A remade Virginia General Assembly will convene its 2024 session Wednesday with a Democratic majority newly in charge of both chambers after a consequential election cycle that followed two years of divided control at the Capitol.

Guns, gambling, abortion, public safety and other issues will be on the agenda as Democrats seek to hold their razor-thin majorities together over the course of the 60-day session. They will need to win Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s support for most of their priorities, though in a few areas they will be able to move without him.


“I think there are some things we’re going to be able to agree on,” incoming Democratic House Speaker Don Scott said of the governor, ticking off spots of typical bipartisan cooperation, like education, mental health and workforce development.

On other legislative items — like gun control and Youngkin’s push for a new sports stadium — it remains to be seen where or whether compromise can be found, Scott said in an interview.

Scott, a trial lawyer who will make history as the first Black person to serve as speaker, will take his seat in an increasingly diverse Capitol.

Last year’s election cycle, when every legislative seat was on the ballot, was the first held under new maps drawn in the last redistricting process. The new maps coupled with the requirement that legislators live in their district contributed to a wave of retirements that included some of the Assembly’s most senior members. Others were ousted in an especially competitive primary season.

About a third of the Assembly’s membership will be newly elected to their respective chamber. The Capitol will see new historic firsts in representation and a new generation of leadership.

The Assembly will also convene with a record-high percentage of female legislators, according to data maintained by the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers. Forty-eight of the 140 members, or 34.3%, are women, according to the center, not accounting for the results of two Tuesday special legislative elections in which three female candidates were competing.


Wednesday’s session kick-off will effectively mark the halfway point of Youngkin’s term. The governor, who ultimately did not mount a presidential bid after heaps of speculation in 2023 that he might, is prohibited by Virginia law from seeking a second consecutive four years in office.

In the two months since the GOP fell short of Youngkin’s stated electoral expectations — losing its House majority and failing to flip the Senate — the governor has begun to roll out his policy roadmap, including his proposed budget. Crafting the next two-year state spending plan will be one of the session’s biggest tasks, something lawmakers in recent years have failed to do on time.

The governor has called for lowering the income tax while raising the state’s sales tax, a proposal that’s been greeted by skepticism from members of both parties.

Incoming Senate Republican Leader Ryan McDougle said in an interview that many members of his caucus think lowering the income tax would help make Virginia more competitive with competitor states. But the mechanism for doing so and maintaining a balanced budget will be an ongoing discussion, he said.

Youngkin unveiled plans for a separate and possibly legacy-making project in December when he announced the framework of a proposal to move the NBA’s Washington Wizards and NHL’s Washington Capitals across the Potomac to Alexandria.

Legislation that would create a government entity that could issue around $1.5 billion in bonds to finance the deal will be among the session’s most closely watched.


The governor has also called for lawmakers to continue working with him to improve the state’s mental health care system, including by tightening the reins on social media companies and banning TikTok for users under 18.

Later Wednesday, he will offer his annual State of the Commonwealth address, a chance to set the tone for his work with the new Assembly and highlight additional priorities.

Lawmakers will take up hundreds of other bills in the hectic sprint that is the legislative session.

Republicans, who have said they plan to hold Democrats accountable for any rush to the left, want to try again to pass a bill that would allow prosecutors to charge drug dealers with felony homicide if a user dies of an overdose. They’re also promising a renewed effort to repeal an electric vehicle mandate Democrats enacted in 2021.

Democrats, who overhauled the state’s gun laws while they controlled state government in 2020 and 2021, have filed a wide range of bills to tighten penalties for gun-related convictions and limit access to firearms, including a measure that would prohibit the sale of certain assault-style weapons.

Those measures will face the prospect of a Youngkin veto, though the governor has been quiet enough on the issue that leading gun rights advocates have said they are uncertain of how he might act.

Democrats have or are expected to file measures that will put Youngkin on the record on other topics where he’s hedged, including gay marriage and marijuana retail sales.

They will also be able to elect judges and fill other appointments and have pledged to start the multi-year process of amending the state constitution to protect abortion rights and take the process of restoring voting rights for felons who have served their terms out of the governor’s hands.

This year’s session is scheduled to end in early March.