Last weeks election gave Virginia Democrats control of the state Senate and 44 members of the House of Delegates. So what does that mean for politics in the Commonwealth this upcoming year?
We will see on the first day of the 2008 session of the General Assembly when we set the rules that govern how we will conduct business this term, said Brian Moran who represents the 46th House District and is the chair of the House Democratic Caucus.
Traditionally, there is proportional representation on committees, which means that Democrats should have nine members on every committee that has a total of 22 members. If the Republicans try to change the rules that will set the tone for the entire session.
Members of the Senate have always been more cooperative than members of the House, according to Alexandrias Democratic legislative delegation. It does make a difference that we now have the majority in the Senate but we have always gotten along better than the Democrats and Republicans in the House, said Sen. Patricia S. Patsy Ticer, who was just re-elected to a fourth term from Alexandria. She ran unopposed.
It primarily means that the Democrats will chair important committees. We can now get legislation out of committee and onto the floor to be debated, Ticer said. That is very important in my case because my committee will consider legislation regarding land conservation, coal-fired power plants and other issues related to the environment.
The House, however, may remain recalcitrant on transportation and the budget. I would like to see the abusive driver fees totally repealed but I think we may see them only modified, Moran said. Those fees were passed by last years General Assembly and penalized Virginia residents significantly more for reckless driving on Virginia roads than they penalized out-of-state drivers who commit the same offenses.
With a state budget shortfall of $640 million this year, Democratic initiatives will be limited. We are going to focus on mental health reform and education funding in addition to transportation, Moran said. We have some real challenges ahead.
Delegate Adam Ebbin, who was just re-elected to represent the 49th House District, agreed with Moran. We have made some progress on mental health reform and we must now allow any of those gains to be eroded, he said.
Editors Note: Delegate David Englin (D-45) was on vacation this past week and not available for comment on this story.