Virginia lawmakers begin new session with power divided between parties

The 2022 Virginia legislative session is set to begin Wednesday, bringing a new political landscape to Richmond with power divided between Republicans and Democrats.

Lawmakers plan to meet for 60 days to craft a two-year state budget and take up various issues ranging from education, to marijuana policy, to public safety.

During the previous two legislative sessions, Democrats controlled the state’s Senate, House of Delegates and the governor’s office, but that all changed in November when Republicans took control of the House and Republican Glenn Youngkin won the race for governor.

Youngkin will be sworn into office on Saturday.

The House of Delegates, where every seat was on the ballot in November and where Republicans will enjoy a 52-48 majority, will swear in new members Wednesday and elect a new speaker as its first order of business.

House Republicans previously tapped Del. Todd Gilbert to serve as a speaker, so Wednesday’s vote was expected to be a formality.

Gilbert, most recently the chamber’s minority leader, is an attorney from the Shenandoah Valley who was first elected to the House in 2005. He succeeds Democratic Del. Eileen Filler-Corn as speaker.

Democrats will continue to hold a slim 21-19 majority in the Senate, though Republican Winsome Sears will preside over the Senate as the newly-elected lieutenant governor, allowing her to cast any tiebreaking votes.

It was easy for Democrats to pass priorities when they were in full control of state government, including raising the minimum wage, tightening gun control laws and legalizing the recreational use of marijuana. Now, under the new political dynamic in Richmond, the two parties will need to find a way to work together.

Republicans stood ready to push for some of their own priorities including implementing tax cuts, repealing restrictions on guns and restoring the photo ID rule for voting.

Outgoing Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam will deliver his final annual “State of the Commonwealth” address to lawmakers on Wednesday night.

Under Virginia law, governors are not allowed to seek a second consecutive term in office.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Nick Iannelli

Nick Iannelli can be heard covering developing and breaking news stories on WTOP.

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