Virginia’s General Assembly gaveled to order Wednesday afternoon.
The House of Delegates swore in 15 members and the Senate swore in six members. Family and friends of new members crowded the floor of the chambers along with retiring members, including Sen. Mary Margaret Whipple (D-Arlington).
Legislators will spend much of the session considering thousands of bills and passing an $85 billion, two-year budget. But Wednesday was marked by pomp and circumstance as members awaited the expected fight over control in the evenly divided Senate.
The newly sworn in senators proceeded with the niceties of a new session, with veterans rising to formally introduce freshmen – and their spouses, children and other relatives. Afterward, the Senate adjourned so that the new senators and their families could gather in the ornate Senate chamber.
In the House, 100 delegates unanimously reelected William J. Howell (R-Stafford) as speaker. Del. David Toscano (Charlottesville) gave his first speech as minority leader.
Howell promptly announced the shuffling of committee assignments — one of the most anticipated announcements as the new session begins. Committee memberships are based on proportion to the body as a whole, which now has a hefty 68-member GOP majority. That means most committees will now include 15 Republicans and 7 Democrats.