RICHMOND, Feb. 26 -- Longtime lobbyist Ben Greenberg is used to being the underdog in Virginia's state Capitol, where legislators have earned a conservative reputation.
For 27 years, Greenberg has walked the General Assembly halls representing poor women and children, minorities, homosexuals and immigrants.
Many years, Greenberg is demoralized at the end of a legislative session. But not this year.
"I find legislators are becoming increasingly responsive and supportive, and I am encouraged by that," said Greenberg, legislative director for the Virginia Organizing Project. "I am hopeful."
As the Republican-controlled General Assembly leaves town after completing its work, lobbyists and legislators say they are struck by the relatively moderate legislation that was approved this year.
Although the House of Delegates approved many bills championed by conservatives, most were quickly rejected by a coalition of moderate or liberal Republicans and Democrats in the Senate. And in some cases, both chambers agreed on a few pieces of legislation that appear to counter the state's reputation for social and fiscal conservatism.
"It was a game played between the 45-yard markers, not at either extreme on the field," said Charlie Davis, who has been a Capitol lobbyist for nearly three decades.
The General Assembly killed bills aimed at restricting abortion, cracking down on illegal immigration and loosening gun control laws. Instead, it voted to express "profound regret" for slavery, banned teenagers from using a cellphone while driving and became the first legislative body in the nation to require that young girls be vaccinated against the human papilloma virus, which can cause cervical cancer.
Last year, legislators voted to put a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage on the ballot. But this month, they agreed to protect the rights of unmarried partners to visit each other in the hospital.
Conservative lawmakers also had a number of legislative successes, including a measure that allows public school buses to be used to transport private school students. They also were successful in pushing for an expansion in the death penalty to include accomplices and the killers of judges and witnesses.
Several Republicans also worked hard to win passage of a bill to bolster property rights by making it harder for local governments to seize private property.
Even so, conservatives are restless.
"People are more than a little outraged," said John Taylor, who leads monthly seminars for conservatives on state issues. "We didn't have a lot of bills this session that addressed limiting government or cutting taxes. I don't know what the conservatives would get excited about coming out of this session."
Democrats and their allies also had plenty of losses.
The House killed efforts to raise the minimum wage to $6.50 an hour, rejected a push to require background checks on people who purchase weapons at gun shows and decided not to protect a woman's access to birth control.
The House and Senate did come together on several major pieces of legislation.
Specifically, after years of feuding, the two chambers agreed to raise a combination of taxes and fees and use borrowing to fund a multibillion-dollar transportation plan.
In addition, the General Assembly voted to re-regulate electric companies to try to keep customers' bills from skyrocketing. They also toughened laws against sex offenders and ordered Internet filters on computers at public libraries.
In approving changes to the state's 2006-08 budget, the General Assembly worked with Gov. Timothy M. Kaine (D) to increase funding to enroll more 4-year-olds in pre-kindergarten, expand prenatal care for poor women and purchase $250 million in bonds to upgrade wastewater treatment plants to reduce pollution in the Chesapeake Bay.
But the General Assembly left town before lawmakers could decide whether the state should place restrictions on payday loans. The House and Senate also differed on whether to expand state-sanctioned gambling by allowing Colonial Downs to offer betting on pre-recorded horse races.
There was compromise on other contentious issues. Instead of banning smoking in bars and restaurants, a significant step in a state that houses the headquarters of Phillip Morris, the two chambers approved a bill requiring restaurants to post a sign at the front door if they allow smoking.
Sen. Ken Cuccinelli II (R-Fairfax) said there just wasn't a lot of appetite for big fights this year. "Truthfully, I think there is a certain amount of exhaustion on both sides," Cuccinelli said. "We've been at each others' throats for years now. . . . I love a good fight, but everybody gets tired after a while."
The dynamics within the General Assembly could dramatically change after November, when all 140 delegates and senators are up for reelection.
"Next year is a whole different year," said Robin DeJarnette, executive director of the Virginia Conservative Action political action committee, which will try to unseat at least four moderate GOP senators during the primary.
"There are going to be some major primary battles, and it could potentially change the Senate, and that gives fiscally conservative and socially conservative groups an opportunity to come back to the table."
Del. Robert H. Brink (D-Arlington) countered that he thinks the Democrats will pick up seats.
"After this session, we can go back home and say, 'Look what we could do if we had more people,' " Brink said.