Local Commentary

Senator Whipple’s Richmond Report

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Every year at about this time, I write about attending the annual meeting of the National Conference of State Legislatures. This year it was in Louisville, Kentucky, a city I had not visited before. Located on the Ohio River, you could walk across the bridge and find yourself in Indiana. The city has upgraded its downtown with second level “pedways” and a very lively section of 4th Street with entertainment and restaurants.

Most of my time was spent inside the Convention Center however. The meeting was a day shorter than in earlier years, so the forums, committee meetings, general sessions and business meetings were really packed in.

I am immediate past chair of the Environment Committee so I went to all the sessions of that committee. In addition, I’m a member of the Agriculture and Energy committee so made a special effort to attend the full day Energy Summit the day before the annual meeting began.

NCSL is able to attract excellent, nationally-known speakers so the level of discourse and information is very high. For example, the first general session featured Nancy Pelosi and Mitch McConnell. Jeb Bush was one of the speakers and we heard from top notch Republican and Democratic pollsters.

However what I particularly value is the information we gain from legislators from other states. They are able to talk in very practical terms about how to fashion legislation to help passage, and how to answer the objections of opponents. Many good ideas are shared among the legislators, both in scheduled sessions and in informal conversation.

The National Caucus of Environmental Legislators also meets during the NCSL meeting. We formulate positions and arguments to make on the policies being considered by the Environment Committee, share legislative successes and failures, and have informational sessions. This year we shared a meeting with NCSL about the issue of radon, the second largest cause of lung cancer, and legislation that is being adopted or considered by various states. Most of all the member legislators have become friends over the years. I’m a board member for this group that is based in Washington.

With redistricting coming up next year, there were multiple sessions for legislators on this topic. Senator Janet Howell, chair of the Virginia Senate Committee on Privileges and Elections, with responsibility for redistricting, attended those sessions.

One very interesting session was on Children and the Recession. Connecticut has been particularly active on this issue and told about the process they used to ascertain the facts about how children were affected and the bill they passed to protect children when the unemployment rate exceeds 8 per cent. I came home with lots of material that I sent to the Chairman and executive director of Virginia’s Commission on Children and Youth. That’s one example of how good ideas are shared among the states.

 


Senator Whipple represents the 31st District in the Virginia State Senate. She may be e-mailed at [email protected]