by Chris Saxman
We are now on Day 38 of the General Assembly and only have 22 more days to go before Sine Die (adjournment) on March 10th. Tuesday of this week marked Crossover when each legislative chamber must have acted on its respective legislation, which is then sent over to the other chamber. House bills go to the Senate and the Senate bills go the House — the legislation “crosses over” to the other side of the Capitol.
If you are a follower of Virginia politics, you probably heard your inner monologue say, “Yes, I know. We do this every year.”
In November of 2014, leaders of Virginia FREE gathered at the University of Virginia’s Miller Center of Public Affairs to examine the “Virginia Way” of governing. We were joined by former governors George Allen and Gerald Baliles who offered us their perspectives on how Virginia should govern itself following the trial and conviction earlier that year of former Governor Bob McDonnell. Baliles was then the Director and CEO of the Miller Center and had flown back the night before from the Clinton Presidential Library in order to participate.
Baliles offered that in order to restore broken trust, we must take the time to identify the real problems while intellectually agreeing on solutions through mutual respect and consensus. We also must work together to help our political leaders govern by example; however, it will take time. While that is not a direct quote, Baliles did quote 19th century British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli asking us to “remember the context.”
So let’s “remember the context” of our political reality in this year’s General Assembly and gubernatorial inauguration of Governor Ralph Northam.
The election results of 2017 here in Virginia were, to say the very least, unexpected. Those results followed the unexpected results of the 2016 election. In fact, today marks the 32nd month since Donald Trump announced his campaign for President of the United States on June 16, 2015.
What’s the context then of the 2018 Virginia General Assembly? Consider the timeline first.
2014 – McDonnell conviction
2015 – Trump
2016 – Presidential nominations and elections
2017 – Virginia Governor and House of Delegates elections
Previously, I have shared the Napoleon quote “There is no destiny, only politics.” Now, allow me to insert into your consideration a quote from journalist Andrew Breitbart “Politics is downstream from culture.”
So what’s the context? Disruption. Massive disruption. Not simply change. Disruption.
Disruption – noun. disturbance or problems that interrupt an event, activity, or process.
Our culture and economy have been disrupted. Naturally our political disruption then follows since we are a republican democracy in which we elect people to represent us. Elected officials reflect us.
Enter the 2018 General Assembly and newly inaugurated Governor Ralph Northam. New delegates (a lot of them – 19), a new executive branch, and a not so new building in which to work.
NO! Not at all. In fact, there is relative calm and a high level of productivity.
Amid all the disruption and potential for chaos, the ship of state is, so far, weathering the storm.
Well, it just doesn’t happen.
Speaker Vance Wilkins and I were walking across the varsity baseball field of Riverheads High School in the spring of 2002 following an event he had initiated for the nearby elementary school. It was a thrilling event for this old history and government teacher as scores of students and teachers were learning about American government. I said, “Mr. Speaker, that was awesome!” Wilkins never broke stride as we walked replying, “Thanks. You know, nothing happens without leadership.”
So what’s happening so far in Richmond?
In a word? Leadership.
We have seen outstanding leadership from our new governor and the leaders in the General Assembly. They are not simply running the trains on time, they are identifying “the real problems while intellectually agreeing on solutions through mutual respect and consensus.”
Our leaders – and their staff – have come together and worked out solutions on significant issues like electric utility regulation, regulatory reform, and criminal justice reform.
We are even seeing headlines about *gasp* bipartisanship!
But let’s not forget Governor Baliles’ charge to us all – we must work together to help our leaders govern by example. We must help them.
The first step in that work is to thank them. That means calling, emailing, texting, and posting on social media or writing your local newspapers with support for the good work of our elected leaders. And their staff!
Would that be disruption? Or maybe the Virginia Way – Forward? Maybe both.
22 days remain on the calendar.
So far, so good – right?
If you “remember the context” – Virginia could be moving from good to great.
Governor Ralph Northam “They did not send us here to be Democrats or Republicans. They sent us here to get things done. And they want us to do it the Virginia Way.”
Virginia’s Crossover Grade? A. Solid A.
Chris Saxman is executive director of the Virginia Foundation for Research and Economic Education. This commentary was originally published as an email missive.There are currently no comments highlighted.