As fall approaches legislators and candidates begin to focus on the issues that they hope will be on the top of the legislative agenda for January 2008.
Each year, many bills and resolutions are developed from the work of the legislative studies directed by short-lived committees of the General Assembly created to recommend solutions to specific issues or problems.
The committees are usually created by action of both the House and Senate.
The person who proposes the study committee is usually elected chair of the committee by the members at the first meeting. Frequently, if the chair is a House member, a Senator will be elected vice-chair, and vice versa.
In the House members of all committees are appointed by the Speaker of the House, usually to serve one term in office. In the Senate, the Committee on Rules makes the appointments by majority vote.
House rules call for permanent and temporary members to be appointed according to the percentage of members in the Republican and Democratic caucuses. In most cases, this rule has been followed by the Speaker, but not always. For the example, the very important Budget Conference Committee has six members in the House with only one Democrat. In the Senate there are five members with two Democrats.
Each Budget Conference Committee has one Northern Virginia member. In the House, Vince Callahan from McLean is the chair of the full committee and the Conference Committee. With his retirement this year, Northern Virginia replacements in those roles seem very unlikely. With significant Northern Virginia seniority among Democrats, Democratic control in either or both Houses would probably lead to more Northern Virginians in leadership positions, including subcommittee chairs.
And the legislative process begins
House and Senate members have begun the 2008 legislative process by submitting bill drafting requests. Many legislators will be asking for bills to dramatically change or repeal the most controversial part of the transportation funding bill: the so-called “Abuser fees” introduced by Delegates Albo and Rust. While changes will find many sympathetic ears in the General Assembly, replacement revenues may not be passed unless the House membership changes significantly in the fall.
As I have pointed out, the transportation funding package approved this year by the General Assembly, including those fees and taxes adopted by the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority, will only fund approximately 60% of our needs. In short, unless we are to fall further behind in addressing our transportation and congestion problems, we must have more revenues.
Why not take the opportunity to replace the Abuser Fees with a revenue stream that is more stable and reliable?
In my last column I spoke highly of the newly constructed Ferguson Hall at Christopher Newport University. As Dr. Janet Adams Strong pointed out in a Letter to the Editor, contrary to my assertion, it was designed not by I. M. Pei, but his long-time partner, Henry N. Cobb. I regret the error.