The General Assembly will begin on January 9, 2013 for its short session of 46 days. During that time frame, it is likely we will see several thousand proposals for new laws. I believe there will be two driving forces that will determine the outcomes of the session.
First, is the unresolved federal issue of the “fiscal cliff.” Which is now turning into a cliff – hanger, despite a clear mandate from the electorate last November 6. Due to the proximity of the Commonwealth to the Nation’s Capital, our state is likely to be impacted in any of the possible resolution scenarios. Of serious note will be the impact on defense spending cuts in our region and sequestration overall.
The 35th Senate District is home to a large community of government workers and defense related industries. While we have been virtually recession proof, there is no doubt in my mind that any draconian federal measures will change life as we know it in NOVA. There will be a domino affect on Virginia’s biennial budget as well. The major question that I have is to what degree our area will be impacted and thereby the entire Commonwealth. It should be reassuring to know that Senators Warner and Kaine along with Congressmen Connolly, Moran and Wolfe will have Virginia’s back as things get sorted out across the Potomac River.
A second significant factor that will permeate the atmosphere of this legislative session will be the upcoming election of the House of Delegates and statewide offices next November. While it may be hard to believe, there will be a number of introduced bills that will make great material for the Fall campaigns. These types of measures are often reflective of a narrow constituency and more likely tend to produce unintended consequences. In 2012 there were a plethora of social issue bills that pole vaulted Virginia into the national spotlight. It was not a good place to be and I hope we are beyond the Conservative’s mission of chipping away at Roe v. Wade. Another area that seemed to have no end, was the volume of gun related bills that ultimately led to the repeal of the purchase of one gun a month. There is a tenacious gun lobby effort at the General Assembly and I suspect we will see additional effort in this area.
It is likely we will revisit election and voting procedures. This past November election had unprecedented turnout and in some areas of the state, voters waited in line for hours in order to cast their ballot. This needs to be improved. There will also be several initiatives concerning the environment, healthcare and public education that have a perennial status in the legislature. The list can be endless. My job will be to shepherd the positive bills through the Senate all the way to the Governor’s desk. As the Democratic Leader I am also responsible for ensuring sound public policy by seeing that harmful bills do not make their way into law.
This has been a very busy year. During the interim we have heard from hundreds of people on a variety of different topics; we have spoke at Civic Associations, legislative meetings, retirement communities, etc; we have attended numerous meetings with advocates and private citizens. It is very gratifying to serve in this community where so many citizens are actively engaged. I look forward to working toward the best interests of Virginians throughout our region and the Commonwealth during the upcoming session.
I would like to extend my warmest wishes for Happy Holidays. May the New Year bring good cheer, health and prosperity to you and yours.
Senator Saslaw represents the 35th District in the Virginia State Senate. He may be e-mailed at[email protected]