Virginia’s legislators at odds over what issues should take priority

Posted at 12:55 PM, Jan 10, 2013
and last updated 2013-01-10 12:55:00-05

RICHMOND, Va (WTVR) -- Today is the second day of the 2013 General Assembly session and with it comes a laundry list of new bills being considered by state lawmakers.  But Republicans and Democrats are not seeing eye-to-eye on what issues should take priority.

At the top of the Republican legislative agenda is a focus on jobs and the economy.  House Speaker William Howell said today in a "fragile economic state" it's imperative to prepare for the worse case scenario by continuing to support Governor Bob McDonnell's efforts to build upon the state's rainy day fund. 

During is State of the Commonwealth address Wednesday night, McDonnell said by adding another $50 million to the rainy day fund, it could more than double it. 

The GOP also believe by putting more energy into jobs and the economy, it will inadvertently reform the state's educational system by attracting higher quality educators.

"We want to raise teacher professionalism and to be blunt the way you got to do that is to raise salaries, because for teachers that's the biggest issue right now" Republican Majority Leader Kirk Cox said.  "If you look at any state it will show you that teachers in the classroom mean a lot more than class size or any other factor you can put forth."

Republicans also said they're looking for real solutions to the state's transportation challenges.  One such solution offered could be to tap into the general fund.  A fund that could undergo changes if the governor moves forward with the proposal to eliminate the gas tax, while increasing the sales tax.  This political plan is one Democratic Senator Donald McEachin said Wednesday night he could not and would not support.

"What doesn't sit well with me is the continuing effort to take a portion of the sales tax and dedicate it to transportation," Democratic Senator Donald McEachin said.  "He (the governor) talks about that money, but it's $811 million over five years.  That's money that we need in the classroom; that's money that we need for our first responders; that's money that we need to help our senior citizens."

During Thursday's legislative session, the Democratic party has held a press conference to discuss in detail the state's voting procedures--to include restoring the voting rights to non-violent felons.  Ironically Governor Bob McDonnell--who is Republican--is also supporting the restoration process despite his own party resisting the proposal.