Commentary: Much To Do — with Many New Faces

Commentary: Much To Do — with Many New Faces

The first two full weeks of the General Assembly 2018 Legislative Session are in the books and what a busy and exciting start. It began with Governor McAuliffe’s final address to the joint assembly and then our new Governor Northam’s first address to the joint assembly including the Supreme Court members, the SCC, both houses and the entire new cabinet. It ended with a weekend of successful town meetings back here in Mount Vernon and Lee. We unanimously elected a new Speaker of the House, Kirk Cox of Colonial Heights, and 19 new delegates were sworn in. No doubt that there has been a dramatic change in our composition since last year. And, personally, I am newly assigned to the important Appropriations Committee, one of only four Appropriators from Northern Virginia, and I remain on the historic Counties, Cities and Towns Committee, in continual existence since 1866. So far, one of two, from the 22 bills I introduced, have passed out of subcommittee successfully. Many of these bills started as ideas from my constituents. One such bill is HB9, requiring uniform seat belt usage throughout the vehicle. I am especially proud of West Potomac High School senior Jonathan Tucker who came down on Tuesday for a 7 am subcommittee hearing to testify on behalf of his seat belt bill which would get rid of the back seat exemption for adults. Most compelling was Jonathan’s point that when we exempt adults from wearing their seat belts in the back seat it sends a message that it is not unsafe, which is certainly not the case, to other passengers or the adult not wearing a seatbelt. Unfortunately, the bill died on a party line vote.

I was honored to attend the inauguration of Gov. Ralph Northam, Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax, and Attorney General Mark Herring last Saturday. Dr. Northam’s speech was both inspiring and poignant. He highlighted the diversity of his cabinet, which has more women than men, matching the growing diversity of our General Assembly where 12 women were elected to the House last fall. He also emphasized the need for bipartisanship partnership in steering our new Virginia economy and for both parties to work together for the good of the Commonwealth. That theme was echoed by Speaker Cox, the Republican leader who maintained his party’s control of the body by the slimmest of margins via the drawing of lots due to a tie vote (don’t let anyone ever tell you that your vote doesn’t count). I am hopeful and encouraged that we will work together for the good of all of the people of Virginia, already finding common ground on more transparency with recorded votes and live video streaming in committees, and most importantly we must find a way in which to expand Medicaid to 400,000 more Virginians desperate for health care coverage.

Even though I am just in my second term, already I am serving as a mentor to new Del. Cheryl Turpin of Virginia Beach, who by happy circumstance is also a graduate of Groveton High School (now West Potomac). Certainly, there is much to learn as a new delegate and I am eager to help my colleagues in any way possible navigate the law making process. As I mentioned, there are more opportunities for the public to follow the legislature in real-time this year than ever before. Video streams of meetings of House Full Committees can be accessed online. You can also follow my legislation online at or use the nonpartisan Virginia Public Access Project website for more in depth information and breaking developments of the General Assembly session.

Thank you to everyone who took the time out of their last Saturday schedule to participate in our town meetings at Walt Whitman Middle School and Hayfield Elementary. The audience came prepared with many good questions and I enjoyed sharing the stage with my colleagues, and I really appreciate your feedback and involvement in our representative democracy. It is my pleasure and honor to serve you in Richmond. Please consider a visit to my office in Richmond. You can call upon me using email at or call 804-698-1044.