The first full week of the 2014 General Assembly session began with Governor McAuliffe's first official address and concluded with a state holiday. In between that celebration and Virginia's state holiday, Lee-Jackson Day, the General Assembly has begun to undertake the monumental task of sorting through and considering more than two thousand pieces of legislation.
In years such as this when Virginia is changing governors, legislators attend three gubernatorial addresses. The first is the State of the Commonwealth Address, delivered by the outgoing governor on the opening day of the General Assembly session. The second is the Inaugural Address, delivered by the newly inaugurated governor immediately following the swearing-in ceremony. The third address is the new governor's Address to the Joint Session.
You may wonder how the Inaugural Address and the Address to the Joint Session differ. In the Inaugural Address, the new governor traditionally delivers a broad outline of the goals and vision of the incoming administration. In the Address to the Joint Session, the new governor usually takes the goals and vision of the Inaugural Address and turns them into specific policies, thereby laying out the details of his agenda to the General Assembly.
Judging from his speeches, the new governor's overarching goal is to have Virginia join the northeastern and western states in enacting the expansion of Medicaid under ObamaCare. Considering the problems with the existing Medicaid program and the extensive difficulties and disruptions that virtually all states have experienced as a result of attempting to implement ObamaCare policies and procedures, the governor will face substantial challenges in trying to implement his first year goal.
Despite just finishing our first week, there are a large number of bills that have already been considered and voted on in committee. The full Senate has even voted on several bills. The Committees on which I serve - Courts of Justice, Finance, Rehabilitation and Social Services, Rules, and Commerce and Labor - have all considered and voted on bills this week.
I have already presented five of my bills before committees. Two of the bills, SB478 and SB489 would crack down on the illegal distribution of tax-paid, contraband cigarettes by increasing penalties and granting law enforcement greater flexibility in dealing with these crimes. Another bill, SB476, would expand the definition of who can be punished for committing incest to step-relations in order to provide stronger protections for children from sexual predators. My last two bills both dealt with education. The first education bill, SB449 will require the implementation of agreements between public two-year and four-year higher education institutions as to how to deal with articulation, dual admissions, and guaranteed admissions. The second education bill, SB445, will give the Virginia Military Institute Board of Visitors far more discretion and flexibility in appointing an executive committee and the president of the board.
All legislation being considered during this year's session can be tracked on the General Assembly's website, virginiageneralassembly.gov.
The elevators in the General Assembly Building are already brimming with visitors, as citizens throughout the Commonwealth flock to Richmond to see their lawmakers in action. We have already had several stop by our offices.
Dr. William Bennett or Williamsburg
Dr. Ralph Howell of Suffolk
Mr. Gerald Rhodes, American Legion
Mr. Stephen Sopko, American Legion
Mr. Joseph Shine, American Legion
Even though this week ends with a holiday and the coming week starts with a national holiday, Martin Luther King Day, the General Assembly will remain in session, proudly serving our Commonwealth. With two thousand pieces of legislation to consider and a two-year budget to approve, we need every day we can muster in order to get everything accomplished within the 60-day legislative session. Given that most of the Commonwealth will have the day off on Monday, we are preparing ourselves to receive plenty of visitors over the holiday.
We are now here in our Richmond office and will be here until the General Assembly is scheduled to adjourn on March 10. My legislative assistant, Kalia Sokos, is also in Richmond, and our office is in Room 621 of the General Assembly Building. You can contact us by sending an e-mail to District03@senate.virginia.gov, or by sending a letter to me at Senate of Virginia, Post Office Box 396, Richmond VA 23218-0396. You can also call us at 804.698.7503.
Very truly yours,
Senator Tommy Norment
Paid for and Authorized by Friends of Tommy Norment