RICHMOND, Va. (AP) – The Virginia General Assembly kicked off its annual legislative session Wednesday with a hefty agenda that includes taxes, abortion and energy policy, but low expectations for how much work will actually get done during an election year.
Every legislative seat in the Republican-controlled House of Delegates and the Democrat-held Senate is on the ballot this year.
Lawmakers will work on revising the two-year budget they approved last year. Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin outlined his proposed amendments in December, asking for another $1 billion in tax cuts, in addition to the $4 billion in tax relief he has already signed into law.
The state is expecting a $3.6 billion surplus for fiscal year 2023. Republicans have praised Youngkin’s proposal, which includes a corporate tax rate cut, while Democrats have instead called for making the earned income tax credit fully refundable.
Lawmakers will also debate how the state should regulate abortion, for the first time since the Supreme Court decision in June overturning Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 ruling that established a nationwide right to abortion.
Youngkin has said he hopes to pass a 15- or 20-week ban with exceptions for rape, incest and the life of the mother. Such a bill faces a difficult path. It would need to clear a committee disproportionately stacked with Democrats, who have promised to vote down any abortion restrictions, before advancing it to a floor vote, where the chamber is more closely divided on the issue.
The prospects for new restrictions on abortion grew more dim as Democrat Aaron Rouse claimed victory in a race for the Senate seat formerly held by Republican Jen Kiggans, who was elected to Congress in November. The results of the race are still unofficial, but Rouse’s opponent, Republican Kevin Adams, issued a statement Wednesday calling Rouse senator-elect. That gives Democrats in the Senate a 22-18 majority in the Senate.
Youngkin, who met with Republican and Democratic caucuses Wednesday, downplayed the impact the election results could have on abortion restrictions.
“Doesn’t change any of our agenda at all,” he told reporters.
The governor is scheduled to give the annual State of the Commonwealth address late Wednesday afternoon.