Virginia Capitol Connections Winter 2023

Virginia Capitol Connections, Winter 2023 13 • Rob will eat anything deep fried… and I mean anything, including a delicious meal in Vietnam of fried crickets. • He loves to travel throughout the world and wears his UVA hat everywhere. • He made the briefcase cool again. Rob is easily understood. Just search on YouTube for “Sheepdog and Wolf Cartoon.” In all of these cartoons, the wolf and the sheepdog are walking to work with friendly chatter between them. They then get to the time clock and punch in. Then, for the entire workday, they oppose each other - the sheepdog protecting the flock and the wolf trying to eat a sheep. Then, bruised and beaten up, they clock out and walk home as friendly as when they arrived. Here is a story about Rob’s work ethic and his steadfast belief in protecting crime victims. In the early 2000s (prior to Rob’s arrival), the existing Criminal Law Subcommittee members wanted to recodify Title 18.2 (the criminal law title). It had been piecemealed together for a century and the punishments started making no sense. For example, the crime of Robbery was an “unclassified felony” and it had a crazy range of punishment from 5 years to life in prison. So technically, an 18-year-old bully, who pushed a kid off a bike and stole it, could get life in prison! We thought that was crazy. So, the Crime Commission (mainly Stewart Petoe), went through every crime, reclassifying many crimes to make 18.2 sensible. At the 2005 Session, I carried this 54-page single-spaced bill into my Criminal Law Subcommittee, which I chaired. At that time, the only “veterans” on the R side were Morgan Griffith and me. The others were the more recently elected former prosecutors — Bell, Hurt, McDougle — and a former law enforcement officer Weatherholz. I presented my bill, and as soon as I got to where the bill separated robbery into two classes (20 to life and 5 to 40), Rob moved to strike the changes. We looked at him, “Uhhh, you know we have been working on this for years and it is crazy to have a bully who stole a $40 bike get a life.” Rob would say, “But you are not thinking about some of the victims. What about the person who got punched and got his $40,000 car stolen? You are lowering the punishment on that crime.” I was Chair, so I knew they would not vote against “the Chair” … but when I called the vote, these newly elected prosecutor/police legislators executed a coup d’etat and killed that portion of the bill. This went on for hours. Every time there was a proposed change, Rob moved to strike declaring, “What about the victim of that crime?” At one point people started yelling at each other. Then I slammed down the gavel, and said “Everybody cool it! No one talk for the next five minutes!” (As an aside, for some reason, Morgan Griffith went to his office, got his cassette tape player, brought it into the sub-committee room and played “Kumbaya” for everyone… What kind of dude has “Kumbaya” on cassette?) Rob was also highly accurate, always trying to get the words right. We would work for hours upon hours making sure a new law or amendment addressed the identified problem, and then think up other scenarios where there might be some unintended consequence. When I was Chairman of Courts, any time there was a difficult, confusing, and intricate issue, I assigned it to Rob. When we needed to revise involuntary commitment laws after the shooting at Virginia Tech, I had Rob Chair a special subcommittee. When we did an entire rewrite of the mental health laws, I assigned it to Rob. Over the years, many legislators have been known for their work to help the people who have no voice — the disabled, the discriminated, and the poor. For the past 22 years, Rob Bell was the voice of the crime victim AND the voice of people who will never know they benefited from his work. Because of safer streets, they were never victims. Dave Albo was a Delegate from 1994-2018, and is now a government relations attorney at Williams Mullen. Retiring state Senator John Cosgrove’s career has taken a few turns. In real life, he is a retired naval officer working as an engineer. He has also worked a couple of part-time gigs as an elected official. Four years on the city council, 12 years as a Delegate, and 10 years as a state Senator. During that time, he has helped create laws improving the lives of his constituents such as banning smoking in restaurants, waiving sales tax on energy-efficient appliances, and protecting kids riding on school buses. But what you might not know about Senator Cosgrove is that he can sing. Boy, can he sing. Whether he is serenading the Clerk of the Senate on Valentine’s Day in the General Assembly Building, singing the national anthem at a charity basketball game (or the Governor’s inauguration), or belting out classic rock tunes in a band made up of legislators and lobbyists, John Cosgrove can sing. And he has range. A lead singer with an affinity for goofy Hawaiian shirts, “Coz,” as he is affectionately known by his bandmates has enough talent to make the likes of former Delegate Dave Albo appear to be a legitimate musician. For nearly a decade, Coz, Albo, and former Delegate Sam Nixon formed the core of a band that played shows all over the state. The group toured several venues in Richmond, including the venerable Alley Catz in Shockoe Bottom, as well as the Barns at Wolf Trap, the Lorton Arts Center (former Lorton jail), Nauticus Museum, the Miss Hampton Harbor Tour Boat and the “new” Cavalier Hotel right before it was demolished. There is no truth to the rumor that former Governor Bob McDonnell’s drum solo caused structural damage to the tower leading to its implosion. Through all the shows it was Coz’s vocals that shined brightest. The musical groups they covered ran the gamut from the Everly Brothers, the Who, Journey, Johnny Cash, Guns N’ Roses, Bon Jovi, and Ozzy Osbourne just to name a few. Coz had them all down on the lock. Songs like “Don’t Stop Believing,” “Won’t Get Fooled Again,” and “Crazy Train” which are easy to play musically, but very challenging to sing. Especially when you play them in the same set. One show in particular played at the Lorton Arts Center featured Coz crooning “Folsom Prison Blues” and “Unchained Melody” followed by “Sweet Child of Mine” and “Living on a Prayer” which for a 20-something original artist is challenging, but to a seasoned citizen it is untenable. However, Coz sang them perfectly and had the crowd on its feet singing along. Senator John Cosgrove will be remembered as a man who dedicated his adult life to public service as a Naval Officer, Councilman, Delegate, and Senator. But those of us who saw him perform know this is not his swan song. Coz has plenty more to offer and we wish him and his wife Sue nothing but the best in the next phase of their lives. Matt Benedetti leads Matt Benedetti and Associates, a government affairs firm, and has more than 30 years of experience in business and government affairs. John A. Cosgrove, Jr. Delegate 2002-2013 • Senator 2013-2023 BY MATT BENEDETTI