Virginia lawmakers are headed back to work in Richmond. The 2014 General Assembly session convenes Wednesday. From education to mental health services, you can expect some big issues to dominate the conversation.
Already, close to a thousand bills and resolutions are ready for lawmakers to take up when they arrive 140 of them arrive in Capitol Square.
Before the New Year, party leaders seemed to agree some common-sense issues need solutions, but that doesn't mean this session will be easy. There will likely be compromise on some high-profile issues, such as reforming the Standards of Learning. The assembly will also see popular efforts to reform mental healthcare, and changes to gift disclosure rules for politicians.
But it won't be all smooth sailing. Republicans and Democrats are still at odds over expanding Medicaid to uninsured, low-income Virginians - one of Governor-elect Terry McAuliffe's big campaign goals.
“He keeps talking about the money that expanded Medicaid would generate to the state - I just don't understand that,” said House Speaker Bill Howell.
Senator Dick Saslaw said, “They're going to get medical help anyways, but they're going to get it in emergency rooms or hospitals, which is the most expensive care you can get.”
Lawmakers must also pass a new, two-year budget, something that will require compromise in the face of big differences.
Things start in only two days, but the landscape could still change in a big way. There are still three special elections - two Tuesday, and another on the 21, which will decide which party controls the state Senate. But the real fun begins at noon Wednesday in the state capitol.