We have just completed the second week of session, and we have already considered nearly 40% of all the Senate bills this year. Committee meetings, debates over legislation in the Senate, and the election of judges were all part of the first full week of the 2019 General Assembly session. Since this year is a “short” 46-day session, time is at a premium.
We have already voted to support our Second Amendment Right to Bear Arms, we have decided to reject many of the Governor’s revenue increases and we have determined to pass legislation to give tax payers more options for healthcare.
When it comes to judges, states take different approaches to selecting the judges who will serve in their courts. Judges are directly elected by the voters in some of our neighboring states, where they conduct campaigns to serve on the bench. In Virginia, the General Assembly is responsible for choosing judges. We will elect three additional judges for our local area in the come three weeks.
Next, we elected this week the newest member of the State Corporation Commission. The Commission, commonly referred to as the SCC, may be one of the lowest profile parts of state government. Yet, it is more than a century old and is vested with important responsibilities to protect Virginia’s consumers.
Established in 1903 to give regulatory oversight to then cutting-edge telegraph and telephone industries, as well as railroads, the SCC’s responsibilities have grown to provide oversight for the insurance industry, state-chartered banks, public utilities, and a wide range of public corporations.
We elected Judge Patricia West of Virginia Beach to serve as one of the SCC’s three judges this week. Judge West served as Secretary of Public Safety for Governor George Allen, was Chief Deputy Attorney General for Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, and has more than a decade of service as a Circuit Court judge and a Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court judge.
Judge West was exceptionally qualified to serve on a commission charged with protecting consumers and overseeing industries critical to Virginia’s infrastructure. In a disappointing emulation of confirmations in Washington, no Democrat legislator voted to elect Judge West – even though several Democrats readily acknowledged her strong qualifications for the post.
When the General Assembly meets for a “short” session, it means there are two fewer weeks in which to consider and act upon legislation submitted by its 100 delegates and 40 senators. Considering lawmakers have already filed over 2,000 bills and resolutions, events move quickly.
I have begun the process of presenting my 12 bills to my colleagues. I am pleased to be patroning several bills that resulted from the Select Committee on School Safety study that was completed this past year. These bills have passed the Education and Health Committee and should be on the floor of the Senate soon.
Our visitors this week included several local members of the Virginia Credit Union League with their bright red scarfs, Lynchburg Community Action Group, Safe Families for Children, the American Legion, the NRA and several business owners and families brought their concerns to us regarding various legislation.
If you, your family, or a group of which you are a member is planning to visit the Capitol between now and February 23, please remember to stop by our offices in Room E604 of the Pocahontas Building. You can also contact us by writing us at District23@senate.virginia.gov or calling our office at (804) 698-7523.