Opinion: Commentary: Session Begins This Week

Opinion: Commentary: Session Begins This Week

Happy New Year! It’s hard to believe that the start of the 2020 General Assembly session is Wednesday, January 8th. I could not be more excited to get started! We are entering our 401st year, and we will see many historic firsts, including the first female Speaker of the House of Delegates and the most diverse body ever. I am looking forward to all that we will achieve together. I am honored to have the opportunity to now serve in the majority, and to work on tackling issues that are not just important to my constituents but to all Virginians, including voting rights, protecting workers, redistricting reform, public safety, education funding, transportation, non-discrimination protections, passing the Equal Rights Amendment, gun safety, preserving the environment, and so much more.

A lot of focus this session will be on Governor Northam’s proposed $135 billion two-year state budget which includes $47.5 billion in general fund spending for critical state services of education, public safety, and health care. I am most excited about his 3% raise for teachers, free community college for students pursuing careers in high demand fields (like cyber security), and $95 million in new funding for early childhood education, which includes $59.5 million for the Virginia Preschool Initiative, a program designed for at-risk four-year olds. Research has shown that high quality preschool better prepares children to succeed in life - academically as well as socially. And, too many low-income children do not have access to these programs; starting them off at a disadvantage entering elementary school.

The governor proposed two tax increases - on gasoline and cigarettes. The tax on motor fuel would rise 4 cents a year over three years to pay for important transportation initiatives which projects declining revenue due to less sales from fuel sipping hybrids and the electric cars that use no gasoline at all. And something I am concerned about, the Governor wants to eliminate annual vehicle inspections saving consumers $280 million a year. The savings is great but my worry is the impact getting rid of the car inspections could have on our highway safety. The tobacco tax would double our 30 cents per pack tax, yet would still keep Virginia at a reasonable tax level in comparison with much of the region. The resulting funds are slated to go towards lowering health insurance premiums through a new state insurance marketplace to cover the higher cost health care consumers.

On the evening of the first day of session Governor Northam will also give his annual State of the Commonwealth. You can watch the archived speech on the Virginia General Assembly site (www.virginiageneralassembly.gov). As my bills are filed you can find them on the Virginia Legislative Information System website and track them throughout the legislative process. This website is a great tool to track legislation, follow committee meetings, and plan visits to the Capitol. In addition, each day’s House of Delegates floor session is live streamed. There’s no better way to keep up to date on what’s going on each day!

As always, I want to hear from constituents throughout session regarding your views on the budget and the bills that may come before me in committee or voting on the floor of the House of Delegates. Please contact my office so that my team can pass along your feedback to me.

If you are interested in coming to visit me in Richmond during session, which I hope you do, please send us an email at DelPKrizek@House.Virginia.Gov. We would be happy to arrange a tour of the Capitol and reserve seating in the House Gallery for you to observe a floor session. I hope to see you in Richmond for what promises to be an historic year!