It is not often that a legislator defeated in a primary can come back to a General Assembly session.
But, that is what I was able to do on August 19 during the Special Session called by Governor Kaine to address a recent Supreme Court decision.
I was honored to have Delegate Jim Scott take the floor during the Morning Hour to praise my service in the General Assembly.
Taking a point of personal privilege after his speech, I thanked him and the many colleagues who called or sent me cards or letters after my defeat.
I spoke about my 17 years in office and how I won a special election to serve out Leslie Byrne’s term after she became the first woman elected to Congress in Virginia.
I was sworn in nine days before the 1993 session started. Unlike other legislators after a general election, there was no orientation program for me.
As I said in my comments, my orientation was basically: “There’s the men’s lounge, here’s your seat, don’t be late to your committee meetings, and good luck.”
I said that I had done some research and found that I have served with a total of 218 House members, including those in office now.
It is my view that there is probably not a finer group of 218 people in the world. A number of them have passed away and I spoke of them.
I mentioned that the Virginia House of Delegates is the direct successor to the House of Burgesses, where an ancestor of mine served in the 1600s.
Thomas Jefferson, George Mason, and James Madison all served in the House of Burgesses. “I have never forgotten,” I said, “that we stand on their shoulders.”
I concluded by saying that it has truly been a privilege for me to have served in the House of Delegates these 17 years.
Know the Conservation Score
On July 31, the Virginia League of Conservation Voters announced their 2009 Conservation Scorecard.
I was pleased to receive a 92% conservation score by voting the right way on 11 of the 12 bills they followed during the 2009 General Assembly session.
That put me in the “Legislative Leader” category. In 2008, I was named a “Legislative Hero” by the League for voting right on 100% of their tracked legislation.
I had the highest 2009 conservation score of any member of the House Counties, Cities, and Towns Committee, whose members had an average score of only 46%.
Like me, Delegate Jim Scott received conservation scores of 92% for 2009 and 100% for 2008.
Other Northern Virginia legislators receiving 92% conservation scores for 2009 are Delegates Amundson, Brink, Eisenberg, and Shannon.
In the Senate, Senator Whipple received a 2009 conservation score of 75% and a 2008 score of 78%.
We Need to Grow by Degrees
The school year has started in our state-supported colleges and universities, and Virginia’s higher education system is outstanding.
But, how long can we maintain that quality by underfunding our colleges? Average state funding for in-state students has dropped 40 percent since 2000.
It was $10,675 in 2000 and it is $6,586 now in inflation-adjusted dollars. We face budget cuts now, but the underfunding started when times were good.
In fact, I was told that the total dollar amount of state support for Virginia Tech in 2009 was less than it received in 1990.
Higher education is part of a state’s infrastructure just as are roads and bridges. If we do not invest in this infrastructure, our Commonwealth will suffer.
A coalition called “Grow By Degrees” formed this summer to work to increase the percentage of Virginians with college degrees over the next 10 years.
Their view, which I share, is that this will increase economic development and family incomes across the state.
To do it, budget support for our state colleges and universities must increase. Think about that as you consider who will receive your vote in November.