Local Commentary

Senator Whipple’s Richmond Report

Next week the General Assembly returns to Richmond for the 2007 legislative session. The Session officially begins on Wednesday, January 10th, and is scheduled to end on February 24. Perhaps this year the session will end on time!

We can expect that transportation will be on the agenda again, along with bills concerning the major issues of education, health care and the environment. I will have bills on housing, school nutrition, a renewable portfolio standard for Virginia, extension of absentee voting, green buildings, humane education and others.

If past experience is a guide, approximately 3,000 bills and resolutions will be introduced by the 100 Delegates and 40 Senators collectively. It’s a real job to get through all the bills, giving each its due consideration, in six and a half weeks.

The only way we can accomplish the task is to rely heavily on the committee system. No one member can read and digest 3,000 bills but each of us can read and study the bills that come to the committees on which we serve. It is at the committee level that bills are discussed in detail and the public is heard on each bill. They may be amended

If a bill is more complicated or is especially controversial, it may be assigned to a subcommittee that spends additional time on the bill. Often this leads to amendments that improve the bill and address particular concerns. Sometimes there is even a consensus.

In the Senate, any bill that is sent to subcommittee is still heard by the full committee (15 members), even if there is a negative recommendation from the subcommittee. We feel that a small subcommittee of three or five members should not determine the fate of a bill.

However, the House of Delegates does allow a subcommittee to make the final decision on a bill. Therefore some bills are never heard by more than a few members of the House.

I serve on five committees (Agriculture, Conservation and Natural Resources; Local Government; Privileges and Elections; Education and Health; and Rules) and chair two subcommittees: the Studies subcommittee of Rules and a health care subcommittee of Education and Health. You can believe that keeps me plenty busy!

Often constituents come to Richmond during the Session to lobby for particular bills or issues, or just to view the proceedings. I hope you will plan to come to the Capitol for a visit, though this year, because the actual Capitol is being renovated, we are holding our Sessions in the Patrick Henry Building.

Please keep in touch and let me know your opinions on various bills and issues as they come up. The email address is [email protected] and the phone number of my office in Richmond is 804-698-7531. My aide, Janie Burton, will be pleased to receive your calls if I’m not available. The toll-free constituent hotline number is 1-800-889-0229.

On Saturday, January 13, Delegate Jim Scott and I will hold a Town meeting in the Community Room at the Falls Church Community Center at 1 pm. Hope to see you there!