Richmond delegates expected to have greater clout in upcoming General Assembly

Jeremy M. Lazarus | 11/22/2019, 6 a.m.
At least four Richmond area delegates to the Virginia General Assembly are poised to gain increased clout when the new …

At least four Richmond area delegates to the Virginia General Assembly are poised to gain increased clout when the new Democratic majority takes control of both the House of Delegates and the state Senate when the 2020 legislative session opens in January.

Among those expected to have increased stature is Delegate Delores L. McQuinn, who has represented the city’s East End for 10 years.

Delegate McQuinn, D-70th, is on track to become chair of the powerful House Transportation Committee that focuses on public transit, highway and other issues related to cars, pedestrians and cyclists.

As the No. 2 ranking Democrat on the committee, Delegate McQuinn is projected to gain the leadership spot now that the ranking Democrat, Delegate Jeion Ward of Hampton, has opted to become chair of the House Commerce and Labor Committee.

Meanwhile, Delegates Jeffrey M. Bourne, D-71st, Betsy M. Carr, D-69th, and Lamont Bagby, D-74th, appear to have strong prospects to chair powerful subcommittees, based on their seniority on such committees as Appropriations, Courts of Justice, Education, General Laws and Rules.

Separately, the 52 Democrats who will rule the state Senate elected four members of the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus to fill leadership posts on Wednesday.

Along with promoting current Senate Minority Leader Richard “Dick” Saslaw of Fairfax to majority leader, the Democratic caucus also retained Sen. Mamie E. Locke of Hampton as caucus chair and designated Sen. L. Louise Lucas of Portsmouth to be president protempore of the Senate. Sen. Lucas also was named to chair the Senate Education and Health Committee.

Sens. Locke and Lucas are members of the VLBC.

Meanwhile, Sen. Jennifer L. McClellan of Richmond, another VLBC member, was elected secretary of the Senate Democratic Caucus, another boost for the Richmond area. Sen. Lionell Spruill Sr. of Chesapeake, another VLBC member, was named a Democratic whip, as was Sen. Barbara Favola of Arlington.

At City Hall, officials are gleeful about the prospect of having well-positioned friends interested in urban issues and able to play significant roles in crafting beneficial legislation.

“I think we will do very well in the next session,” one highly placed official told the Free Press.

Democrats already are signaling change is coming with the pre-filing of legislation that regularly went into the wastebasket when Republicans were in charge, but now has real potential to become law.

Among the initial filings are bills that would make it easier to vote absentee, require universal background checks before gun purchases, protect LGBTQ community members against housing discrimination and ratify the Equal Rights Amendment.

“Finally, these bills will get the consideration they deserved in the House, and we can take the first steps to improving voting rights, preventing gun violence and recognizing all Virginians as equal regardless of gender identity or sexual orientation,”said Alexandria Delegate Charniele Herring, incoming House majority leader.

A wave of other bills is on the way, according to Democrats. Expected among them is legislation to raise the minimum wage from the current $7.25 an hour, to decriminalize marijuana, to expand early childhood education and to tackle criminal justice reform.

All of that legislation will flow to the House’s 14 standing committees and their subcommittees, which can either kill the bills or move the legislation along for an eventual floor vote.

So far, Speaker-designate Eileen Filler-Corn of Fairfax County has announced the appointment of four committee chairs — all of whom are the ranking Democrats on previously Republican-controlled committees.

Along with Delegate Ward, the appointees include Prince William County Delegate Luke Torian, who will chair the powerful House Appropriations Committee; Greensville County Delegate Roslyn Tyler, who will chair the House Education Committee; and Northern Virginia Delegate Vivian Watts, who will chair the House Finance Committee.

Delegates Ward, Torian and Tyler also are members of the VLBC.