Local Commentary

Senator Whipple’s Richmond Report

It was a great week of “firsts”

What a great time we had last week as the Democrats took control of the Senate for the first time in a decade. At noon on Wednesday, all newly-elected Senators took the oath of office, pledging to uphold the Constitutions of the United States and the Commonwealth of Virginia and to perform the duties incumbent upon them as members of the Senate of Virginia.

And so began the 2008 Session. Senate Resolution 1, which establishes the rules of the Senate and incorporates any changes, was the first order of business. As Chair of the Rules Committee, I presented the Resolution.

One of the duties of the Chair of the Rules Committee is to present messages from the Senate to the House of Delegates. Such a message may go something like this: “Mr. Speaker, I have been directed by the President of the Senate to inform the House of Delegates that the Senate has passed House Joint Resolutions 31 and 32.” As you know, the Senate only takes up the other Chamber’s bills after they have passed the House of Delegates. House Joint Resolutions 31 and 32 are organizational documents and were also acted on during the first session.

The Senate reconvened in the early evening in our Chamber and then proceeded to the House Chamber to hear Governor Tim Kaine’s State of the Commonwealth address. His inspirational speech has been widely reported so I won’t repeat the content. Afterwards, the Governor invited all members of the General Assembly to the Executive Mansion.

This exciting and very full day began with the annual Commonwealth Prayer Breakfast, attended by the Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Attorney General and many members of the General Assembly. I was invited to read the Old Testament scriptures; former Virginia State Senator and Attorney General Mark Earley gave a very inspiring address to the 1200 attendees.

I chaired my first Rules Committee meeting later in the week. It was primarily an organizational meeting to establish the chairs and membership of the four subcommittees as well as the operational rules for the committee. As chair of the Rules Committee, it is my responsibility to approve requests for special meetings, floor presentations in the Senate Chamber, and even parking in the bus loop. As you can see, some responsibilities are more awesome than others!

All the new chairs have now conducted their first meeting. It is quite exciting to have seven women chairing Senate committees, the first time there has been more than one female chair at a time. Four chairs are African-American, another first for the Senate.

The Session is off to a good start. We are fully occupied with bills, resolutions and budget matters, and a multitude of meetings, and I can tell that the sixty days of the Session will go by very quickly indeed.