2015 promises to be especially busy. Major issues facing Virginia will be addressed during the General Assembly session. Plus, it is an election year for the whole legislature, so I am gearing up for a vigorous re-election campaign.
I am raring to get started!
Over the next few days I will be participating in four public hearings. These are opportunities for you to let me know your priorities and suggestions. Your views really matter. Here is the schedule:
Wednesday, January 7 | 10am
Senate Finance committee Public Hearing on the Budget
George Mason University, Manassas Campus, Hylton Performing Arts Center, Gregory Family Theater
Thursday, January 8 | 7:30 to 9:00pm
Reston Community Center - Hunters Woods Center, Reston, VA
with Delegate Ken Plum
Saturday January 10 | 9:00am to close
Fairfax County Government Center - 12000 Government Center Parkway, Fairfax, VA
with Fairfax County delegation
Saturday, January 17 | 2:30 to 4:30pm
McLean Community Center, 1234 Ingleside Avenue, McLean VA
with McLean & North Arlington Delegation
You can also email me at email@example.com. I personally read all the emails and direct responses.
Our 46 day "short session" starts on January 14. During that time we will adjust the budget and deal with over a thousand proposed bills. The pace is frenetic. I am deeply aware that every bill and every budget action impacts the lives of Virginians. This is very serious business.
Our days are filled with committee and subcommittee meetings as we wade through all the proposed legislation. Most Senators serve on three major committees; I serve on five. They are: Finance, Courts of Justice, Education and Health, Privileges and Elections, and Rules. In addition, I serve on six permanent subcommittees. Each committee and subcommittee meets at least weekly. We are expected to be in attendance. And of course we all attend the daily Senate session -- I have only missed four daily sessions in twenty three years!
For the past several years I have been a budget conferee, negotiating the final budget with the House members. This responsibility is coveted by most legislators. It requires in-depth study of each expenditure. The conference process is always tense and sometimes tedious but it is a real opportunity to help shape budget priorities.
The upshot of all these responsibilities is that I am rarely in my office and have difficulty scheduling meetings with constituents once the session begins. Fortunately, my legislative aide, Karol Straub, is available to meet with you and takes copious notes for me!
I strongly suggest you visit the legislature to personally observe how we make laws. All committee and subcommittee meetings are open to the public. You can sit in the galleries to watch both the House and Senate sessions. Sometimes legislators behave in ways I find appalling. But, overall, we are a serious group with strongly felt -- if conflicting -- beliefs.
People often ask about our daily lives. Each legislator receives the federal per diem rate to pay for lodging and food. We make individual choices on how to spend it. I have always chosen to stay in a hotel rather than rent an apartment. Frankly, I want someone else to clean up my room and have the option of room service! Late each Friday afternoon I drive home to my wonderful husband, Hunt. Early each SundayI drive back to Richmond to study up for the coming week.
I plan to write you weekly during the session. Next week I will outline major issues before the legislature this year. My expectation is that there will be major partisan disagreements but we will finish on time. It is an election year for all of us, after all!
Thank you for trusting me to represent you. I really love this job!
Senator Janet Howell