Local Commentary

Senator Whipple’s Richmond Report

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Lots of people have asked me if the General Assembly is done for the year. Certainly the regular Session is over, but we will soon be returning to Richmond for two other sessions. One is the annual Reconvened Session, also known as the Veto Session, and the other is the Redistricting Session.

On April 6, the Veto session will be held at the Capitol. Usually this is a one day event during which the Senate and House of Delegates consider the Governor’s amendments and vetoes. The Governor has to give notice of proposed changes a little more than a week in advance so patrons of the bills have an opportunity to decide if they are willing to accept the amendment. Often the amendments are technical in nature rather than substantive. On the other hand, amendments may quite alter the bill and the patron may object.

Of course a veto is even more controversial. One possibility that has been discussed in the press is the request – from school boards and superintendents – that the Governor veto the bills requiring 150 minutes of physical education each week. The bills’ patrons are medical doctors, Senator Northam and Delegate O’Bannon, who are very concerned about the increase in childhood obesity. The Senate bill passed by a wide margin but the vote was closer in the House.. The school systems say they too are concerned about the health risks to children but think it will be too expensive to provide formal physical education.

As you know, redistricting is a long process that began with the census in 2010. Because Virginia’s population has increased, each legislative district must have more people. Senate districts will need a population of approximately 200,000 and House districts 80,000. While there are many considerations in drawing districts, the most important is to meet the test of “one person, one vote.” Every district will change because of this Constitutional requirement.

The redistricting session is scheduled to begin on April 4th and will be recessed if necessary to accommodate the veto session which must be held on the 6th. The redistricting bills will be submitted in advance and hearings held around the state.

Two hearings are scheduled for Northern Virginia. The first will be held at the Loudoun County Government Center in Leesburg on Thursday, March 31, at 7 p.m. The next opportunity for public comment is on Saturday April 2 at 10:30 a.m. in the Board of Supervisors auditorium in the Fairfax County Government Center. The final hearing will be in the General Assembly Building in Richmond at 10 a.m. on Monday, April 4, prior to the beginning of the redistricting session.

After that the respective committees on Privileges and Elections will take up the bills and the usual legislative process will be followed. Once a bill is enacted, the Governor’s signature is required, and then, because Virginia is a Voting Rights Act state, the bill must be reviewed by the Department of Justice.

 


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

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