- Associated Press - Wednesday, January 11, 2017

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) - The Latest on the Virginia General Assembly’s 2017 legislative session starting (all times local):

7:10 p.m.

Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe is touting his record at growing and diversifying the state’s economy, but warning lawmakers that progress could be undermined by socially conservative legislation on abortion and transgender issues.

McAuliffe’s remarks came Wednesday evening at the annual State of the Commonwealth, kicking off the start of the 2017 legislative session.

The governor, a Democrat, asked lawmakers in prepared remarks to work with him on helping the state become less dependent on federal defense spending, but said he would veto any legislation that he thought restricted abortion rights or discriminated against the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.

Republicans have already filed bills banning abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy and prohibit individuals from using a bathroom of the opposite sex in government-owned buildings.


3:25 p.m.

Virginia’s legislative black caucus says protecting K-12 education funding will be its top priority during this year’s General Assembly session.

The group held a press conference Wednesday, the session’s opening day, to outline its goals. Lawmakers are facing an estimated $1.26 billion shortfall, and caucus president Del. Roslyn Tyler says the group is committed to making sure primary education funding doesn’t see a cut.

She says their second priority will be criminal justice reform.

Gov. Terry McAuliffe has proposed a bill that would inhibit driver’s license suspensions due to a driver’s inability to pay court fees, which the group calls good government.

Members also say they will be introducing legislation that would raise Virginia’s minimum wage and prohibit state agencies from asking about a person’s criminal history on a job application, with certain exceptions.


3 p.m.

The Virginia House of Delegates is making recorded floor sessions available for the public to view online.

According to the office of House Speaker William Howell, beginning Wednesday, each day’s floor proceedings will be available online within a few hours of the session’s adjournment.

Howell says users will be able to search by House member or by bill. The videos will be archived.

In the Senate, Sen. Chap Petersen says he plans to reintroduce a budget amendment that would establish an online archive of Senate floor session video.

The amendment’s chance of passage this year isn’t immediately clear.

Most states have video recordings and archives of committee hearings and other meetings, but Virginia has been a holdout. A progressive advocacy group recently announced plans to livestream and record most of the General Assembly committee hearings.


2:20 p.m.

Gov. Terry McAuliffe is predicting a productive working relationship with Republican lawmakers during this year’s legislative session, which he said will focus on improving mental health services and stemming opioid abuse.

McAuliffe is set to address lawmakers about 7 p.m. Wednesday, the first official day of the Virginia General Assembly’s 2017 session.

The Democratic governor told reporters he expects to work well with Republicans on other issues such as reforming the state’s economic development agency and addressing an estimated $1.26 billion shortfall. Republicans control both chambers of the General Assembly.

McAuliffe is entering his fourth and final year in office. His speech is also expected to tout his work during his first three years, particularly in the areas of economic development, transportation and education.


12:45 p.m.

The Virginia General Assembly’s 2017 session has started, with lawmakers kicking off a 45-day sprint Wednesday that will see lawmakers tackle budget problems, state employee pay issues and a host of thorny social issues.

Gov. Terry McAuliffe will give his annual address to lawmakers Wednesday evening, where he’s expected to explain his priorities for his last year in office. The governor, a Democrat, faces long odds on getting key parts of his agenda through a GOP-controlled General Assembly.

Lawmakers also have to wrestle with an estimated $1.26 billion shortfall.

Virginia lawmakers are carrying on a nearly four-century-old democratic tradition. The Virginia House of Delegates is the successor to the British colonial House of Burgesses, which first met in Jamestown in 1619.

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