Virginia lawmakers kick off 2019 General Assembly session

Virginia lawmakers kick off 2019 General Assembly session

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - State lawmakers are hard at work on the first day of the 2019 General Assembly session. This year they’ll decide key issues such as a proposed tax cut, education spending, gun control and more.

Republicans control both the House and Senate by just a couple of seats, with a Democrat holding the governor seat. Democrats hope to get more measures through, including the ratification of a Constitutional Amendment passed by Congress nearly 50 years ago.

Protesters greeted lawmakers this morning, hoping Virginia will become the last state needed to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment, guaranteeing women are equal with men under the law, as Delegate Carroll Foy said relates to being allowed to attend the Virginia Military Institute.

“I remember sitting in my high school class and watching the VMI decision on TV, and hearing Justice Ginsburg say, ‘you cannot deny women into your doors,'” said For.

A historic moment, they hope, to match what some greeters represented today costumed as House of Burgesses guards in the House Chamber, what mark the 400th anniversary of the first General Assembly meeting in Jamestown in 1619.

This year, Governor Ralph Northam wants to increase education funding by $268 million and cover repairs and more security at Virginia schools after so many mass shootings, which is what he said citizens need and want.

“I have listened to people across the Commonwealth,” said Northam.

He’d pay for it with an expected windfall from the federal tax cut, but Republicans want a state tax cut instead. They say since more taxpayers will take the newly doubled federal-standard deduction, they want to change a state law requiring taxpayers to take the state standard deduction, too. Republicans said taxpayers will pay too much.

“It will allow Virginians to itemize, to still itemize. That will go away the way Virginia works, and those are solid middle-class people. And we’ve also raised the standard deduction,” said House Speaker Kirk Cox.

Hot debates are also expected over whether to legalize sports betting and casinos, to force Dominion Energy to clean up coal ash ponds and to decriminalize marijuana.

Copyright 2019 WWBT. All rights reserved.