Ken Plum: New Year’s Resolutions
Resolutions for the new year are easy to make; I have made dozens in my lifetime. The challenge is to keep resolutions and to bring about the changes they imply. Resolutions in a political context are even more difficult as agreement on the part of many is necessary to cause action to take place. A couple of examples will make my point.
Governor McAuliffe presented a budget last month. It is the strongest statement that can be made about the future course of government under his administration. For the first two years of the term, a governor of Virginia works under a budget that had been presented by his predecessor. The budget just presented mid-term sets priorities for the final two years of his term. The final budget a governor presents is implemented by the successor. That is all true because of an arcane provision in the Virginia constitution that limits the governor to one term. I have voted many times for allowing a governor to serve two terms, but it has been rejected by one of the two houses of the legislature keeping it from being voted on by the people. The voters, not an out-of-date constitutional provision, should decide if the governor can serve a second term. We should resolve to pass an amendment this year, but I am not sure it will happen for too many legislators seem content with the current inefficient system of starting government anew every four years.
The point has been made on many occasions that legislators in Virginia pick their voters through the current totally partisan system of legislative redistricting. I first resolved to change this arrangement in 1982 when I introduced legislation to establish an independent nonpartisan redistricting commission. I have introduced bills to bring about a fairer system of redistricting many times, but they have been defeated by the partisan majority at the time who are advantaged by the system as it is. Maybe with the strong voter interest that has been shown recently through OneVirginia2021 to change the system of redistricting the legislature may act this year.
I resolve to take action to prevent gun violence in our state by introducing legislation to close the gun show loophole. Such bills have been rejected year after year by a single subcommittee of five legislators, four of whom consistently vote against any bills that would reduce gun violence. Maybe the strong public concern that has been shown about the escalation of gun violence in recent years will convince legislators to at least allow a debate on commonsense gun safety measures rather than having them defeated by a handful of legislators. How many more horrid examples of gun violence will we see before legislators get the political courage to take on the gun manufacturing interests?
Whatever your resolutions for the year, you know they can be hard to keep. The resolutions I discussed above seem almost impossible, but be sure of my efforts to continue trying.
Ken Plum is a member of the Virginia House of Delegates.