2021 Pre-Session Update

January 13, 2021


It seems like the 2020 Session of the General Assembly just ended and here it is January and today the 2021 Session convenes in Richmond.  Last year we were supposed to meet for 45 days in a regular session that ended just as the COVID-19 pandemic was heating up.  As we left Richmond in March, it was clear that we would have to return to address COVID related budget issues, but just before the Governor called us back to Richmond, George Floyd died at the hands of rogue police officers in Minneapolis and riots rocked the nation.  Seizing upon that as a political opportunity, the Governor convened the Special Session to address “social justice and criminal justice reform.”  This gave Democrats in Richmond, who now control both Chambers of the General Assembly as well as the Governor’s Mansion, a blank check to pursue all manner of liberal priorities. 

Between the regular Session in 2020, and the Special Session, Democrats in Richmond rolled back many of the criminal justice reforms of the past 20 years that have successfully reduced the violent crime and recidivism.  Similarly, apparently not satisfied with Virginia’s consistent ranking as one of the top five states in America in which to do business, they imposed all manner of new regulations, sought to repeal our right to work laws and allow public employee collective bargaining.  Finally, seeking to emulate Bernie Sanders and AOC, they passed Virginia’s version of the Green New Deal, which set us on a pace to see electric bills for households and businesses to increase by as much as one third.

Needless to say, they accomplished a whole lot in 2020.  Here we are back in Richmond meeting in temporary quarters that are off-limits to constituents.  The Governor has already said that there’s so much on his progressive agenda that we can’t possibly accomplish it all during the 30 days constitutionally allocated for the regular Session and he’s already promised to call a special session that will begin immediately upon adjournment that he wants to use to continue his efforts to turn Virginia into a northeastern state. 

Sadly, we are going to be missing one Republican Senate colleague during this Session.  Senator Ben Chafin, my friend who represented a large portion of Southwest Virginia, died on New Year’s Day.  He was an outstanding representative who cared deeply for the people of Southwest Virginia and tirelessly fought to protect their interest in Richmond.  Inexplicably, the Governor waited until yesterday to announce that he’s calling a special election to fill Senator Chafin’s seat, however, the election isn’t going to take place until March, after the regular Session and perhaps the Special Session as well, are over.  The timing leaves a large portion of Southwest Virginia completely unrepresented in the Senate and the Republicans down one critical vote.  The timing of the special election to fill Senator Chafin’s seat stands in contrast to how the Governor handled the resignation of former Delegate Jennifer Carrol Foy, who resigned in December in order to launch her campaign for Governor.  The Governor announced the special election the same day Delegate Jennifer Carrol Foy resigned and the election was held less than 30 days later.

Notwithstanding these challenges, I remain committed to fighting for common sense Virginia values in Richmond.  I will continue to stand for the protection of our 2nd Amendment rights against renewed efforts to ban most semi-automatic firearms and so-called “high capacity” magazines.  I will fight the announced efforts of Democrats to raise Virginia’s income tax rate.  I will fight for economic freedom and to resist efforts to roll back hard won laws that protect innocent human life. 

Even though I can’t host visitors in Richmond, my office is going to be open for business.  We need to hear from you about legislation that is important to you.  I count on constituents to alert me to their concerns about legislation that may impact their businesses, communities or families.  While you may not be able to knock on my door during session, my legislative team is experienced and they will be answering the phones and your emails.  Jenni Aulgur and Connor Smith have worked in my office for several years.  Jenni will be working out of my district office in Harrisonburg and Connor will be working in Richmond.  You can contact them at [email protected] and [email protected].  As always, I value your input, thoughts and concerns.  Please call 540-437-1451 or email me at [email protected]

It is a continuing privilege for me to be allowed to represent the citizens of the 26th District in the Senate of Virginia!

Best regards,

Mark Obenshain