Virginia Capitol Connections Summer 2022

VI R G I N I A Summer 2022

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Virginia Capitol Connections, Summer 2022 3 Summer 2022 Volume 28 Number 2 • Editor-in-Chief –Bonnie Atwood • Managing Editor –McClain Moran • Assistant Editor–Cierra Park • Publisher –David Bailey • Art Director –John Sours School Distribution – • Advertising – • Printer –Wordsprint • Virginia Capitol Connections Quarterly Magazine (ISSN 10764577) is published by: Virginia Capitol Connections • 1108 East Main Street • Suite 1200 • Richmond, Virginia 23219 • (804) 643-555 • Copyright 2022, Virginia Capitol Connections, Inc. All rights reserved. The views expressed in the articles of Virginia Capitol Connections Quarterly Magazine, a non-partisan publication, are not necessarily those of the editors or publisher. C O N T E N T S VIRGINIA CAPITOL CONNECTIONS QUARTERLY MAGAZINE On The Web 5 Lt. Governor Winsome E. Sears 6 Speaker Todd Gilbert 8 Virginia’s strong financial management 8 Crafting a good budget 9 Dena Potter: DGS Communicator of the Year 10 Season Wrap-up from New Legislators 12 Civility in Politics 13 The Side of Politics More People Should See 15 Now or Never: The Importance of Civic Engagement in the Commonwealth 17 JLARC Report on Affordable Housing 18 High Growth Localities Face the Challenge of Affordable Housing 18 The Importance of World Languages in Virginia Secondary Schools 19 “My Greatest Mentor, Senator Edward E. Willey” 20 Teacher Shortages: We need the will to end them 21 A Private Sector CEO as Governor? 22 “Don’t let anyone tell you that Virginia’s FOIA is political” 23 Becoming “Intern Ready” 24 Making Virginia The Best State For Military Veterans 25 “What is a Woman?” We ask Virginia law. 25 Virginia Healthcare Providers Seek Reform 27 Service for Virginians who are Blind Celebrates 100 years 27 Ray Hopkins: Thank you and God bless 28 Lawmakers must act to protect nursing home residents 29 Is Virginia Leading the Flock? 29 Healthy Soils Lead to Healthy Plants 30 This is the history book you were never taught 31 Association and Business Directory page 5 page 8 KNIGHT page 6 TURPIN page 13 YANCEY page 8 HOWELL page 24 GADE SEARS page 9 POTTER Cover by Chris OBrion You can view more cover art by Chris on page 30

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Virginia Capitol Connections, Summer 2022 5 Growing up with a future Lieutenant Governor By KATIA AND JANEL SEARS I feel like we all grew up together. While she was getting her bachelor's at Old Dominion University, she would bring us with her to its daycare center, have at least one of us behind her as she rode her bike around Norfolk, and made sure we had every opportunity to be happy, thriving kids. She stressed the importance of education and every summer enrolled us in summer enrichment programs to ensure we didn’t lose anything we learned during the school year. Our mom originally voted Democrat, but about 30 years ago she found her beliefs aligned more with the principles of the original Republican Party. She's always had a heart for people, and she’s seen what socialism did to her home country, and she doesn’t want that for America. The pride we feel in everything my mom has accomplished: I'm most proud that she’s the same person she has always been from day one. She’s not easily swayed. You'll never see her sweat. You'll never force her to change who she is. That’s because she’s led by God, not by man. So anything anyone says about her, positive or negative, it doesn’t matter. She knows who she is, and she knows whose child she is. Our mom took us to a lot of cultural and educational events growing up. Throughout the week, she would read the newspaper and scan the Arts and Entertainment section of The Virginian Pilot to see what upcoming events were happening on the weekends. With three girls of close ages at home, Mom would select outings that she knew would appeal to our interests and enable us to get out of the house for the day. Some of the places Mom would take us were to the ballet, the opera, our neighborhood library, the many museums in and around Norfolk, the Norfolk Botanical Garden, and various cultural festivals such as African-American, Greek, and Filipino. She didn’t wait for our school or for class field trips to give us these experiences, she researched and sought them out for her children because she wanted us to have those memories. The kind of toys that we had growing up were toys in which you could build things or experiment to find out how things worked. Sure, we had our Barbie dolls, playhouses, and plenty of time playing dress-up, but Mom wanted our minds to be active and engaged. A specific thing Mom did was to nurture our talents, and so when mom discovered that I could sing she again sought out a program or even a children’s chorus that I could join and found one for me. From there, I had an audition at six years old with the Virginia Children’s Chorus and sang professionally for about 10 years. A couple of years later, my sister would join that same chorus after Mom heard her singing in the house as well. Mom has always said that her grandmother, our great-grandmother, was the one who got her interested in politics because, in Jamaica, politics is of great importance and is talked about at length around the dinner table. For my mother, growing up where the examples you have around you are people who look like you and whose profession is either as a doctor, lawyer, teacher, scientist, educator, or working professional, this causes you to believe that there’s nothing that you cannot do as long as you are willing to work hard and educate yourself. Education has always been a foundational point of my mother’s life, a grounding and rootedness for her, and so she strived to create those same opportunities for my sisters and me as well as the children of the Commonwealth. For me, I’m often amazed at her boldness and courage, and her belief in her convictions. She does not allow what others might say or think of her to affect her purposes or her voice. If there’s anything I am most proud of, it is the courage it gives me to also not be afraid to use my voice even if what I have to say some may not like. If what you have to say causes action or causes minds to change for the better or betterment of a thing, then speak boldly. Katia and Janel Sears are the daughters of Lieutenant Governor Winsome E. Sears. Katia is a Senior Event Manager for military and government agencies. Janel is a stylist and personal assistant. KATIA SEARS JANEL SEARS 804.225.5507 CHIP DICKS Legislative Counsel V

Virginia Capitol Connections, Summer 2022 6 Mr. Speaker By JAMES TURPIN Standing on the dais in front of 99 other Delegates, Speaker Todd Gilbert is a commanding presence. Standing 6-feet-4inches tall, Gilbert looks like a natural fit for one of the most powerful offices in the Commonwealth of Virginia. With a ceremonial gavel the size of a medieval war hammer, the Speaker is the undisputed leader of the House, controlling the flow of legislation, ruling on questions of order and procedure, and appointing members to the various committees that separate the legislative wheat from the chaff every winter. But the seat which puts him third in line for succession to the Governor’s mansion isn’t in his most natural role as Speaker, according to those who have worked with him for years. The former prosecutor turned defense attorney. “Don’t get me wrong, I love being Speaker. It’s a great honor, and I’m proud of the trust that my colleagues have placed in me,” Gilbert said, smiling. “But for someone who enjoys debate and the back-and-forth of the floor, it’s kinda tough to just stand there and watch everyone else go at it.” There’s a good reason for that: he’s been doing it for a long time. At first as an attorney, then as a member of House leadership for more than a decade. “If you’ve known Todd Gilbert for any length of time, you know he enjoys the back and forth of argument,” said Garren Shipley, Gilbert’s communications director. “ Shipley first met Gilbert during his initial run for office in 2005, when Shipley was reporting for the local paper, the Northern Virginia Daily. He covered Gilbert’s political career for the paper before jumping into politics himself 5 years later. “[Speaker Gilbert] may look like he could pick you up like a prowrestler and break you over his knee,“ he said. “In reality, he’s one of the most genuine, quick-witted, and flat-out nice people you’ll ever meet.” Gilbert entered leadership not long after he was elected to the House, first serving as a deputy whip, helping to round up votes—and keep Republicans in their seats when crucial votes came up. The road to the gavel was long one. Gilbert joined the leadership team of former Speaker Bill Howell, R-Fredericksburg, as Deputy Majority Leader, elevated by then-Majority Leader Kirk Cox, R-Colonial Heights. When Cox ascended to the Speakership, Gilbert was elected to step in as Majority Leader, a role in which he was tasked with shepherding the Speaker’s agenda through to the floor and running the nuts-and-bolts operations of the floor. Then in 2019, the wheels came off. Voters took their distaste for President Trump out on House Republicans, and for the first time in decades, Republicans were in the minority. Rather than serve as Minority Leader, Cox decided to return to the rank-and-file of the chamber, and Republicans once again elected Gilbert to be their leader. It was in his role as Minority Leader where Gilbert had a chance to truly spread his wings. Minority parties in the House of Delegates are rarely allowed involvement in the day to day operations of the chamber, making it difficult to plan actions to fight legislation they oppose. For Gilbert, though, the short-notice was an opportunity. Popping up at opportune moments (or terrible ones, depending on whom you ask), Gilbert brought his quick wit and legal thinking to bear on unwary Democrats more than once. The result was more often than not an end to debate, but not until he created serious consternation for the majority.. “Being in the minority was awful, and not just for the terrible legislation that came out of this House,” Gilbert said. “We had hardly any tools to push back against bad bills. But it was nice to be able to pop up and argue against bad decisions before they happened.” Gilbert led Republicans for two years and multiple sessions, including the House’s first virtual session during the COVID-19 pandemic. Then in 2021, after a great deal of campaigning and legislating, the winds changed again, and Republicans won all three statewide offices on the ticket and elected a Republican majority to the House. That fall the winning Republicans gathered at a corporate office in downtown Richmond and selected Gilbert to be the next Speaker of the House. And while that vote and its eventual confirmation by the entire House of Delegates vested him with great power in office, it took away his ability to scrap with his colleagues. "Todd is very good at working through a bill, figuring out what was good or bad about it, and then explaining the bill on the floor," said Del. Rob Bell, R-Albemarle, a long-time Gilbert friend. "He always loved the back and forth on the floor. Now he is watching the debate and we can almost see him wanting to step in and say something, but he’s the Speaker, so he has to just listen.” For Gilbert, though, it’s worth it. “We’re doing good things for our constituents and the entire Commonwealth, and I could not be more pleased with the way our caucus has coalesced and governed this year.” If he’s not holding the gavel, would he want to be back on the floor debating again? “If I couldn’t be Speaker? Maybe. Debate is fun,” he said. “But I’m a lot happier actually getting things accomplished for Virginia.” James Turpin has worked at the Virginia General Assembly since 1976. He has held a variety of positions, including House Aide, Senate Aide, Caucus Director, Trade Association Executive, and Lobbyist. He is a graduate of the Virginia Military Institute and did graduate work at the University of Virginia.V


Virginia Capitol Connections, Summer 2022 8 Virginia’s strong financial management By SENATOR JANET D. HOWELL In Virginia, we have a tradition of strong financial management and that includes the budget. Each Session and budget development process is different and unique. When I discussed the conference report on the floor of the Senate, I spoke of the old adage that “good things come to those who wait”. And, while it took longer than normal, the final budget represented true compromise and embodied collaboration. What sets Virginia apart is that our politicians can bridge the divide between parties without the need to be confrontational. Chairman Knight was a skilled advocate for the House positions but together we managed to navigate the differences in a respectful manner. The budget and funding that resulted embodied Senate priorities in the areas of K-12, higher education, health and human resources, housing, and employee compensation. And, while the Senate budget did include significant tax relief, the final budget expanded on this relief to allocate over $4 billion for tax policy changes. This relief should assist our citizens at a time when we are seeing significant cost of living increases. The final budget was a balanced approach—it did not just include changes to the standard deduction and savings for military retirees, but it also included a partially refundable earned income tax credit and the elimination of the state sales tax on groceries. And, I want to point out that all of this was achieved while still maintaining structural balance and strong financial management. All of those items deserve funding and focus; however, the one area that I want to highlight in this column is that of mental health. A number of articles have illustrated the great needs in this area and the struggles that we have experienced in staffing both our state facilities and community services. Here is a prime example of where funding makes a difference for our citizens and that difference comes at some of their most desperate moments. For that reason, this budget continues the efforts of the General Assembly to invest in the continued development of a robust community-based system of care for those Virginians suffering with mental illness. We approved just over $141 million in additional funds over the twoyear period for a variety of services. The largest item in this funding is $34 million to expand permanent supportive housing to assist individuals with serious mental illness. This investment will bring the total number of individuals supported to well over 3,000. Providing stable housing and supportive services to those with serious mental illness is critical because it reduces their emergency room visits and interactions with the criminal justice system. Additionally, there is $50.5 million allocated for STEP-VA, a key initiative to provide a continuum of services across the Community Services Boards. This additional allocation fully funds these services and is a significant step toward a robust system of community-care. There is another $37.5 million to support the crisis system. This includes funding for mobile crisis teams and the conversion of crisis assessment centers into crisis receiving centers, which will further alleviate law enforcement from having to sit with individuals waiting for a psychiatric bed per a temporary detention order, a complication highlighted repeatedly in the press and a change requested by our localities. This funding also supports additional regional grants for the implementation of Marcus alert systems to improve emergency responses for individuals in a mental health crisis. Crafting a good budget By DELEGATE BARRY D. KNIGHT Senator Howell and I got along very well and we were very deliberative to craft a good budget for Virginia. The Budget is the most important piece of legislation that the Virginia General Assembly votes on. We have completed our work and have come up with a budget of over $165 billion that contains no tax increases, no fee increases, and no new general fund supported debt. We did savings first, as this budget maintains Virginia’s fiscal responsibility by increasing the rainy day fund deposit by $1.1 billion, bringing the reserve fund to $3.9 billion—a record level that protects our AAA bond rating. We also made sure to address much needed capital projects with cash for debt. This budget delivers almost $4 billion in tax relief to hard-working Virginians and increases the standard deduction from Virginia’s income taxes, with a sunset in 2026 — going from $4,500 to $8,000 for single filers and from $9,000 to $16,000 for joint filers, or roughly $450 for a family of four. In addition, we made large payments, $750 million, to the Virginia Retirement System, with an extra $250 million if revenues continue to grow. We also tackled one-time spending directed at Virginia’s employers unemployment insurance taxes, as they will not go up, with the budget replenishing the unemployment trust fund. We also made funds available to realize the completion of the widening of Interstate 64 from Richmond to Hampton Roads, with a total of $470 million set aside. Furthermore, the budget includes $1 billion in general fund and non-general fund money for projects at the Port of Virginia that will help address supply chain issues by increasing capacity. Virginia’s teachers and our other greatly valued state employees will receive substantial pay raises of 5 percent each year, as well as a $1,000 bonus. Starting salaries for our corrections officers, sheriff’s deputies, and state police have been substantially increased more than the 5 percent with compression adjustments for our more senior staff. For K-12 education, this budget contains its largest investment ever by boosting education spending to record levels, an additional $3.2 billion in direct aid, exceeding the levels before the Great Recession. Additionally, through a combination of grants and loans, this budget will fund more than $3 billion in school construction and renovation, and school divisions will receive $145 million over the biennium for at-risk students. An additional $10 million will be allocated to ensure every elementary school has a full-time principal. Higher education is very important to retaining a modern workforce. This budget makes major investments in affordability for students in our colleges and universities. General fund support for public colleges and universities will increase by $253.5 million in FY 2023 and $360.8 million in FY 2024 over the 2022 base budget. Funding to support affordability and access will increase by $158.9 million in FY 2023 and $160.5 million in FY 2024. To address concerns of affordability, this budget limits tuition and fee increases to no more than 3 percent, with financial aid, primarily for undergraduate students, increasing by $29.2 million in FY 2023 and $141.2 million in FY 2024. With public safety and violence prevention efforts having been at the forefront of Virginia’s political discussion for years, this budget authorizes $19.1 million the first year and $27.9 million the second year in support of local police in the form of “599” funding. The budget includes $13 million for violence prevention grants, including: $8 million for the Firearm Violence Intervention and Prevention Grant Fund, $5 million for the Operation Ceasefire Grant Fund, and another $45 million is included for the School Continued on next page Continued on next page

Virginia Capitol Connections, Summer 2022 9 Lastly, this budget invests in our nine state psychiatric hospitals. Already under stress due to the high number of temporary detention orders filling up most of the beds, the COVID-19 pandemic caused greater disruption, which ultimately led to bed closures. In an effort to reverse disruptions, an allocation of $76 million will fund a new compensation plan that will increase most employee salaries by 30 percent or more. This is an effort to improve retention and recruitment of direct care staff. The hope is that this funding will stabilize our facilities and fully staff available beds. The unprecedented resources available during the 2022 Session allowed the General Assembly to invest in a variety of critical state services with mental health being a top priority. While the Commonwealth has more to do to achieve the ultimate goal of a robust community-based system of mental health care, this budget makes another giant leap toward that goal. In conclusion, good things do come to those that wait and here in Virginia we will always prioritize having a strong budget even if we have to go into overtime to finish the job. Senator Janet D. Howell, Chair, Senate Finance and Appropriations Committee is a Democrat representing the 32nd District, which includes part of Arlington and Fairfax County. Resource Officer Incentive Grant Fund, which will help put more SROs in more schools. $75.0 million in ARPA funds will be available for one-time grants to local law enforcement agencies to support equipment purchases and training. The budget makes major investments in Health and Human Resources to improve mental health, Medicaid reimbursement rates, and to raise the standard of care for Virginia’s most vulnerable, with 600 additional developmental disability waivers, $377 million to increase Medicaid developmental disability waiver rates over the biennium, $20.0 million to increase primary care rates to 80% of Medicare and $8.0 million to increase rates to reflect inflation for Psychiatric Residential Treatment Facilities, $37.5 million to support the value-based purchasing (VBP) program for nursing homes, an important step towards incentivizing higher staffing levels, and $77.5 million to provide a 30% rate increase Medicaid dental rates, the first increase since 2005. Delegate Barry D. Knight, Chair, House Appropriations Committee is a Republican representing the 81st District, which includes part of Chesapeake and Virginia Beach. LOUISVILLE, Ky. – The National Association of Government Communicators (NAGC) announced that Dena Potter, Director of Communications for the Virginia Department of General Services (DGS), has been named its 2022 Communicator of the Year. In 2021, Potter held several high-profile communications roles, both with DGS and Vaccinate Virginia. The Communicator of the Year award recognizes a government communicator who has fostered public trust and personifies the role by delivering timely, accurate and meaningful information to the public. At the height of the pandemic in February 2021, Virginia’s governor requested Potter to lead the communications efforts for Vaccinate Virginia, which struggled to get people vaccinated against COVID-19. Prior to her arrival, the state ranked 50th for vaccine delivery. Through the execution of her strategic communications plan, Potter worked with local, state, and national organizations and the media to construct messages to communicate with residents about the importance of vaccinations through various platforms. Potter’s efforts resulted in a significant increase in vaccinations between February 2021 and May 2021. Vaccinations in Virginia went from 11.8 percent to more than 55 percent by the end of her tenure. Similarly, fully vaccinated rates rose from 3.8 percent to 45 percent in that same timeframe. Virginia also entered the top 10 in the country for vaccine delivery. After leading Vaccinate Virginia, Potter returned to DGS where she served as chief communications strategist. Among other responsibilities, she crafted and oversaw the media relations surrounding the controversial removal of the state-owned Robert E. Lee monument. Immediately following, Potter then oversaw the transition of power of the Commonwealth’s governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general, and inauguration activities. “At the height of a global pandemic, Dena Potter rose to the challenge when state leaders called upon her to cultivate a NAGC Names Virginia Department of General Services’ Dena Potter as Communicator of the Year communications plan that would resonate with the public and urge them to get vaccinated against COVID-19,” said NAGC President Scott Thomsen. “Dena’s efforts more than paid off.” Joe Damico, Director of the Virginia Department of General Services, added: “We are fortunate to have Dena's professional expertise, talent and creative perspective at DGS. We are all proud to see her recognized on a national stage for her exceptional work this past year. We know she will continue to do great things in the years to come.” As Communicator of the Year, Potter joins a prestigious group of noted communicators who have exemplified the ethics of good communication and good government through their professionalism and superior performance in serving the people of the nation. Potter is a former journalist with The Associated Press, where she specialized in state government and public safety reporting before becoming news editor over Virginia and West Virginia in 2011. Prior to joining the AP, she served as editor of the Appalachian News-Express in Pikeville, Ky. Potter has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a minor in political science from Eastern Kentucky University and a master’s in mass communication/ strategic public relations from Virginia Commonwealth University. She is a graduate of the Virginia Executive Institute and the Commonwealth Management Institute. The NAGC Board of Directors selected Potter from a field of impressive nominees from federal, state, and local government agencies. Established in 1976, NAGC is the only national not-for-profit association dedicated to advocating, promoting, and recognizing excellence in government communication. NAGC provides worldclass communication training to its members and non-member government communicators through its annual Communications School and monthly professional development opportunities. Learn more about NAGC at POTTER Virginia’s strong financial management from previous page Crafting a good budget from previous page V V V

Virginia Capitol Connections, Summer 2022 10 Season Wrap Up from New Legislators By Delegate Jason Ballard What initially surprised me are the hours involved. From the outside, it is easy to assume legislation moves slowly simply because lawmakers are not working hard. Rarely is this the case. As legislators, we answer to the people. Though this may sound simple enough, Virginia is an incredibly diverse state with equally diverse interests. As we allocate Virginia’s finite resources, tough decisions must be made, and every Virginian has a right to be heard. This process naturally takes time. So, while change may seem to happen slowly, we actually work in a very fast-paced environment, often from 6:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m.” The second surprise was that many of the bills passed by the House did so with broad bipartisan support. Though there will always be divisive, hot button issues, the laborious process every bill goes through tends to separate the wheat from the chaff and iron out any lingering issues. As a result, when legislation comes to the floor, it is common for both sides to work together and do what is right for the Commonwealth of Virginia. Delegate Jason Ballard is a Republican representing the 12th District, which includes Giles, Radford, and part of Montgomery and Pulaski. By Delegate Mike Cherry I am often asked how I am finding Session. Of course, there are a million ways I could answer. But the one I choose most readily is that “I love it.” As a freshman delegate, I had little expectation of what the House was going to be like. I came in with an open mind and the sound advice from senior members to listen and observe. I sought to learn as much as I could as quickly as I could. To that end, this year has been a success. I feel that I have learned a great deal about the legislative process as a whole. Being part of the Republican team has been a joy as we work to accomplish what we promised we would on the campaign trail. “Promises made, promises kept” has been our motto. What I have enjoyed the most is getting to know legislators from both sides of the aisle. It is nice to hear their stories from—and to learn about—the different regions of the Commonwealth. As legislators, we try to represent our individual districts. All of our districts, while very different, have many similarities. Overall, I am grateful for the opportunity to represent the people of Colonial Heights and Chesterfield and look forward to learning more about them as I continue to serve. Delegate Mike Cherry is a Republican representing the 66th District, which includes Colonial Heights. By Delegate Jackie Hope Glass I came into the General Assembly with a mindset of returning to school. So, the surprises were few, but the lessons were expansive. As a person that loves data, I was surprised to learn that 53 percent of the legislators were born outside of Virginia. However, my biggest surprise and lesson was that the Appropriation Act (Budget) supersedes any other provision of law. Delegate Jackie Hope Glass is a Democrat representing the 89th District, in Norfolk. By Delegate Michelle Maldonado There were many surprising experiences during our session, but one of the most notable was the speed of the process. Things moved like lightning. In fact, when walking through the halls, you’d often hear people joking that it was like drinking from a firehose. Nonetheless, we all remained very honored and excited to be here and committed to doing the very best for the good people of the Commonwealth. The second notable mention that was delightfully surprising was the number of Delegates, Senators, and staff who understood the power of bringing people together to find common ground and move forward. I was pleased to work with those who showed up with wisdom, compassion, and assistance to collaborate across party lines with me, to move our agendas forward, to resolve conflicting legislation, and to create new opportunities (like our new Technology & Innovation Caucus) to ensure that Virginia families, communities, and businesses thrive. Finally, I was pleasantly surprised by the level of details and steps involved in committee collaborations during the bill-making process. I enjoyed serving as a member of both the Education and Privileges and Elections Committees and the K-12 and Campaign Finance Reform Subcommittees. Respectively, where I learned the ins and outs of the lawmaking process. These committees helped reveal the important role we each serve in protecting our children, parents, extended families and communities as we strive for a vibrant and flourishing Virginia for all. Delegate Michelle Maldonado is a Democrat representing the 50th District, which includes Manassas and part of PrinceWilliam County. By Delegate Anne Ferrell Tata I was not a stranger to the General Assembly so I knew the workload was great and the daily calendar fills up quickly. From subcommittee meetings to committees, for my own bills and for others in my assigned committees, the days start early and end late. In some ways, the daily floor sessions are the easiest part of the day. Much of the work is done before bills are considered on the floor. • past editions online • subscribe • advertise WWW. VCCQM . ORG

Virginia Capitol Connections, Summer 2022 11 By Delegate Wren Williams My first session here at the House of Delegates has been an amazing experience. I have certainly missed being home with Britt, my family, and my farm. But the chance to advocate for my home and my district with a seat at the table here in Richmond has been a humbling opportunity. I got started in politics in 2019 because my home county of Patrick desperately needed help. Our local hospital had just shut down the year before. The local government had run our county into the red and drained our emergency fund to almost nothing. The state was about to take over our county’s finances, force us to hike our real estate tax by 22 percent, and force us to take austerity measures. Something had to be done. So a group of us stepped up and ran for office. We flipped control of the Patrick Board of Supervisors and School Board and got our finances on the right track. But in order to fight for our community on bigger issues like our hospital, broadband, cell service, economic development, and our conservative values, we needed a voice in Richmond. So I ran for House of Delegates. The most welcome surprise working in Richmond for my first session is realizing the great number of connections at our fingertips to solve problems and make things happen for our district. We have made tremendous progress towards getting a hospital reopened in Patrick County, aided by the passage of our hospital bill, HB1305, passing through the House and the Senate with unanimous support. We have also connected with brokers and service providers for broadband, cell service, and other essentials that our residents in Franklin and Henry need to thrive. As an attorney-by-day, I really enjoy bringing movers-andshakers together and figuring out creative solutions to problems. Working with people from our district and making things happen at the state level has been an absolute joy. I am forever grateful and want to thank the 9th district for sending me here to represent them. Delegate Wren Williams is a Republican representing the 9th District, which includes Patrick, and part of Franklin County and Henry. By Delegate H. Otto Wachsmann, Jr. My first year in the House of Delegates has been an amazing experience. I am very grateful to represent the 75th District. While I have a moment to reflect, I think of the two months of the General Assembly session. Perhaps it’s all the business cards that I am taking out of my desk drawer that makes me think this way. All of the people that I did not know just a few weeks ago. The staff is absolutely incredible. They know and love their jobs. All of them go beyond their duties to make certain we have the best chance at being successful. In some respects, it seems like days and in other ways, it seems like I have been here for years. In either case, I think how fortunate I am to have this opportunity. Each night there are scores of bills to review for the next morning’s committee and House floor sessions. Some of the content is familiar yet some of it is completely new which forces one to reach out to your experts back home or lean on your fellow Delegates who are more knowledgeable on the subject matter. Then there are the state office liaisons. They can be extremely helpful with issues back home. Other times a bill comes up and I just stop and ask myself what was that delegate thinking? That is not how my industry does things. But we work it out and we both learn. The bill gets pulled or gets better. It will probably reappear in another session. We learn a lot about each other in the same party of the House as we move through this process. It gets too easy to feel comfortable staying among yourselves to understand your group’s dynamics yet halfway through you also discover you may have failed to make the effort to reach out and get to know those “across the aisle.”Yes, that is too easy to lose track of, but it is very important. We are all here to represent our constituents. We really do need to work together. But there is the Senate, I must do a much better job of getting to know more of them next session. Next session, this session has been a learning and building year. So, what was my score for this session? Everyone wants to know the score, right? While I only introduced four bills, I am fortunate to have three of them make it out of the House and the Senate. The Town of Ivor will be able to adopt its golf cart ordinance (HB 88). The people will be assured that outside money will not be able to influence the local electoral process (HB 205) and what I am most proud of is HB 1162. I carried this bill for the Virginia Community Healthcare Association which protects rural healthcare centers from having insurance companies pay less for their prescriptions just because the center can purchase medications under government contract. Without this protection, some of our rural areas could be in danger of losing their pharmacies and their local health clinic as well. I am proud of this bill because it protects those of us in rural areas and because I was successful with a bill that few in the General Assembly are likely to have a great understanding of. In addition, this will be the last year that the General Assembly will be in the Pocahontas Building as we will be moving to the new General Assembly Building. I am looking forward to the new building as well as what is to come. Delegate Otto Wachsmann is a Republican representing Brunswick, Emporia, Franklin City, Greensville, Southampton, Sussex, and part of Lunenburg. After crossover, the passing, defeating, amending, and conforming of legislation from the Senate is in some ways a less arduous task but still a lot of effort and work. My legislation has seen it all this year. I’ve had bills pass both the House and Senate unanimously and one sent to a conference committee. Serving on the House Education Committee was very exciting since education was one of the major issues in my campaign last year and was a focal point of Governor Youngkin’s victory. We were among the busiest committees in terms of legislation. One of the most surprising things about my first session in the House of Delegates was actually a very pleasant surprise. In the press and media, every article about politics makes it seem like no one gets along and everything is a partisan fight. In reality, there is a lot more bipartisanship and hard work to get good bills passed, fair negotiation on amendments, and good faith to pass good legislation. Several of my bills passed with overwhelming support from both Republicans and Democrats, and the number of bills that pass the General Assembly with near or unanimous support is much more than you would have ever thought. Certainly, there are party-line votes because of deep differences between Republicans and Democrats on several key issues. But I was happy to learn that overall, those divisions are much less numerous than I thought there would be. Delegate Anne Ferrell Tata is a Republican representing the 82nd District, which includes part of Virginia Beach. V

Virginia Capitol Connections, Summer 2022 12 Civility in Politics By BERNARD HENDERSON Most people decry the lack of civility in today’s politics. By the end of campaign season, we are usually so disgusted with all candidates that we want to vote against all of them. I am not referring to advertising that promotes a candidate’s attributes and positions on issues, but to the advertising that denigrates a candidate and distorts a candidate’s position on an issue. This has become so pervasive that I have had numerous women and men tell me they will not consider running for office because they will not put themselves, their families and their businesses through nuclear-level character assassination. Nearly everyone says they dislike gutter-level politics, but the only reason why we have it is because it is effective. I am not trying to appear self-righteous. When I was actively engaged in politics, I did my share of attacks and criticism of opposition candidates’ veracity, integrity, and distortions of their positions. Perhaps confession is good for the soul and just because I have done these things does not mean that I cannot confess and try to repent. Personal attacks on political candidates are not new. Things were written and said about people like George Washington and Thomas Jefferson in their day that might be more scurrilous than what we see and hear today. In the days before present communications, it was easier to not have to account for things said. While we might not be able to be as outrageous and as unaccountable as they were a century or more ago, we are able to broadcast our attacks more widely, quickly and frequently through media that did not exist centuries ago. While few candidates are innocent of attacking their opponents’ character, integrity and distorting positions, the most vicious and frequent offenders are the “organizations” that allege that they are not affiliated with a candidate or political party. These entities are accountable to no one and are intentionally and structurally devoid of any pretense of truthfulness or other attributes associated with integrity; it is virtually impossible to know who is behind these “organizations” and sometimes it is just one rich fanatic who has more money than he or she deserves and who believes the ends justify the means. The First Amendment, specifically freedom of speech, gets in the way of effectively dealing with these creatures, but a responsible corollary to freedom of speech is the hearer’s responsibility to exercise intelligent discernment; and that ought to tell us to completely disregard the rantings and ravings of those who hide their identity behind fictitious or fallacious names. My grandfather was Sheriff of a rural county for a long time many years ago. His main campaign piece was a handout. At the bottom was the statement, “The reasons why my opponent is unfit for office are on the other side.” The other side said only, “This side is left intentionally blank.” I wouldn’t contend that this might work in a campaign today, but it sure is a nice thought —and “Big Daddy” never lost an election. We are experiencing a serious loss of local news coverage. Most newspapers and local television stations have virtually discontinued local political campaign coverage unless it is a story about a salacious scandal. When there is the rare story about a local race, it often seems to be more about which candidate is considered to be the likely winner or loser than what candidates are standing for. Voters have difficulty in obtaining reliable and comprehensive information, especially about local races, and are at the mercy of mass mailings, social media, and television and radio commercials. Candidates’ nights sponsored by civic organizations and neighborhood “meet and greet” gatherings are usually poorly advertised and sparsely attended. As our local news sources continue to dry-up, and voters are too busy or apathetic to attend events, we are less likely to have qualified local elected officials. Having written all this pessimistic stuff, I need to focus on something that too few people have the opportunity to see that has restored some of my faith in some of the leaders we have elected over the years, certainly not because of, but in spite of, these conditions. This arises out of two unfortunate events; the deaths of two former Governors of Virginia. Perhaps because I served as an appointed member of five gubernatorial administrations and my non-government career in funeral service, it has been my honor to assist families with funeral and memorial services of many sitting and retired public officials, including members of local governing bodies, General Assembly members, members of Congress, judges and justices and two former Governors of Virginia. Also, one of my most treasured mementoes, especially because I am a Democrat, is a personal letter of appreciation from former President George W. Bush for a very small thing I did after his father’s death. In assisting the families of Governors Gerald Baliles and Linwood Holton, I was in frequent contact with all living Virginia Governors. Regardless of political party, our Governors immediately and compassionately reached out to the Baliles and Holton families. Except for two instances when Governors were out of the country and two instances of Governors being ill, some of our Governors made very difficult changes in their schedules to be present for these services. The most fascinating and inspiring things were the times in the Governors’ waiting rooms prior to these services. In both cases, our former and current Governors and First Ladies were squeezed into relatively small rooms. These were Governors elected from different political parties and whose philosophies stretched across the spectrum; several of them had defeated or been defeated by one another for elective office. Nevertheless, all of them were exchanging hugs and handshakes and having cordial conversations about an infinite variety of things. These men and their wives clearly like one another and share a sacred common bond of serving Virginia. The most difficult and disappointing thing I had to do on both those occasions was to get them organized to go into the service. Just imagine having to tell a room full of Virginia’s Governors and First Ladies to be quiet, listen and do what I say; I have never had a more daunting or humbling task than that! But that’s not my point. My point, and the thing I want every Virginian to realize and appreciate, is that we are fortunate to have had gentlemen— in the most thorough and literal meaning of that word—as our Governors with vastly different philosophies who are genuinely cordial with one another. Even though they might strongly disagree with one another, there is mutual respect because they obviously acknowledge that their peers are honorable public servants who are led by clear conscience and driven by their desire to do the right thing. We can learn from their noble example. If we are confident of our position on any given issue, there is no need to question the motives or try to impugn the character of anyone who happens to be of a different view in order to justify our viewpoint. I’m going to try my best to do this, and I undoubtedly will occasionally fall short of it. I invite you to join me, even if you also might not always be successful. Bernard L. Henderson Jr. is President Emeritus and Funeral Celebrant for Woody and Nelson Funeral Homes. He served as senior deputy secretary of the Commonwealth of Virginia from 2002 to 2010.V

Virginia Capitol Connections, Summer 2022 13 There’s nothing quite like doom-scrolling on Twitter to make you lose all hope for mankind. Or watching cable television news, for that matter. I’ve followed politics for a long time—long enough that I remember when Walter Cronkite told people every night what the news was and let them make up their own minds about what they’d just heard. Now we have entertainers—I won’t dignify them with the title of “journalist”—shouting back and forth every night. The more outrageous they can be, the better the ratings. It’s often enough to make me wonder how long our republic can last. How can we hope to govern a country that is not only divided, it’s so divided that it can’t even agree on the basic facts, much less what to do with them? I’m not the only one: Former Labor Secretary Robert Reich writes this week in The Guardian: “The second American CivilWar is already happening.” Perhaps his answer to the question the The New York Times posed earlier this year: “Are We Really Facing a Second CivilWar?”Along those same lines, Business Insider this spring identified “3 StatesWhere A Second American Civil War Could Start.” Discount the news media chattering if you want, but last year the august Brookings Institution raised the same question: “Is The US Headed for Another CivilWar?” Sometimes the conditions do seem a little too ripe. Just as in 1860, our divisions are increasingly geographical. And neither side seems inclined to compromise on whatever the issue of the day might be, perhaps the result of that geographical polarization that creates too many districts that are really one-party districts where it’s easier for more extremist candidates to win. The events of Jan. 6, 2021, should serve as a warning. And that doesn’t seem like some isolated event, either. Sometimes, to judge by what I see on social media or certain news channels, it seems that the other side—however you define the other side—is a dangerous, potentially treasonous horde that’s out to The side of politics more people should see. Plus, Gov. Glenn Youngkin calls for “grace in the public discourse.” By DWAYNE YANCY undermine the very foundations of the nation and impose its malicious will on anyone who dares disagree. All those one-party districts only exacerbate that because those candidates never have to compromise on anything. On the contrary, compromise is something that will get you primaried—and replaced by someone further left or further right. But then, whenever I hang around some politicians, my faith in the country is usually restored. Yes, you read that right. There are certainly politicians we’d be better off without. By and large, though, I am generally impressed that the politicians—at least the ones I know best in the General Assembly—are far more civil with one another than many of the constituents they represent are with each other. I wish more people could see that side of politics. Maybe Washington is different, I don’t know. Thankfully, I’m not there. I sure see a lot of clowns dominating the news, some of them scary clowns. But whenever I see our state legislators up close I am reminded by what decent people we have (for the most part) in Richmond. That’s not to say I agree with everything they do (I don’t), but I have generally found them to be good-hearted people who have the ability to disagree without being disagreeable. A fewmonths ago, I wrote about the odd-couple friendship between Del. Sam Rasoul, D-Roanoke, and Del. Joe McNamara, R-Roanoke County—Rasoul had directed honor roll students from his district to McNamara’s ice cream shop. Theymight not agree onmuch policywise, but that did not stop them from working together in other ways. See The side of politics more people should see, continued on page 14 Sen. Scott Surovell, D-Fairfax County (left) and Sen. David Suetterlein, R-Roanoke County (right) take a walk at the Booker T. Washington National Monument in Franklin County. Photo by Dwayne Yancey.