The General Assembly officially adjourned one month ago, and most Virginians have stopped thinking about the 2013 session. The issues raised and votes cast in Richmond are history; now we are focusing on the political future. Many Virginia politicians prefer this focus, because the future is more about promises and possibility than about facts.
But for voters who will be facing very significant choices in the coming weeks and months, the 2013 legislative session is a treasure trove of relevant discussions and votes on important bills in committees and on legislation that will have a noticeable impact on Virginians, especially Northern Virginians. The members of the General Assembly voted on the question of ‘personhood’ – whether a fetus is a person, with all the accorded legal rights, at the moment of conception. This legislation would make an abortion an act of murder, which my generation of women, as well as my daughters, would have considered unthinkable just a few years ago. The General Assembly discussed and voted upon women’s access to reproductive health care. We argued and voted on voters’ rights ‘five ways to Sunday,’ as my grandmother would say. “Nullification” by the Commonwealth of Federal legislation came up in many guises. We made policy concerning the use of drones in Virginia! We changed traffic laws. We passed a much-needed increase in funding for statewide and local transportation maintenance and construction. We refused to ban fox-penning and refused to ban guns on school grounds as well. We limited the types of health insurance that can be offered and purchased privately through a health insurance exchange. Once again, we did not allow school
systems to begin classes before Labor Day. We gave local school systems the option of providing a 2 percent salary increase to employees.
Over 2,000 bills were on the table for the 2013 session. Surely all the elected public officials involved revealed much about their values and beliefs, offering us a lot to sift through for lessons learned.
Lessons learned the hard way – from tough experience, dashed expectations, acceptable compromises and demonstrated leadership – are a very important framework through which we should view the upcoming primaries and elections. Recent lessons learned should guide us as we move forward into our political future. We must not forget the history. In our eagerness to look ahead to candidates and campaigns, we must keep these lessons fresh in our minds:
• Do not forget legislation filed and defended;
• Do not forget legislation passed;
• Do not forget votes cast by the members of the General Assembly who are now asking for support;
• Do not forget public statements made;
• And most importantly, do not forget the results – laws enacted that all Virginians must live with and abide by.
Who asked your opinion? Who spoke out in support of or against issues you care about? Who voted for legislation that will make a difference in your life? Who made difficult choices? Who was a leader? Who was ethical? All important questions to ask.
The candidates vying for your time, money and votes should not be accountable only for their campaign promises, but for their past actions as well. Didn’t your mother ever tell you that actions speak louder than words? Accountability for past leadership and advocacy is a good measure for those candidates running for re-election, as well as for those who have never held office and are candidates for office now. Leadership should be demonstrated before campaigns begin.
Ask your political suitors the “tried (and tired) but true” question: what have you done for me lately? Greet a candidate: “Your smile is charming but what have you accomplished? What are the results of your energy and ideas? We must all pretend that we are from the Show Me state. Show me a record of public and private accomplishment, of honesty, of accountability. Show me that you have already made contributions to our Commonwealth.
These are the questions we should ask. If the smiling charmer at the door or polling place cannot respond convincingly, you should smile charmingly and say, “No.”
Delegate Kory represents the 38th District in the Virginia House of Delegates. She may be emailed at [email protected]