With crossover behind them, lawmakers prepare for a frantic race to the finish

Published: Feb. 8, 2023 at 6:51 PM EST
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RICHMOND, Va. (WDBJ) - With crossover behind them, state lawmakers are catching their breath and preparing for a frantic race to the finish.

Despite the partisan divide, Democrats and Republicans told us they are upbeat about the results of the session so far, and the likelihood they can come together on some important issues. And that optimism extends to some of the proposals that hold special significance for the western part of the state.

Lawmakers were back at their desks Wednesday, after the marathon floor sessions that carried them to crossover.

“It’s fast and furious. It always is that way,” said Sen. Creigh Deeds (D-Charlottesville).

With a divided legislature, many of the bills that made it out of one chamber face an uncertain future in the other.

“We may have about 14 pieces of legislation when it’s all said and done,” joked Sen. Bill Stanley (R-Franklin Co.).

But lawmakers from western Virginia remain optimistic about local priorities, including the expansion of Catawba Hospital to include treatment for substance use disorder.

“I’m thankful the House was able to include this in their budget, to say that residential treatment is important, that so many families are suffering with substance use disorder,” said Del. Sam Rasoul (D-Roanoke). “Now, hopefully, we can usher it through the Senate and have the right funding for it.”

What of the proposal to make the Virginia Museum of Transportation a state agency?

“It’s doing very well,” said Sen. John Edwards (D-Roanoke). “I’m very pleased about that.”

And a bill that would authorize the adult high school that Goodwill and other partners are planning in Roanoke?

“This is one of those issues that everybody paying attention to it, particularly from the Roanoke area, is very, very concerned about making sure this gets done,” said Del. Chris Head (R-Botetourt Co.). “It’s very important for the region.”

The budget might be the biggest question mark in the final weeks of the session.

“What I’ve worried about from the beginning is the governor is setting us up for another extended session, with the Governor and the House insisting on a billion dollars worth of tax cuts, on top of the $4 billion worth of tax cuts we did last spring,” said Sen. Deeds.

But Republicans said they are optimistic that even on competing budget amendments, the House and Senate will find a way to come together.

“I think the House budget has almost $2 billion worth of tax reductions. I think we’ll certainly see some of that in the final budget,” said Del. Joe McNamara (R-Roanoke Co.).

“You know I expect to be a budget conferee and that will take up many hours,” said Sen. Steve Newman (R-Bedford Co.). “And I’m anticipating that we come out of this with a strong budget, one that hopefully has some tax relief, but also invests in schools, mental health and other things that are important.”

So what do the final days of the General Assembly session hold for other lawmakers?

Sen. Stanley told us “a lot less sleep, and a lot more grumpy around here.”

And Del. Head said to expect “a frantic race to the finish line.”