“Be careful what you wish for, lest it come true.” – Aesop’s Fables
In 2014 when I arrived in Richmond for my first session, I was assigned to two committees: Militia, Police and Public Safety, and the Committee on Science and Technology. Militia heard (and then killed) all the gun bills introduced in the House. Science and Technology had a nice name, but heard fewer than five bills a session (of the 1500 or so introduced in each house).
By crossover of that session, all but one of my bills had died, and because my committees rarely met, I often spent my afternoons on long runs around Richmond with my colleague Rob Krupicka from Alexandria. We’d sometimes chat about all the great things we could accomplish if we were ever in charge again.
Starting out with so little, there wasn’t much the GOP Majority could take away to punish me, so I gradually became the member who did things no one else wanted to do. I learned to draft floor amendments to other members’ bills to force politically uncomfortable floor votes. I was called upon often to speak against bad bills even though the numbers meant their passage was inevitable.
All of which forced me, by trial and error, to learn and master the rules of procedure.
By the time May of 2017 rolled around the idea of my ever wielding power or influence in the House of Delegates was a joke, literally. At a fundraiser for the Virginia Public Access Project, retiring Speaker William J. Howell joked he was bequeathing me a “real committee” in his legislative last will and testament.
Two elections and two and half years later, things are a lot different.
On our first day of the 2020 General Assembly Session, we unanimously elected our first female Speaker of the House, Eileen Filler-Corn, and our first female Clerk of the House, Suzette Denslow. Our Caucus is now led by Delegate Charniele Herring of Alexandra, the first African American majority leader in the 400 year history of the House of Delegates.
I was reappointed to the Courts of Justice Committee, added to the General Laws Committee where I will Chair the Housing & Consumer Protection Subcommittee and serve on the Professions & Occupations Subcommittee, added to the Privileges & Elections Committee, where I will serve as Vice Chair of the full committee and Chair of the Constitutional Amendments Subcommittee, and the Rules Committee where I was appointed to serve on our Joint Rules Committee.
If that sounds like a lot, it is. It means my morning typically start at 7:00 a.m. and I am frequently here in my legislative office working until well after 10:00 p.m.
It turns out all that parliamentary procedure I learned comes in handy in the Majority as well. I serve as Secretary of the House Democratic Caucus which now includes the functions of the caucus Parliamentarian. I frequently have been called upon on the floor during our first debates on the adoption of new rules for the House of Delegates, rules with feminine pronouns to refer to the Speaker, Clerk and all members of the House of Delegates. I also helped draft and present a policy at the Joint Rules Committee that finally bans gun from the Capitol and legislative buildings.
I chaired my first committee meeting Tuesday, January 4th 2019 as the Privileges and Elections Committee took up and passed House Joint Resolution 1, ratifying the Equal Rights Amendment to the United States Constitution.
Oh, and I introduced 31 bills! Bills that require student loan servicing companies to get a license to operate in Virginia, that protect transgender students from bullying and mistreatment, that allow for same day voter registration, prohibit the 3D printing of guns, make it illegal to convert campaign funds to personal use, allow localities to establish public financing of campaigns, and promote the establishment of distributed and renewable energy. Just to name a few.
What all this means is that I’ll be busier than I’ve ever been this session. Any afternoon running will be purely around Capitol Square, going from committee to committee. And I couldn’t be happier about it.
So be careful what you ask for, you just might get it.