The General Assembly convened for its annual session on Jan. 14. Although the session scheduled to adjourn at the end of February is termed “the short session,” it will have a full agenda of opportunities and challenges. Governor McAuliffe has made it clear that he will be providing strong leadership on tough issues. With a Republican-controlled General Assembly the debate is likely to become intense. The Governor needs the legislature to act on many of his priorities; legislators need the Governor to sign bills that they want passed. In some instances trade-offs are possible. In others, principles or values will preclude deals being made.
I am pleased with the Governor’s willingness to take on difficult issues. In the instance of gun violence, the Governor has proposed a series of commonsense measures that will keep Virginians safer while at the same time respecting constitutional rights. I am chief patron on his bill to close the gun show loophole to require uniform background checks. Background checks at gun dealerships have been shown to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and those who are violent. Having all sales subject to background checks is reasonable and will enhance public safety. The Governor has also proposed to reinstate the one handgun per month limitation that was in effect for more than a decade before being repealed two years ago. I support this bill. Before the original limitation was enacted, Virginia had become known as the gun-running capital of the East! I also support the Governor’s proposal to deny concealed weapons permits to those who are under a court restraining order. Too many acts of violence occur in domestic situations that might be prevented.
I support the Governor’s proposals to expand regulations of home-operated daycare centers. There have been too many tragic deaths in Virginia in recent years in daycare programs where there are not adequate adult supervision or safety measures in place. While such regulations seem common sense to most of us, there will be stiff opposition from the “no government, don’t tread on me” crowd. I hope that reasonableness can prevail in this and other issues.
Two other concerns that I have addressed at length in this column include Medicaid expansion and independent redistricting. The fact of the matter is that Virginia could save money and extend healthcare to a couple hundred thousand Virginians with Medicaid expansion, and I will be working to make this happen.
Other bills that I will be introducing include a bill to raise the minimum wage to $10.10 over the next three years. Certainly no one can live on the current $7.25. I will also be introducing a bill to make part of the earned income tax credit refundable as a way to get more money into the households of the working poor.
All members of the House and Senate are up for re-election this November. There will be more than a little political posturing looking forward to the elections. Many will have an eye out for primary challenges, especially from the Tea Party. Hopefully the citizen voices can be heard, and there will be a productive General Assembly session.