A partisan showdown has begun at home.
Although state politics tend to be far less partisan than what we see on the news, recent shifts in power have caused an increase in partisan polarization within the Virginia state government, a shift that makes me weary.
With the long-time Clinton family ally, Terry McAuliffe, now governor of Virginia, the political spectrum has shifted drastically further left. Republicans still hold a comfortable majority in the House of Delegates and have an equal number of members in the Senate. In the state Senate, however, if there is a 20-20 tie on a bill, the tie breaking vote goes to the lieutenant governor — who is a Democrat and far more likely to side with his party.
Since Sen. Lynwood Lewis Jr. (D – Accomack) won the recent special election for the vacant Senate seat, the new majority party is beginning to propose more progressive laws for the commonwealth.
Consider House Bills 32 and 536, both of which were voted down by the House Commerce and Labor Committee on Feb. 4, but would have incrementally raising the minimum wage. A same-sex marriage bill suffered a similar fate.
Republicans are well aware of Democrats’ intentions and do not seem to be any more willing to succumb to their progressive demands than they have been in the past.
While debates over Medicaid expansion have become a common debate topic at the General Assembly, McAuliffe has asked House Republicans for a compromise. He says that he is willing to work with anyone on the matter. Leaders of the House GOP oppose the expansion proposed by the governor and Democrats, but do not rule out bringing the issue up again in the future, after the new federal healthcare law has had time to take effect.
The federal government is not required to balance the budget, but our state government is. Because we are unable to go into debt, we will have to increase taxes in order to expand Medicaid. This is not what Republicans want to happen. The other option would be to cut spending elsewhere — something else that makes Republicans uneasy.
The Republicans also had what is best for Virginians in mind when tabling the minimum wage bill. If we raise the minimum wage, small businesses will not be able to afford as many employees, forcing them to have to fire some of their workforce.
If employees want to have higher wages, it is up to them to show their employers why they deserve higher wages. Businessmen are smart. They know that if their workers deserve more money and aren’t getting it, then eventually those workers will go somewhere else that will pay them more.
As for the same-sex marriage law, it’s time to get into the modern era where we should allow same-sex couples get married. If Republicans are the party of freedom and individual choice, they should acknowledge the personal choices of people who may not have the same sexual orientation as they do.
When northern left leaning districts increase in population, which has been the trend in recent years, they begin to outweigh the rural conservative districts. Although Republicans have lost a great deal of influence within the legislature and executive branch, they are confident recent victories by Democrats will not hurt their party in the long run.
McAuliffe has also welcomed both Republican and Democratic lawmakers to the governor’s mansion for the remainder of the legislative term. In the public’s eyes, he is making any attempt possible to reach across the aisle. Judging by his background and political allies, however, it’s more likely he’s maneuvering.
Although the legislative term comes to an end in just a few weeks, the governor’s duty continues year round. Many Virginians are optimistic to see what McAuliffe will bring to the commonwealth and how willing to work with Republicans he is.
Unfortunately, I’m not as optimistic about McAuliffe’s next four years because of his recent actions.