Tammy Mulchi: We finally made it through crossover

Published 12:00 pm Thursday, February 22, 2024

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We finally made it through crossover! After some long days on the Senate floor, every bill introduced in the State Senate has either died or has been “crossed over” to the House where the entire process will start over again.

Since the session started, we have certainly been busy. With a Democrat-controlled Senate, there have been plenty of bad pieces of legislation that were able to be pushed through on a 21-19 vote. However, we have been vigorously fighting for our conservative principles, and while we still have a long road ahead of us, we won’t be quitting anytime soon!

One of the bad bills that was passed out of the Senate, and against which I voted, was SB 1, a proposal to raise the minimum wage to $15 by 2026. As a small business owner, I can tell you that this will have an immediate negative impact on small businesses across the Commonwealth, especially during a time of rampant inflation. Small businesses do not have the resources that multi-million-dollar corporations have; while they may be able to absorb the cost of higher wages, not everyone can, especially mom and pop stores/restaurants who have razor thin margins. My biggest fear is that it will lead to layoffs and higher prices due to companies passing the costs on to the consumer. This will be especially bad for Rural Virginians as our cost of living is already lower than the rest of the state, so these higher costs of living are going to hurt us disproportionally. 

Another bad bill that was forced through the Senate on a 21-19 vote was SB 427. This bill, also known as the “Second Look in Sentencing,” would allow judges to modify and reduce the sentences for the worst kinds of criminals. This is a clear-cut example of putting criminals ahead of victims. While I strongly believe in offering second chances, particularly for those who have been truly rehabilitated and those who committed nonviolent offenses, there are individuals who pose a threat to the safety of our community, especially those guilty of the most heinous types of crimes. This is not the path we need to be taking and it is my hope that the General Assembly changes course so that we can prioritize the safety of our communities.

Fortunately, there was some commonsense, bipartisan legislation that passed during Crossover. One bill that passed out of the Senate unanimously was SB 39. This bill would make it easier to place children with family members instead of sending them to a foster care system. It is so important to keep children with their family when they already have a loving support system as opposed to being placed with strangers. This was a bill that I was proud to have supported.

Other good bills that made their way out of the Senate to the House include SB 603, which will direct the Department of Criminal Justice Services, in collaboration with the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services and the Department of Health, to study how to best address treatment for incarcerated women who are pregnant and in need of substance abuse treatment.

Additionally, we passed SB 469, which will create a Task Force on Fentanyl and Heroin enforcement and study ways for law-enforcement officers to combat the manufacture and distribution of fentanyl and heroin. While we do fight a lot about the best way to tackle the fentanyl crisis, this is a great first step in the right direction that passed out of the Senate unanimously.

Finally, I know many of you have reached out to me regarding SB 712, a bill that could make many hunters guilty of trespassing for retrieving their dogs while out hunting, and I wanted to provide an update. This bill was defeated on a 20-20 vote, with our Lieutenant Governor breaking the tie. 

As I said last week, I hear the concerns of property owners regarding those bad apples that don’t abide by the hunting laws and the lack of Conservation Officers to enforce our current laws. I feel like this is a conversation that needs to continue so that solutions can be found for their concerns as well, but I was proud to vote against SB 712 and will continue to fight for Rural Virginians.

As we approach the latter half of the legislative session, we are now turning our attention to the budget. This Session is considered a long session of 60 days, specifically designated for addressing the biannual budget. Consequently, there will be a lot of talk and deliberation on what needs to go into the budget for all the needs of the Commonwealth for the next two years. I will absolutely be fighting to make sure that Rural Virginians get their fair share of the pie and will keep you updated as new developments come forward.

As always, I encourage you to watch the General Assembly session. You are welcome to visit me in person here in Richmond and view the proceedings from the gallery. You can also stream each day’s session here: http://virginia-senate.granicus.com/ViewPublisher.php?view_id=3. Session typically begins at noon each weekday except Friday, which generally starts at 10 or 11 a.m. Always check these times, as they can change when needed. You may also be interested to know that committee meetings are also streamed. A list of upcoming meetings with links for streaming are here: https://virginiasenate.granicus.com/ViewPublisher.php?view_id=3. 

Tammy Mulchi serves as the District 9 state senator. She can be reached at senatormulchi@senate.virginia.gov or by calling 804-698-7509.