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3 things to know about the Virginia General Assembly right now

The session will be the second under Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin, who is looking for some major wins on his conservative priorities.

NORFOLK, Va. — Author's note: The video above is about a proposed ban on blue light headlights. It aired on Jan. 4, 2023.

Virginia lawmakers are getting ready for the 2023 General Assembly session, where several hot-button issues affecting Virginians are on the table.

The session will be the second under Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin, who is looking for some major wins on his conservative priorities. Unless a special session is called, it will be the last time state lawmakers meet before the November 2023 elections.

The session starts on January 11 and is expected to last 30 days, unless lawmakers agree to extend the duration. Here are three things to know about the General Assembly right now:

Republicans control the House, Democrats hold the Senate

Going into the 2023 General Assembly session, Republicans have a 52-48 majority in the House of Delegates, while Democrats have a 21-19 majority in the Virginia Senate. The House has 100 seats total, while the Senate has 40.

Republicans won back control of the House in the 2021 elections after two years of Democratic control of the chamber. Democrats have held the Senate since 2020 following the 2019 elections.

Todd Gilbert serves as the Virginia Speaker of the House and Lt. Gov. Winsome Earle-Sears is the presiding officer of the Senate, the highest role in each chamber. Both are Republicans and closely allied with Youngkin.

With party control nearly split in the Senate, Republicans only need to swing one Democrat to pass their own bills, since Earle-Sears can cast a tiebreaker vote. 

But Sen. Louise Lucas, the highest-ranking Democrat in the Senate as president pro tempore, has vowed to wield the Democratic majority as a "brick wall" against Republican priorities. She is the presiding officer in Earle-Sears' absence.

There is a chance the Senate Democrats will soon have some extra wiggle room; a special election is being held in Senate District 7 to fill the seat vacated by Republican Jen Kiggans, who was elected in November to the US House of Representatives. 

A special election to fill the seat will be held on January 10, between Republican Kevin Adams and Democrat Aaron Rouse. If Rouse wins, the Democrats will expand their majority to 22 seats.

Several big issues expected to come up in 2023

During the 2023 session, the General Assembly is expected to take up a range of issues and priorities, including abortion restrictions, Virginia's defunct same-sex marriage ban in the Constitution, coastal resiliency, vehicle emission standards, and marijuana policy.

Lawmakers will also take on Youngkin's proposed amendments to the 2022-24 state budget. Some of the governor's proposals include tax cuts; raises for teachers, law enforcement and state employees; and investments in projects, ranging from economic development to infrastructure.

RELATED | 6 big issues Virginia lawmakers will take up in January General Assembly session

The House and Senate Democratic caucuses released their "Vision for Virginia" Friday, a laundry list of priorities that Democratic lawmakers want to take up in the upcoming session. 

Their priorities include addressing housing costs, defending the recent minimum wage increase, protecting abortion rights, investing in education and ensuring Virginia maintains its electric vehicle standards and involvement in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI).

The Republican House majority will largely focus on economic development, addressing learning loss in K-12 schools during the pandemic, mental health support and supporting law enforcement, House Speaker Todd Gilbert said in a briefing with reporters Monday.

All seats are on the ballot in November

Election Day is November 7 and all 140 seats in the General Assembly will be on the ballot, which could serve as a referendum on Youngkin's time in office so far.

The 40 Senate seats will be on the ballot for the first time since the 2019 elections, a year that Democrats gained full control of the General Assembly, alongside a Democratic governor at the time, Ralph Northam. Whoever wins will serve a four-year term.

This year's House election is the first time that members will face the voters since the 2021 elections that Republicans won, taking control back from Democrats. Whoever wins will serve a two-year term.

The November election is also the first under new district boundaries set by the Supreme Court of Virginia in December 2021.

The primary date, where voters will pick their nominees to face off in the November elections, is set for June 20.

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