The Speaker Rules

Speaker Eileen Filler-Corn

By Dick Hall-Sizemore

The Speaker of the House of Delegates is the most powerful position in the legislature. One of her most potent tools is the power to assign members to committees. Eileen Filler-Corn has again wielded that power.

Members usually retain their committee assignments during the two years of their terms. However, circumstances leading up to this session led to an unusual mid-term shuffling of committee assignments.

The first circumstance was the election of three new Delegates to fill the seats vacated by Joseph Lindsey, D-Norfolk, Jennifer Carrol Foy, D-Prince William, and Chris Collins, R-Frederick. Newly-elected members do not automatically inherit the committee assignments of their predecessors.

The second circumstance was Filler-Corn’s stripping Republican delegates Mark Cole (Spotsylvania), Ronnie Campbell (Rockbridge), and Dave LaRock (Loudoun) of one of their committee assignments in response to their urging Vice President Mike Pence to nullify Virginia’s electoral votes.

Particularly hard hit was Cole. He lost his assignment to Privileges and Elections. For several years he had chaired that committee and led actions to tighten registration and voting requirements. He has been one of the most partisan members and could be caustic in his remarks on the floor. Campbell lost his seat on the Courts of Justice Committee and LaRock was kicked off the Transportation Committee. Neither of the Delegates received another assignment to compensate for the lost ones.

The committee assignments for one new member were eyebrow-raising.  The Speaker assigned Candi King of Prince William to the Finance, Privileges and Elections, and Public Safety committees. The Finance Committee, which handles tax legislation, is a plum assignment, especially for a freshman. Each of the other two freshmen, one Democrat and one Republican, got assigned to only two committees, neither considered a highly sought-after assignment.

The Virginia Public Access Project has a nice summary of the assignment changes here.