First, I want my colleague and leader, Mary Margaret Whipple to know how much I, and many of her friends and constituents’ will miss her in Richmond. Like me, she began her public service in Virginia in local government, serving on the Arlington School Board and then the Arlington County Board. As a member of the County Board, she also served as a member of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority and the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission. Her colleagues quickly understood her leadership and collegial style and elected her to lead each of those organizations.
In 1995, she was elected to replace Senator Ed Holland, also from Arlington, in the Virginia Senate. Her colleagues there spotted a natural leader and elected her to serve as Democratic Caucus Chair. While the Republicans were in the majority, they overlooked her party preference and appointed her to the powerful Senate Rules Committee, where she now serves as Chair.
A passionate defender of local government, she has made many contributions to the strengthening of its importance and its effectiveness, particularly in the areas of transportation, education and the environment. All of us in local and state government have admired her thoughtful, careful and even-handed approach to difficult problems. Like her many other admirers, I wish her and her husband, Tom, in the words of a famous movie star cowboy that at least the three of us remember– “happy trails.”
On to Richmond
The biggest issues in the session were the Budget, transportation and education and the Virginia Retirement System (VRS). Midway through the session, few could have predicted the outcomes. Starting with the Governor’s attempt to sell the state liquor stores to finance transportation, a proposal many, if not most, of his Republican colleagues rejected, the 2011 session did not begin auspiciously.
From the early days, the session, the main issues were agreeing on a Budget and funding transportation and education. I suspect that few thought we would see unanimous adoption by the House and the Senate.
Getting there wasn’t easy, but the final result included substantial funding for transportation although many of us agreed reluctantly to support the package, partially because a substantial part of the funding came from Governor Kaine’s transportation proposal many of us supported, but was rejected in part by the court.
In education, K-12 received more dollars than the House or the Governor proposed, with Fairfax receiving at least an additional $4.1 million. The House rejected a proposal to take funds away from pre-kindergarten to support expansion of all-day kindergartens.
In higher education, the Governor made considerable strides toward his goal of 100,000 new degrees in 15 years.
Delegate Scott represents the 53rd District in the Virginia House of Delegates. He may be emailed at [email protected]