Local Commentary

Senator Whipple

Training for new Senate chairs was held in Richmond on December 20th.

We were advised to re-read (!) the U.S. Constitution and the Virginia Constitution over the holidays, as well as reviewing Jefferson’s Manual that is the basis of parliamentary procedure in the Senate (no routine Robert’s Rules of Order in Richmond). Of course the Rules of the Senate need to be memorized so you can say things like “pursuant to

Rule 20(f)….

We discussed the advisability of appointing subcommittees. That really depends on the workload of the committee. The Courts of Justice committee has more bills assigned to it than any other so there will be two subcommittees established on Civil and Criminal Law to expedite the work of the full committee. Other committees may need to send only a few complex bills to subcommittees that are formed for the purpose.

Public hearings were another issue. Every bill receives a public airing in the committee meeting during which the patron presents the bill and both proponents and opponents are invited to speak to the bill; anyone in attendance can come forward to speak if they wish. A public hearing differs in that the time for the hearing is set in advance, perhaps outside the usual committee meeting.

The chairs of the committees have the responsibility of moving the meeting along while at the same time treating members and witnesses courteously and ensuring a thorough airing of the issues. With dozens or even hundreds of bills to be handled this is no small task.

For the first time ever, seven women will chair committees in the Senate in 2008. (There has never been more than one at a time before.) Four of the chairs (three women, one man) are African Americans. While most of us will be chairing Senate committees for the first time, the new chairs have extensive prior experience.

Senator Patsy Ticer will be chair of the Agriculture, Conservation and Natural Resources Committee. She is the former mayor of Alexandria and chaired many a meeting of the City Council as well as having chaired the Transportation Planning Board at COG.

Commerce and Labor will be chaired by Dick Saslaw of Fairfax, former floor leader and incoming Majority Leader of the Senate.

Senator Henry Marsh will chair the Courts of Justice Committee. He is a former mayor of the City of Richmond and an early civil rights lawyer, practicing with Oliver Hill.

The chair of Education and Health will be Senator Edd Houck. He is a retired school principal and administrator.

The all-important Senate Finance Committee chair will be Chuck Colgan of Prince William. The longest-serving Senator, he will also be President pro tempore of the Senate.

General Laws will be chaired by Mamie Locke, former Mayor of Hampton. She holds a Ph.D. in Political Science from Atlanta University, and is the Dean of Liberal Arts at Hampton University.

L. Louise Lucas will chair the Local Government Committee. Prior to coming to the Senate in 1991, she served on the Portsmouth City Council and is a businesswoman in the city.

Senator Janet Howell of Reston will chair the Privileges and Elections committee. She chaired the State Board on Social Services before coming to the Senate and has been a member of the Senate Finance committee for eight years.

The Committee on Rehabilitation and Social Services will be chaired by Senator Toddy Puller of Mount Vernon. She is a former educator and Distinguished Alumnus of Mary Washington.

I will chair the Senate Rules Committee. As most of you know, I previously served as member and chair of the Arlington School Board, County Board and Metro Board.

Transportation chair will be Senator Yvonne Miller of Norfolk. When the Democrats last held the majority, she chaired the Rehab and Social Services committee. An educator, she holds a Master’s degree from Columbia, a doctorate from the University of Pittsburg and is Professor emeritus at Norfolk State University.