Richmond Report: Third Week
As we wrap up the third week of session, the days are getting longer and the stacks of paper on my desk aren't getting any smaller!
I'm looking forward to driving back home soon, but before I leave Richmond, I want to share a few highlights of this week and give you a preview of next week.
First, the biggest news that happened wasn't in the legislature. Instead, it was about former Governor Bob McDonnell and his wife Maureen who were indicted by federal prosecutors for allegedly accepting illegal gifts and also failing to disclose that information.
Having worked with Governor McDonnell for the entire time I've been in office, I was shocked to learn of all the details in the U.S. Attorney's allegations. And, as a Virginian, I am saddened and disappointed to note that a leader of our Commonwealth may have conducted himself in such unethical manner while in office.
Since we are supposed to assume the innocence of the accused until proven guilty in the court of law, I will withhold any further comments about this while the criminal case moves through its proper course.
Needless to say, however, the McDonnell scandal has provided the legislature with an added sense of urgency to address much-needed reforms in Virginia's ethics rules.
Recently, a special subcommittee was formed in the House Courts of Justice Committee including senior members of both parties (I was not selected) to consider ethics reform legislation. By next week, we expect the subcommittee to present its recommendations to the full Courts Committee where I will have a chance to weigh in and debate the issue.
The other major news that broke this week was also not about the legislature, but instead, about the new Attorney General. In a reversal from the position held by former Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, Mark Herring has decided that Virginia's ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional.
Attorney General Herring's announcement that it will not defend Virginia's prohibition in a pending federal litigation led to a quick reaction from the House Republican majority.
This afternoon, with little advance notice, the Courts of Justice Committee rushed through an "emergency" bill on a straight party-line vote to allow any of the 140 members of the legislature to intervene as a party in this legal proceeding to defend the anti-gay marriage law. I voted against House Bill 706 in committee as I believe it raises serious questions about the proper balance of the Constitutional separation of powers.
This week, I was able to make some progress on my legislative agenda. My House Bill 838 passed the full House of Delegates on a unanimous vote. HB 838 would address an inconsistency in the voting process by treating all absentee ballots to be accepted the same way, whether they were mailed to Virginia from within the Unites States or from overseas.
My House Bill 837 which passed a subcommittee unanimously is working its way to the House floor. HB 837 would requires state agencies to post on their respective websites helpful information about any financial costs that they may be assessed if any member of the public seeks records under the Freedom of Information Act.
Several of my bills are on the agenda to be presented next week so I will report on their progress in my next email. You can read about them or about any other bill pending in the legislature by going to the Virginia Legislative Information System website.
Finally, I want to thank everyone who came out to my first public town hall meeting last Saturday. My House and Senate colleagues and I enjoyed meeting with over 75 residents who shared their views with us on a variety of issues pending in the General Assembly.
My next town hall meeting will be on Saturday, February 1, at 1 pm, at the Vienna Town Council Chambers on 127 Center Street South, Vienna, VA. Please contact my office for more information: Julia@MarkKeam.com or (703) 350-3911.
As always, thank you for your interest in my work and for your support. Please let me know if you have any questions.