vote on proposals this session to increase funding for public education and increase teacher pay, initiatives that both parties say they back. Democratic and Republican legislators also support increasing pay for law enforcement in Virginia during the session.

Stay with 8News for updates.