Jan 11, 2023 - Politics

What to expect in the 2023 General Assembly session

Illustration of the Virginia State Capitol with lines radiating from it.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

Expect more show than substance as the General Assembly convenes for its 2023 session today.

What's happening: Lawmakers, in town for less than two months, are teeing up policy proposals on abortion, energy, taxes and schools.

Yes, but: No one expects any major breakthroughs. Control of the legislature is divided between Republicans in the House and Democrats in the Senate.

  • "I think the 2023 legislative session is going to be like a summer thunderstorm where it doesn't rain — lots of thunderclaps and lightning bolts but no measurable precipitation," Albert Pollard, a former Democratic House member and now a lobbyist, told the AP.

Between the lines: With every seat in the General Assembly up for re-election later this year, campaign concerns and all the associated posturing will be many lawmakers' top priority.

State of play: Here's where things stand heading into day one.

⚕️ Abortion: Gov. Youngkin has called for a 15-week ban, which Democrats have vowed to block and Republicans in the House now acknowledge probably won't go anywhere.

  • "I would be very surprised if anything of substance comes out of this General Assembly on abortion," said Republican House of Delegates Speaker Todd Gilbert earlier this week, per the Times-Dispatch.

💸 Taxes: Republicans are pursuing $1 billion in tax cuts for individuals and businesses. Democrats say they want cuts targeted to help the state's poorest residents.

🏥 Mental health: This is a rare point of bipartisan agreement, with Democrats voicing support for Gov. Youngkin's proposal to boost the state's beleaguered mental health system.

ğŸŽ Education: There may also be some consensus on raising teacher pay, with Youngkin proposing one-time bonuses and Democrats pushing for permanent raises.

  • Republicans are also pursuing school choice legislation that would redirect some state funding for public schools to private institutions.

🌿 Marijuana: Lawmakers plan to put forward legislation opening retail sales of recreational marijuana, which House Republicans blocked last year.

  • GOP leaders say they haven't decided whether they will move on the issue this year.
  • "We're looking to the governor for guidance," Gilbert said.
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