Local Commentary

Senator Whipple’s Richmond Report

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One thing leads to another. . . An example is that my position as chairman of the Senate Rules committee entails a number of other responsibilities beyond those of the committee itself. The Clerk of the Senate, Susan Clarke Schaar, tells me she likens the position to that of a managing partner at a law firm or a Rector on a University Board of Visitors.

First, the Senate Rules Committee itself has the obvious responsibility of developing the Rules of the Senate and is also responsible for all operations of the Senate. I also chair the subcommittee on Standards of Conduct with two additional members, the Majority Leader, Senator Dick Saslaw, and the Minority Leader, Senator Tommy Norment. This subcommittee advises members who inquire about possible conflicts of interest whether they can vote on a particular issue, after getting an advisory opinion from a lawyer in the Division of Legislative Services.

The Rules Committee then appoints the Senators who sit on the Joint Rules committee with an equal number of Delegates. Joint Rules is currently chaired by the Speaker of the House and, as chair of Senate Rules, I am vice-chair of the joint committee. An important responsibility of Joint Rules is to select the Director of the Division of Legislative Services, an appointment that was ratified just last week by the General Assembly, to replace long-time Director E.M. Miller who is retiring. Our small subcommittee met to sort through the applications and conduct interviews, so it involved more trips to Richmond. We are very pleased with our choice of Robert Tavenner to fill this important position.

Joint Rules has jurisdiction over Capitol Square so, for example, I have to sign off on plans for demonstrations or rallies at the Bell Tower (though the more significant approvals come from the Department of General Services and the Capital Police). We are even notified and grant permits when a couple want to take wedding photographs on the Capitol grounds, apparently quite a popular venue. We also have quite elaborate rules about use of the Capitol itself, with the Speaker and I delegating to the Clerks of the House and Senate the day to day responsibility to determine appropriate use within the parameters of the declared policy.

In addition, as Chairman of Senate Rules, I am a member of the Legislative Support Commission. The Commission’s jurisdiction includes the printing and distribution of bills, resolutions and documents, the House and Senate Journals and Acts of Assembly; supervision of the maintenance and operation of the General Assembly Building; supervision of the Capitol Tour Guides; and supervision of the Capitol Police.

The most recent task for the Legislative Support Commission has come with the retirement of the Chief of the Capitol Police, Kim Lettner. We have appointed an acting director and will be advertising the position. So there will be another series of meetings and interviews.

You can see that Chair of the Senate Rules Committee is a challenging position.

 


Senator Whipple represents the 31st District in the Virginia State Senate. She may be e-mailed at district31@senate.virginia.gov

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