When I was sworn into the Virginia House of Delegates in January of 2014, I was one of 33 House Democrats – a super-minority incapable of even sustaining a veto by the recently elected Democratic Governor, Terry McAuliffe.
Although I was a real estate attorney, small business owner, with a long background in local government, I was assigned to only two committees that produced the fewest bills and generated the least work in the General Assembly. When session ended, I was free to resume my full-time work schedule, with little risk of being asked to serve in any capacity that might cause me to need to drive back to Richmond during the “off-season” between sessions.
I knew that these off-session commission, boards, work groups and task-forces were where most of the real work of legislating happened, but also knew for a freshman Democrat from liberal Northern Virginia, my contributions and point of view weren’t really sought after.
What a difference a couple of elections can make. Since taking over the Majority in 2020, I’ve been appointed to four committees, one of which I chair, and five subcommittees, one of which I chair. In addition, I serve on the Housing Commission, the FOIA Council (Vice Chair), the Code Commission (Vice Chair), the Legislative Support Commission, the Joint Reapportionment Committee, the Board of Veterans Services, the Virginia Redistricting Commission, and the Joint Subcommittee to Study Campaign Finance Reform (Chair).
Since the public health State of Emergency ended and in-person meetings resumed, I’ve gotten to know well every pothole between Falls Church and Richmond.
With all the important work happening between sessions, I want to focus on two of these commissions that are doing work which you can greatly influence through public participation and activism in the next few weeks.
This week, the Virginia Redistricting Commission provided criteria to two sets of professional map drawers with instructions for them to create maps for the House and Senate districts for the entire Commonwealth by next week. Over the next month, the Commission will be taking a deep dive into these maps, reviewing the lines, listening to public comments, and making adjustments as needed.
In addition to public comment at the end of each regular Commission meeting, there will be two virtual public hearings each day from October 4th through October 7th with each hearing focusing on a specific region in the Commonwealth. The Commission will take a final vote on the House and Senate maps on October 11th.
After this, we will start to review the Virginia congressional map over a series of meetings with a virtual public hearing on October 22nd and a final Commission vote on October 25th. Assuming that the Commission passes these maps, then they will go to the General Assembly for an up or down vote.
Public input is a major component of this process, which can be shared via written comments or during public hearings. Bottom line - we need to hear from you.
Are you concerned about the criteria the master mapmakers are using to draw the maps? Do you live in a split precinct or a community divided among a few representatives? Are you concerned about incumbents being drawn into the same district? Is there a specific community of interest that you think should be kept together?
Specific to Falls Church, do you think the City should be a community of interest with Arlington or with Fairfax County?
The Redistricting Commission website, VirginiaRedistricting.org, has all you need to participate – sign up to speak at a public hearing, submit written comments, or make specific comments directly on the preliminary maps. You can even submit your own maps to be reviewed!
Another opportunity you have to share feedback is with the Joint Subcommittee to Study Campaign Finance Reform. The Subcommittee’s second meeting is September 17th, which will be livestreamed via the Virginia General Assembly website.
Tasked with examining the costs of campaigning in the Commonwealth, the effectiveness of our current disclosure laws and their enforcement, and options available to regulate campaign finances, the Subcommittee's primary submit a report with recommendations by November 1, 2021.
As chair of this Subcommittee, I’d love to hear from the public about what needs to be done in Virginia to promote the integrity of and confidence in our campaign finance system. You can sign up to speak or submit comments through hodspeak.house.virginia.gov.