Biennial budget top of William Howell's list

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“Members and friends of the House of Delegates — Democrats, Independents and Republicans, Virginians all: \

\ I accept and sincerely appreciate the trust that you have placed in me. I also welcome the continued opportunity to lead and to use the position of Speaker to advance a positive, forward-looking reform agenda on many fronts. \

\ On a Tuesday in November every two years, the people of Virginia go to their local polling places to express their views, their concerns, and their aspirations for the future of our Commonwealth. \

\ We are here today as a result of those Virginians, and that, above all else, should be our main focus as we convene this 2008 Session of the General Assembly and this House. \

\ The citizens we are elected to serve have given each of us a great honor, and they have every right to expect us to act in a manner recognizing that honor as we fulfill our responsibilities. \

\ This year, Virginia faces many great challenges. But these challenges will not overwhelm — and must not overcome — our shared ability to work constructively on the legislation that we will consider. \

\ I am honored and humbled by your affirmation of me as your Speaker for the next two years. I am ready for this responsibility — strengthened by what we have achieved so far, and appreciative of how much we still have to accomplish. \

\ Our greatest challenge this year will be crafting the Commonwealth’s biennial budget. \

\ We must craft a new state budget on the principles of fiscal responsibility and not the conveniences of political expediency. \

\ To meet this challenge, I have designated our body’s most senior member and my immediate predecessor as Speaker, Delegate Lacey Putney of Bedford, to serve as Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee. His experience, his knowledge, his renewed vitality and his wisdom make him ideally suited to guide us through this time of fiscal uncertainty. \

\ In addition to the state budget, we must enact much-needed reforms to Virginia’s system of mental health care. \

\ We will be advancing legislation to continue investing in our elementary and secondary schools and classroom instruction. \

\ We will be championing legislation that will strengthen the infrastructure of our colleges and universities as well as increase capacity for the increasing numbers of Virginia students who wish to benefit from all that Virginia higher education has to offer. \

\ We also will be considering and approving legislation to protect our environment, increase access and improve affordability of quality health care, and provide long overdue relief from skyrocketing property taxes for our homeowners. We will do all that, and so much more. \

\ In fulfilling these duties, we must be mindful that partisanship for the sake of partisan advantage in a future election will be seen by Virginians for what it is. \

\ Adhering to the trust placed in us by the citizens of our districts requires careful review and conscientious deliberation. As Speaker, I intend to lead this House in honoring that trust and in protecting this institution’s integrity for the future. \

\ Today, we welcome 10 new members to our ranks. \

\ For those of you who took this oath for the first time, congratulations. You are following in a rich tradition. The seats that each of you occupy were filled at some point in the past, and in some instances just last year, by some of the giants of this body. \

\ Every one of you can point to a predecessor at some point in history who served this Commonwealth with honor and distinction. Be mindful of the honor that has been bestowed upon you, and strive to emulate those great Virginians. \

\ We face the public every two years because we are here to reflect the most immediate, up-to-date views and concerns of our constituents. We are intended to be closest to the people, and we should act accordingly. \

\ I ask each of you to be mindful of those you serve, and put their interests and the interests of the Commonwealth first. \

\ Now, we begin the hard and occasionally arduous work of preparing our Commonwealth for future generations while improving the lives of its citizens today. \

\ It is a heady charge, but one I am confident we will fulfill with the same honor and distinction that has characterized and served Virginia so well for more than 400 years. \

\ Thank you.”

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\ — Seth McLaughlin, Virginia politics reporter, The Washington Times

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