How Much is Too Much for Virginia's New Democratic Majority?

Nov 8, 2019

Democrats haven’t controlled the House of Delegates for 20 years, so they have a long list of agenda items for the upcoming General Assembly session.
Credit Michael Pope

Democrats have a long list of agenda items they want to tackle when the next General Assembly gavels into session. But, they are going to have to think carefully about what they want to accomplish and when.

How much is too much? Now that Democrats have taken control of the General Assembly for the first time in a generation, are they in danger of trying to take on too much too soon?

Bob Denton at Virginia Tech says the new Democratic majority is going to need to be strategic about which agenda items are at the top of the list. 

“If you lead with social kind of issues or hot-button issues, are the members ready for it? Is the public ready for it," Denton asks. "And so you need a real sense of timing as you go forward with a legislative agenda.”

Stephen Farnsworth at the University of Mary Washington says one pitfall they’ll face is criticism of tax-and-spend liberals, and he says they can avoid that by emphasizing reforms that won’t cost taxpayers a dime. 

“If you were to ratify the ERA, for example, that wouldn’t cost much. If you were to tighten restrictions on guns, that wouldn’t cost much," explains Farnsworth. "If you were to tighten environmental regulations, once again, it wouldn't break the budget.”

Democrats have already signaled gun restrictions will be a top priority for the next General Assembly, but that’s just the start of a long list of things they’ve wanted to do but haven’t been able to because Republicans have blocked the way. Now that obstruction is gone, and Democrats have a generation worth of legislation they’ll be considering next year.

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