Clockwise (from upper left-hand corner):
“Top health officials warn of coronavirus: ‘It’s going to get worse’ “– Robin Bravender, Virginia Mercury
“Virus hangs over final day of legislative session as Northam declares state of emergency”– Kate Masters, Virginia Mercury
“After standoff, House and Senate to seal deal to stem college tuition costs”– Kate Masters, Virginia Mercury
“Schools, welfare and a tunnel: How new Democratic majorities put their mark on their first budget”-Ned Oliver, Virginia Mercury
Trump administration officials painted a dire picture of the novel coronavirus outbreak on Wednesday, warning members of Congress that the public health crisis is far from over.
“Is the worst yet to come?” House Oversight Committee Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) asked Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health.
“Yes,” Fauci told her. “It’s going to get worse.”
State officials bumped elbows instead of shaking hands. Two senators asked to delay a crucial budget vote. And Del. Ibraheem Samirah, D-Fairfax, delivered an impassioned plea for an extended session — a request that earned him groans on the floor of the House of Delegates.
It was a dramatic end to an already dramatic Virginia General Assembly session, its final hours overshadowed by growing concerns over the statewide spread of COVID-19, the disease spread by a new strain of coronavirus. Legislators gathered for a final vote on the state’s two-year budget amid a plummeting global market and reports that cargo volumes were down 9 percent at the Port of Virginia compared to a year before.
For the last few days of the 2020 General Assembly session, college tuition freezes were a sticking point for House and Senate budget negotiators. Such a sticking point, in fact, that legislators extended their deadline for reaching a deal.
But a last-minute compromise appeared to offer the best of both worlds for legislators from both chambers. The Senate added roughly $60 million over the next two years for need-based financial aid at Virginia’s publicly funded colleges and universities. And the House added roughly $79.7 million for in-state tuition freezes, something its Higher Education Subcommittee — paraphrasing a quote from Winston Churchill — described as a “tremendous whack” at the problem of college affordability.
Virginia lawmakers closed out their legislative session for the year Thursday with votes to send a $142 billion budget to Gov. Ralph Northam.
Here’s what’s in the two-year spending plan and a few of the ways new Democratic majorities put their stamp on Northam’s initial proposal.