RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — The politically divided Virginia General Assembly worked through dozens of pieces of legislation, including a major energy bill and stop-gap budget bill, on Saturday as lawmakers reached the end of their regularly scheduled session without a deal on the entire state spending plan.
Unable to agree on several key pieces of the budget, including whether to enact the additional $1 billion in tax cuts Gov. Glenn Youngkin is seeking, lawmakers opted to pass a “skinny” spending bill and allow House and Senate negotiators to carry on with their broader discussions.
“We have come to an agreement on critical items that need to go forward now while we continue a dialogue in the coming days and weeks,” Senate Finance and Appropriations co-chair Janet Howell said.
In dealing with the budget, legislative leaders said the “skinny” bill sent to the governor contained deposits for the rainy-day fund and unfunded state retirement system liabilities, and capital outlays for existing projects. It also allocated money to make local school systems whole after an error in a state-provided formula that led them to expect more state aid than they were set to receive.
Youngkin expressed frustration that lawmakers failed to reach agreement, especially given the state’s flush finances. Saturday marked the end of the year’s regular 46-day calendar. The session, during an election year in which every seat will be on the ballot, has been marked by impassioned floor speeches and partisan debates over issues like guns and abortion. Much of this year’s legislation cleared one chamber only to be killed in the other.
But lawmakers have found bipartisan consensus on a range of other issues, including the last-minute passage of the compromise energy bill, which would adjust the way state regulators set and oversee Dominion Energy Virginia’s electric rates and profitability in a way ratepayer advocates say is favorable for customers and marks a sea change in energy policy.
In other action Saturday, lawmakers approved legislation aimed at making the actions of the state Parole Board more transparent to the public. The legislation removes provisions that exempted the board’s records from mandatory disclosure under the Virginia Freedom of Information Act. It also requires board members to provide written reasons for granting or denying parole.