Local Commentary

Delegate Scott’s Richmond Report

When not in session….

Every legislator sits on several committees. In my case, those committees are Appropriations, Privileges and Elections and Militia, Police and Public Safety.

Some committees, such Militia and Police and Public Safety (MSP) rarely meet between regular sessions. Some, such as Privileges and Elections have subcommittee meetings to address specific agenda items. Privileges and Elections meet as a subcommittee, this year as a joint subcommittee with Senate members to consider certain gubernatorial appointments. This year Chairman (and Delegate) Mark Cole asked me to serve on the joint subcommittee considering those appointments.

Our joint subcommittee will probably only meet once to make recommendations to the full committees. All gubernatorial appointments must be approved by the two committees and the full House and Senate, in this case after a review by the joint committee.

My last committee, the Appropriations Committee, meets several times between sessions. We review agency performance and budget status reports. This week we heard the updates on state revenues, as we do several times each year. As several news reports have indicated, the Governor has asked agency heads to prepare for the 2009 session by submitting budget requests for the rest of FY2009 and for FY 2010 that reflect three levels of reductions: 5%, 10% and 15%.

State revenues will be officially estimated in time for committee action next month-in mid-October. There seems to be little doubt that the state’s declining revenues will cause reductions on the higher levels of the Governor’s directions to his agencies.

Bill review

Some bills introduced in the regular session are carried over for review by a committee or subcommittee. Some need extensive review because their complexity. Some are controversial and cause legislators to ask for more time and review.

In my case this fall, a bill I introduced banning text messaging while driving caused concerns about the extent of coverage of any ban. It was referred to a special committee on the Joint Commission on Technology and Science. That committee heard from an expert on driving distractions, and decided that my bill needed still more committee review by the Transportation Committee.

While only one state had banned text messaging while driving when we meet in January, several others states have passed bills since our hearing in the winter.

Commission members decided that some action should be taken by Virginia, but could not decide on the limitations or the penalties. Therefore the bill will be reviewed by a subcommittee appointed by the chair of JCOTS and Transportation Committee, Delegate Joe May of Loudoun County. I expect to introduce the bill again in January unless the subcommittee meets and make a recommendation to amend the bill and carry it over to the 2009 session. If the latter action is taken, the bill will be sent to the floor of House for a vote early in the 2009 session. Either way, the House will be addressing the subject again in January.