Both houses of the Virginia General Assembly adjourned the 2012 regular session shortly before 10PM Saturday night. Lawmakers immediately convened a special session to deal with the two year spending plan. Budget negotiators are due to return on March 21st, and the entire General Assembly is expected to take up a budget compromise sometime later. Saturday night, Senate Democrats said they were confident talks will lead to an agreement, perhaps before the end of the month.
Summing up a session with unexpected twists, and a sharp turn to the right brought a range of reactions Saturday.
"Tumultous," said Senator Bill Stanley (R) Franklin County. "Contentious," offered Senator John Edwards (D) Roanoke. "Intense," said Delegate Kathy Byron (R) Lynchburg.
"Every year I keep coming back to the word brutal," said Delegate Don Merricks (R) Pitttsylvania County. "This year I think it’s true."
The focus on uranium mining at the start of the session quickly faded from the headlines.
Social issues took center stage as protestors crowded into Capitol Square.
Then the stand-off over spending priorities and power sharing left the legislature without a budget.
Republicans say controversy overshadowed important accomplishments. "I think if you look at what we have passed," said Delegate Ben Cline (R) Rockbridge County, "it’s responsible legislation that focuses on what’s important to the constituents, the economy, jobs, transportation, public safety."
Democrats say the GOP went too far.
"I think the publicity Virginia has gotten as a result of this extreme social legislation has made people realize we don’t want to go there," said Senator Edwards.
Now lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are hoping the budget deadlock doesn’t stretch into April.
"We play with people’s lives and I don’t want to do that," said Delegate Onzlee Ware (D) Roanoke, "and I would urge whether they’re Democrats or Republicans get this thing done so we can go back home and see how it works."
Lawmakers are now expected to return to the State Capitol on March 21st, to complete work on the budget.