2024-06-16 7:27 AM

Senator Dick Saslaw’s Richmond Report

It’s been nearly 50 years since the Roe v. Wade decision. It appears the U.S. Supreme Court is on the verge of overturning this landmark judgement. Clearly this has been a carefully orchestrated Republican plan to turn back the clock for women and their reproductive freedom. Holding the line in Virginia for a woman’s right to choose is a battle we will continue to fight for.

The General Assembly met for the “Veto Session” on April 27. During the regular legislative session, 843 bills were passed and sent to Gov. Glenn Youngkin for his review and/or signature. Less than three months into his term, Gov. Youngkin chose to veto 26 measures and amended another 116 bills. The freshman governor used his power of the pen to stoke the flames of revenge by attempting to roll back environmental protections, legislate morality, and continue to challenge the stellar academic record of Virginia’s public school system. He hedged his bets by slapping on a number of re-enactment clauses to bills that passed both chambers with near unanimous votes.

It took the Senate several hours to act on the Senate bills with the Governor’s recommended amendments. We rejected his proposals on SB 192 (my bill), a measure to allow Falls Church residents the opportunity to serve on local commissions if they are 18+ years old. Another Senate bill, SB 163, addressed surrogacy contracts. The Senate rejected the Governor’s amendment to require a surrogate mother to carry multiple fetuses and/or terminate a pregnancy for any health issues including those life-threatening to the mother.

As part of a national agenda, Republicans have interjected themselves into education policy that often divides local communities. However, the attempt by Governor Youngkin to interfere with the terms of locally elected school board members in Loudoun County was truly an overreach. There is a recall process for removing officials from their elected terms. When that process fails, government should not attempt to change the outcomes to satisfy a political strategy.

During the 2021 General Assembly, much progress was made on decriminalizing marijuana. This session, SB 591 passed with the intent of regulating hemp content in consumables. Using this bill, Governor Youngkin attempted to rewrite the Code of Virginia on possession and criminal penalties related to marijuana. After a long debate, the measure was sent back to committee, where it is unlikely to be addressed until 2023.

As of this writing there remains plenty unfinished at the Capitol. The 2022 Special Session met on April 4. The budget is still a work in progress that includes many related bills with monetary impacts still lingering in both Chambers.

The Commonwealth’s bottom line must reflect a structurally balanced budget. Former Governor Ralph Northam proposed eliminating Virginia’s share of the grocery tax while keeping an option open for local government. Localities are beginning to feel the pinch as they attempt to draft their operating budgets. Bear in mind the primary revenue source for them is real estate taxes. We’ve all seen the highly competitive housing market and its impact on our tax bills.

Falls Church City stands to lose over $1.8 million should the grocery tax disappear entirely. This is not small change to the city and goes in part to augment its school budget. It is unlikely local government will be able to make that revenue up and more likely they will look to the Commonwealth to keep them whole.

The Senate and House remain miles apart on the gas tax issue. Republicans proposed suspending the gas tax and letting the burden of infrastructure and maintenance exclusively come at the expense of Virginia’s taxpayers.

Despite the differences, budget conferees are moving along toward a compromise. I am hopeful the negotiations will conclude this month. Whatever passes the legislature will then go before the Governor.

The school year is quickly coming to a close. I want to wish our graduates the best in their future endeavors. During Teacher Appreciation Week I want to thank our teachers for their nurturing, their inspiration, and their hard work in the classrooms.





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