Amid controversies, local lawmakers discuss successes, plans to regroup

Republicans eye Monday votes on budget, Democrats call for input

RICHMOND, Va. – Amid the chaos involving multiple controversies surrounding top Virginia Democrats -- including new developments regarding Gov. Ralph Northam and Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax late Friday afternoon -- local lawmakers tried to stay focused on their work Friday.

Republicans are looking forward to scoring another win Monday on their tax policy legislation and Democrats are trying to figure out how to move forward.

Senate Democrats released a joint statement Friday afternoon that said, in part, “our faith in our executive leaders has been shaken.”

Democratic Sen. John Edwards, who represents Roanoke, says everyone needs to take the controversies “day by day” right now.

“Virginia is a very strong state. We need to take a deep breath and step back. We have a great state. We have a bright future, so we’ll get through this,” he said.

On Friday, Democrats said they want to continue to have a dialogue with constituents, saying they want to hear from people this weekend to address the controversies and try to move past them.

Democratic Del. Chris Hurst has a town hall event scheduled for Saturday at 1:30 p.m. at Radford University. It was scheduled before the controversies. His spokeswoman said he's ready to discuss whatever constituents want to talk about.

Republicans want to move forward too. Sen. Steve Newman said he’s spoken with both Fairfax and Attorney General Mark Herring this week about their respective controversies. 

“I’m really praying that this cloud is lifted off of this capitol because when you lift the cloud, so much good is going on,” Newman said. “The budget, these 1,500 bills that are moving through, and a tax plan that returns so much money back to the people of Virginia. That’s a positive thing for Virginia.”

Republicans are happy to be winning the budgetary battle over what to do with the windfall from changes to the federal tax code. Newman said the plans have support from Democrats, including from the governor.

Top Republicans expect a vote on plans in both chambers Monday and expect to get a signature from the governor after that.

The bills call for taxpayers to get money back after Virginia received a windfall from the tax code changes at the federal level, which sparked higher state taxes on last year’s income.

In October, individuals would receive $110 and married couples would get $220 back. The plan also would raise the standard deduction by 50 percent -- the first increase since 2005.

Democrats have criticized the bills, saying they favor wealthier Virginians and don’t do enough for low-income households.