Local Commentary

Delegate Hull’s Richmond Report

Downhill from Here

Last week, we reached the halfway point of the 2007 General Assembly session as last Tuesday was “Crossover.”

That is the day when all bills and resolutions introduced in one chamber must be acted upon by that body.

Those pieces of legislation which pass each chamber then cross over to the other chamber.

In the House, there were 2,032 bills and joint resolutions introduced, we approved 899 of them, and they were sent to the Senate for consideration.

Senators introduced 1,004 bills and joint resolutions, 600 of them were passed, and they are now being considered in the House.

  In the House, the 44.6-percent success rate of legislation was in line with the historic 45-percent average pass rate.

After crossover, there is a different workload in both chambers. The number of new bills and resolutions for the Senate to consider is slightly less than before.

But, it is downhill for us in the House as we will deliberate on only about one-quarter of the legislation as before.

All of this is aimed at a March 8 adjournment. Of course, we have delayed our adjournment in the past due to legislative disputes.

These disagreements are invariably between the House and Senate over the budget and such a dust up is occurring this year, too.

Budget Battles Again

In the past, the arguments have been between the more conservative House Republicans and their moderate Senate GOP brethren.

But, this year, Democrats control the Senate and they have approved a budget that is in line with Democratic Governor Kaine’s views.

While it is expected that House GOP members will not like it, Senate Democrats did not foresee opposition from the Republican Senators.

All GOP members of the Senate Finance Committee voted against their spending plan and battles are expected on the floor.

Such division on the budget is unusual for the genteel Senate, while partisan rancor is the norm in the House.

Yet, all was harmonious on the Appropriations Committee as both Republicans and Democrats voted for the House budget.

Each chamber passes a separate version of the budget and the final votes on each are today.

I am sure that there will be hearty debate in the House. But, who knows what type of fireworks face the Senate?

Man of the People

I attended a memorial service last Friday in Charlottesville for a beloved former House colleague who retired in 2005.

Mitch Van Yahres passed away a week before that in the hospital following cancer surgery.

In many ways, Mitch reminded me of Will Rogers. Like the great sage of the Plains, he never met a person he did not like.

A tree surgeon by profession, Mitch was a hearty fellow with a deep voice, ever present smile, and great sense of humor.

A former mayor of Charlottesville, Mitch was 81 when he died. But, he was quite fit and looked much younger than his years.

He walked constantly, including .walking daily between his hotel and the Capital during his legislative service of more than 20 years.

Although born and raised in New York, Mitch was a true Virginia gentleman. He was also an unabashed liberal and proud of it.

He was deeply religious. But, instead of wearing his faith on his sleeve, he wore it in his heart.

Mitch was dedicated to fighting the good fight for the little guy and righting the wrongs of the world.

He was ahead of his time in support of many issues which were once controversial, but are accepted concepts today.

Mitch carried bills to require local tree preservation, support acupuncture, and promote local farmers markets.

He promoted site-based management in public schools, remedial education programs, and the restoration of civil rights to former felons.

Mitch sponsored legislation on water supply plans, mandated prescription contraceptive coverage, and LEED green building standards.

His greatest legislative achievement may have come when he won passage of a resolution apologizing for a great injustice.

In 2001, the General Assembly expressed “its profound regret over the Commonwealth's role in the eugenics movement.”

Under this discredited theory of “improving” the human race, about 8,000 Virginians were involuntarily sterilized over a 72 year period.

The Gentleman from Charlottesville was one-of-a-kind and he will be greatly missed by the many people whose lives he touched.