Today I complete my first week as the Delegate from the 38th district to the Virginia House of Delegates. One of my highest priorities in this role is to inform and engage the citizens of the 38th in the sometimes opaque legislative processes that unfold in Richmond. One note of caution, though. I have heard it said that there and two things you don’t want to see in the making: sausages and laws!
I very much appreciate News-Press editor Nick Benton’s offer to continue to publish a regular column from Richmond that addresses the interests and concerns of the district.
As a freshman, I have a steep learning curve to climb; but, after 10 years as the Mason District Member on the Fairfax County School Board, I am very motivated by this new challenge. I have been assigned to two legislative committees: Counties, Cities and Towns and Science and Technology. I had hoped my School Board experience would qualify me for the Education Committee, as well. However, Committee assignments for all 100 Delegates-Democrats and Republicans– are the exclusive prerogative of the Speaker of the House, currently Delegate William Howell (R-28th). Still, I intend to be very active in the discussions and debates on education policies and funding that are sure to arise in this very challenging fiscal environment.
During this first week, I have offered a number of pieces of legislation, including one to further restrict the possession of guns on public school property and one to provide public school funding sufficient for Virginia’s teacher salaries to at least equal the national average (Virginia is currently in the bottom half of states in this regard).
Finally, I have given strong support to an omnibus bill to reform Virginia’s conflict of interest statutes for the first time in 20 years. This legislation is long overdue. Integrity and transparency in government is fundamental, and one of my longstanding priorities.
House and Senate Democrats introduced this piece of legislation on Monday. The bill would create a single five-member Ethics Advisory Panel. Members of the panel would be appointed by the majority and minority leaders of the House and Senate and by the Governor. Currently, the House and Senate each have their own review panels to investigate inquiries about their members.
The new panel would be required to hold its proceedings in public and would continue its investigations even if a legislator resigned office.
The bills would also deem a legislator in violation if he or she knew or should have known actions were in violation of ethical standards, rather than requiring proof that the legislator knew beforehand.
Democratic lawmakers introduced the legislation in response to the ethical problems of former lawmaker and ranking Republican member of the House Appropriations Committee Phil Hamilton that were revealed last year.
House Minority Leader Ward Armstrong (D-Henry) is carrying the legislation in the House of Delegates (HB657).
Senator Ralph Northam (D-Norfolk) is carrying the accompanying bill in the Senate (SB186). He asked all members of the House and Senate, Democrats and Republicans, to join in tightening Virginia’s conflict of interest laws.
There are few things more important in government than for citizens to know that they can have faith in the honesty and integrity of their representatives. I will also support other reform measures offered this year to promote transparency about legislators’ financial interests.
Delegate Kory represents the 38th District in the Virginia House of Delegates. She may be emailed at [email protected].