I'm coming up on my fifteenth month and I'm starting to come to some conclusions about the structure of Virginia's system that really ought to be changed. I'm going to post up a series of articles about these problems which I've summarized in my little picture to the right regarding the some of the Foundations of Virginia Government. I've got some other ideas about structural policy problems, but that's for another day.
McCartney points out that our 45 and 60-day sessions limit opportunities for public input and reasoned decision making. I couldn't agree more.
The practice dates from when a farm-based society squeezed the session into a
few weeks before spring planting. The quaint tradition is outdated for a state
whose population exceeds that of more than 50 countries, including Norway,
Ireland and Israel.
An involved, vibrant, and engaged legislature sheds more sunshine on policy making. The idea that we can carefully consider 2,500 bills and take 2,000 votes with the care and consideration that we owe our constituents is unrealistic in the present system.
When I'm sitting on the House Floor trying to process all of the information coming at me through the firehose sometimes I feel like I'm shooting skeet on the Floor of the House. The Clerk shouts out the bill number, the bills start flying and we wildly start shooting trying to hit them as they fly past.
Policymaking is supposed to be careful, thoughtful, deliberative and above all - done in the open. McCartney is correct that our current system maximizes the influence of special interests, lobbyists, House & Senate Staff, and the full-time state employees. Under our present system, all of our legislators and their staffs simply do not have the time process all of the details necessary to make decisions on 2,000 votes and appropriate an $80 billion budget.
As a freshman, I actually have time than most to study legislation. I do not chair any committees, I only serve on two committees that do not have a large volume of legislation, and I am not in leadership. But the longer you are are around, you tend to accumulate more responsibilities which brings demands on time without additional help.
It's not a system that designed to yield the best results for our constituents.