The first week of the General Assembly has been a blur! New Delegates were sworn in. A new Speaker of the House has been selected. House committee assignments have been announced. Bills and budget amendments have been introduced. Committees have begun their work.
Governor McAuliffe gave a rousing farewell State of the Commonwealth address. I have worked with six Governors while in office. Terry McAuliffe has done more for our economy and attracted more investment ($20 billion!) than any previous governor. First Lady Dorothy McAuliffe has spearheaded a school breakfast program statewide. It has been a real privilege to work with them both.
This weekend we are celebrating the inauguration of Ralph Northam as our 73rd Governor. I have worked with him for ten years in the Senate and have every confidence he will be an outstanding chief executive. He and I share a deep commitment to providing healthcare to 4oo,ooo additional Virginians under the Affordable Care Act. I suspect that will be the main political struggle of this session. It is cruel, costly, and fiscally irresponsible not to provide healthcare coverage that has already been paid for by Virginia taxpayers.
I have introduced fifteen bills so far. Next week I will briefly describe several of them.
Most of my time will be spent crafting the biennial budget. As a Senate budget conferee and ranking Democrat on the Finance Committee, it is my responsibility to make sure your money is being spent wisely. For the first time in over a decade, revenues are growing enough for us to increase funding over pre-recession levels. Tough decisions will still have to be made - but, at a minimum, we should be able to improve funding for education at all levels and for human services (where Virginia ranks near the bottom among states).
One of the most amusing aspects of this hectic week has been watching all of us legislators wandering around, totally lost in our temporary office building. There are corridors to nowhere, elevators that don't go to all floors, narrow corridors, and no cafeterias. We will be here for four years while the new building is being constructed. Our old, beloved General Assembly Building had so much asbestos and crumbling infrastructure that it couldn't reasonably be renovated.
Please come visit me at 509E in the Pocahontas Building. I literally have the best view of the Capitol and would love to show it to you! And, please keep in touch on the issues of importance to you. You can contact me at email@example.com or 804-786-7532. My aide, Karol Straub, is always eager to help you with issues involving state government.
We are raring to go!