Wednesday, December 2, 2009

The 44th Gets #88

I spent a rainy day in Richmond today at the first day of our three-day Freshman Class Orientation. It was a fascinating day.

We got acquainted with the new members of our freshman class of 20. There are 12 Republicans and 8 Democrats. We are also a very large freshman class. Typically, one-fifth of the House of Delegates does not turn over each election.

We are a very diverse class in many ways. We have two doctors, a handful of lawyers, folks experienced in economic development, defense contracting, military affairs, technology businesses, telecommunications, trucking business, etc. We have new members from Northern Virginia, Hampton Roads, Southside, the Shenandoah Valley, the Richmond suburbs, and Southwest.

We spent the first few hours touring the State Capital Building designed by Thomas Jefferson. In anticipation of the 400th anniversary of Jamestown in 2007, the state invested about $104M in a renovation that was completed on-time and within budget. It has really transformed the complex. It is a fascinating, historic, and remarkable facility that every Virginian should tour.

There were portraits of George Mason, Merriweather Lewis, and Henry Clay. Busts of the 7 Virginia born Presidents. The most valuable piece of artwork in the building is a statue of 44th District resident General George Washington which was appraised as worth $50,000,000. It is the only statue General Washington every lived modeled. Interestingly, in all the artwork and portraits, there were no portraits of any african-americans and only three portraits of women - Queen Elizabeth, Lady Astor, and a woman who I was told had something to do with decoration schemes in the building years ago. Walking throughout and looking around, you really get a feel for the history, tradition, and what an honor it is to serve in this legislative body.

We also got to know the House Clerk, Bruce Jamerson, who runs a really tight ship and ran this ten hour program nearly on time to the second with virtually no breaks. The Clerk is also the keeper of the institution - Mr. Jamerson told me that he was the 20th Clerk in the history of the institution and there have been 54 Speakers. Talk about an exclusive club.

We also spent hours learning how to submit bill requests, received a sobering briefing on the budget situation, learning about FOIA, ethics, and at the end we drew for seniority. When it was my turn to pick, #1-3, 5-7, and #19-20 were gone along with many in between. Being at the end of the alphabet was like Deal or No Deal with no Banker.... Mr. Jamerson held out a small box with a few slips of paper left in it. I pulled #8. Not bad given what was left. That makes me #88 in seniority in the chamber, on a license plate, and moves me up on the list for picking office space, etc. If Democrats regain control, it could mean the difference between Chairing a committee or not in the future.

While the budget situation may be dire, you could really feel a sense of energy, excitement, and anticipation among the twenty members of our freshman class. There is a lot of work to be done.

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