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Virginia 2012 General Assembly convenes today … Bolling, Obenshain ready to lead

Virginia’s legislators have traveled from all corners of the state to gather in Richmond for the beginning of the 2012 General Assembly [1]. The bustle in the Commonwealth’s capital increases each year as lawmakers, lobbyists, tourists, and interested citizens check out the proceedings of government in action.

According to State Senator Mark Obenshain [2] (R-Harrisonburg), over 3,000 bills are on the docket for this session that is slated to run through mid-March. Legislators like Obenshain will stay in contact with constituents at home while spending most of the next two months in Richmond meeting with committees and participating in the day-to-day business of lawmaking.

All citizens are encouraged to visit during session, sitting in overhead balconies to watch the action on the floor below. It’s a fascinating process and often moves at breakneck speed but watching from above allows visitors to not only see their representatives but also get a peek into the debate as bills are advanced, defended, batted down, or sent back to committee.

As in the past, Lieutenant Governor Bill Bolling [3] (R) will preside over the State Senate that finds itself evenly divided this year between Republicans and Democrats with Bolling acting as the tie-breaker. Democrats, unhappy at this change of events after years of controlling the senate, filed a lawsuit in December contesting Bolling’s control.

Bolling agreed [4] that he had control over organization but perhaps not the budget and some have wondered if that’s what he really wanted all along since no tie votes for the budget seem to have played into previous sessions, according to the Washington Post [5]:

“Perhaps the lieutenant governor’s not giving too much away,” said [A.E. Dick Howard, a constitutional law expert at the University of Virginia], who reviewed 100 years of Senate history and found not a single instance in which there was a tie vote on a budget. “It may well be the ability to vote on organization was, frankly, more important to him.”

The Post noted that senate Democrats planned to fight tooth-and-nail for control by using parliamentary maneuvering and lawsuits. Keep an eye on Bolling, a veteran at the job as president of the senate [6]. The back-and-forth tussle for power is sure to provide some entertaining, teachable moments for viewers.

Meanwhile, local legislators like Obenshain are carrying bills that have been presented to them by constituents. For the Harrisonburg Republican who is running for Attorney General, this year’s wish list includes eminent domain and strengthening private property rights, keeping Virginia as a right-to-work state, voter registration by party, and school choice. More on these important issues can be found at his website [2].

Many legislators have opinion surveys on their websites asking for input from citizens who can also follow the daily proceedings at the Capitol by checking the Virginia General Assembly website [1] on a regular basis.

The 2012 session is off and running….

Cross-posted at LynnRMitchell.com [7]