Virginia legislative session off to a rowdy start

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Opening day at the Virginia General Assembly last week got a bit rowdy. Within an hour of convening, the lawmakers were arguing over judicial appointments and whether to televise their legislative sessions.

Two amendments to rules were shot down by the Republican majority in the House one would have added a layer of scrutiny to judicial appointments and the other would have allowed televising of House sessions.

A House amendment to have judicial appointments approved by all members after the crime commission makes a recommendation failed largely along party lines, by a vote of 68-31.

Delegate J. Chapman Petersen, Fairfax Democrat, proposed televising House sessions, noting that 43 states, most localities and, most recently, the Virginia Senate have opted to bring their meetings into living rooms.

“Taxpayers should have an opportunity to watch us at work,” he said.

But the delegates said the addition of television cameras would make the sessions drag on and would have the politicians grandstanding to the audience at home.

They also said there is enough access to the sessions.

“Do you really want someone like me to get even more exposure?” asked Delegate Robert G. Marshall, Manassas Republican, who is a self-proclaimed long-winded speaker.

A similar movement has failed twice before, and the amendment was rejected Wednesday, by a vote of 67-33. As the debate wore on, several delegates started checking e-mail on laptops, passing notes and leaving their seats to take phone calls.

New lawmakers were sworn in Wednesday.

New to the Virginia House are Republicans William H. Fralin Jr., Roanoke; Jeffrey M. Frederick, Woodbridge; and Edward T. Scott, Culpeper; and Democrats Adam P. Ebbin, Alexandria; Albert C. Eisenberg, Arlington; Mamye E. BaCote, Newport News; Stephen C. Shannon, Vienna; Algie T. Howell Jr., Norfolk; Lynwood W. Lewis Jr., Accomac; Mark D. Sickles, Alexandria; Onzlee Ware, Roanoke; and Jeion A. Ward, Hampton.

New to the Senate are Brandon J. Bell II, Roanoke Republican; Jeannemarie Devolites, Fairfax Republican; Mark D. Obenshain, Harrisonburg Republican; and Mamie C. Locke, Hampton Democrat.

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