Friday, January 17, 2020

General Assembly, City Prepare for Monday…

January 17, 2020

As you may have heard, the Virginia State Police are expecting between 50,000-100,000 gun rights advocates to be in Richmond for a rally Monday. Unfortunately, there has been credible information that some radical and potentially dangerous groups intend to participate, and there have even been death threats made against some of our legislators. The Governor has declared a temporary State of Emergency, and we have heard that there will be a huge security presence at the Capitol Monday. There was real tension in the building this morning.

The VEA lobbyists will not be at the Capitol or in the city on Monday. Committees will be meeting, but legislative leaders have granted grace by allowing many bills to go by for the day or only hearing “non-controversial” ones. Yes, those actually exist. I know of no education lobbyist who will be going to the Capitol. Members of the General Assembly received a safety briefing this morning, and the Governor is expected to additional guidance later in the day. I pray for all the legislators and staff Monday and that we are over-preparing for what may happen.

I am also praying for two amazing groups of advocates who have their lobby day on Monday and refuse to back away from all this. Supporters of Gun Violence Prevention, including Every Town for Gun Safety and Moms Demand Action, will be at the Capitol Monday, along with our good friends, the New Virginia Majority. NVM fights for the rights of underrepresented and underserved Virginians in areas such as immigration reform, voting rights, social and racial justice, and equity in education.

Today, I was reminded that even when we disagree on policy, we can still be respectful and kind. Yesterday afternoon, Senator Mark Peake was on the wrong side of the vote on our three big due process bills, but he asked a question about the 2012/2013 legislation. I was there to answer but wasn’t called on by the Chair. That was perfectly fine as she knew that his question was, in fact, rhetorical: He asked if we were rolling back everything in the 2013 bill. We were not, and this morning I printed the 2013 legislation and highlighted all the areas that remain. I also printed the 2012 legislation, and was talking with his aide when he saw me and said hello. I told him I wanted to follow up on his question. He was very grateful, invited me into his office, and we had a really good conversation. He asked a lot of questions and was very appreciative that I took the time to get him the information he asked for. I told him I always will. He patroned a bill for us last session, so he knows me. He said, “I know you will always be honest with me and always follow up.” Don’t get me wrong, he will still vote against all three of our bills, but we had a civil conversation and we have a good relationship.

My second reminder came as I was walking down the stairs in the legislator’s office building. Delegate Kirk Cox, the former Speaker, was right behind me. I turned to say good morning and ask how he was doing, and we had a great conversation the whole way down the stairs. We didn’t talk policy or politics, we just checked in with each other. As he was turning to go to his caucus he looked back and said, “It was good to run into you. Take care of yourself. Come see me if you need anything.” Again, he will vote against much of the legislation we support this session, but we are all still human beings and can act with grace and kindness. Majorities will come and go, our influence will be better some years than others, but can always extend grace. We must if we ever hope to change the current political environment in our Commonwealth and country.

So, for today, I will leave you with the former Speaker’s words. It was good to run into you today. Take care of yourself. Come see me if you need anything.