Update from the General Assembly | Week One
Greetings to the Constituents of Virginia’s 19th House District:
First, thank you for allowing me to represent the 19th House District for a fourth term. The responsibility is one I take very seriously, and I look forward to representing your interests and Constitutional rights in Richmond for the next two years. This includes your Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms. A number of bills have been introduced that seek to infringe upon that right. I will vote “NO” on any bill that does so.
This past Wednesday the General Assembly convened to begin the 2020 Session. This session will last 60 days, and the House will consider the more than 1,600 bills and resolutions that have already been introduced. Many changes have taken place as a result of the 2019 elections. We now have a Democratic majority in both houses and the Governor’s mansion – the first time this has happened in 27 years. The margins are 45-55 in the House and 19-21 in the Senate. This week we also elected a woman as Speaker of the House, the first time in our 401-year history of the Virginia legislature.
Unfortunately, this historic moment has been marred by the manner in which the new majority has chosen to proceed legislating the rules that will govern the House for the next two years. On Friday afternoon the Joint Rules and Rules committees, on which I have been asked to serve, forced through a number of restrictions on the rights of delegates and visiting citizens to carry protection on the Grounds. Though tradition dictates that the entire House be given the chance to record its vote on the rules, the decision to send a vote to the aforementioned committees has prevented 83 delegates from having a say in the process. The precedent that has been set is concerning to say the least.
Though my four colleagues and I voted “no” to the rules prohibiting law-abiding gun owners from being able to possess a firearm when visiting our Capitol, the twelve Democrats on the committee voted to do so. Even more disheartening is the position that Capitol Police – an august organization that has been in existence since 1618 – has been placed in. Though Democratic leadership insisted that this new policy came at the direction of Capitol Police Colonel Pike, it became clear through discussion that this is not the case. Not only has this prevented the entire House from casting its vote on the Rules, the onus has been placed on a group of men and women who have served and protected the House of Delegates with distinction for over 400 years. These egregious actions have subverted the traditional process in which the House operates and cast a pall on the entire legislative process moving forward.
That being said, the two months in Richmond should be an opportunity for both sides to work together to find common ground, and I intend to do so. I am pleased to report that I remain on Appropriations, Rules and Transportation, where I am the senior ranking returning member for Republicans. This year I will work towards implementing a regional health sciences program for our public schools, creating a Children’s Ombudsman office to ensure that our childcare programs are run properly and efficiently, and improving air service to Roanoke-Blacksburg Regional Airport, among other endeavors. These are just a few of the issues important to me, and I will update you in further detail throughout the next two months.
Because the long session deals with the budget as well as legislation, it is important that you reach out to my office to let me know your position on current issues. Matt Miller continues as my Legislative Aide and is in Richmond where he will remain in residence during session. He can be reached on the Richmond office phone number (804) 698-1019 or via email to firstname.lastname@example.org. The General Assembly Building continues to be renovated and my office is now located at Room E405 in the Pocahontas Building on 900 East Main Street, Richmond, VA 23219.
In the meantime, thank you for once again “sending me to Richmond.” Through weekly newspaper reports like this, and through social media, I will keep you abreast of General Assembly activities throughout the 60-day session.
Delegate Terry L. Austin
19th House District