We are now three weeks into the 2012 session of the General Assembly. Many residents of the City and advocates from the 35th Senate District have come to Richmond since the day session started. I would like to thank everyone for your advocacy on a myriad of issues and due diligence of the legislative process. Your enthusiasm and dedication have been beacons of light in what has been a rather dark session. Reflecting back over the passed weeks, I do not have a pretty picture to share of what has been happening at the Capitol.
As anticipated, the concept of sharing power was a furtive thought. I would like to reiterate twenty Democrats and twenty Republicans were elected to serve as Senators. However, with an enthusiastic Lt. Governor positioning for his political future, the Senate Republicans have unashamedly over reached the mandate of the electorate packing committee membership, removing Democrats from certain committees and implanting chairmen to every Senate Committee and Sub-Committee. To that end, the Senate Democrats continue to pursue legal remedy for this abuse of power. The case, however, will not be heard until well after the General Assembly concludes.
In the meantime, all senate committees have been revamped with a heavy tilt toward the conservative wing of the GOP. This packing of committees has resulted in some of the most strident legislation to come out of the general assembly since the Gilmore Administration. While Northern VA will continue to fuel the economy of the state, rural conservatism will dominate with its social agenda.
Some of the low lights of this session include: the passage of a Congressional Redistricting bill that includes a new map, which packs more black voters into the lone minority district. It is evident the underlying intent of this plan is a not so veiled attempt to suppress minority voting power. A lawsuit has already been filed to challenge the new districts.
It does not come as a shock that 36 bills related to gun ownership were filed. Most disappointing is the Republican Senate leadership’s disregard for common sense legislation. Look for the repeal of purchasing one gun a month; additional crime listings for juveniles to be tried as adults; relaxed criteria for handgun permits; etc. Since the bulk of these bills were heard in Senate Courts of Justice and reported along party lines, I fully expect the House of Delegates to push these measures through for the governor to sign into law.
On woman’s health issues, expect to see even more intrusion and restrictions on a woman’s right to choose. In addition to informed consent, a woman seeking a legal abortion will be subject to an ultrasound and waiting period. My colleagues on the other side of the aisle are now referencing the Senate Education and Health Committee as “pro-life.” As a long serving legislator I believe it is the responsibility of elected officials to act in a fair and just manner when executing their legislative responsibilities. On another issue, this same committee has passed by indefinitely the local option for setting school calendars.
In my last report from Richmond, I concentrated on the biennial budget process. We continue to focus on a plethora of bills that will be the basis for the resulting budget. The emphasis is on jobs and economic recovery for Virginia. With its proximity to the Federal Government, our district as well as much of Northern VA is in a better state than ROVA (rest of VA). I contend if the Commonwealth is going to have a robust economy, we must invest in our colleges and universities that are tasked with preparing our future work force. Without the State’s financial support they will look to out of state students for the tuition revenue, which ultimately will limit the accessibility, and affordability for Virginians.
I appreciate hearing from you all. I am constantly impressed with how engaged our friends and neighbors in the 35th Senate District are in the legislative process. My office is always open and we welcome seeing you when you are at the Capitol.
Senator Saslaw represents the 35th District in the Virginia State Senate. He may be e-mailed at