Column: Surrounded by History, Inspired by Legacy

Column: Surrounded by History, Inspired by Legacy

Delegate reflects on freshman year in Richmond.

It has been scarcely two months since a snowy day in January when voters in McLean, Great Falls and Sterling chose me, in a special election, to represent them in the Virginia House of Delegates. Since then, everything has moved at warp speed! I won the election on a Tuesday and was in Richmond the following Thursday to be sworn in. The 2015 Session of the General Assembly began less than a week later.

I am so honored to represent our community. When I stood on the floor of the Virginia House of Delegates, raised my right hand and swore to protect and defend the Constitution, it took my breath away. I was surrounded by history, by the legacy of delegates who have come before us: Patrick Henry, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, James Monroe and so many more. These were the founders of our democracy. I continue to be inspired by their legacy.

During the 45-day Session, we considered over 2,000 bills. I was appointed to the Finance Committee and the Committee on Privileges and Elections. The pace was non-stop. However, I carved out time almost every day to meet in my office with constituents who had travelled to Richmond as citizen advocates on matters before the General Assembly.

I joined two caucuses, groups of Delegates with a common interest in a particular issue. The Military and Veterans Caucus focuses on creating jobs and educational opportunities for veterans and their families. I also joined the Renewable Energy Caucus, which is focused on the best utilization of all our energy resources in Virginia to help us lower costs and protect our environment.

One important accomplishment of the 2015 Session was passage of the Omnibus Ethics Reform Bill. I believe this is a major step forward in the effort to deliver an honest, open government for all Virginians. We also passed bills to help protect students from sexual assault on college campuses that will facilitate collaboration between college staff and law enforcement and provide victims with safe avenues for reporting an assault.

At the beginning of the Session, Virginia government faced the need to reduce expenditures because of a shortfall in tax collections. I am pleased that Governor McAuliffe stepped up to protect funding for K-12 public education. All Virginian children deserve access to a quality education, no matter what their economic background. I was disappointed when the House Education Committee refused to pass my bill calling for a plan to implement full day kindergarten in Loudoun County, one of only four Virginia jurisdictions that do not provide universal full day kindergarten.

I was also disappointed that we were unable to break through the blockade in the House of Delegates that prevents any meaningful progress toward gun safety. I introduced a bill to bar any criminal convicted twice of violent domestic abuse from having access to guns for a period of time, but even this common sense measure was defeated by the sub-committee that controls all such legislation.

As a new delegate, I had a very rewarding and productive experience during my first session in Richmond. I found my colleagues in the General Assembly, whether Democrat or Republican, rural or urban, to be truly dedicated to pursuing the best interests of their constituents. I was pleased at how many of my fellow delegates reached out to help a freshman learn the ropes.

I look forward to continuing to work with my colleagues to craft bills that will help create jobs, strengthen the middle class, and work toward building the new Virginia economy.