Virginia lawmakers prepare for new legislative session in Richmond

Local lawmakers talk about plans for 2018 as legislative session gets underway

ROANOKE, Va. – State legislators are heading back to Richmond ahead of the upcoming legislative session that starts on Wednesday.  From new representatives to a new governor and a big budget year, we can expect to see a lot of changes coming out of this session.

Gov.-elect Ralph Northam's inauguration is set for this weekend. Before that, we're seeing a host of new Democrats arriving for work in Richmond, shaking up the balance of power.

Along with debating hundreds of new bills, lawmakers will also be working to build a budget for the 2019-20 fiscal years. That budget will go into effect this summer.

"The fact that we have a budget year, it's always a longer session," says Democratic Delegate Sam Rasoul, 11th District. "We've got a number of different priorities we're going to have to figure out how to fund, especially with some rebenchmarking in education, healthcare and a few other things."

Many have also been keeping a close eye on the extremely close race for the 94th District House of Delegates seat. After weeks of back and forth over a tied race in the Newport News region, Republicans will hang onto control of the chamber this session. It's a decision that was made by a tie-breaking drawing, where GOP candidate David Yancey's name was drawn late last week.

"There's been a lot of noise because of how close the elections were," says 8th District Delegate, Greg Habeeb. "I think a really close general assembly gives us the chance to work in a bipartisan fashion to do the people's business. I expect there to be a lot of good things coming out of this session."

While the upcoming session is still a couple of days away, legislators have been hard at work preparing. Since Nov. 20, more than 650 bills have already been pre-filed. As lawmakers return to Richmond, they'll continue filing bills for discussion until the Jan. 19 deadline.

Many lawmakers are returning to the state Capitol early, including 12th District Delegate Chris Hurst, who is preparing for his first legislative session since being elected back in November.

"I think that it's a full-time job even though we're only over in Richmond for two months," he says. "But if you want to do it well and want to do it the way people expect you to do it, it really is a 24-7-365 position."

Chris Head, delegate for the 17th District, spoke about some of the new opportunities and challenges he expects to see out of this upcoming session as well.

"My legislative agenda will focus on legislation to make life easier for small business owners and to get government out of the way so more jobs can be created," he says. "This year, the House of Delegates will be looking at healthcare reform, creating educational opportunities and tackling the opioid crisis."

While the 60-day session doesn't officially get underway until Wednesday, a host of committee sessions and early discussions kick off in Richmond this morning.