Column: At the Half

Column: At the Half

The General Assembly has reached “crossover,” the point on the legislative calendar when each house must have completed work on bills introduced into its respective chamber. That point was Tuesday for all bills except for adjustments to the budget that will be considered on Thursday. For the rest of the session until the expected adjournment on Feb. 28, each house will consider legislation passed by the other house. Should legislation on the same subject be passed differently by both houses, a conference committee will be empaneled to attempt to resolve differences between the House and Senate.

The status of legislation described here is at the time of writing this column. There will be no gun safety legislation that will have passed in either house, but a bill passed to make it easier to get a concealed weapons permit if you have one from another state. A bill to limit access to a gun for someone for whom a restraining order has been issued may pass the Senate, but such a bill has already been defeated in the House. My bill and several like it for universal background checks for gun purchases were defeated in both houses.

Concerns about sexual assault on college campuses will be addressed by both houses with important details needing to be resolved. A delicate balance between having someone report an assault to a counselor at the institution and having the police involved is being weighed. There is a commitment to respond to the issue and to do it in a careful way. Two different versions of a bill to legalize the use of marijuana to treat seizures have passed and will be reconciled before the end of the session. A resolution to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment passed the Senate but is likely to be defeated in the House.

Both houses have been adamant about not expanding Medicaid although it seems that state monies will be appropriated to cover some needs such as in mental health even though Medicaid expansion would have provided money to meet these needs. Both houses have presented revisions to the biennial budget, but many more needs could have been met if the $5 million per day of federal monies had been accepted.

The House refused to pass any legislation for nonpartisan redistricting, and a bill coming over from the Senate is likely to be defeated in the House. There is still time to change the process before the redistricting that will happen after the 2020 federal census. In the meantime, a federal court has invalidated Virginia’s congressional district lines, and the boundaries of the House of Delegates districts are being challenged in court.

Major revisions are being made in the public-private partnership agreement process to enhance transparency and accountability. The Governor’s bill on transportation has passed to make monies available for local roads. Ethics bills will pass both houses, but both need to be strengthened before final passage.

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