Legislators Visit Schools

November was Take Your Legislator to School Month and several members of Loudoun’s General Assembly delegation took the opportunity to visit with some of their younger constituents.


Del. David Reid (32nd District) visited Broad Run High School, Trailside Middle School, Mill Run and Dominion Trail elementary schools and toured the Academies of Loudoun with Principal Dr. Tinell Priddy.


Reid told students at Trailside that the area’s rapid growth meant his district contains far more people than the 80,000 allocated to it when the current General Assembly districts were drawn in 2011. He said the 95,000 people in the 32nd District make it the largest in the House of Delegates.


Reid said that one of the most valuable things to know as a delegate is simple math. “Fifty-one is greater than 49.” He said having a majority (51) in the House of Delegates means picking the speaker of the house and, through committee, deciding which bills reach the floor for a vote.


Knowing what’s going on in other parts of the state are a must, Reid said. “If I’m too focused on what’s happening here, I won’t be empathetic (to delegates facing other issues in their districts.)” He added it was very important to build relationships with his fellow legislators. “Very rarely are you able to do things all by yourself.”


Reid noted that members of Virginia’s General Assembly were citizen-legislators and that their sessions in Richmond last only 45 or 60 days. “You have a very finite time to get things done.”


One of the highlights of Reid’s tour of the Academies of Loudoun was interacting with students using 3D printers to create scale models of the tiny homes they are designing.


Del. John Bell (87th District) visited John Champe and Freedom high schools. He told students at Freedom that he didn’t seek a seat in the House of Delegates for the $18,000 annual salary. “You don’t do this for the money. You do it as a public service.”


Serving in the same legislative body that George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and George Mason once belonged to is something Bell said amazes him. “(The House of Delegates) is something that affects everybody’s life.”


He praised the deal that brought half of Amazon’s second headquarters to Northern Virginia. The thing that made Virginia’s deal better than most, Bell said, is that Amazon does not receive many of the incentives other jurisdictions promised until it makes agreed-upon transportation improvements. He also noted the reputation of public education in Northern Virginia was a key reason Amazon picked this area over more lucrative incentive packages. “One of the reasons we won is because we have great schools and you can’t make great schools overnight.”


Bell told students that Virginia’s adherence to the Dillon Rule, which requires the General Assembly to approve changes to the charters of local governments, can result in tedious work. “Sometimes (the change) is chopping down weeds around abandoned houses.”


Bell told the students no matter who they voted for, it was crucial to vote; especially as young voters. “You need to vote because you might not like what we do, and you have to live with it.”


State Sen. Dick Black (13th District) visited classes at Woodgrove and Loudoun County high schools. Black told students at Woodgrove about his service as a Marine in Vietnam, where he flew 269 combat helicopter missions; removing hundreds of dead and wounded military personnel from combat zones. He also participated in 70 patrols, mainly at night. “They always say ‘don’t volunteer.’ I’d volunteer for everything…


“I came back from Vietnam and I was very, very serious.”


Black said his first foray into political action came when he and two fellow veterans formed the Florida Veterans Association to fight a cigarette tax being imposed on patients in Veterans Administration hospitals. Black said he and his friends went to Tallahassee and got the bill tabled. “Politicians listen to people at a certain level.”


Black said he will listen to peoples’ views whether he agrees with them or not. “It may be something I really disagree with, but I want to hear why you believe it.”


Political discord isn’t always a bad thing, he added. “Sometimes it’s called gridlock. Sometimes a certain amount of gridlock isn’t bad.”


The smaller the government, the better, Black said. “The smaller the size of the government, the greater the power people have.”


Del. Kathleen Murphy (34th District) worked with students at Seneca Ridge Middle School who were crafting proposals to make their school better. In the General Assembly, passing legislation involves more than just having a good idea, she said.


“It’s all budget. Unless we have the funds to do these things, we can’t put them in place.”  


When funding priority needs, such as transportation improvements, Murphy said a balancing act is very difficult. “How do you divide the budget so everyone gets what they need without raising taxes.”