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What to expect from the 2022 General Assembly session


The General Assembly gavels into session Wednesday, and a new governor will be inaugurated this weekend.

For the past two years, Democrats have held the trifecta — the executive branch as well as both the House and the Senate. Now Virginia is about to enter a new era of divided government where Republicans control the Executive Mansion and the House while Democrats control the Senate.

Jatia Wrighten at Virginia Commonwealth University says she'll be watching to see if Republicans are able to roll back the accomplishments Democrats made while they were in power.

"The Democrats over the last couple of years have really ushered in some pretty progressive policies," explains Wrighten. "And I'm not certain if the incoming General Assembly will make strides to push back on a lot of these progressive policies."

Things like legalizing marijuana, ending the death penalty, increasing access to voting and even new environmental regulations.

Republicans in the House might want to roll back those new laws. But Jennifer Victor at George Mason University says political parties often decide what issues they'll support based on opposing the other side.

"It's a very antagonistic form of politicking that is unfortunately quite common across state legislatures, and it's one of the unfortunate consequences in the partisan and polarized era that we're living through," Victor says. "It's quite dysfunctional from a policymaking standpoint."

So set your expectations low, she says, because Democrats in the Senate will probably end up blocking most of the major changes Republicans in the House are hoping to make.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.

Michael Pope is an author and journalist who lives in Old Town Alexandria. He has reported for NPR, the New York Daily News and the Alexandria Gazette Packet. He has a master's degree in American Studies from Florida State University, and he is a former adjunct professor at Tallahassee Community College. He is the author of four books.