Last week I had the distinct honor of being sworn in for my 5th term representing greater Falls Church in the Virginia House of Delegates. The 60-day “long” session that has just begun will be my 9th session as a Delegate.
This week is one of transitions here in Richmond. The new General Assembly is sworn in on the 2nd Wednesday of January at noon. With 52 Republican seats to 48 held by Democrats, control of the Chamber shifted back to the GOP and a new Speaker of the House, Todd Gilbert of Shenandoah County, was elected.
On Wednesday evening the General Assembly convened in a Joint Session to receive outgoing Governor Ralph Northam’s final State of the Commonwealth address. On Saturday, Governor Glenn Youngkin was sworn in at an inaugural ceremony and on Monday we had a 2nd Joint Assembly, then the new Governor gave his State of the Commonwealth address.
Governor Northam highlighted the achievements of his term, including his administration’s work to expand Medicaid, reform our criminal justice system, expand broadband, teach the true history of Virginia, increase access to the ballot box, and keep Virginians safe during the Covid-19 pandemic. We will certainly miss his calming presence over the next four years.
Despite delivering an Inaugural address at which the new Governor promised to be a Governor for all Virginians and teach our full and accurate history, both good and bad, Governor Youngkin released his first batch of executive actions, focusing on Critical Race Theory (CRT) and overturning student safety measures designed to keep kids safely in the classroom.
Initially, he indicated he’d withdraw Virginia from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) with EO #8. Recent reporting seems to indicate that he may be acknowledging he has no authority to do so by fiat, since the requirement to belong to RGGI is enshrined in law.
On Monday, he delivered his State of the Commonwealth address at four in the afternoon, eschewing the opportunity to address resident of the Commonwealth in the traditional prime time evening hours when more people would be home in front of their televisions to tune in.
For an uncomfortable first 12 minutes of his speech, he mostly parroted conservative media talking points to an eerily silent chamber. This starkly contrasts with the frequent standing ovations that interrupted Governor Northam repeatedly and helped punctuate his retelling of his most important achievements. I hope that as the new Governor learns more about how Virginia’s Government functions, his future addresses will provide a more thoughtful articulation of our shared policy goals.
Even as a member of the minority, I look forward to being a consequential member of the body and capable advocate for the people of Falls Church. While I was stripped of my chairmanship of the House Privileges and Elections Committee and the Housing Subcommittee of General Laws, I remain on the Courts of Justice Committee and the influential Civil Subcommittee (Sub #2). I am back on Public Safety as the 3rd ranking Democrat and Communications Technology and Innovation where I am the #2 ranking Democrat. House Finance is a completely new committee for me.
For my 2022 legislative package, I’m carrying a bill on behalf of the City of Falls Church to allow all its residents, including non-citizens, the opportunity to fully engage in civic life as members of boards, authorities, and commissions.
I will once again carry legislation to clean up one of the most galling shortcomings in Virginia’s campaign finance laws — a loophole that allows candidates for office to pocket campaign contributions and convert them to personal use with no consequences. With the backing of last year’s Joint Committee to Study Comprehensive Campaign Finance Reforms, I like its chances this session.
I’ll also once again introduce legislation to ban unserialized unregulated “ghost guns” here in Virginia. Since my bill was narrowly defeated during the 2021 Session, we’ve seen these guns used to commit serious crimes, including a homicide in the Springfield area committed by minor who couldn’t have purchased a weapon subject to a background check. Ghost Guns evade that requirement.
Delegate Simon represents the 53rd District in the Virginia House of Delegates. He may be emailed at [email protected]