Ken Plum: Back from Richmond

Anyone who has ever been several time zones away for a period of time knows the feeling of exhaustion that can come with returning home. The tired feeling that can last for a couple of days is known as “jet lag.” Even though I had only been in Richmond since early January, I have the same kind of feeling. The drive to Richmond on late Sunday nights and the return home on Friday evenings takes only two hours each way. The 10 to 12 hour workdays of intense debate of issues that sometimesseem to be from worlds away can be rather trying.

This session saw a slew of bills taking on federal issues from immigration to air and water quality. Not unlike the nullification debates of the past, these debates attempt to assert state authority over that of the federal government. At the end of the session there is relief that the debates in the House to point out the ridiculousness of the arguments helped the Senate to defeat most of them.

The debate really does matter even when you are in a minority without the votes to get anything passed on your own. I led a series of debates on the House floor pointing out the serious loss of funding to public education in the House version of the budget. Localities would have lost an additional nearly $100 million for their schools by the House budget on top of the nearly one billion that had been cut over the past several years. State funding of schools that is supposed to average 55 percent of cost has slipped to less than 44 percent. Ultimately the arguments I made that were supported by the Senate prevailed, and the funding for schools was increased beyond the level of the Governor’s budget. For Fairfax County alone, that meant going from losing five million dollars in the House budget to gaining four million dollars over the Governor’s budget in the final conference committee report. In fact, theconference committee was able to make such strong improvements in the budget that their report was adopted unanimously by both houses of the legislature. To see parts of the debate, go to YouTube and search “Delegate Ken Plum on 1/24.”

Over the next couple of weeks I will discuss other issues and how they were dealt with this legislative session. It is great to be back home amidst the people of the 36th district for whom I have the greatest admiration. By the time you read this column I will have already bounced back to take on the issues of the redistricting session. Thank you for permitting me to represent you. I am honored to do so.

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

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