Thank legislators for supporting VLCF funding and remind them of the importance of all of our state conservation programs in 2021.
Beginning on Aug 18, the Virginia General Assembly entered a special session to focus on budget impacts related to the pandemic and calls for criminal justice and policing reforms as local and national unrest continued following the death of George Floyd. At the time of this writing, session is ongoing and many questions remain on the shape of the final budget and some of the legislative initiatives. Legislators intend to wrap up their work before the end of September.
Obviously, a lot has changed since March, when you last received a copy of the Piedmont View. Soon after, shut-down orders went into place and, like me, you might have felt like you were trapped in a bad episode of The Twilight Zone. Suddenly, any trip outside of the house came with a risk analysis. Adjustments like teleworking, or worse, changes in employment status, disrupted normal routines. Things we may have taken for granted, like access to schools and daycare, visits with elderly relatives and yes, even toilet paper, were off the table. Clearly, these have not been normal times. But that wasn’t always evident looking at local government agendas.
It is March, a time when most people eagerly await the end of winter and embrace the first signs of spring. For me, the spring also marks the end of long days and nights spent walking the halls and occupying committee rooms in Richmond. The 2020 Virginia General Assembly session concluded on March 12, and by the time you read this, we will all be awaiting Governor Northam’s response to the legislation and budget passed by both houses.
This year’s Virginia General Assembly promises to be an interesting one, as the November 2019 elections resulted in a change in leadership in both the House and the Senate. A new Speaker of the House (Filler-Corn), Senate Majority Leader (Saslaw) and large shifts in committee memberships of both bodies are among the changes. With Governor Northam still in office, the Democrats have consolidated control of state government for the first time in more than two decades. And that means we will see many of the priorities of the party at the forefront of the legislative agenda.
The beginning of spring marks the end of the 2018 Virginia General Assembly session. Well, sort of. In the case of the budget, there was no resolution, which means the fate of conservation funding and the general path forward is still up in the air. To address this, the Governor has announced that a special session will convene on April 11.
One of the bigger issues taking up bandwidth this year was Medicaid expansion. The House’s budget bill included the expansion, while the Senate’s bill did not — this set up a showdown in the budget conference committee. Due to this and other differences, the conferees were unable to come to an agreement, meaning it will be some time before we know what programs will be affected.
With the elections behind us and the holidays consuming our thoughts, the 2018 Virginia General Assembly may not be at the forefront of everyone’s mind. However, the New Year is going to bring many changes, including a new administration, new delegates and a new venue. We also have a new opportunity — reaching out to the incoming administration and many new members with information and a message of support for conservation. As we have for the past 20 years, PEC is partnering with the Virginia Conservation Network to do just that.