The Virginia State Senate has forty members. It is the companion to the House of Delegates which has 100 members.
The two bodies form a bicameral legislature which is derived from the original Virginia House of Burgesses formed in 1619. We are the oldest democracy in the New World.
The Senate sits in the State Capitol for sixty days during a biennial budget year and forty-five days during an “off” year. It can also be called into special session by the Governor. Members of the State Senate also serve on standing committees and legislative subcommittees which meet throughout the year.
Serving in the State Senate pays $18,000 a year in salary. Therefore, many members hold full-time employment outside their legislative work.
Legislative Record (2023):
Senator Petersen’s Final Legislative Newsletter Dated: Feb 24, 2023
The end is near for the 2023 General Assembly session. It has been a short, bumpy ride with the usual byplay between the Democratic Senate and the Republican House. I can recite the history in my usual dreary prose — or I can utilize the lyrics of rock’n roll legend Neil Young:
Keep On Rockin’ in the Free World:
On Tuesday, February 21, the Senate defeated a bill (HB 2098) giving HOA’s the power to fine citizens without a hearing. Here’s my speech against the measure which invoked the flag and our Founding Fathers. The bill was defeated 32-8, thereby confirming the Senate’s love for this powerful early 90’s anthem.
Teach Your Children Well:
A CSNY classic reflects our focus on K-12 education this year, with another increase in teacher salaries and the expansion of the VA Literacy Act. I successfully sponsored SB 1329 with Senator (now Congresswoman) Jenn McClellan to create the Virginia Data Portal so parents have easy access to their children’s test scores and other data. After at least one (if not two) lost years to COVID, we are navigating the learning loss and fighting back.
Ensuring a Healthy Virginia:
One of the sobering aspects of the 2023 Assembly were the stories about drug abuse, especially fentanyl which can be ingested orally or by needle. We passed legislation which strengthened criminal penalties (SB 1188) but it will take much more to lift this scourge which is the primary killer of young Virginians.
“Old Man” The lyrics to Young’s plaintive Seventies ballad is the perfect backdrop to my Second Look legislation which sought an opportunity for long-term offenders who have served at least 15 years to modify the balance of their sentence. (Yes, we exempted homicides). It was entirely discretionary for Circuit Court judges. It passed the Senate on a bipartisan vote and was defeated in the House.
“Woodstock” We are stardust, we are golden, we are billion year-old carbon. These funky1968 lyrics presaged the era of psychedelic rock. But did they also foreshadow the data center industry whose ubiquitous steel buildings have spread across Northern Virginia and now bump up against the timeless Blue Ridge Mountains? My SB 1078 and SJ 240 sought to slow down the spread. Each was defeated.
“Helplessly Hoping” I had two bills that were annual repeats — my SB 803 (limiting campaign donations to state candidates), SB 804 (prohibiting donations by monopoly utilities), — as well as a carry-over from 2022 which was SB 957 (capping prices on high-cost prescription drugs). In each case, I sought support from the Governor but it never materialized. At least SB 957 cleared the Senate on a bipartisan vote, 26-13, before losing in the House.
“Out on the Weekend” The General Assembly will adjourn this weekend and we’ll be back in our “new” legislative Districts – more on that momentarily. A lot to do when we get back home ….
On Thursday, my long-time colleague Dick Saslaw (D-Springfield) announced his retirement after 44 years in the State Senate. Here is my speech recognizing the legend and his impact on my life. (video below)
JCP Notes: This is the last newsletter of the 2023 session. It was not a victorious session, but not a vapid one either. We had six bills go to the Governor, which all make Virginia a better place.
- SB 810: Updating the appeal process for preliminary injunctions
- SB 812: Eliminating an obsolete exemption for judgment collections
- SB 845: Expanding civil immunity for employees who report illegal conduct
- SB 1259: Clarifies the duties of the Attorney General in criminal appeals
- SB 1329: Creates the “Virginia Data Portal” for parents of schoolchildren
- SB 1476: Updates the SALT tax deduction for closely-held companies (if you own a small business, let your CPA know).