February 18, 2019
People are always surprised to learn that in Richmond we often work across party lines for a common goal. Let me give you a couple examples.
In late November the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission presented a highly critical report on the state of our foster care system in most of Virginia. While Northern Virginia was not negligent, most of the rest of the state was criticized.
I sit on JLARC and was devastated by the report. Sen. Bryce Reeves, a Republican and chairman of the Rehabilitation and Social Services Committee, was in the audience. We knew we had to act. By the end of the day, we decided he would handle the code changes that were required to reform the system and I would make certain the funding is in the budget. We high-fived and the deal was made! We have been working hard to assure both essential elements are achieved this session.
Meanwhile, a nonpartisan Foster Care Caucus was set up. At least three members of the legislature were themselves in foster care as children. Several others have been foster parents. And some others, like me, have had a long commitment to improving our system. The. Caucus has been of immense help in assisting Sen. Reeves and me in promoting reforms and funding.
Another example of bipartisan ship is - surprisingly enough - the budget conference. The House and the Senate each has its own budget at this point and the job for us conferees is to reconcile them. The conferees in both houses are predominantly Republicans since they control both houses. However, our responsibility as minority party conferees is to fight for the Senate position. Of course, we also use our influence to promote Democratic priorities like education, human services and the environment.
The Senate conferees work as a team and often find that easy to do - the majority party, at least in the Senate, treats us as fellow team members, not as adversaries.
As the 2019 session winds down and we all go home to run for re-election, I fervently hope we will all remember that we share many values as Virginians. We can fight hard for our beliefs and point out our many differences. But when we return to Richmond in 2020, we will need to govern together.