General Assembly Session winds down

March 4, 2022


These last two weeks have been packed with positive updates at the General Assembly. 

February 15 was what we referred to as “Crossover,” when the House and Senate completed work on all bills originating in each respective chamber. The Senate is now acting on House bills and the House is acting on Senate bills. In these last few weeks, we will begin bill conferences where differences are hammered out in bills that have passed both chambers.

Seven of my bills passed the Senate so those are now making their way through the House. 

We had a great victory for the Commonwealth when Governor Youngkin signed into law the bill requiring school districts across Virginia to adjust their policies to remove any requirements for students to wear masks. That law was amended to add what is called an “emergency clause” and it became effective on Tuesday, March 1.

Senator Siobhan Dunnavant (R-Henrico) and Senator Chap Petersen (D-Fairfax), in a show of refreshing bipartisanship, worked together to get the bill passed in the Senate and the House so that Governor Youngkin could put his signature on it to make it law. In a related action, the Senate unanimously adopted a measure to repeal Governor Northam’s mask mandate for business and workplaces – including schools – thus allowing teachers and other school employees to join their students in making their own masking decisions.

The other notable news last week was regarding the state budget. The House and Senate unveiled their respective versions of the 2022-2024 Biennial Budget, initiating a process that will last through the end of session – and beyond.

The big story this year – and the major difference between the House and Senate budgets – is the amount of tax relief being offered in them.  As you might expect, the Republican-majority House’s plan includes virtually all of the tax relief Governor Youngkin proposed when he was campaigning.  The Democrat-majority Senate’s plan offers a smaller subset of that relief. Consequently, I prefer the House plan that returns more money to the taxpayers and funds key priorities, highlighted below…

  • $5.3 billion in tax relief
  • $2 billion loan fund to repair and replace crumbling schools
  • $51.6 million to hire resource officers in every school
  • $150 million for lab schools to increase school choice
  • $101 million to improve care at our nursing homes for seniors and $251 million to boost Medicaid provider compensation

The philosophical difference between a Senate controlled by Northern Virginia Democrats and a House of Delegates led by Speaker Todd Gilbert were brought into focus by many of the votes that took place on Monday of this week. On Monday, many bills that passed the House of Delegates made it to the Senate only to be cut down in either the Judiciary Committee or the Commerce and Labor Committee. Here’s a sampling:

  • Delegate Tony Wilt’s HB 827 which would have repealed the authority for local governments to regulate firearms
  • Delegate Chris Runion’s HB 1000 which would have added an element of fairness to the law-enforcement civilian oversight boards that were a creation of the “Defund the Police” crowd during the last General Assembly Session
  • Delegate Marie March’s HB 509 which would have repealed the red flag law passed last year
  • Delegate Nick Freitas’ HB 118 which would have repealed the Virginia Clean Economy Act – Virginia’s version of the Green New Deal
  • Delegate Dave LaRock’s HB 790 which would have been a step in the right direction to repealing legislation allowing collective bargaining for public employees

These past few weeks my office and I had the opportunity to meet with a number of visitors, including representatives of Americans for Prosperity, the Virginia Association of Realtors, and the Greater Piedmont Realtors. I also met with the General District Court Clerks in my district.

It was also Hokie Day at the General Assembly.  I met with Virginia Tech Corps Commander Major General Fullhart to get an update on the Corps of Cadets.  Coach Pry was in the house and we presented a commending resolution for VT’s 150th Anniversary on the Senate Chamber floor. Go Hokies!

And finally, it was my pleasure to chat with students from Rappahannock Middle School in Rappahannock County.

We only have a little more than a week left in Session…it is amazing every year how time flies. As always, if you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to email me at [email protected] or come by my office in the Pocohontas building, 5th Floor, Room 502E.


Mark Obenshain