RICHMOND, Va. – A record number of bills passed in the House of Delegates ahead of the “crossover” deadline, considered the halfway point in the session when a bill has to pass its chamber or it dies.
Democrat-led efforts like marijuana decriminalization, removal of war memorials, and an assault weapons ban squeezed past in the homestretch. Some Republican bills, like one that gave the Virginia Lottery Board the ability to regulate casino gambling, also continued to advance.
Delegates filed more than 1,700 bills this session, and 828 bills passed. A Virginia House Democrats release said the House has passed 37% more bills than it did during the 2019 General Assembly session. The release stated the House passed around 600 bills each year from 2016 to 2019.
“We listened to Virginia and are moving together, forward,” House Majority Leader Charniele Herring, D-Alexandria, said in a press release. “Voters called for major change in the Commonwealth and we are delivering by passing practical, necessary legislation aimed at substantially improving the lives of Virginia residents.”
Stephen Farnsworth, director of the Center for Leadership and Media Studies at the University of Mary Washington, said “it’s very clear there’s a new party in charge” and that Democrats are focusing on legislation that wouldn’t have been considered during a Republican majority.
“Issues that would have been dispensed by a Republican majority in two minutes are now not only getting full hearings, but discussion on the floor of at least one chamber of the legislature,” Farnsworth said. “The people in the previous Republican majority who are used to calling the shots, are now subjected to the same treatment that they themselves dealt out in the past.”
In the House, Democrats passed 642 bills, more than half of the 1,193 bills they introduced. Republicans filed fewer bills this session — 541 bills were filed and 34% of them passed. These numbers reflect bills, and do not include resolutions or joint resolutions. Bills incorporated into other bills are classified as failing.
Del. Patrick Hope, D-Arlington, filed and passed more legislation than any other delegate. Out of 50 filed bills, 32 have passed in the House. His bills eliminated the co-payment program for nonemergency healthcare services for prisoners, created provisions on conversion therapy, and granted excused absences to students who miss school because of mental and behavioral health.
While Democrats have applauded their party’s success, Republicans have mostly focused on the possible impact of the new majority. Del. Wendell Walker, R-Lynchburg, said recently passed legislation attacked the Second Amendment, tore down the economy, and made it easier to “take the lives of our unborn.”
In the Senate, 60% of the 1,095 bills filed succeeded. Democrats passed 440 bills, 64% of what they filed. Republicans passed 223 bills, 54% of the legislation they filed.
Sen. Scott Surovell, D-Fairfax, filed and passed more bills than any other senator. He filed 60 bills, and was successful in passing 42.
Sen. John Edwards, D-Roanoke, passed 32 bills in the Senate, and his chief of staff said they are expected to be successful in the House.
“Senator Edwards has been in the Virginia Senate since 1996, and with the Democratic Party in the minority for the bulk of that time, he had a lot of ideas for good legislation that didn't pass in prior years,” said Luke Priddy, Edward’s chief of staff.
Out of 412 bills filed by Senate Republicans, 223, roughly half of them, passed.
Sen. Ryan McDougle, R-Hanover, said bills that include increasing the gas tax, energy requirements, the ability of localities to increase taxes, and $15 minimum wage would make living in Virginia more expensive.
“These policies are not free market, they’re not good for Virginia businesses, but they’re not good for Virginia workers either,” McDougle said Wednesday on WRVA’s Richmond Morning News program. “We want there to be competition. When the economy’s moving up, we want to be able to get jobs.”
House of Delegates Speaker Eileen Filler-Corn, D-Fairfax, called the legislation passed “long overdue,” in a statement released Tuesday.
“We have kept our promise to truly be the ‘People’s House’ by passing long overdue legislation to protect Virginians from exploitation, discrimination and senseless violence,” Filler-Corn said.