Last week, the 2017 Virginia General Assembly Session convened for 46 days to address thousands of bills and amendments to the state budget. After 11 years in the House of Delegates, I took the oath of office to serve in the Virginia State Senate. I am humbled and tremendously honored to have been elected by the voters of the 9th Senate District to succeed Donald McEachin, who now serves in Congress. I look forward to continuing the work I began in the House to improve public education, provide economic opportunity for all Virginians, and strengthen our local communities. I will continue to address the needs of my constituents through legislation and constituency services.
This session, the General Assembly will work to address a $1.26 billion budget shortfall. My top priority will be to protect the historic investments we made last year in K-12 education, and fight any efforts to erode our public education system. Last month, Governor Terry McAuliffe unveiled his amendments to the biennial budget for 2016-2018 in a speech to the Joint Money Committees, which you can read here. The House Appropriation and Senate Finance Committees will now consider the Governor's proposed amendments. I will provide updates on the budget as it moves through both chambers throughout session.
State of the Commonwealth Address
On opening night of the General Assembly Session, Governor McAuliffe gave his State of the Commonwealth Address, which you can read here.
During the Governor's address, he highlighted Virginia's job growth citing 167,000 new jobs since he began his term as Governor, an unemployment rate of 4.2 %, 1.2 % lower than it was when he began 3 years ago and the second lowest unemployment rate of any major state.
Governor McAuliffe also highlighted his efforts to provide past offenders with a second chance and to support veterans. He noted that 127,000 Virginians have regained the right to vote, and that Virginia is the first state in the nation to be certified as functionally ending veteran homelessness.
Governor McAuliffe also presented an agenda for 2017 aimed at creating a new Virginia economy that creates opportunity for families from all walks of life. Key parts of his agenda include: improving mental health services and opioid abuse treatment, expanding access to the ballot box, transforming the juvenile justice system, expanding access to health care, and instituting universal background checks for gun sales.
Governor McAuliffe also warned Republican lawmakers that he plans to veto any legislation that seeks to undermine progress, discriminate against LGBT Virginians or undermine constitutional health care rights of women.
2017 Virginia Legislative Black Caucus Agenda
Last week, the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus held a press conference to announce its 2017 Legislative Agenda. You can watch the video from their press event here.
Protecting K-12 education funding, criminal justice reform, and supporting the Governor's legislation inhibiting driver's license suspensions to those who are unable to pay court fees, are among the VLBC's top priorities.
The VLBC also plans to introduce legislation that increases the minimum wage; bans the box, prohibiting state agencies from inquiring on an application whether a prospective employee has ever been arrested or charged with committing a crime; and incorporates protocol for traffic stops in drivers' education.