To the Constituents of the 37th House District:
Last Wednesday, January 10, marked the beginning of the 2024 Session of the Virginia General Assembly. Due to redistricting, the 60-day “long session” is marked by new districts and many new faces. In fact, there are 34 delegates and 17 senators who were elected for the first time in 2023. A change of this magnitude has not occurred in decades, and with it comes new perspectives, opinions, and a tremendous loss of institutional knowledge. The last two years were marked by a divided legislature. This year, we arrive in Richmond with a Democrat majority of the slimmest margins in both chambers, with Republicans holding 49 of 100 seats in the House and 19 of 40 seats in the Senate. This is democracy at work.
Having represented the 19th House District for 10 years, I am honored to serve what is now the 37th House District. The new 37th comprises the counties of Alleghany, Botetourt, Craig, Rockbridge (part) and the cities of Buena Vista, Covington, and Lexington. I am grateful to continue representing the people of Alleghany, Botetourt, and the City of Covington. And though I will miss the citizens of Bedford County, I look forward to representing my new constituents of Craig, Rockbridge, and the cities within. My priorities remain advancing our region’s interests in transportation, workforce education initiatives, and economic development.
The first week and a half of Session are mainly organizational as committees and subcommittees are formed and bills are referred accordingly. I am pleased to report that I retain my previous committee assignments of Appropriations, Transportation, and Rules, while also being appointed to General Laws. Serving on four committees, and the various subcommittees therein, means that my schedule will continue to be marked by long days and nights in Richmond. However, I always enjoy visiting with constituents and will continue to make time do so as my schedule allows. Last week, I had the pleasure of visiting with local bankers from our district and enjoyed discussing their industry priorities.
The first day of Session is when the House of Delegates elects its Speaker of the House, a position bestowed upon by the majority. This year’s election was an historic occasion as the House of Delegates unanimously elected its first African American Speaker, Delegate Don Scott of Portsmouth. Virginia is home to the longest continually operating democratic institution in the Western Hemisphere, and this moment in the General Assembly’s 405-year history is something that should be reflected upon as we embark upon our nation’s 250th anniversary. I am encouraged to hear the bipartisan theme that both he and the governor alluded to in their respective speeches on Wednesday.
The areas of general agreement appear to be strongest regarding the needs of rural healthcare, mental health services, and region-specific workforce development. There are, however, also several differences in priorities. Republicans will continue our fight to defend pro-life measures, our constitutional right to bear arms, and Virginia’s right-to-work laws. Last year, we successfully delivered much-needed tax relief to Virginians and remain committed to provide further relief. We will also continue our work to disentangle Virginia from California’s emission standards, ensure that law enforcement is properly resourced, and prevent the weakening of violent crime laws. The slim majority and the governor’s veto pen mean that Republican input is still needed to pass bills into law.
It is an honor to serve you in the Virginia House of Delegates. If I can be of assistance to you, or you would like to share your position on legislation, please do not hesitate to contact me at DelTAustin@House.Virginia.gov or 804-698-1037.
Delegate Terry L. Austin
37th House District