The Virginia General Assembly is back in session and it is shaping up to be another busy year.
Since 2016 is an even number year, the General Assembly will meet for a maximum of 60 days. There already seems to be several issues that will arise that could have effects on the students, faculty and the college itself.
On Dec. 17, 2015, Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe introduced his biennial budget to the Virginia General Assembly. The Commonwealth’s revenue announcement was also recently released. “Given [these] announcements, we do not anticipate the Commonwealth to issue any additional budget cuts,” stated Sim Ewing, Vice Chancellor for Finance and Administration at UVa-Wise. “That being said, it will remain a very tight and demanding budget year. We are constantly monitoring the budget and the college’s revenue to keep the financial horizon in view.”
Ewing stated that the college remains concerned with impacts from the regional economy and issues that could arise from decisions made by the federal government that would affect the Commonwealth as a whole. With the decline of the coal industry, the local economy continues to struggle in its recovery. There has also been a continued decline in population in the local area in recent years, especially among young individuals under the age of 35. All of these factors have great impacts on the college, which attracts many students from the surrounding counties in Southwest Virginia. The college is also a major job provider for the local area.
The budget, however, is not the only issue that the college will be looking at in this year’s General Assembly session. “We anticipate that there will be a number of compliance bills once again this year,” stated Ewing, “along with bills pertaining to guns on campus.”
Recently, Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring issued a decision to no longer honor gun carry permits from 25 other states, including nearby Kentucky and Tennessee. Herring claims that it is because these states do not hold their permits to the same standards as Virginia. Delegate Terry Kilgore, a Republican who represents Virginia’s 1st District, plans to submit a budget amendment targeting this decision from Attorney General Herring. This decision, as well as several others, is setting up this session to become a showdown between Republicans, Democrats, and the McAuliffe administration over guns.
Currently, firearms are not allowed on the UVa-Wise campus, but that could soon become an issue in Richmond. With other states currently debating allowing firearms on campus, it could become a debated issue here in Virginia. Proponents on each side argue that guns either are needed on campus for protection of the students or should not be allowed on campus for safety purposes. The question of second amendment rights also frequently arises in the argument. Are college students being denied their right to bear arms by being told they cannot have firearms on campus? This is an issue that will certainly continue to provoke fire from both sides and have large ramifications on campus safety.