Local Commentary

Senator Whipple’s Richmond Report

Now is the time for all good legislators to meet with their constituents, and constituent groups, and organizations, and County Boards and City Councils, and School Boards and advocates to get ready for the General Assembly.

The meetings are coming fast and furious.

In the last two and a half weeks I have met with the Falls Church City Council, the Arlington County Board, the Fairfax County Board, the Arlington School Board, the Arlington Education Association and the Fairfax Education Association, the Presidents of George Mason University and Northern Virginia Community College, the Coalition for the Mentally Disabled, health care providers, environmentalists, the Fairfax firefighters, the Dulles Rail Transit Association, and a representative of the Virginia Tech Advanced Research Institute.

In Richmond I met with the Women’s Roundtable, the Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy, the AFL-CIO, and the staff of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, the Governor’s office, and Legislative Services.

These meetings come served with lots of calories as well as food for thought. There have been breakfasts, lunches, dinners and receptions – each with an enticing array of food. I try to skip dessert!

The meetings are very helpful in preparing us for the legislative session ahead. Most groups provide briefings and written background information about their issues, drafts of legislation and budget amendments. Generally they give us contact information so we have someone to call on when we have additional questions.

The City, Counties and School Boards provide us with complete legislative programs, with bills to introduce, bills to support and bills to oppose. Even so, there are always some surprises when legislation is actually introduced so we try to keep in close touch with the legislative liaison for the respective bodies.

The City of Falls Church has been well-served by Wyatt Shields in this capacity in the past, now acting City Manager, and we are fortunate this year to have Cindy Mester who is adding this job to her many other responsibilities. Lilla Wise represents the School Boards of Alexandria, Arlington, and Falls Church; fortunately they almost always agree on the issues.

In Arlington the legislative liaison is Pat Carroll and Fairfax County has a legislative office headed up by Sue Mitterader.

These people work very long hours in Richmond, and during the year, to make sure your interests are protected. They meet regularly with local government liaisons from around the state to share information. Often they can point out potential adverse consequences of a bill and we can get it amended. They are tenacious in promoting legislation advanced by their local governments.

People say "It takes a village" and that is certainly true of the Virginia General Assembly. The help we receive from advocates is essential to the process. The knowledge we gain in these pre-session meetings prepares us well for the action-packed days ahead.