Changing of the Guard
Legislative Update - March 2023

Article Matt Bruning

The Virginia General Assembly completed its 2023 session on February 25 after passing more than 800 bills out of the 1,900 introduced. Not included in that 800 were the, final alterations to the Commonwealth’s budget for the next 16 months. A small cadre of legislators is now tasked with reaching a compromise between the competing House and Senate plans. The Republican-majority House approach mirrors the priorities of Governor Youngkin, including $1 billion in tax cuts and relief. It will need to be reconciled with the Democratic-controlled Senate’s version, which allocates unanticipated revenue growth to government services. Once an agreement is reached in the coming weeks, legislators will return to Richmond, potentially during the scheduled April 12 reconvene session, when lawmakers will consider amendments and vetoes offered by the Governor.

As the close of session neared, we heard more and more legislators announce their retirement plans. Floor sessions on the last days were filled with members declaring their intentions to depart, followed by their colleagues sharing stories, well wishes and reflections on retirees’ careers. Additional retirement announcements continued in the following days as well, bringing the current total to fourteen delegates and seven senators who will not seek re-election. It would not be surprising if a few more were added to that list before the early April filing deadline to declare candidacy for the June party nomination selection process.

Included in the totals for the House were Ken Plum (D-Reston), the most senior member of the House, having started his service in 1978, and Kathy Byron (R-Bedford), the current House Commerce & Energy Committee Chair who just completed her twenty-sixth session. Four members leave as chairs of standing House committees. Several of those choosing not to run again were influenced by the effects of redistricting, the decennial process of redrawing the boundaries of all 140 legislative districts to true up equal representation with population data from the latest census. Having been handled by mapmakers selected by the Supreme Court of Virginia and out of the hands of elected officials for the first time, there were several instances of incumbents paired together in the same district or having been redrawn into districts with unwinnable partisan demographics. While a few member-on-member contests remain, several of the departures ameliorated that situation. Coupled with the impact of over a dozen delegates exiting to run for Senate seats, the House is guaranteed to have at least 25% turnover, even before primary elections take place. Less than a quarter of the House will have more than a decade of service when they gavel in next January.

On the Senate side, the loss of senior legislators will be even more acute. Both the Majority and Minority Leaders, Senators Dick Saslaw (D-Fairfax) and Tommy Norment (R-James City County) respectively, have elected not to return. Saslaw, the longest-serving Senator in Virginia history at 44 years, and Norment, first elected in 1991, have been two of the most powerful lawmakers at the Capitol, possessing institutional knowledge that gave them an edge in successfully navigating the legislative process. Despite their party differences, Saslaw and Norment have found common ground throughout the years, especially in support of business-related legislation including banking issues. New Senate leadership on both sides of the political aisle next year will likely pull more from the partisan bases of each party.

With significant turnover expected, it will be even more critical for bankers to actively engage in VBA advocacy efforts as we build relationships with the scores of new lawmakers entering the scene in 2024. The VBA will keep you updated on election resources as we near election day on November 7; in the meantime, we encourage you to learn more about these advocacy efforts by clicking here or by reaching out to your bank’s grassroots coordinator to get involved with VBA BankPAC in order to support pro-banking candidates as we navigate the changing of the guard at the General Assembly.