Danica Roem, D-Prince William, strode into the University of Virginia’s School of Law Wednesday cracking jokes, fact-checking deans and encouraging current law students to make sure other’s voices are heard.
“Elected Office is not the sole domain of the rich and powerful; it’s for us, too,” she said. “I know, I’m at UVa, I get it, but I guarantee there are a few folks here who get what I mean.”
After the Virginia General Assembly expanded Medicaid, tea party activists in conservative Hanover County gave their roadside billboards a refresh.
“THE PEACE BETRAYAL!,” reads the headline on a bright-yellow sign next to a corn field near Mechanicsville, the first of several displays in the works meant to sound the alarm over Republican Del. Chris Peace’s vote for Medicaid expansion.
They learn so fast these days, don’t they? The big crop of Democratic freshman legislators elected to the House of Delegates last November seem a lot quicker on the political uptake than their predecessors.
What else to make of the average $40,875 that the 16 freshman Democrats in the House raised in the first half of the year. It’s well above the average $17,188 that newbie House Democrats raised in their first six months in office over the previous decade, according to Virginia Public Access Project data.
As votes were still being counted on election night in 2017, then-Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe said the blue wave would finally sweep Medicaid expansion through the General Assembly.
When that prediction came true Wednesday night, members of the big Democratic freshman class of 2018 were some of the last people left on the floor of the House of Delegates, savoring the moment and sharing the news on their phones.
Republicans in the House of Delegates on Wednesday outfoxed Gov. Ralph Northam and House Democrats to block a pair of tax increases to help repair the Metro transit system, but the consequences could prove costly for transportation projects in Northern Virginia and the rest of the state.
House Democrats needed at least two Republicans to join them in supporting Northam’s amendments to legislation to raise $154 million a year for repairs of the deteriorating Washington-area system. None crossed the aisle in a 50-48 procedural vote that killed the governor’s proposals to raise taxes on lodging and deeds in the six localities that are part of the compact that governs Metro.
Intensifying public anger over the pending construction of two massive natural gas pipelines through Virginia boiled over into the General Assembly on Wednesday, when more than a dozen Democratic lawmakers asked Gov. Ralph Northam for more oversight of stream crossings and tree cutting and to protect the rights of landowners protesting the projects.
Judging strictly by legislation passed, the record number of women in this year’s Virginia House of Delegates had only modest impact.
Most of the new delegates are Democrats, and most of their bills died in Republican-controlled committees - which is typical for freshmen, male or female.
But House members said the presence of a historic number of women in the chamber created a fundamental shift in matters large and small, from the tone of debate to the way the House operates.
With just five days remaining until the Virginia General Assembly's scheduled March 10 adjournment, the state's new budget remains a work in progress. The main sticking point: whether Medicaid will be expanded to cover an estimated 300,000 additional low-income Virginians.
The Dominion Energy-backed legislation that overhauls how Virginia regulates its two large electric utilities — including more spending on energy efficiency, grid upgrades and renewable energy projects, though at the price of unfettered state oversight of base rates, opponents contend — could be headed to Gov. Ralph Northam’s desk by the end of next week after making big strides Monday.
Lawmakers are inching ever closer to restoring state oversight of electric utility rates, with both chambers of the General Assembly advancing comprehensive bills on Feb. 26 that would also require that Dominion Energy bury a controversial power line planned for western Prince William County.