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By Sen. Steve Newman
Richmond and snow just do not mix. For the first four days of the second week of the General Assembly, it rained. But for the fifth day, it snowed. And, snow has a way of disrupting just almost everything in Virginia’s capital city. There is, however, one thing in Richmond that continues without interruption regardless of the weather: the General Assembly.
The General Assembly met all five days this week, through both the rain and the snow. And although there is a federal holiday in the coming week, the General Assembly will meet that day as well. The Constitution of Virginia, with limits on the duration of General Assembly sessions, has the effect of precluding snow days and holidays during the 60-day and 46-day schedule of meetings.
On days when it snows during session, the population of Capitol Square seems especially small. Visitors and school groups who ordinarily crowd the hallways and fill the galleries stay home. Without those visitors, the building is largely filled with legislators, staff members, and the news media.
Governor McDonnell’s education reform and transportation reform proposals have generated a lot of news coverage over the last several weeks. They are not, however, the only initiatives being promoted by his administration this session. For the fourth session in a row, Governor McDonnell has introduced a package of legislation to grow the state’s economy and create jobs.
The Governor has been able to win widespread bipartisan support for his previous economic growth packages. This year, the legislative proposals he is advocating are focused on workforce development and small business growth.
Judging from the results, it is easy to understand why the Governor has had such success in enacting his economic proposals. Virginia’s unemployment rate is now two points below the national average, the lowest in the Southeast. While the country as a whole is still struggling to create new jobs, Virginia has experienced net new private sector job growth.
At this point in the session, most of the work of the General Assembly occurs in committees, as legislation meets its first hurdle on the road to enactment. Many bills were heard in committee this week.
One of the bills I have submitted, SB1039, is the first in a series of state governmental reform bills I plan to implement as Chairman of Senate Transportation. This bill will bring access to vital records such as birth certificates and marriage licenses to your local DMV. Virginia will be the first state in the nation to provide this service. Currently, Virginians must either travel to Richmond or endure long waits to receive access to their personal documents. While some in Richmond want to hold on to the past, this bill will introduce true customer service to the Department of Vital Records.
With the exception of our snowy Friday, the General Assembly Building has been teeming with visitors every day this session. We’ve already welcomed several visitors from home, including the Bedford Area Chamber of Commerce.
Next week, we’ll know just how many bills the General Assembly will be considering during its 2013 session. I’ll return with a complete report on the latest from the Capitol, including a progress report on my own bills.
Until then, have a great week. Senator Steve Newman
(Staff of Senate Republican Caucus contributed to this report.)