Local Commentary

Senator Whipple’s Richmond Report


Occasionally I like to answer the question “What do you do the rest of the year, when you’re not in Richmond. And the answer is “Quite a lot.”

This month alone I will be out of town eleven days. In Richmond. I will be chairing meetings of the Energy and Environment Commission as well as a subcommittee of the Housing Commission, and attending the Simplifications and Operations work group of the Governor’s Reform Commission.

The Chesapeake Bay Commission met in Virginia earlier this month at Westmoreland State Park. The members from Maryland and Pennsylvania were impressed with the accommodations and the new LEED Gold -certified Visitors Center. And they were most impressed with the natural beauty of the site, the trails and the waterfront and the eagles soaring above. We had dinner at the Ingleside Winery so they experienced some great Virginia hospitality.

I spoke on a panel on state finances and moderated a panel on energy issues at the annual meeting of the Virginia Association of Counties in Bath County. There were a number of distinguished speakers including Senator Mark Warner, Lieutenant Governor Bill Bolling, Speaker of the House Bill Howell, and political columnist Jeff Schapiro of the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

This week will be the Senate Finance retreat in Staunton. This is always my favorite meeting of the year because I learn so much and we get well prepared for the Session in January. The Senate Finance Committee staff are excellent analysts and tell it like it is. There’s no sugarcoating of difficult issues. They are good at seeing what’s ahead of us, explaining trends that will affect the state budget and thinking proactively about how we can address the policy questions that will emerge.

Recently I was named to the Local Government Advisory Committee of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). I will be attending my first meeting at the Hall of States in Washington for one full day. Supervisor Penny Gross previously served on this committee for some years.

Conference calls are becoming increasingly common and are a great way to avoid travel and reduce costs. The Governor is instituting monthly conference calls with members of the General Assembly and the first one took place last week. Recently I’ve also had conference calls with the Coalition of Legislators for Energy Action Now (CLEAN) and with our Democratic caucus in the Senate. I’ve received calls from the Secretary of the Commonwealth and the Secretary of Natural Resources.

Then there are meetings with people who make appointments in my district office. This month I met with a delegation from the Northern Virginia Aging Network, the Medical Society of Northern Virginia, NARAL and the President of the University of Mary Washington, among others.

Finally there are numerous events to attend. Just to mention two in Falls Church: the traditional, and always moving, observance of Veterans Day and the annual meeting with the City Council, scheduled for November 22.

And to think I wrote this whole column without mentioning Election Day!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Senator Whipple represents the 31st District in the Virginia State Senate. She may be e-mailed at district31@senate.virginia.gov