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Ken Plum: Legislative resolutions

Legislation that is proposed for consideration by the General Assembly is called a bill. A bill that has passed the House of Delegates and the Senate and has been signed by the governor in identical form becomes a law on July 1 after the adjournment of the legislative session and is included in the Code of Virginia. To know what the laws of the Commonwealth are, go to the Code at http://leg1.state.va.us/000/src.htm. Bills that will be voted on at the legislative session beginning on Jan. 8 can be reviewed at the same website.

kenplum2In addition to passing laws, the General Assembly passes a lot of resolutions. When famous or noteworthy people die, the delegate or senator from that person’s community is likely to introduce a memorial resolution. These resolutions pass routinely without discussion or debate and are approved on a voice vote. After being printed in a formal format, these resolutions are given to family members in appreciation of and respect for the contributions the individuals made to their communities. Commending resolutions that recognize the accomplishments of individuals, organizations or businesses are handled in a similar way but could result in some debate if a person or action is viewed as being controversial.

This year I will be asking the General Assembly to commend Robert E. Simon on his 100th birthday and will be recognizing Reston on its 50th anniversary. Such resolutions are educational for members of the General Assembly as well as the public. Framed resolutions are often hung in prominent places by the recipients. Resolutions also are used by legislative bodies to direct their own operations and order of business and to establish studies of issues. Resolutions do not take up much time of the legislature, but they do provide an important way to recognize outstanding people and events in the Commonwealth and to have the legislature state a position on an issue for which a new law may not be appropriate or needed.

The legislature does not have a tradition of passing a resolution at the beginning of each year stating as individuals often attempt to do with their “new year resolutions” what will be done that year. Debate on such a resolution would take up the entirety of the session, and if ever agreed upon may likely be forgotten as realities of the year and the session set in. Such a lack of resolve on the part of legislative bodies at all levels mean that attention is focused on the next great crisis until it is forgotten and then attention is turned to the next. Few issues are truly resolved conclusively, and in fact, the matters with which legislative bodies deal do not lend themselves to one-time solutions. Most legislative actions are incremental as agreements can be reached and are built upon over time. Since conclusive solutions are not immediately evident for the most contentious of issues, the gradual approach to resolving an issue may make more sense. There is little evidence to suggest that legislatures would be any better at keeping annual resolutions than we are as individuals.

Happy New Year to all!

Ken Plum is a member of the Virginia House of Delegates.

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