The General Assembly members began the program by discussing the impact of COVID-19 and Virginia's response to it through updates to the Commonwealth's budget.
"In my mind, the budget is a statement of our moral values and I'm very proud of the statement we made this session," said Senator Janet Howell. "This extra funding enabled us to assist our local governments, to help especially the school systems and higher education, and we were able to assist particularly small businesses with it."
"We were able to provide services that gave Virginians a safety net during the COVID crisis," added Senator Barbara Favola. "We were able to provide additional assistance to our small business and we were looking at our programs in a way that I think will be transformational going forward."
The discussion of the pandemic response continued with an exploration of legislation that focused on the changing needs for education, employment, and small businesses.
"You look at small businesses, some businesses have been able to get by, others are closed, and for some, their recovery will never be the same," said Delegate Patrick Hope. "And so, a lot of the bills that we passed and our budget target relief for the people who are most vulnerable and continue to struggle."
"We have fundamentally changed Virginia when it comes to protecting families and keeping Virginia healthy," said Delegate Alfonso Lopez. "We're building the economy stronger, creating a more inclusive Virginia, reforming the Commonwealth's criminal justice system, improving education, and making our democracy stronger by expanding voting rights.”
The General Assembly members also addressed specific questions, including several asked by members of the audience, about housing and the environment in round-robin conversations about several bills passed during the 2021 session.
"People were not evicted as often in 2020 as the year before, but people are really suffering," said Delegate Mark Levine responding to a question about legislation to help tenants at risk of eviction. "I hope that we transition out of the eviction moratorium instead of a sudden renewal of eviction proceedings."
"We're hoping that groups like the Chesapeake Bay Foundation will sit down with people like home builders, and they may find creative ways to increase tree canopy," said Senator Adam Ebbin in discussing a bill to study tree preservation. "There could be a variety of approaches put into place that maybe will make it palatable to builders but yet ultimately preserve or increase tree canopy."
The conversation concluded with reflections on the unique experience of participating in a session held virtually on account of the pandemic.
"We successfully, at least in the House, completed our session almost completely remotely," said Delegate Rip Sullivan addressing the virtual nature of this year's session. "We all want to go back to Richmond, but for instance, appearing before committees and avoiding two-to-six hour drives to Richmond was appealing to a lot of Virginians, and I think in many ways made us more accessible.”
Previously hosted by the Leadership Center for Excellence, the Arlington Chamber has assumed the hosting role for this important community event. "This breakfast provides an opportunity for our General Assembly members to have a conversation about this year's critical legislation," said Kate Bates, President & CEO of the Arlington Chamber of Commerce. "We are proud to host this event to help the Arlington community gain insights into the work that our legislators do for us in Richmond, and the General Assembly's impact on Arlington and the Commonwealth."
The 9th Annual Legislative Breakfast was made possible thanks to our sponsors including our Grand Sponsor: