The 2022 Session will begin on Wednesday, January 12. It brings new hopes, options, obstacles, and concerns. The greatest of these include the hopes of a new Governor, new President of the Senate (Lt. Governor Sears), and a new Speaker of the House of Delegates. This team of new leaders can begin the needed turnaround from the last two years of mismanagement. How much change will be determined in the coming weeks. The Democrats will still control the Senate with a margin of 21-19. This will allow them to control all committees and, therefore, determine what legislative proposals come to the floor for a full Senate vote. The reverse will be true in the House, where the Republicans will control the flow of legislation. I expect that, for this reason, you will only see passage of reasonable bills going to the Governor for his signature.
Changing of the Guard
When the General Assembly goes into Session, the sitting Governor will still be Ralph Northam. That night he will give his last State of the Commonwealth address. On Saturday morning, Glenn Youngkin will be inaugurated as Governor. Prior to his swearing in ceremony, he will host a prayer breakfast to start the day and administration in the proper perspective. After he, Lt. Governor Sears, and Attorney General Miyares are sworn into office, the new Governor will layout his vision for Virginia. The rest of the day, as is standard, will be a festive parade and end with an evening celebration.
Governor Northam offered his new budget a couple of weeks ago. It surprised some that he proposed several of the key issues that Youngkin had proposed during the campaign. Having those tax reductions in his proposal will ensure that some will receive support from both parties. We will do more for teachers and law enforcement as well as other state employees simply to keep up with inflation. After that, there will be give and take to create the final budget that best addresses the most critical issues facing Virginians.
Big Issues for this Session
The state police, every sheriff’s department, and every police department large and small are having a challenging time maintaining their authorized staffing level. This is driven by several issues. The first being salary levels, which have not kept pace with inflation and responsibilities. The second was caused by a lack of respect for the work expected of them. One need only watch the news to see troublemakers running rampant in various cities, or look at the statistics of the number of murders around the country to understand the challenges officers face. Even in Virginia, over the last two years there have been efforts to defund police, tie the hands of officers with fears of lawsuits, and politically appointed review boards.
To reverse the current situation, we must make changes that will encourage officers to stay in uniform. I expect and support the changes needed.
Mental and Behavioral Health
There is no doubt that Covid and the constant news coverage of it has had a major impact on the mental health of many in our communities. Too often this has required the assistance of those trained to deal with behavioral health issues. A system that was already broken now is stretched far beyond its limit. Twice now, the department has closed its facilities. This has left sheriff’s deputies and local police with the task of watching over some individuals to prevent them from harming themselves or those around them. A better plan must be worked out.
Virginian businesses were rudely awakened last year. They already were aware that finding the right people to hire was getting harder. As we started coming out of Covid, businesses found the situation had worsened. Some older workers decided to retire rather than risk exposure. Others found that unemployment benefits suited them better than returning to work. The situation was so bad that businesses had to operate with limited hours or limited days.
Training programs that I have pushed for years have worked, but the sudden exit of existing workers completely surpassed personnel needs. We must now ramp up our training programs quickly. That requires re-establishing a work ethic. A lack of that ethic has been made worse because of government policies.
We love to hear from you! You can reach us at Sen.Ruff@verizon.net, 434-374-5129, or P.O. Box 332, Clarksville, VA 23927.