RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — A packed agenda has advanced in the General Assembly before a critical deadline but, in a divided government, some of those successes are likely to be short-lived.
Tuesday was the middle of the 2022 session. It was the last day for lawmakers to pass bills out of their chambers before crossing to the other side of the state Capitol for consideration.
Here’s where some closely watched bills stand:
Governor Glenn Youngkin’s tax reform agenda passed the Republican-controlled House of Delegates on Tuesday, but many elements have already been defeated in the Senate, where Democrats still hold a majority.
Bills to cut the grocery tax have won bipartisan support in both houses, but there are key differences that will need to be resolved. As it stands, the Home version would eliminate the entire tax, including the 1% local component, whereas the Senate proposal would only repeal the state party.
A push to give one-time tax refunds to Virginians also won approval from both sides. the house proposal would give $300 to individuals and up to $600 to married people filing jointly for the 2021 tax year. The Senate resisted on setting an amount later in the budget process.
Legislation that would provide tax relief for a portion of military benefits almost got unanimous support in both houses.
On the other hand, invoices halt a gas tax hike, demand referendums from voters for certain local property tax increases and double the standard deduction for state income tax have already been killed in the Senate. They are expected to meet a similar fate when they return from the Chamber.
When it comes to education, there seems to be common ground on bills to notify parents of sexually explicit educational materials and reinstate reporting requirements for certain crimes committed at school. Both bills passed the Senate with some bipartisan support.
The Senate has rejected bills that Aiming to Create New Pathways to Approve Charter Schools but one compromise to develop “innovation laboratory schools” wins approval from both sides of the aisle. However, Democrats have warned that they will not entertain the version of the Laboratory School Bill passed the House of Delegates Tuesday because it gives too much sway to private corporations and does not do enough to protect public school funding. Without agreement, this push can also fail.
House Republicans will also face an uphill battle while trying to push through the bills. prohibiting the teaching or training of “divisive concepts” in schools, as well as legislation setting stricter requirements for hiring school resource officers.
Governor Youngkin amended a bill on Tuesday allowing parents to opt out of school mask mandates. Localities will be required to comply with the law beginning March 1, 2022, provided the House of Delegates passes the amendment as scheduled before that date.
Tuesday, the Senate passed a bill this would allow recreational marijuana sales to begin on September 15, 2022, but only through certain medical cannabis suppliers and hemp processors. The market would later expand to other businesses, which could open in 2024, after a new state agency is established. Only those 21 and older could legally buy these products.
This comes after the General Assembly legalized adult limited possession and home cultivation in 2021.
House Republicans have not passed their own version of the legislation allowing retail sales, but they have pledged to make significant changes when the Senate bill passes. If lawmakers fail to reach a consensus, the effort could falter and delay sales indefinitely.
Another bill seeks to suppress the spread of Delta-8, a cannabis compound increasingly found in convenience stores, changing the definition of marijuana. It would also ban the production and retail sale of marijuana in the form of a human, animal, vehicle or fruit to avoid attracting children.
The most controversial abortion bill of the 2022 session died after House Republicans decided not to act on it. It would have banned most abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy when some claim a fetus can feel pain.
However, the House adopted two other proposals on Tuesday. Written informed consent would be required and a “full, reasonable, and understandable medical explanation of the nature, benefits, risks, and alternatives to the proposed procedures.”
Another bill would create criminal penalties for health care providers who fail to take action to preserve life in the rare event that a child is born alive during an attempted abortion.
Both bills will struggle to make it through committee and make it to the Senate, where at least one pro-life Democrat might be willing to support them.
The House has passed bills optional Marcus Alert system for mental health emergencies for the localities and the framework new requirements for civilian oversight bodies. Republicans also want repeal a recent ban on no-knock warrants and a law prohibiting the police from obtaining certain military equipment.
On the side of the Senate, the legislators voted to expand the oversight powers of the Virginia Police Department, allowing them to use facial recognition databases to identify anyone involved in a “specific criminal incident or specific citizen welfare situation”.