Del. Ken Plum: In-Service Training

by Del. Ken Plum August 2, 2018 at 10:15 am 7 Comments

This is an opinion column by Del. Ken Plum (D), who represents Reston in Virginia’s House of Delegates. It does not reflect the opinion of Reston Now.

The only common requirement for holding elective office is that one be a registered voter in the state meaning then of course that you must be at least 18 years of age.

You do not need to be a resident of the district you hope to represent although you will have to move into the district if you win. The concept of a citizen legislature is that it is made up of people from all walks of life in the community who can collectively speak for the community at large.
Supposedly there would be no professional politicians–just regular every-day folks. Such an approach should work out well to have the community broadly represented.

In the past, because of laws and practices, most legislatures have been filled mostly with old white men. Recent years have seen a shift including in Virginia as more women are running for office and getting elected. This year has more women, young people, and people of color running than ever before.

With the diversification of who sits in the legislature the challenge becomes taking people of many different backgrounds, perspectives and constituencies and bringing them together to work for consensus on legislation to get a majority vote. While skills acquired in business and civic activities teach many of the soft skills of interpersonal relationships and team building that are transferable to a legislative body, there are unique differences that are important to recognize.

Most legislatures with whom I am familiar have orientation programs to acquaint new members with where the bathrooms are, rules of order in committee meetings and on the floor, and operating procedures around the capitol. Putting legislation together, developing a strategy for its passage, and keeping constituents back home happy are most often handled by the political party caucuses or helpful mentors.

Another source of in-service training I have found invaluable are conferences put together by professional associations, specifically the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL). I am at their national conference this week. NCSL keeps up with what is happening in state capitols around the country and through publications, conferences and consultancy keeps legislators informed. The association is truly non-partisan, although its leadership–chosen from among state legislators across the country–maintain their party allegiance while the staff is able to stay out of the partisanship.

Virginia of course had the first representative legislature in the western world beginning in 1619. Not everyone followed the Virginia model however in writing their constitution of organizing their legislatures. I continue to be amazed as I work with colleagues from around the country as to the number of different ways that legislative bodies can organize themselves and do their business. No one has a corner on the best way to do the people’s business, but we can learn from taking a look at how other states conduct their business.

NCSL refers to the states as the laboratories of democracy. The description is appropriate as we all face mostly the same challenges. Our responses are different, however. By getting together for what some would call a conference, but what I think is more appropriately called in-service training, we can do a better job for the people we represent.

File photo

  • Mike M

    Ken, if you think candidate’s gender or “color” matters, then you are a the generrist and the racist. Shouldn’t we just want the best candidates. I wonder if we get that if the best candidates can’t afford to be a rep.

    • 30yearsinreston

      He’s bucking for a promotion from Mr speaker to Mr Speaker

  • 30yearsinreston

    Another useless history lesson from Ken
    What is he doing about the out of control development that his pals are facilitating ?
    Why doesnt he advocate for Reston instead of going to kumbaya training

  • Divine Intervention


    After the initial count
    on election night in House District 94, which includes Newport News,
    Republican incumbent David Yancey held a 10-vote lead over his
    Democratic challenger Shelly Simonds, out of over 23,000 votes cast.
    During the recount, Simonds gained 11 votes, putting her exactly one
    vote on top. Yet the next day a three-judge panel determined that the
    recount should have included one additional ballot that indicated a vote
    for Yancey. An image of the ballot
    in question shows bubbles filled in for both candidates, with a line
    through the bubble for Simonds. Reasonable minds may disagree as to
    whether the intent of this voter to select Yancey was clear. But this
    much is certainly clear: the single vote has made all the difference.

    Including this ballot tied the election results. On Election Day, 675 voters
    had selected the Libertarian nominee, while 22 voters cast a write-in
    ballot. It should go without saying that any one of these votes instead
    going to the Democratic or Republican candidate would have changed the
    Under state law, the tied election was determined “by lot,” such as by a coin flip or drawing straws – Yancey won.

  • KennyP

    Is Ken now complaining about old white men being in politics? Man, the Trump Derangement Syndrome (TDS) is really kicking in.

  • drb

    If Ken thinks old white men are the problem then he should look in the mirror and leave.

    The rest of us will vote for who we think is the best for our standards, whether white, black, male or female or any thing in between. So long as it isn’t a leftest that we saw in Charlottesville earlier this year that is violent and anti-Virginia and anti-America. They can keep killing themselves if they want. They are causing so much division in the country these days. Ken and his political friends are pushing their hate filled agendas harder and harder because they have been rejected.


    Ken Plum’s Democrat Party was the old white men party in Virginia that crushed the rights of others. He should begin by apologizing for his party–which he has led–and then move to end today’s racial preferences.


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