Transportation and abortion
With fewer than a week left to consider the hundreds of bills introduced in the biennial “short” session of the Virginia General Assembly, both the House of Delegates and the Senate have much work left to finish.
Neither body has completed its work on the second year of the state Budget.
Neither body has finished work on transportation funding bills in spite of the announced “compromise” reached by the Republican leaders of the House and Senate. Both houses seem poised to pass different versions, thus necessitating lengthy negotiating sessions lasting until the last days of the session.
I remain hopeful, but far from certain, that the leadership in both Houses can reconcile their differences before adjournment on February 24. In contrast to last year, it seems that there is broad agreement about the need for a statewide funding stream, plus regional plans in Northern Virginia and Tidewater. So far, except for the Northern Virginia plan, which has be-partisan sponsorship, Democrats have had little input.
Were it not for the Governor’s leadership, with aid Democratic leadership in the House and the Senate, I doubt that we would have more than a limited Northern Virginia proposal to consider.
Since the Senate has passed substantial plans before, only to see them die in the House over the objections of Democrats, the critical votes will take place in the House late this week. If a House plan is passed that addresses the two regional needs and has a strong state-wide component, there may be a majority for some new funding, including transit, that the Governor can sign.
It is important to remember that the Governor has the last word. Therefore, if the proposals are not sufficient, he can propose amendments to them.
Of course, there are many other important issues on our agenda, including many bills to restrict or abolish legal abortion in Virginia. Delegate Bob Marshall of Prince William County is the sponsor of many bills attacking re-productive rights in Virginia. He was the leader of the effort to amend Virginia’s Constitution last year to ban same-sex marriage and civil unions.
Several of Delegate Marshall’s bills will pass the House. The Senate Education and Health Committee will then be the focus of the debate.
In the past, that committee has killed several far-reaching restriction proposals by 1 or 2 votes. A lot of national attention will focus again on the Virginia and lead to important debates in the campaign season in the fall.
Barack Obama in Virginia
Senator Barack Obama will be the featured speaker in Richmond on February 17 at the annual Jefferson-Jackson Day Dinner. It now appears that this fundraising event for the Virginia Democratic Party will be largest in the history of the state, and will focus national media attention on Virginia, not unlike Senator Jim Webb’s victory in Virginia. I am looking forward to hearing and seeing Senator Obama.