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Home Again

The 2017 General Assembly session ended Saturday, so I have had almost two days to process what happened. It was a very strange session -- we accomplished a lot that was constructive but we also passed a lot of destructive nonsense.

On the positive side, we almost unanimously passed a balanced budget that reduced spending by $1.2 billion because early revenue forecasts were wrong. Despite the reduced revenues, we increased compensation for state employees, teachers, and state police. In addition, mental health services and economic development initiatives were priorities. We funded initiatives to confront the growing opioid addiction. We kept a reserve fund of $35 million in addition to the "Rainy Day Fund" to buffer any economic downturn. And, we initiated studies of localities under extreme fiscal stress, mental health services, and higher education affordability.

For the ninth year I was selected a budget conferee. Once again, I was the only woman chosen. Budget negotiators reconcile the differences in the Senate and House budgets. It is a huge responsibility and is very intense and time-consuming. This year I am very proud of the budget we crafted

We passed 1773 bills and resolutions. Positive strides were made in reacting to the opioid crisis, improving water quality, creating a legal structure for Airbnb, and informing parents that their child is being bullied. Sensible, bipartisan bills aimed at reducing student suspensions and expulsions, sadly, failed at the very end. We also were unable to pass my positive legislation dealing with redistricting and student loan debt.

We had more party-line votes than in recent memory. Dozens of anti-immigrant, anti-gun safety, pro-censorship, voter suppression, and anti-women's health bills passed. I voted and spoke against them all. With Republicans in control of both the House and Senate, we were unable to stop any of these. Governor McAuliffe is likely to set a record for the number of bills he vetoes. I hope he does!

Now that I am back home, I will be seeing you at local events and meetings. I am very encouraged by the growing awareness by my constituents, of all political perspectives, of the importance of being actively engaged in the political process. You do make a difference!