The 2022 General Assembly session reached the halfway point known as crossover earlier this week. While many of you were celebrating Valentine’s Day on Monday, the Virginia House of Delegates spent nearly 12 hours on the floor, reviewing over 300 bills and resolutions. Tuesday was the deadline for the House to finish its review of all the House bills and the Senate to finish theirs.
In a recent Washington Post article summarizing the session so far, Republican Speaker of the House, Todd Gilbert and I were both quoted as saying the session really starts in earnest now that we are past crossover. Most of what’s happened so far has been political theater, with Republicans in the House of Delegates pushing to repeal, rollback and water-down legislation championed by Democrats during the two years we controlled both houses and the governor’s mansion. Meanwhile in the State Senate, similar bills have already been killed, a fate which now awaits their House cognates.
No subject was left untouched — bills to decrease voter access, increase access to guns, interfere with women’s reproductive health, roll back criminal justice reform, impose mandates on our schools, and water-down Virginia’s commitment to environmental protection.
Working with my Democratic colleagues, I’ve done my best to shed light on the worst bills that have come through. Unfortunately, with our current numbers in the House, we can’t defeat all the bad bills, but we can certainly cause a few roadblocks so it’s not completely smooth sailing.
With the partisan messaging bills now through their chamber of origin and headed for certain defeat down the hall, we’ll be able focus on the state budget and other must-pass legislation which will require bipartisan compromise to advance.
One such issue involves the House and Senate bills (HB 1353 & SB 727) to establish a Virginia Football Stadium Authority made up of nine members appointed by the Governor.
The Authority would have the power to hire contractors, acquire property, and issue bonds with the intent to build a brand-new stadium for the Washington Commanders Football team. To sweeten the potential deal, the Authority can offer financial incentives up to $1 billion.
No matter which football team you root for, this is a lot of money to offer a team owner embroiled in scandal who also just purchased the most expensive home in the Washington, DC metro area.
Both versions of this legislation are moving through the General Assembly despite my opposition. But that doesn’t mean I can’t try to change a few minds along the way.
When the House version reached the floor earlier this week, I introduced a floor amendment stating that even if the bill was enacted, it wouldn’t become effective until the National Football League released the results of attorney Beth Wilkinson’s report from last year. Known as the Wilkinson Report, the findings contain 2,100 documents requested by the US House of Representatives Committee on Oversight and Reform. The documents describe a toxic work environment that included bullying, intimidation, and sexual harassment that went on for many years.
If we’re going offer a $1 billion in incentives to anyone we should know who we are getting into business with.
The bottom line is that the Washington Commanders don’t need our money. If they truly want to come to Virginia, then they will do so. We could certainly form a partnership that is actually beneficial to the Commonwealth without forcing taxpayers to foot the bill. But the current bill language is far from beneficial in the way that its supporters would argue.
On a lighter note, my bill to update the Charter of the City of the Falls Church passed the House unanimously. Looking for ways to be more inclusive and engage more city residents, the City Council asked that I carry the bill to update the eligibility requirements for local boards and commissions. Upon final passage, residents regardless of their voting status will be able to participate.
Two of my other bills that passed unanimously are products of the Virginia Code Commission, on which I’m proud to serve. Known as “Code clean-up bills,” the bills seek to remove obsolete sections of the Code of Virginia.