Benjamin Franklin may have been discussing the new United States

Constitution when he penned this note to his friend, French scientist Jean-

Baptiste Le Roy, but he could easily have been referring to politics in

Virginia. Virginia House of Delegates members and members of the

Congressional House of Representatives serve two-year terms. Members of

the Virginia Senate serve four-year terms. United States Senators serve sixyear

terms. And the Governor, Lieutenant Governor and Attorney General

all serve four-year terms with only the Governor constitutionally limited to a

single four-year term. With all of these terms being staggered across the

various offices, the result is that every single year in the Commonwealth of

Virginia, there is a consequential election which could shift the balance of

power between and within the executive and legislative branches. Death,

taxes and Virginia elections—nothing in this world is more certain.

But with the certainty of constant elections also comes constant change.

Every January, the Virginia General Assembly convenes to debate and pass

the Commonwealth’s laws. The frequency of state elections can result in

whiplash policy changes from year to year as the two dominant political

parties trade majority rule. Only once in the past ten years has one party

managed to control the Governor’s office and both chambers of the General

Assembly when the Democrats accomplished this short-lived feat in 2019.

The Democrats quickly proceeded to pass a number of initiatives they had

long favored, including: criminal justice reform, the decriminalization of

marijuana, the creation of the Cannabis Control Authority, expansion of rights for

LGBTQIA+, and the Clean Economy Act, among others. But the rapid

advancement of so many initiatives in such a short period of time led

to significant pushback against the party; in 2021, Republicans regained

control of the House of Delegates and swept all three statewide offices for

Governor, Lieutenant Governor and Attorney General. The Democrats

retained control of the Senate, setting up another electoral showdown for

control of the General Assembly in the November 2023 elections.

This article will discuss some of the policy initiatives introduced during

the 2023 legislative session in advance of the fall elections. It will examine

what happened with some key initiatives such as campaign finance reform,

ratepayer reform and the establishment of a cannabis retail market. It will

then analyze what should have happened in these areas and look to the 2024

session for what new initiatives we can expect to see introduced.