General session in full swing

Published 9:47 am Tuesday, January 23, 2018

The 2018 General Assembly session has gotten into full swing, and this week we began meeting with our assigned committees. As I mentioned last week, this year I am pleased to be serving on the same committees I had last year: Health, Welfare and Institutions (HWI); Agriculture, Chesapeake and Natural Resources (ACNR); and Militia, Police and Public Service (MPPS). In addition, I am chair of an ACNR sub committee. I am hopeful that we will be able to carry out the work of the commonwealth in a bi-partisan, efficient manner this year.

This year committee meetings, as well as session, will be broadcast, and all votes will be recorded. I invite you to link in through the website and watch the meetings if there is an issue in which you are particularly interested. This is an effort to make our work here more transparent to the general public. You can access committee meetings and session with this link: house/schedule/meetingSchedule.php.

I also got my new seniority ranking this week. I am now No. 34 out of 100 delegates, as evidenced by new DMV license plates.

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I am also pleased to be the co-chairman, along with Sen. Emmett Hanger, from the Augusta County area, of the Legislative Sportsman’s Caucus this year. We had our first meeting Thursday morning, and a presentation on the status of the bear population was made by a representative of the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries.

I also met this week with a group of legislators from rural parts of the state at the first meeting of the Rural Caucus, chaired by Sen. Frank Ruff, from Clarksville. Presentations were made by new Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry Bettina Ring, who previously served as the state forester. Meagan Healy, the chief workforce development advisor (a new Cabinet position), and Stephen Moret, the executive director of the Virginia Economic Development Partnership, also made presentations on how they expect to work with the Rural Caucus, the governor’s office and the General Assembly as we try to promote the rural areas of the state.

The budget is the most important thing we do in the General Assembly. It is not a partisan piece of legislation, and it is the best opportunity we have to work across the aisle. I will continue to be a good steward of your tax dollars. We will be consistent with what we have done in the past and work efficiently and in a transparent manner. The budget we pass will be structurally balanced and show a commitment to the core functions of government.

Each day the House of Delegates is opened with prayer offered by pastors from the state and recommended by a delegate. Last week, the Rev. Frank Carr, from Halifax County, offered the opening prayer Thursday. the Rev. Carr’s great-grandfather, Asa Coleman, represented Halifax County in the House of Delegates from 1871-1873 as what was then known as a Radical Republican who was concerned over the state debt created during reconstruction. Del. Coleman later served as the chair of the Halifax County Republican Party and held the chairmanship of the Halifax County Republican Party in 1888.

I had some visitors from the district this week, including Robert Martin, of Halifax, Alison Phillips, of Keysville, Paul Skakum and Richard Altice, of Farmville, and Lawrence Clark, of Drakes Branch. If you happen to be in the Richmond area prior to March 10, please stop in and say hello at Room E211 in the Pocahontas Building.

DEL. JAMES EDMUNDS can be reached at deljedmunds@house. or (804) 698-1060.