Legislative Session Review: Virginia

By Amber Thyson | July 10, 2018

Virginia - Adjournment Graphic

Virginia adjourned its 2018 regular session sine die on March 10, and Governor Ralph Northam (D) finished acting on the bills sent to his desk on April 9. During the 60-day session, the narrowly Republican-controlled legislature passed an increase to the state’s felony threshold from $200 to $500 and undid an electrical rate freeze that had been in effect since 2015. The legislature was, however, unable to pass a state budget, so it reconvened for a special session on April 11 to avoid a state government shutdown. On May 30, the legislature voted to adopt a two-year budget that included Medicaid expansion, which Governor Northam signed into law on June 7. As of publication, the legislature remains in special session to appoint judges, we do not anticipate any substantive measures to be discussed.

Legislative Highlights

  • After five years of debate, the Virginia legislature agreed to expand Medicaid to an additional 400,000 low-income residents. The expansion is expected to take effect on January 1, 2019.   
  • Although more than 70 gun-related bills were introduced this session, only one measure passed (SB 669), which restricts access to firearms for people who had mental health problems as teenagers.
  • Governor Northam vetoed a bill prohibiting the establishment of sanctuary cities in the commonwealth. Other vetoed bills included a measure (HB 375) that would have prohibited local governments from requiring contractors to pay their employees more than minimum wage, as well as a bill (HB 1270) barring the commonwealth from adopting a carbon dioxide emissions cap-and-trade program or participating in a greenhouse gas trading program with other states (e.g., the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative).

Election Preview

Virginia elects statewide officials and legislators during odd-year elections. Last November, Virginians elected Governor Northam and 100 House of Delegate members who serve two-year terms. Virginia state senators are elected to a four-year term and are all up for election again in 2019.

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