2014 General Assembly Session Kicks Off In Richmond - NBC29 WVIR Charlottesville, VA News, Sports and Weather

2014 General Assembly Session Kicks Off In Richmond

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Lawmakers, including Senator Creigh Deeds, returned to Capitol Square Wednesday for the 2014 General Assembly session. It marks the beginning of 60 days of deliberation on some of the commonwealth's most pressing issues.

From contentious disagreement over expanding Medicaid coverage to bipartisan agreement on mental health, Virginia's part-time legislature has a busy two months ahead. A sunny and frigid first day on the job brings with it feelings of optimism inside Virginia’s state capitol.

“I think there's a prevailing atmosphere at this moment, civility and collegiality,” said 3rd District Senator Tommy Norment (R). “First day honeymoon.”

Lawmakers will use the next 60 days to pass a new state budget, and get used to working with a new Democratic governor.

“Economic development and education are two areas where I think you'll see a lot of cooperation,” said 25th District Delegate Steve Landes (R).

Lawmakers are also poised to make big changes to Virginia's mental health system, after Deeds' son attacked him and took his own life during a mental health crisis.

“I expect that we'll do a good job trying to address some of the mental health issues that we need to confront,” said 26th District Senator Mark Obenshain (R).

Deeds received a warm welcome Wednesday, returning to the General Assembly for the first time since the tragedy.

“Just a courageous person, and he's obviously been through a tremendous tragedy with his family. And I just commend him for having the strength to come back here,” said Lieutenant Governor-elect Ralph Northam.

Lawmakers will also face big debate over whether to expand Medicaid health coverage to as many as 400,000 low-income Virginians.

“Where we can cross partisan lines, we do it, and I would expect us to make that effort,” said Obenshain.

The first day of the General Assembly will be capped off with the State of the Commonwealth Address, where Governor Bob McDonnell will deliver his final speech before handing over the reins to Terry McAuliffe.

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