2022 has been an unusual legislative year so far. The General Assembly adjourned sine die on March 12 without a final budget and with 70 bills hanging unfinished- which means no final action in the form of a conference report or a floor vote. This is a remarkable incomplete workload.
The Governor called us back into a special session on April 4th. Constitutionally, the Governor has the power to call us back for a special session at his pleasure; however he does not have the power to prescribe our agenda or how long we stay in special session. We recessed on April 4th without a final budget. Technically, we are still in a special session awaiting a call back.
We met on April 27th for what is called “Reconvene Session,’ in which we vote on the Governor’s actions on the bills we passed. The actions we must approve or deny are a veto or an amendment or amendments. A two-thirds vote in both the Senate and the House is required to overturn a veto; if one body fails to override a veto, the veto is sustained and the bill is not sent to the other chamber. Frequently vetoes are voted upon along party lines. So, predictably, no vetoes were overriden. Amendments are accepted or rejected by majority vote in both chambers. If amendments are rejected, the bill returns to the Governor in the form it was originally passed. He can veto it, sign it or ignore it–if ignored, it becomes law within 30 days of the adjournment of the reconvened session. Any veto at this point is final.
The Governor sent 58 bills with amendments and 10 bills with vetoes to the House. No vetoes were overturned and the acceptance of amendments was a patchwork. The House rejected the amendments to seven bills and the Senate rejected the amendments to ten bills. Many amendments were technical, some were transformative. The most noteworthy of the transforming amendments were on the bill concerning the Loudoun County School Board. This was an outrageous attempt to literally overturn the local school board election results as punishment for that board’s disagreements with the Governor. This is not just my opinion, this was stated repeatedly during the debate in the Capitol. In summary, we processed a number of petty and partisan actions by our new and disappointingly partisan Governor with a basically partisan response.
We have not come any closer to acting on the budget and it is impossible to predict when we will finalize it. Many folks say that a budget is the true outline of policy and moral belief. This chasm of difference in moral belief is very clear when comparing the Senate (Democrat) budget with the House (Republican) budget. My disagreements and concerns with the House budget are too many to go into here. Suffice to say that education and transportation funding suffer serious slashes, criminal justice reform also suffers very problematic funding cuts. This is a year when Virginia can afford to be generous to those in need, to begin to rebuild infrastructure and to undertake major funding increases in education—particularly for teacher salaries and for low-income students for whom English is not the first language. In other words, fairly fund schools like Justice HS, Annandale HS and Falls Church HS and the middle and elementary schools feeding into them. Bluntly speaking, those schools which have not been adequately funded by the Fairfax Board of Supervisors or by the General Assembly. Some say that this under-funding is due to prudent fiscal policy. I say that it is due to lack of vision, compassion and willingness to invest in the future. Some say that this under-funding is due to racism, and some say that it is simply due to political winners and losers. I say that education ought to be funded without regard to politics, race or income and only with regard to equitable and equal resource distribution and outcomes preparing all students for productive lives.
Delegate Kory represents the 38th District in the Virginia House of Delegates. She may be emailed at DelKKory@house.virginia.gov.