General Assembly 2012: Special budget session ahead

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - A special session is in the General Assembly's future after failing to pass a budget late Saturday night. The 2012 session adjourned with thousands of bills passed, but without a two year budget.

Both Senate Democrats and Republicans say they are ready to get it done with they come back later this month. Meantime, they'll get a break of about ten days before coming back to pass the most important bill of any session.

"The rhetoric has toned down a great deal between the Senate Democrats and the Senate Republicans but I think we set a new tone we're moving forward and we're moving forward cooperatively," said Senate Republican Leader Tommy Norment.

"We are farther along now, towards having a budget then we were in '04, '06, '01, and 2008," said Senate Democratic Leader Dick Saslaw.

Legislators passed more than 1,500 bills during it's 60-day session, but none attracted as much attention as the one requiring women seeking an abortion to have an invasive ultrasound.

What passed was a less invasive abdominal ultrasound -- that now has to be funded. It's a bill Senator Janet Howell says she'll try to find money for during the special session.

"The big beneficiaries of this are going to be the people of Virginia and I really feel they've got -- they're right at my back -- they're right with me and they're saying you stick by it girl," said Howell, (D) 32nd District.

Lawmakers will tackle the budget after a short cooling off period. They'll get to go home, meet with constituents -- who Senator Norment say will give them the push to finalize the budget without much delay.

"I think that when we do come back on March 21, each of us may be a  little refreshed because we've had that face to face conversation with our citizens and those voters are going to tell us, 'we don't have much patients for you all fooling around in Richmond on political issues. Get your job done,'" Norment said.

Saturday night, the House and Senate did agree to change parts of the Virginia Retirement System. Local government workers and teachers would be required to pay 5% of their salaries toward their own retirement, but that would be offset by a mandatory 5% raise.

In 2014, newly hired workers would be required to use a retirement plan that more closely resembles a 401K.

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