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Lawmakers weigh in on new Virginia laws, discuss state budget

FILE PHOTO - The General Assembly Building in Capitol Square. Richmond, Virginia. (Credit: WSET)
FILE PHOTO - The General Assembly Building in Capitol Square. Richmond, Virginia. (Credit: WSET)
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Change is happening in Virginia. Governor Glenn Youngkin signed hundreds of bills into law recently.

Among the bills that Governor Younkin has signed into law this session is Senate Bill 656. It requires school districts to notify parents of any sexually explicit content in schools.

Republican Delegate Wendell Walker supports it, saying it should be the responsibility of parents to teach these things, not schools.

RELATED: Youngkin signs bill forcing school boards to notify parents of sexually explicit materials

"I think it's a positive step in the right direction as it relates to family matters here, because our children are the most precious things that we have in our life and they are our future. So, we have to make sure that we train them and teach them the right ways to go in life, and moral values is just as much a part of life as anything else," Walker said.

Democrat Delegate Sam Rasoul said he has voted both for and against versions of the bill in the past, but he takes issue with this version.

"It went a little far in saying that teachers have to be able to supply this information back to parents, as opposed to just notifying. It's very tough on our schools and our teachers right now. So, the bill went a little further than just a notification. It was saying that parents can go through and review some things and that's a little bit onerous on our schools," Rasoul said.

As for what could happen in the future in regard to education, Rasoul said there is broad support for funding school construction, and Walker wants to see lab schools open up, but he says what's holding this up, is the state budget.

RELATED: Gov. Youngkin signs 700 bills into law Monday, a total of 841 bills during 2022 session

As for other bills signed into law, Republican Senator Mark Peake said the changes he's excited about are in education and to the parole board.

"Getting parents involved with education, having school boards having to set out how they're going to have sexually explicit materials and notify the parents, parole board transparency with the parole board," Peake said.

Even though Republicans have control of the governor's mansion, Rasoul has some things he's happy about. Including, the the bill he pushed forward on local food and farming infrastructure.

"What this will help is local farmers get their products to market much faster, especially our small farmers who are needing some of that support," Rasoul said.

A lot of work has been done this legislative session, but there is still a major piece of unfinished business, the state budget.

Governor Youngkin called a special session earlier this month, but nothing got done.

Rasoul said there's a lot of room for compromise.

"We probably agree on about 90% of things. One thing that I have said is, let's make sure that we cut the grocery tax. I'm happy to cut it all because I think that is a great place to help folks. Let's make sure we get rebate checks. Even if we give slightly larger rebate checks to folks than we initially anticipated, that is just putting money directly back in the hands of Virginians," Rasoul said. "I think that's great room for compromise, so we can get a budget deal done and help Virginians directly."

On the Republican side, Walker said one challenge will be working out the differences between the House and Senate budget.

SEE ALSO: 1 on 1 with Youngkin: Va. Gov. talks inflation, gas prices & Loudoun Co. school board

Right now, that's a $3 billion difference.

"We're willing to cut some of the House programs that we proposed this year. So we're willing to make some concession there, certain percentages of it, but then there is a line, by which you don't cross anymore, because then the funding is not sufficient enough to continue operating programs. So there's where we are, I think we're willing to negotiate up to about a billion dollars as of what I understand right now," Walker said.

Lawmakers have to be back on April 27 for a veto session.

Walker added that its critical that lawmakers finish the budget.

Local governments and schools need the final tally in order to complete their own budgets.

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