The 2022 General Assembly session is now underway
The General Assembly is now in session with Republicans in control of the Virginia House of Delegates.
Republican Delegate Todd Gilbert of Shenandoah County is now Speaker of the House of Delegates, securing a unanimous vote among all members of the chamber — Democrats and Republicans — in a longstanding House tradition of welcoming new speakers with undivided approval. Education is at the top of the agenda for Republicans, who want to expand charter schools and fund education savings accounts.
"There's an old joke, how many Virginians does it take to screw in a light bulb? Four, one to screw in the light bulb and three to talk about what a great light bulb that last light bulb was," Gilbert says. "We can't get stuck in that rut. We can't get stuck in the past. Innovation is the way forward."
Democrats are concerned about the new House rules, which give the Speaker discretion over who gets to participate virtually and who doesn't. Delegate Marcus Simon is a Democrat from Fairfax County.
"If he's routinely going to grant folks leave if they're sick, the rules ought to say he will grant and not he may," Simon says. "And being permissive opens the door for shenanigans."
If a close vote was expected, he says, the Speaker would have the power to deny Democrats the ability to participate virtually. That could end up being an important way this session functions if omicron rips through the tightly packed subcommittee rooms with dozens of people gathered in tight confines.