Valley lawmakers take concerns ahead of General Assembly session

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HARRISONBURG, Va. (WHSV) — The General Assembly session is set to begin on January 10th, and on Wednesday, some Valley state legislators talked with community members about their questions and concerns.

File image of Virginia's capitol building from the opening of the General Assembly in 2016

Senators Mark Obenshain and Emmett Hanger, along with Delegates Tony Wilt and Steve Landes, came together for a Harrisonburg-Rockingham Chamber of Commerce Breakfast in Harrisonburg Wednesday.

This coming year, Republicans are entering the General Assembly with a new Democrat governor and, in the House of Delegates, they have a small lead with just a 51-to-49 majority following the November election, gaining more seats than in decades.

Del. Landes says he doesn't think the small margin will make a big difference because many of the issues they work on are bipartisan, but he says there are some exceptions.

"One of the concerns I've got is lot of these new members of the House of Delegates, especially from Northern Virginia on the Democratic side, are not supportive of businesses or corporations, they seem to think they're the enemy," said Landes. "And it will be interesting to see because those are the folks that employ the citizens we represent."

Landes says a business-friendly environment is key to getting people in the workforce.

Interstate 81 has also become a major issue for many in the community, and Del. Landes says his legislative survey will ask folks if they might consider tolling on the interstate as a solution to the ongoing problems.

Del. Landes is also working on a pilot program to allow armed forces service members to vote electronically overseas. In previous elections, there have been issues with absentee ballots not getting to the registrar on time for the election.

"If someone is actually serving the country, protecting us, they of all people should be able to vote while they are overseas, so we're doing a pilot to see how that would work, if it can be implemented fairly and securely," said Landes.

Landes says they will put in some budget requests for money for the Department of Elections.

The General Assembly is also expected to hear the independent review from Tim Heaphy about the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville. Governor Terry McAuliffe also created a task force to look into the deadly incident.

"We're going to have to really look at those reports thoroughly, ask a lot of questions," said Landes. "It might take some legislation to fix certain things, it may take some budget actions to fix certain things. But it looks like there's enough blame to go around, both from the local standpoint and the state standpoint so we need to fix that."