Local Commentary

Senator Dick Saslaw’s Richmond Report

saslaw-fcnpThe General Assembly reconvened for the Veto Session April 5. It is the legislature’s turn to act on the Governor’s amendments and vetoes to bills that passed during the regular session. In 2013, Virginians elected Terry McAuliffe as governor. During his tenure in office, Governor McAuliffe has been a firewall against unjust and oppressive legislation, a stalwart supporter of women’s health, and proponent of the well-being and economic success of all Virginians. He has worked tirelessly to build a New Virginia Economy. He now holds the “record for most vetoes” by a sitting governor of the Commonwealth.

Virginia’s cash crops of tobacco and the mining of coal have turned into dry wells here in the second decade of the 21st-Century. People will blame government regulation for the disappearance of mining jobs, but it’s hard to argue that the efficiency and low cost of natural gas has not been instrumental in this change. Meanwhile, simple science supports the move away from the value of tobacco products.

Progress in the Commonwealth is based on visionary leadership and thoughtful public policy. It should be the basis for the long game. The legislature has the duty to step up and connect the many dots that go into effective governing. Spending countless hours on “bathroom issues,” bashing immigrants, and mongering up fear isn’t just unfortunate, it is regressive thinking and sadly mirrors what the Republicans are doing on the national level.

Last November, we witnessed a shocking outcome in our presidential election. Never before had we questioned whether a foreign government tampered in the outcome of our democratic process. While many applauded President Obama’s use of executive orders, we are now seeing the other side of that double-edged sword.

We recently witnessed the failed attempt of rushed legislation and the intransigency of a group of elected officials when the American Health Care Plan had to be pulled from a House vote. Thousands of Virginians have benefitted from the ACA. It is literally a lifeline that many would not otherwise have. Does it need to be revisited? Absolutely! But it is very disconcerting to know that the Republican majority in the House of Representatives has called to repeal this safety net for nearly seven years, and when push came to shove had nothing acceptable to offer as a replacement.

As I travel around the district, people are concerned and on edge. Immigrants fear for their safety, their livelihood, and their family connections. Some are keeping their children away from school in response to the enhanced ICE activities in the region. American citizens are stunned by the various actions to turn the clock back on our environment and as well as some of the vindictive attacks coming from across the Potomac.

Public education remains a high priority for constituents in the 35th District. The exclusivity and selectiveness of a private education may be out or reach for many. The Commonwealth must continue to revamp its approach to preparing our children for the future they will inherit. Workforce development and investing in public education remains a top priority of mine.

Many advocacy groups have taken up the mantra of redistricting. The General Assembly is keeping an eye on the final outcome of two lawsuits addressing redistricting reform and other criteria. One was decided this past Friday but is expected to go to appeals. Unless and until those issues are resolved in the courts, Virginia will be operating under its current plan. The decennial census will occur in 2020 and will be the basis for the next redistricting effort in the Commonwealth.

This November, Virginians will elect a new governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general. The entire House of Delegates is also up for election. Bear in mind the legislature leans toward a Republican majority in both chambers, similar to what’s in the federal government. The final redistricting plan developed and voted on by the General Assembly must be signed by the Governor – I ask you to seriously consider the significance of this election during the primaries. Who will you want in charge when we go into redistricting in 2021?


Senator Saslaw represents the 35th District in the Virginia State Senate. He may be emailed at district35@senate.virginia.gov.