Virginia General Assembly Begins Wednesday

The Virginia General Assembly reconvened for the 2016 session in Richmond Wednesday.

One of the hot issues of the coming 60-day session will be approving Virginia’s budget. Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D), who is at the halfway point of his four-year term, proposed a $109 billion state budget, which includes $1 billion in new spending for K-12 and higher education.

Given the divide between the Democratic-led Executive Branch and the Republican-controlled legislature, compromise will be key for both sides to make gains during the session.

McAuliffe and Republican legislatures are not likely to find common ground on Medicaid, gun regulations and same-sex couple rights anytime soon, but there is hope there are some areas, such as education funding and economic development, where the two sides could find common ground.

“Two years from today,” McAuliffe said in a speech in December, “we will be here again, and it is my hope that we can say we spent every day working together to build a new Virginia economy – starting with this budget that we will pass together in 2016.”

All eyes will be on McAuliffe Wednesday night when he will close out the opening day of the General Assembly with by his State of the Commonwealth address, Virginia’s version of the State of the Union.

State of the Union

Tuesday night President Obama gave his eighth, and final, State of the Union address. The speech strayed from the previous patterns of his SOTU addresses, as he offered more visions for America than legislative proposals.

Obama championed what he felt the successes of his candidacy have been, highlighting his work towards economic recovery, the Affordable Care Act and the formation of trade and climate deals. He also addressed the fear many Americans have of terrorism and called on Congress to give him the Authority to Use Military Force against the Islamic State.

One of the most pointed moments of the speech was when Obama singled out Donald Trump, criticizing conflation of the Muslim religion and the Islamic State.

"As frustration grows, there will be voices urging us to fall back into tribes, to scapegoat fellow citizens who don't look like us, or pray like us, or vote like we do, or share the same background," Obama said. "We can't afford to go down that path."

Polls

Bernie Sanders surpassed Hillary Clinton in Iowa according to a new Quinnipac University poll, which shows him ahead three points. The senator continues to hold his slight edge in New Hampshire.

The Republican candidates are running a tight race in Iowa with some polls tagging Ted Cruz in the lead, and some showing Donald Trump in the top spot. According to a New York Times/CBS poll, Trump still holds the national lead.

Detained U.S. Navy sailors

On Tuesday, just hours before the State of the Union, Iran detained 10 American sailors after they allegedly crossed into Iran's waters. Rear Admiral Ali Fadavi blamed mechanical errors in the ships' navigation system for landing them in Iranian territory. The sailors were released Wednesday morning because of the "quick and appropriate response of the Iranian authorities," Secretary of State John Kerry said. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said the new relationship born out of the Iran Nuclear Deal aided in the swift return of the sailors

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