Virginia’s even-year 60-day legislative session has adjourned. In April, we will reconvene to deal with the Governor’s amendments and vetoes of legislation that was passed during the regular legislative session. This is popularly referred to as “veto session.” Much less common in Virginia is a special session, called by a two-thirds majority of the General Assembly or by the Governor. This year the House of Delegates and Virginia Senate failed to come to an agreement on the budget. The House of Delegates version includes Medicaid Expansion, which allows for additional investments in education and targeted raises for high-turnover state employees like our state police. We will return to Richmond for a special session to consider the budget. Between now and then, the budget conferees are expected to address the Senate’s resistance against Medicaid expansion.
While we await the compromise budget from the conference committee, I am hearted to share the news about a historic action the House of Delegates has taken. The Speaker of the House has appointed a House Select Committee on School Safety, which is the first time in 155 years a select committee has been appointed in the Virginia House of Delegates. The Speaker has directed the scope of work to focus on our K-12 schools: strengthening emergency preparedness, hardening school security infrastructure, implementing security best practices, deploying additional security personnel, providing additional behavioral health resources for students, and developing prevention protocols at primary and secondary institutions across the Commonwealth. I am honored to have been appointed to serve on this historic bipartisan committee.
This select committee is a result of the continuing public pressure on the issues of gun violence, mental health, and public safety in the United States and here the Commonwealth of Virginia. I am always happy to jump on board with any bipartisan action we can take to make a step forward in public policy. Finding any room in the middle ground to move us in the right direction is something that I value as a legislator. While I will eagerly participate in the select committee and applaud the actions of the other side of the aisle in creating this committee, I do want to be clear that it is not enough. We need a broader discussion on mental health, gun violence, and public safety in Virginia.
While we also need a broader, scientifically driven response by the federal government we can do more here in Virginia to stem the tide of gun violence. My approach as an elected official to listen to my constituents and to work for results over empty promises and hyperbole. With that in mind, I am happy to announce that the Minority Leader and I will appoint members of the Virginia House Democratic Caucus to a Committee on Gun Violence which will travel to communities across the Commonwealth to make sure people are being heard on this issue that seems to be an ever increasing blight on our country. I want to be clear, we want to hear from everyone, and we have invited our colleagues across the aisle to join us in this venture. This is not about partisan rhetoric or taking people’s guns away. It is about hearing from the people we represent to ensure we are taking the best actions possible to curb gun violence.
Charniele Herring represents Alexandria City’s 46th District in the Virginia General Assembly where she serves as House Minority Caucus Chair and on the Courts of Justice, Counties, Cities, & Towns, and Agriculture, Chesapeake & Natural Resources Committees. Visit www.charnieleherring.com.