The Virginia General Assembly legislative cycle ramps up each December well before the mid January start of the session in Richmond. There is a deadline each year in early December for legislators to submit proposed legislation to the Division of Legislative Services (DLS) for assistance in the formal drafting process. Legislators who submit requests by the deadline can count on this support, but after this point the number of requests allotted to legislators is limited.
After a long weekend with my family following the election, I began to step up the pace of meetings with constituents, colleagues, local government representatives and advocacy groups regarding legislation I have been working on over the summer. I plan to re-introduce bills I submitted last year supporting school discipline reform, prohibiting smoking on school grounds and authorizing energy tax credits for improvements recommended in certified energy audits. New legislation I will be proposing includes “lockbox” style mandates for state and local government contributions to the Virginia Retirement System; making handheld cell phone use or texting while driving primary traffic offenses (meaning drivers can be pulled over for these violations alone); a requirement for colleges to report graduation rates in a consistent manner; a constitutional amendment regarding the restoration of the voting rights of felons; transportation funding increases and several other budget amendments. As part of a 32 person Democratic minority in the 100 member House of Delegates, I am not optimistic that my bills will even be allowed out of committee.
My frustration level with the political climate in Virginia and in America is growing. Today’s 24/7 media is like a fog machine that transforms the partisan divide between conservatives (i.e., people who think the Department of Education is a pernicious threat to our liberty and clearly unconstitutional under the 10th Amendment) and progressives (who disagree) into a kind of dense smog that obscures our vision and makes useful political conversation difficult.
Tuning in to the Republican “Debate” on Fox News last week, I felt transported to 1940’s London, where soot laden air could make day into night. The debate format was well-conceived. Instead of eight candidates in a line answering questions, with “air time” concentrated at center stage, the six participants (no Cain or Huntsman) were questioned for 11 minutes each by three prominent Republican state Attorneys General. Ken Cuccinelli was there along with Florida’s Pam Bondi and Oklahoma’s Scott Pruitt. Cuccinelli seemed to be the “liberal” on the panel.
Pandering ensued, as each candidate sought to appease the AGs with his/her conservative bona fides in response to one ludicrously leading question after another. Example: “Other than Roe v. Wade, which Supreme Court Decision was the worst in the past 50 years?” Perry was asked to define a “strict constructionist.” Gingrich was challenged for his “amnesty-like” plan to have local citizen boards rather than Washington or the Courts determine which undocumented immigrants could stay in the U.S. Ron Paul’s libertarian devotion to “free markets” as the solution for everything–poverty, the drug problem, the environment, bank malfeasance, etc.– elicited uncomfortable silence from the panel. His status as an “out there” elder statesmen seemed to discourage any real cross examination.
The usual themes were pervasive. Overturn Obamacare. Reign in the EPA. Get rid of the Departments of Education and Energy. Fight activist judges (unless you agree with them). Empty Washington of politicians and bureaucrats who are enemies of liberty and interfere in the relationship between citizens and the virtuous elected officials of state government.
After two hours of this barrage, a thought occurred to me. Substitute “Richmond” for Washington, and “Fairfax County” for State, and you have a serviceable explanation for why Virginia’s engine of prosperity is grinding to a standstill from traffic congestion and infrastructure deterioration. Perhaps Virginia needs a constitutional amendment requiring the Commonwealth to send 75% of the revenue it collects back to the jurisdictions that it comes from. Surely local governments know better how to spend their money than Richmond.
Delegate Kory represents the 38th District in the Virginia House of Delegates. She may be emailed at [email protected].