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Del. Ken Plum: A Sense of Impending Changes in the Legislature

by Del. Ken Plum April 13, 2017 at 10:15 am 15 Comments

This is a commentary from Del. Ken Plum (D-Fairfax), who represents Reston in Virginia’s House of Delegates. It does not reflect the opinion of Reston Now.

Nearly two hours of the eight-and-a-half-hour reconvened session of the House of Delegates of the General Assembly were taken up last week by speeches from retiring members and acknowledgement speeches by others about their service and achievement.

The length of the tribute time was driven in large part by the fact that eight members, all of whom are Republicans, are retiring. Heading the list is the Speaker of the House, followed by a senior member who chairs the important Courts Committee. For some, like the Speaker, the longevity of service was a key factor. Others cited family and financial concerns. Another one or two may re-appear running for another office. Legislative service that is considered part-time with a low level of remuneration but takes full-time commitment always has some turnover, but the number this year is significant.

Another factor that may have influenced some decisions is the sense of changing political winds in the Commonwealth. Never in my years of service have I gotten as many phone calls, postcards and emails as I have this year. Traditional groups have gotten re-energized, and many new groups have formed. Activism is in the air.

For me, it has been reassuring. As a progressive, I feel less like I am speaking into the wind and more like there is a force of people behind me. For years I worked on the redistricting issue almost alone and now thousands of people are contacting their legislators asking that they support redistricting reform. The public has become keenly aware of the adverse impact that gerrymandering has had on the Legislature.

The signs of change were evident in the reconvened session last week. While the House of Delegates did not respond favorably to my plea that we approve an amendment by the Governor to expand Medicaid, there was discussion by majority party leaders in the House and Senate that a new group is going to be looking at how medical services can be expanded to the poorest in our state. I continue to be amazed at the argument that leaving $40 billion on the table in federal dollars could somehow be considered “fiscally responsible.”

The majority party may have felt somewhat humbled by the fact that the Legislature upheld 40 vetoes of bills by the Governor, extending the record of his administration to 111 with none being over-ridden. Of course, a two-thirds vote is required, but in the House only a couple of deflections by Democrats would have made an over-ride possible. The vetoes by Gov. Terry McAuliffe have kept Virginia out of the news with crazy legislation that has passed in other states.

Certainly there is also an eye to November, with 77 Democrats lining up to challenge 49 Republican incumbents. As that number is reduced by primaries and conventions, it leaves hotly contested races that could dramatically change who is in charge in the House, and/or the attitude of those left in charge. Democrats have challengers to incumbents in the 17 districts held by Republicans that were won by Hillary Clinton. For those who continue to ask what they can do, there is a clear sense emerging that much can be done this year to put Virginia on a more progressive track.

  • Mike M

    Ugh! Where to begin?

    How about here:
    “I continue to be amazed at the argument that leaving $40 billion on the table in federal dollars could somehow be considered “fiscally responsible.”

    Some people don’t get ethics, Ken. But when you see $40M of ill-gotten, borrowed from the grandkids money on the table, you actually shouldn’t take it. It’s quite simple. Either you get that, or you don’t. I am not surprised you don’t.

    • 30yearsinreston

      He and his pal Hudgins love spending other people’s money

      • The Constitutionalist

        Ken has never held a position where he wasn’t paid with tax dollars.

    • Jenny Gibbers
    • Bah

      “I continue to be amazed at the argument that leaving $40 billion on the
      table in federal dollars could somehow be considered “fiscally
      responsible.”

      I continue to be amazed at the immorality of this argument. There is no such thing as “free” money. Federal money is someone else’s money – and when it is borrowed, it means you are spending your grandchildren’s money.

      I continue to be amazed at the dishonesty of this argument. Expanding Medicaid programs increased costs to the states that did so, even before the Feds stopped picking up the tab.

      • Mike M

        Agreed, Bah. Yet free money is the core of the DNC proposition.

  • The Constitutionalist

    More like a sense of impending doom.

    So is that your excuse for never responding to any emails, Ken? You get a lot of them?

    The adverse impact of gerrymandering? You’re the case study for that.

    Was sort of hoping I would find you among the list of retiring delegates.

  • 30yearsinreston

    I’m looking forward to voting against Plum
    When can we expect comments against the gerrymandering that both parties support

  • Jenny Gibbers

    Ken,

    As always, respect for your opinion piece and your impassioned view how things went down during lasts week session.

    However, the mere fact that you are trying to revive and embellish Hillary Clinton as a driving force of the Democratic party leaves me wondering about your future and the vision you are trying to impart on us liberals, and whether it continues to make sense to hang onto the past and its past glory and dynastic record.

    Therefore the “progressive track” that you refer to appears to be closer to a train wreck and unfortunately also reflects poorly on the current state of (y)our party. Please make it your prerogative to abstain from past wrong doings and chart out a new and healthy path that ALL constituents can agree with.

    Its never too late.

    • Greg

      It’s (not its) never too late. But in this case it is. Ken Plum needs to take his train wreck and be gone. Enough with his ineffectiveness.

    • Heh

      “the mere fact that you are trying to revive and embellish Hillary
      Clinton as a driving force of the Democratic party leaves me wondering
      about your future and the vision you are trying to impart on us liberals”

      That vision: the orthopedic boot of a decrepit Boomer stamping feebly on a human face, forever.

  • drb

    Ken thinks that Republican legislators retiring and or moving on is a wind to the back of his kind, “Progressives”. Why because “traditional groups” are calling him and are active. So let’s take a look at what this means. He is saying in plain speak that the Leftist, Liberals, Socialists, Communists, Fascists are making a big push on the uninformed to sway them to vote for their choices. They are making big noise and he hasn’t seen that for a long time. In fact they have been making big noise for a long time but what is different this time is that they have been challenged right to their faces. This is what scares them that they do not have a free and unchallenged run any more. What we have seen more is their propensity for violence. This is thought to keep others off the stage. But, again this time they are being challenged even when they make physical attacks.

    It would be more accurate for Ken to say that the Republicans are failing in standing up for the people that elect them and have sold out on many issues. Because of the Republican leadership and establishment Republicans are in trouble and being challenged it would be a mistake to take it as affirmation for Anti-America, Hate-America First, Anti-Constitution, Racist, Bigot Groups of the Democratic Party.

  • Greg

    The best change for the legislature is for ineffective Ken Plum to leave.

    • 30yearsinreston

      He won’t go unless he’s pushed
      Vote for his opponent

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