Uphill Battle in Richmond for Reston’s Local Legislators

by Karen Goff February 24, 2015 at 9:00 am 13 Comments

Virginia State Capitol, RichmondA bill sponsored by Del. Ken Plum (D-Reston) that would make cannabis oil legal for patients suffering from illnesses that could be helped by it was left in committee in Virginia’s General Assembly session earlier this month.

However, a similar bill sponsored by Del. Dave Albo (R-Springfield) passed both the house and the senate and will become a law. Albo’s law allows epilepsy to be added to cancer and glaucoma as medical conditions that can be helped by the oil derived from marijuana.

Left in committee is a common outcome for Plum, who has been representing Reston for more than 30 years — the longest of any Virginia House member.

He says each year when he goes to Richmond, he knows is in for a fight as his liberal-leaning perspective is in the minority in the Virginia House, which is dominated by Republicans (67 Republicans, 32 Democrats, 1 Independent this session).

“I am not here for a batting average, I am here to do what’s right,” says Plum. “My role as a senior legislator in the minority party is to see to it that the majority party does not get to ignore the big issues — Medicaid expansion, nonpartisan redistricting, and gun safety as examples.”

Even if he proposes — and loses — big reform, it gets people thinking, says Plum.

“These are game-changers for Virginia,” he says. “It takes a while to get these ideas in place. Over time, we will prevail. Probably more than 90 percent of legislation has little impact. It corrects the Code, deals with courthouse or business affairs with little no no impact on the average person, or are local matters. There’s more than enough legislators to introduce these bills.”

Other topics of bills sponsored by Plum that subsequently died in committee this session:

One that passed: HB1829, which changes the timetable (to even-numbered years from odd-numbered years) the in which the Department of Environmental Quality is required to submit to the committees of oversight a report on the reduction of toxic substances in state waters.

On the Senate side, Reston’s Janet Howell, who has been busy with the state budget and the fight for Medicaid expansion, among other issues, is having a somewhat better outcome. That side of the General Assembly is 21 Republicans and 19 Democrats.

Howell’s SB816, which removes the requirement that a person applying for an absentee ballot because of an obligation occasioned by his religion does not have to give further information about the reason, passed both the House and Senate.

Also passing: a bill that requires the Director of the Department of Health Professions to disclose information from the Prescription Monitoring Program on a person who is in the criminal justice system; one lowering the felony threshold for a person selling contraband cigarettes; a bill that establishes committees with voluntary accreditation and supervisory practices for persons receiving services for sexual and domestic abuse; one that says a driver of a motorcycle cannot stand on the footpegs longer than necessary when dictated by safety concerns.

Some that died in committee: A bill allowing for a tax deduction on long term care insurance premiums; one allowing for a person other than a spouse to adopt a child if the child has only one parent.

Many others are still in committee. See the full list of Howell-sponsored legislation on the Commonwealth’s bill-tracking website.

Photo: Virginia Statehouse/file photo

  • Ming the Merciless

    If Ken seriously thinks those are the “big issues” it is no wonder he is such an ineffective legislator.

    As for Janet’s “accomplishments”, lowering the felony threshold for a person selling contraband cigarettes, what a great idea! We need more people killed for the “crime” of selling unlicensed cigarettes. Let’s call this one the “Janet Howell thinks Eric Garner had it coming” bill.

    • Greg

      It’s time to fire Ken Plum.

      • John Galt

        I love that Reston now comments section has become the purview and domain of the libertarian right-wing kook.

        • MJay

          I don’t think it is libertarian, right-wing, or kooky to demand a little compromise and leadership from our elected officials, nor is it right wing and kooky to criticize what appears to some to be the stagnant, uncompromising political career of a 30+-year incumbent.

        • Mike M

          I love how the only comeback from the left wing is name calling.


            And now, just for fun, may I add , “RUDY IS RIGHT”….Obama hates America.

  • Mike M

    Sending Ken Plum to Richmond is like sending a poodle to a pit bull party. The South Va-jinya good ole boys have been pushing him down and taking his (our) lunch money for a long time now.

  • guest


  • Dave

    Does this mean that Ken Plum hates epileptics? It appears from the article that the only real difference in the Albo and Plum bills are that Ken didn’t include them. Why shouldn’t we celebrate this victory for those with serious medical issues and not make it a pity party for Ken and his inability to lead? As I read this Ken has a 30 year history of being ineffective while Sen. Howell seems to be able to work across the aisle. Maybe it’s time to get someone that gets a hit once in a while.


      gets a hit or takes a hit?

  • MJay

    This is all about leadership and common sense. Del. Plum sponsors bills that have no chance at getting past the GOP-dominated legislature. So instead of working with the GOP to achieve some sort of compromise, Plum becomes the poster-boy for partisanship by sponsoring certain failures in order to be a martyr for his partisan cause. The irony is that this is exactly what Plum and others criticize the GOP members of Congress. Meanwhile, you have Del. Albo (who I never liked ever since the ill-fated reckless driving speed law a few years ago) who worked for a compromise amongst his more conservative brethren and got something done. It may not constitute full legalization, but at least Albo got the ball rolling and achieved something tangible. Yet Plum is content to be the Eleanor Holmes Norton of Reston (ignoring the fact that Plum actually has a vote).

    • Ming the Merciless

      This is all about leadership and common sense.

      And Ken has neither of them.


    I just get my pot the same way I always have. Go down to Lake Anne and get it from the loitering vagrants.


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