Virginia 2022 Legislative Session Update

March 28, 2022

Pardon Our Dust

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The Virginia General Assembly adjourned its 2022 legislative session on March 12. The 60-day session oversaw many partisan changes to both legislative and executive branches of state government, including the inauguration of a new governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general, as well as a dozen new delegates in the House of Delegates. Lawmakers in both chambers worked to pass a wide range of bills.

Divided Government

With Republicans controlling the House and Democrats maintaining a slim majority in the Senate, partisan legislation was frequently rejected in either chamber, leading to more moderate outcomes. In fact, around 56% of the 3,143 measures introduced in the 2022 session passed both chambers while roughly a third of proposals failed.

Partisan issues pushed by House and Senate Republicans as well as Gov. Youngkin met a stop in the upper chamber. Senate Democrats halted Republican efforts to block future minimum wage increases, undo voting reforms, restrict abortion, repeal gun control and roll back clean energy initiatives. All of these provisions, passed when Democrats controlled both chambers, were considered progressive victories by the party.

Meanwhile, House Republicans voted to wait until 2023 to take up a bill that would have allowed recreational sales of marijuana to begin this fall. The bill, which Democrats supported, sought to accelerate recreational marijuana sales in the commonwealth. A House subcommittee also rejected the automatic restoration of voting rights for felons upon release from prison.

Unfinished Business

When the General Assembly adjourned sine die, they did so without reaching an agreement on a two-year budget that will take effect July 1. House Republicans and Senate Democrats have been divided over how to spend an unprecedented budget surplus of $15 billion that is available this year. Because tax and spending plans were not adopted, Gov. Youngkin will call a special session in the coming days to address the pending business. In addition to the budget, several other bills in conference will roll over to the special session.


It remains unclear how the House and Senate will reconcile their broadly different spending proposals — currently separated by a $3 billion spending gap. The House budget includes almost $5.5 billion in tax cuts and rebates, while the Senate’s proposal is more modest with tax cuts equaling around $2.5 billion over the two years.

Despite the gridlock, some compromise has continued, including both chambers favoring efforts to do away with Virginia’s 2.5% sales tax on groceries. However, Senate Democrats support repealing only the portion of the tax that does not go to localities.

Education and School Choice

During his campaign, much of Gov. Youngkin’s platform centered around expanding school choice for students in the commonwealth. The governor and other Republicans have made efforts to increase the ability of colleges and universities to open and operate K-12 “lab schools,” which would use public dollars. Lab schools are defined as public schools established by contract between the governing board of a college partnership laboratory school and the Board of Education.

Democrats in the Senate supported the idea of lab schools, though they believe per-student school funding should stay with the traditional public school. In contrast, Republicans in the House believe public school dollars should fund whichever school the student attends.

Additionally, the governor proposed a $150 million (one-time funding) budget amendment to jump-start the new program. However, Senate Democrats suggested that if lab schools were to be established, one-time funding would not satisfy their needs.

Negotiations remain underway as the state legislature moves into special session, but Gov. Youngkin is confident there will be bipartisan support for lab schools.

Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative

At the beginning of Gov. Youngkin’s term, he signed Executive Order Nine, which sought to withdraw Virginia from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) through either legislative or regulatory action. The Clean Economy Act led the commonwealth to join RGGI — a state cap-and-trade program for carbon emissions — and commit to a transition to total carbon-free power by 2050. The governor noted that remaining a member of the program would increase the cost of electricity for Virginians.

Despite the governor’s efforts, Senate Democrats blocked legislation that attempted to remove Virginia from the agreement during the session. However, the commonwealth’s future in RGGI remains uncertain, as Republicans could still achieve their goals through budget amendments.

Washington Commanders Stadium

One set of proposals that lawmakers will continue to discuss during the special session seek to fund a new NFL stadium for the Washington Commanders. The House and the Senate passed their own versions of bills that ultimately aim to create a football stadium authority to oversee the construction and financing of a new stadium and entertainment complex in Northern Virginia.

If enacted, the Virginia Football Stadium Authority would issue bonds to help construct the stadium and divert some of the state’s sales tax collections back to it. Though both bills received bipartisan support, they differ on the authority’s time limit for issuing bonds, how much money would go back to the team and how much would go toward paying off the bonds.

Electric Vehicle Rebates

Last year, Virginia created an electric vehicle rebate program, though it has remained unfunded. This issue is arguably more bipartisan, as neither the Republican-led House nor the Democrat-controlled Senate included any funding in their proposed budgets for the program this session, despite budget amendment requests by Del. David Reid (D-Loudoun) and Sen. Jennifer McClellan (D-Richmond). Furthermore, members on both sides of the aisle have voiced their disagreement. Del. Sally Hudson (D-Charlottesville) has made statements claiming that there is a lack of evidence proving rebates actually increase electric vehicle sales, while Del. Michael Webert (R-Fauquier) has suggested that rebates are unnecessary as the auto market is moving in the direction of electric vehicles anyway.

Although the House and Senate budgets did not include rebate funding, both included differing amounts for electric vehicle infrastructure. The Senate proposed $10 million for a new fund overseen by the Department of Energy that would offer grants for building electric vehicle charging stations in economically distressed areas of the commonwealth. The House proposed $5 million for a fund to be administered by the Virginia Tourism Authority that would provide grants for electric vehicle infrastructure in rural areas.