Local Commentary

Delegate Simon’s Richmond Report

simon-mug4webIt’s that time of year when it’s still blazing hot outside, but the kids are back at school and all the stores are showcasing their Halloween and fall decorations. Makes it seem like time is passing way too fast.

Another way you can tell it’s fall is that your beloved local Delegate is releasing his annual legislative survey. Yes, like those stores with decorations, I’m already thinking about the 2019 General Assembly Session, even though it won’t start until January.

The 2019 session will be a “short” one – only 45 days (vs. 60 days in even numbered years). During the short sessions House rules say each member is limited to introducing no more than 15 bills.

That may sound like more than enough, and it probably is. In 2018, however, I introduced more than twice that number. It took that many to be sure at least five of them could pass. Some of the 40 or so I put in might accurately be described as “statement” bills, ideas that I knew had little chance of becoming law this year, but were aspirational and/or meant to start a conversation about important policy objectives.

In fact, a couple of the five that passed probably would have fit that category a few years ago.

With the new partisan makeup of the House (49-51), however, they passed, and there will be even more opportunities to get some important things done next year with bipartisan support.

To be successful, though, I’ll have to stay focused. I also need to make sure I continue to represent my constituents and remain a champion for our shared values. So, I’d love to hear what you think I should focus on in 2019 and what kind of new laws you think should pass to make life better for all Virginians. My legislative survey can be found online by going to marcussimon.com or my Facebook page.

I’ve heard from many of you already, but I can’t stress enough how great legislative ideas come from many different sources. Three of the five bills I passed just this year came from constituents as well as about half of the total number of bills I introduced.

What it all comes down to is that I best represent you as Delegate, when I hear about the issues you care about the most.

One of the issues I know many of you are passionate about is gerrymandering and redistricting reform. Virginia Governor Ralph Northam called a special session of the General Assembly On Aug. 30 in an effort to get the GOP leadership of the House and Senate to respond to a Federal Court order that Virginia re-draw 11 house of delegates that it deemed unconstitutional because it concentrated African American voters in too few districts, reducing their ability to influence the election of their representatives in the House.

I attempted to insert amendments into the resolution under which we organized the House of Delegates to give us a deadline to complete a map and send it to the Senate and then the Governor for signature, but by amendment failed on a party line vote.

Nevertheless, House Democrats showed up for the special session with a new remedial map in hand ready to be referred to committee for further discussion, edits and we hoped, passage. Instead, the House Republicans seemed determined to draw out the process as long as possible. I believe they are hoping that given enough time, we’ll be forced to hold election in 2019 without having remedied the unconstitutional districts.

Just this week, the House Republican Caucus introduced a bill of their own that doesn’t appear to address the court’s concerns at all. In fact, in several cases, it increases the concentration of African Americans in legislative districts, further packing their influence into fewer districts. I don’t think this will satisfy the court, and I think the House GOP knows it.

The purpose of introducing a map is to have the court strike it down, so they can appeal that ruling, and continue to delay, delay and delay again the remedial map drawing required by the court.

Beginning next year, I will help champion efforts to change Virginia’s constitution to allow a non-partisan commission to draw districts after the 2020 census and the reapportionment that follows in 2021.

That, and whatever else you all tell me is important in 2019.

 


Delegate Simon represents the 53rd District in the Virginia House of Delegates. He may be emailed at [email protected]