The General Assembly has now entered its final scheduled week for the 2016 regular session, with adjournment sine die set to occur on our 60th day at the Capitol: Saturday, March 12. In these last hours, with most of the committee work complete, more time is being spent on the house floor as the final senate bills reported out of house committees are addressed.
Additionally, the house members are now considering our own bills, which have been returned by the senate with amendments. When the amendments are accepted, the bill to which it is attached is sent to the governor for his signature, veto, or further suggested amendment. These will be addressed at the Reconvened Session on April 20. When the house rejects amendments, the bill is sent into conference for negotiation.
Also now in conference are the proposed budgets of each body. As I wrote about last week, the house has submitted a structurally sound budget that meets our obligations, with particular attention to education and workforce development funding. Reports I have received from conferees are encouraging and their expectation is that agreement will be reached in a timely manner.
The governor has also commented on the budget proposals submitted by each body in a public letter released from his office. In an attached appendix, the governor identified a handful of issues described by him as his primary areas of concern. These involve provisions relating to research, technology and economic development, including the rejection of his introduced proposal to fund an additional one million dollars per year for gubernatorial trade and marketing missions. He further identified nearly a dozen other issues of controversy where he noted his disagreement.
One of the budget positions, which the governor chose to highlight for objection, was the house amendment to prohibit any appropriation of state monies for the funding of abortions. The language we passed reflects the strong pro-life position that many of my colleagues and I have taken. It is widely supported by citizens across the Commonwealth who do not expect their tax dollars to be used in ways that would violate our strongly held belief in the right to life. I found it regrettable that the governor would focus on this language, but recognize it represents one of the primary differences between his party and mine.
Besides the remaining legislation and budget matters at stake, important action will also be taken with respect to Virginia’s judiciary. As a member of the Judicial Appointment Subcommittee for the House Committee on Courts of Justice, I will spend time considering the qualifications of numerous suggested appointments to the bench. One of these will include a local appointment to replace the retiring General District Judge for the 21st Judicial District.
Of more statewide concern, a vacancy exists on the Virginia Supreme Court. Despite the governor’s insistence to the contrary, I intend to remain committed, as has a majority of my colleagues, to naming a candidate of our choosing and thereby observe the duty vested in us by the Virginia Constitution.