Democrats’ free rein in state government and the General Assembly ended with last November’s election results, but legislators of his party this year still made headway on some important issues, said Del. Marcus Simon (D-McLean).
2021 was not a good election year for Democrats, who for the two previous years had controlled both houses in the General Assembly, plus the governorship, lieutenant governorship and position of attorney general, Simon acknowledged at a recent forum. Now all three of those top state posts and the House of Delegates are in GOP hands.
“The mood in Virginia is a little different,” Simon told the Falls Church Chamber of Commerce and Greater Merrifield Business Association during a May 17 luncheon in Falls Church. “This year, all it takes is one leg out of that three-legged stool to be in different hands, and not a lot gets done.”
Gov. Youngkin and the House of Delegates have introduced bills to “repeal and undo a lot of things that [Democrats] have accomplished in the last two years,” he said. “The good news is, the Senate adopted a policy that they were going to be a brick wall and block the repeal and rollback of many of those things.”
Youngkin has vetoed 23 bills so far, all of which have been sustained, and may veto more this year as legislation on which he has proposed amendments comes back to him, Simon said.
One such bill now in limbo is Simon’s proposed charter amendment for the city of Falls Church, which would remove the requirement that people serving on boards and commissions be qualified voters and instead stipulate that they be at least 18 years old.
Youngkin amended the bill so it restricts such participation to people who are in the U.S. legally, and also to require a re-enactment provision. Legislators rejected the amendments and the governor soon will have to determine the bill’s fate, Simon said.
Some of Simon’s passed legislation this year dealt with archaic technology. One measure eliminated the requirement that Virginia’s police departments maintain Teletype machines to they can communicate with each other.
“Those machines no longer exist and the language [was] still in the code,” he said.
The General Assembly adjourned this year’s session without a final budget. Legislators soon will hammer out a compromise and return to Richmond June 1 to vote on the matter, Simon said.
The governor campaigned on eliminating the grocery tax and put forward a bill to remove the state’s portion of the levy. The General Assembly still is ironing out a course of action, Simon said.
Youngkin also would like to see the state’s standard tax deduction match the federal one, at a sacrifice of about $2 billion in revenue. The eventual agreement probably will involve some increase in the deduction, but not a full doubling, Simon predicted.
The delegate expressed reservations about proposed legislation to create a stadium authority that could issue bonds to build a new venue for the Washington Commanders NFL team, likely in Prince William or Loudoun counties, and repay that debt with revenue from the facility.
An “interesting mix” opposes the concept, including small-government Republicans and Democrats who are not big fans of the team or its owner, Simon said.
“I don’t mind government intervention in the market, but I don’t think this is a particularly effective way to do it,” he said of the stadium-authority proposal.
The Commanders also are being investigated over alleged ticket-sales fraud, added Simon, who tacked on an amendment that would require the team to disclose the contents of the investigators’ reports and whether recommendations included in them were being carried out.
The amendment irked the bill’s patron, Del. Barry Knight (R-Virginia Beach), and the legislation “may be in some trouble” as it heads into the upcoming special session, Simon said.
House Democrats in April removed former Speaker Eileen Filler-Corn (D-Fairfax) as their caucus leader, but did not choose a successor. Some have speculated Simon may seek that post, but the delegate offered little information, saying Democratic delegates would decide the matter by secret ballot in upcoming caucus voting.
Simon first was elected to the 53rd District seat in 2013 and has held the post ever since.
He predicted delegates would not have to seek re-election again this year in their newly redrawn districts, even though the 2021 elections were held using their old districts because the pandemic delayed census data needed for drawing new boundaries.
The matter is being contested in court, but no ruling has been forthcoming and it’s highly unlikely delegate elections will be held this fall, Simon said.
“I think the court is not interested in deciding this issue,” he said.