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Richmond Diary: Re-writing the Rules

State senator reflects on the first week of the 2012 General Assembly session.

Sunday, Jan. 8

I packed up the car and stopped by a constituent’s house to pick up information regarding 100 percent disabled veterans whose homes are in trusts, and who are not receiving the intended property tax relief. We spend a lot of time in the legislature trying to fix loopholes like this one in the bills we pass. Later that afternoon we held a Democratic senate caucus meeting, where we discussed our options under the Constitution and the rules of the Senate to deal with who will organize as the majority party, or how to establish power sharing. We will be dealing with this in three days.

Monday, Jan. 9

In the days leading up to the first session, legislators meet with individuals and groups having business with the General Assembly. My day started with a meeting with interior designers. They are worried that Gov. McDonnell’s budget removes the requirement that they be certified and licensed to perform their duties. They made a compelling case as to how important interior design can be towards creating safe environments. I met also with the Department of Juvenile Justice, and we discussed how to reorganize our Juvenile Justice resources to create a more efficient and effective system.

My last meeting was with the Commissioner of the Division of Motor Vehicles, who updated me on the great strides they have made in online services and reducing wait times at DMV customer centers. Northern Virginia customer centers still have the longest waits due to volume.

Tuesday, Jan. 10

Many of my bills are reflections of the good ideas brought forth by constituents, members of the business community, or the administration. I agreed to sponsor two bills today. The first is on behalf of the Humane Society, which deals with the boom in the creation and operation of fox pens. Foxes are purchased and placed into fenced enclosures ranging from 100 to 900 acres. Competitions are held between dog owners as the dogs track the foxes. Often the end result is the fox being killed by the dogs. This is not hunting, this is not sporting, and this is not the Virginia way. Virginia has 41 of these pens.

I was also asked by the Secretary of Education to carry a bill for Gov. McDonnell ending what is called the Kings Dominion rule, which prohibits starting school before Labor Day. The current practice leads up to two weeks of dead time after the Standards of Learning (SOL) tests. If passed, this bill will create more classroom time for students, and make us more competitive nationally. I also met with two groups of University of Virginia students who needed my perspective on mock bills that they were introducing for a class.

Short Bio

A graduate of the private Randolph Macon College, State Sen. Dave Marsden (D-37), 63, recently won his first full term to the Virginia Senate this November. "I grew up in a small farm house that was the original Woodburn Elementary School," he said. "I saw the changes that have taken place in the county, and I have a pretty good awareness that things are always in flux."

Marsden has lived in Burke since 1977 with his wife of 40 years, Julia, where they raised three sons — Nathan, 41; Stuart, 36; and Connor, 34.

In 1970, Marsden began a career as a probation officer in Fairfax County after receiving a social work degree from Randolph Macon in 1970. He went on to establish and operate Fairfax County’s shelter home for youth with severe family problems, and in 1982 became the chief administrator for the Fairfax County Juvenile Detention Center, a 121-bed center that served as a model for other centers. He is particularly proud of the fact that during his 17-year tenure as chief of the detention center, there was never an escape or serious injury.

Wednesday, Jan. 11

Opening session began at noon, and, after the swearing-in ceremony, the Lt. Governor broke a tie and established Republicans as the majority party. They were able to re-write the rules that the Senate operates by, and determine committee chairs and assignments. Later that night we returned to the Capitol to hear the Governor’s "State of the Commonwealth" speech. It is always an exciting time, and one that fills you with a sense of pride as to Virginia having the western world’s oldest continuously-serving elected body. The Governor agreed to meet with me next week on Juvenile Justice issues.

Thursday, Jan. 12

Today was "Banker’s Day" at the General Assembly Building, and I was visited by a number of bankers from Fairfax. The Asian Chamber of Commerce reception was held during the day, where I was able to speak for several minutes about tax issues.

My first transportation committee meeting was held this afternoon, and I was asked to serve on a sub-committee that will deal with the more complicated bills. The day was capped off with the biggest event of the session, which is the Agriculture Council dinner, featuring Virginia food products. It is a time for all of us to reconnect with each other and get ready for the session.

Friday, Jan. 13

I learned today that my bill to co-designate The East Sea as the name for the Sea of Japan in Virginia textbooks would be heard on Monday. I arranged to have people come down to Richmond to testify in favor of the bill. William Hong, president of the Virginia Korean American Association, agreed to come with a host of others.

Saturday, Jan. 14

We held a press conference with print, television, and radio representing the Korean community in the Washington D.C area, and apparently this issue is resonating in Korea, where it has been on television and radio news shows.