The user-friendly website for the Virginia General Assembly plus live-streaming of the legislative sessions might make you believe that most of the important decisions in Richmond are being made out in the sunshine.
But as Mount Vernon's Del. Scott Surovell points out, some of the most important work of the legislature takes place in committees and subcommittees, but unless you are present in the room, you have no way of knowing who killed what or why.
When a subcommittee votes, there is no requirement to record who voted or how each legislator voted. But this is where most legislation meets its fate.
Live Streaming, More
You can watch legislative sessions of the Virginia House of Delegates and Senate via live streaming video at the General Assembly website: http://legis.stat...>
Follow the Virginia Senate on Twitter, @vasen and the Virginia House of Delegates on Twitter @vahouse
Visit http://legis.virg... to look up who your legislators are, and how to contact them. You can also track particular legislation that interests you, or browse some of the thousands of bills that have been introduced by topic.
According to the National Council of State Legislatures, there are only 14 legislatures in the United States that do not have audio or video live streaming or digital archiving of committee and subcommittee proceedings.
Here are a few current issues that might make you want to tune in.
State Sen. Chap Petersen of Fairfax is championing legislation on parental notification; it's a shame to see this as needed since the Fairfax County School Board could have rendered it unnecessary. SB 167 would require school administrators to notify parents once they begin an investigation that could lead to criminal charges or expulsion.
"The intent of this bill is not restrict principals from the everyday supervision required in a building with 2,000 young people," Petersen said. "It's to separate those investigations which can change the lives of young people, e.g. a decision to expel, and make sure that parents are notified immediately that this is happening."
Petersen also sought some consequences for some older students, SB 626, because of complaints from residents that students from "a nearby college" were engaging in poor behavior in residents’ front yards in late evening.
Petersen will likely be successful in repealing the ban on hunting on Sundays.
State Sen. Adam Ebbin of Alexandria proposed legislation that would have prohibited discrimination in state hiring on the basis of sexual orientation; that died in committee.
Earlier this week, state Sen. Janet Howell from Reston offered some very specific commentary on a bill that will likely require women seeking an abortion to first view an ultrasound of the baby. If women will be forced to have an unnecessary medical procedure, an ultrasound, then men should have a rectal exam and a cardiac stress test before receiving a prescription for erectile dysfunction medication, Howell proposed in an amendment.
It's a bit of comic relief in a year when the more conservative Virginia General Assembly will pass many new laws at odds with the views of most Northern Virginians.
Although many press reports describe the Democratic-controlled Senate of the past as a barrier to anti-abortion legislation, in fact one of the most significant anti-abortion laws escaped that body last year. The requirement that most facilities that provide abortions meet the physical standards of a hospital will likely close many if not most of these facilities.
These anecdotes represent just a few grains of sand of what is actually transpiring right now in Richmond.