WASHINGTON — Virginia’s 2016 General Assembly session begins Wednesday with a situation set up for a standoff, but promises of at least some cooperation.
Republicans control both houses of the General Assembly, but it is a Democrat — Gov. Terry McAuliffe — who put together the two-year, $109 billion budget proposal that lawmakers must pass some version of to keep the state government running.
McAuliffe has again included a proposal to expand Medicaid to cover about 400,000 more Virginians. Republicans have promised that, for the third straight year, the proposal will not pass.
In 2014, the dispute threatened to bring on a state government shutdown.
McAuliffe is also asking the General Assembly to approve a federal grant that would provide long-lasting birth control to teenagers through the Virginia Department of Health.
“[It] is going to be a big issue, because we think it should be funded, and the other side will think it shouldn’t be funded,” said Del. Kathleen Murphy, D-McLean.
But as a Democrat in the heavily Republican House of Delegates, she realizes that many of the bills she has filed have little chance of passing. Other bills proposed by some Republicans that may be high-profile initially may also be quietly killed in committee.
Some other issues include bills related to tolls and HOV rule changes on Interstate 66. There are also Republican efforts to allow the General Assembly to determine when other states’ concealed-carry permits should be honored in Virginia.
Fairfax County and other Northern Virginia jurisdictions are especially interested in increased education funding from the state, in addition to the general increase in education funding and further reforms put forward by the McAuliffe administration.
Other proposals would further tighten ethics rules, and to make changes in the criminal justice system, but it is not clear how much support those proposals have.