Local Commentary

Senator Mary Margaret Whipple’s Richmond Report




This is a time of transitions.

Senators and Delegates are in the process of moving to Richmond for the next several weeks for the General Assembly Session that begins next Wednesday.

I’m proofreading bills, sifting through background materials, preparing file folders and packing boxes in preparation for transitioning from my District to Richmond office.

The Session is scheduled to run from Jan. 14 – Feb. 28, and I feel sure that every member is hoping we will finish on time, something we have failed to do for five of the last seven years. Since this is an election year for the House of Delegates they may be more eager to get back to their districts and start to campaign.

While in Richmond, my address is 327 General Assembly Building, Richmond, 23219. The phone is 804-698-7531 and the email address is [email protected].

Of course the recession and its inevitable impact on the budget will be the central issue of the session. The Governor has done much of the heavy lifting by preparing budget amendments to reduce spending over the two years by $2.9 billion. Although K-12 education was exempt from cuts in the current year, the Governor has reluctantly recommended reductions outside the classroom for the second year of the biennium, another transition of sorts.

On Thursday, Jan. 8 there will be a public hearing on the budget beginning at 10 a.m. at Northern Virginia Community College. You are invited to attend and speak for three minutes about concerns related to the budget. The Virginia Department of Planning and Budget has both detailed and summary information on its website (search dpb.virginia.gov).

Of course, much as I tend to think of the General Assembly as the center of the universe, naturally much more attention has been paid to the transition in Washington.

In my capacity as chair of the Environment Committee of the National Conference of State Legislatures, I was invited to meet with the transition agency review team at the Environmental Protection Agency. They had thoughtful questions about the Agency’s relationships with states and how they can be improved. I was impressed with their attention to process as well as substance.

In a conference call, the former chair of the Environment Committee of NCSL, Beverly Gard, a Republican Senator from Indiana, and I were consulted about water and sewer projects that might be included in the proposed stimulus package. We assured EPA that states have projects that are “shovel ready” and could be put out to bid just as soon as the money is allocated to the states.

And one more transition: we learned this week that Governor Kaine will become the chairman of the Democratic National Committee. This is good for the DNC and good for Virginia. It will surely benefit our state to have a Governor who is a personal friend and trusted advisor to President Obama.