Assembly’s commendable bills
157 measures devoted to devotion
A new website that tracks the goings-on of the Virginia General Assembly, www.richmondsunlight.com, is a wonk’s dream, and thusly, our new favorite thing (cheers to website creator, Waldo Jaquith). The site’s best feature? The “Tag Cloud” that lists topics by size, relative to their prominence in this session’s legislative landscape. At a glance, one observes that education, transportation and crime were all mammoth subjects. But one trumps them all: commendations. That’s right, this session the General Assembly passed a whopping 172 commendation bills.
“Every governmental body has a history of commending different people for different things in their community,” Charlottesville Delegate David Toscano says. The Virginia General Assembly might be particularly dedicated to this seemingly antiquated legislative task, since it is the oldest sitting democratically elected governing body, Toscano notes.
What has Brown done for Virginia? The General Assembly, among other commendations, commemorated the 100th anniversary of the United Parcel Service, which has contributed more than $13.8 million to Virginia philanthropies in the past decade.
Many commendations honor Virginians who have died. This is understandable, given that the poignancy of governmental language makes it ideal for eulogizing: “WHEREAS, John Worsley married the love of his life…and WHEREAS, after retiring from Northampton County Public Schools, John Worsley spent many happy hours fishing and preparing his favorite dishes for his friends and family…now, therefore, be it RESOLVED…That the General Assembly mourn the passing of a fine educator, community supporter, and outstanding Virginian.” We should all be so remembered.
Other commendations are more random. One bill commemorates the centennial of United Parcel Service, for example. (They’ve apparently donated $13.8 million to state philanthropies since 1995.) And, of course, there’s the commemoration of “the settlement of Jamestown on the occasion of its 400th anniversary,” for which the state has already begun its tourist-call, to continue until Queen Elizabeth II visits for the actual anniversary on May 13.
Sundry as the commendations may seem, “there are criteria,” Toscano says. “In fact, there was a little debate this year on the House floor about a couple of resolutions that didn’t seem to make sense. You don’t want to commend everybody under the sun.”
To those who would decry the inefficiency of so many commendations in a session that lasted only 45 days, Toscano says they don’t take up much time because they’re voted on in blocks, usually by voice vote. Toscano says, “It’s like a millisecond compared to everything else we’re doing.”
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