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The Right Note: General Assembly Wrap Up

The Right Note is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

Last fall, Virginia voters gave Democrats total control of all levers of power in Richmond.

Delegate Alfonso Lopez had bragged that they could complete the work of a lifetime in “two afternoons.” It turns out that it took the new majority a little longer than that to tackle their agenda. In fact they had to take the unusual step of extending their session by a day to get their work done.

So the questions is, did they fulfill their work of a lifetime?

Redistricting was a top platform issue for the party. While some of us still hold the opinion that the redistricting reform measure will not take politics out of the every 10-year line-drawing process, it finally passed the Virginia General Assembly at the last minute and heads to voters in the fall. It should be noted that it passed despite overwhelming opposition from Democrats in the House of Delegates. Only nine of the 55 Democrats in the body voted for it despite running on the issue over the past several election cycles.

Two questions remain. First, will the Democrats who tried to stop redistricting reform, presumably in order to draw districts they like more, actively oppose it when it reaches the ballot in November? The likely answer here is no.

The other question is whether this is one of those issues voters say they care about when responding to public pollsters but does not actually move their votes when choosing a candidate? I suspect that while the voters are likely to approve the change this November, that this issue moves very few votes when it comes to candidates. But, we will find out in 2021 when the Democrats flip-floppers in the House face re-election.

House Democrats did unite around other items on their agenda. They removed the requirement to provide identification in order to vote while also voting to provide driving cards to undocumented immigrants. They approved casino and sports betting in order to raise revenue for new spending priorities. They increased the gas tax and the minimum wage. They removed restrictions on abortion procedures including requirements that doctors provide the procedures. They passed new restrictions on buying firearms.

They also passed a bill that is the first step toward unraveling Virginia’s status as a right to work state. The new collective bargaining law will allow local governments to engage in the practice with their employees. According to the blog, Blue Virginia, Katie Cristol and Matt de Ferranti support the effort. So, it will be interesting to see if, or when, the County Board votes to do so here.

Ultimately, the voters decide these questions. And, Virginia Democrats now have a record to defend.

Mark Kelly is a 19-year Arlington resident, former Arlington GOP Chairman and two-time Republican candidate for Arlington County Board.

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