A new session for General Assembly

Published 8:00 pm Friday, January 5, 2018

The Virginia General Assembly will convene on Jan. 10 for a 60-day session in Richmond.

While bringing in a new year, most delegates and senators plan on bringing new bills and ideas into the session.

House of Delegates member Matthew James, a Democrat who represents part of Suffolk, wants to keep the focus on areas that directly impact his constituents as well as staying consistent with what he’s done in the past.

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“I also try and work hard to have positive impacts,” James said. “I have a few bills that try to come up with a strategy to the toll situation at the Downtown and Midtown tunnels.”

James, along with Sen. Louise Lucas, who also represents part of Suffolk, are co-patrons on a resolution introduced by Delegate Steve Heretick that would direct the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission to study the feasibility of reducing or eliminating tolls on the tunnels.

The tolls place a financial burden on commuters in the workforce, according to the proposal, and the traffic volume in both tunnels has decreased since 2015. Possible solutions can come from Virginia reallocating existing funding to reduce the tolls or possibly renegotiating the contract with Elizabeth River Crossings, which operates the two tunnels, the resolution states.

“I’m looking forward to the session,” James added. “I’ve enjoyed working on the committees and having good bipartisanship on them. One of the things I’ve enjoyed in the General Assembly is that we have been able to come up with bipartisan solutions.”

James is a part of the Appropriations, Agriculture, Chesapeake and Natural Resources and Health, Welfare and Institutions committees. He is confident that these committees can continue to work and come up with bipartisan solutions.

Sen. John Cosgrove, a Republican whose district includes part of Suffolk, has plans to push for an actual budget in Washington.

“I am carrying an Article V resolution that would require the federal government to have a balanced budget. The way things are going in Washington, we haven’t had a real budget in years,” Cosgrove said.

Article V of the United States Constitution grants the states the rights to amend the Constitution. Thirty other states have also filed the same bill within their own legislatures.

Cosgrove also has innovative ideas to bring to the Senate in this new session. He plans to present a bill that will set up a pilot program of hyperbaric oxygen therapies for veterans with PTSD and traumatic brain injuries.

“The Senate will be the firewall for what we think is not fiscally responsible legislation that will come out of the House. We will continue with our conservative ways in the Senate,” Cosgrove said.

Freshman legislator Emily Brewer of the 64th District is introducing a bill that will allow close relatives of children to file for adoption in two years instead of the current three years.

Delegate Cliff Hayes will be busy in the new session, being chief patron to seven new pieces of legislation in the House.

Lucas is bringing several bills to the Senate, including a bill to prohibit firearms at certain preschools and day care centers.

Sen. Thomas Norment and Delegate Chris Jones are both involved in budget bills in their respective sessions.

Sen. Montgomery Mason currently has no sponsored legislation going into the 2018 session.