Home Virginia Politics How Did Virginia’s Freshmen Legislators Do This Session?

How Did Virginia’s Freshmen Legislators Do This Session?

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This year, the 140-member Virginia General Assembly had 20 “freshmen” legislators, both Democrats and Republicans. How did they do in their first session? Let’s look at some quantitative metrics, along with some qualitative observations. Note that the freshmen are listed in descending order of their 2020 “batting averages.”

Del. Alex Askew (D-HD85): Had an impressive 73% legislative “batting average” – one of the best in the House of Delegates – with 8 of the 11 bills he patroned passing. Askew’s successful bills included HB1726, which “creates the Hampton Roads Regional Transit Program”; and HB1638, which “repeals several Acts of Assembly from 1901 to 1960 that contain provisions that implemented and enforced racial segregation and discrimination in public facilities and common carriers, on public documents, and within the office of the State Registrar.” Also, Askew took 219 committee votes this session, which is not a lot (for comparison purposes, Del. Marcus Simon took 634 committee votes; Del. Alfonso Lopez took 488 committee votes; Del. Jennifer Carroll Foy took 388 committee votes; Del. Suhas Subramanyam took 283 committee votes). Askew served on the Communications, Technology and Innovation; Counties Cities and Towns; and Privileges and Elections committees. All in all, a highly successful session for Del. Alex Askew, who won his election in November 2019 – in a district narrowly (48%-46%) won by Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump in 2017 – by a 51.6%-48.2% margin!

Sen. Ghazala Hashmi (D-SD10): 13 of her 21 patroned bills passed, for a 62% legislative “batting average,” ranking her seventh in the State Senate on that metric. Hashmi’s successful bills included SB404, which “[p]rohibits carriers from issuing in the Commonwealth, on or after July 1, 2021, any short-term limited-duration medical plan”; SB406, the Virginia Environmental Justice Act; SB991, which “establishes the Office of New Americans (the Office) within the Department of Social Services to implement a statewide strategy to promote and assist immigrant integration within the Commonwealth on an economic, social, and cultural level”; etc. Hashmi was impressive in other ways, too, including of course her excellent, late-night poetry. Also of interest, Hashmi took 802 committee votes (serving on the Agriculture, Conservation and Natural Resources; Education and Health; General Laws and Technology; and Local Government committees), ranking her in the middle of the pack in the State Senate (for comparison purposes, Sen. Louise Lucas had 1,424 committee votes; Sen. Jeremy McPike had 591 committee votes; Sen. Barbara Favola had 524 committee votes; Sen. Amanda Chase had 114 committee votes). All in all, a highly successful session for one of my personal favorites, Ghazala Hashmi!

Del. Nancy Guy (D-HD83):  Only introduced 7 bills, but 4 of them passed – including HB1490, “[repealing] the statutory prohibitions on same-sex marriages and civil unions or other arrangements between persons of the same sex purporting to bestow the privileges and obligations of marriage”; giving her a 57% legislative “batting average.” Several of Guy’s bills – such as HB1016, prohibiting offshore oil and gas development; and HB448, on Atlantic menhaden fisheries management – were incorporated into other bills that ended up passing, so actually, Guy’s “batting average” is deceptively low. Guy also cast 394 committee votes, which is a solid number. Guy served on the Counties Cities and Towns; Education; and  Agriculture Chesapeake and Natural Resources committees. Not a bad start for this freshman delegate!

Del. Martha Mugler (D-HD91): 6 of her 11 patroned bills passed, for a 55% legislative “batting average.” Bills by Mugler that passed included HB234 (establishes a Division of Offshore Wind); and several bills of local interest. Mugler cast 363 committee votes, also a solid number, serving on the Counties Cities and Towns; Finance; and Education committees. Solid start for Del. Mugler.

Sen. John Bell (D-SD13): 16 out of his 30 patroned bills passed, for a 53% legislative “batting average.” Bills by Bell that passed included SB272 (“Provides that the outdoor tethering of an animal does not meet the requirement of adequate shelter during a hurricane warning or tropical storm warning or if the animal is not safe from predators or well suited or equipped to tolerate its environment”). Bell had several other strong bills (e.g., SB912 – “Allows individual retail customers of an electric utility to purchase electric energy provided 100 percent from renewable energy from any licensed supplier.”) which didn’t pass, unfortunately. Bell, who moved up from the Virginia House of Delegates, cast 721 committee votes, serving on the Commerce and Labor; General Laws and Technology; Local Government; and Privileges and Elections committees. Solid start in the Senate for Bell.

Del. Rodney Willett (D-HD73): 7 of his 14 patroned bills passed, for a 50% legislative “batting average.” Bills by Willett which passed included HB375 on post-secondary schools enrollment agreements and arbitration; and HB376 on teacher/support staff shortages data, reporting. Willett cast 320 committee votes, serving on the Agriculture Chesapeake and Natural Resources and Health, Welfare and Institutions committees. Solid start for Del. Willett.

Del. Carrie Coyner (R-HD62): Introdued 9 bills, with 4 passing, for a 44% legislative “batting average.” A bill by Coyner that passed was HB1616, regarding the Hopewell City charter and issuance of bonds. Coyner cast only 159 committee votes (serving on the Public Safety and Counties Cities and Towns committees)…and apparently had a lot of free time on her hands, lol.

Del. Chris Runion (R-HD25): Only introduced 5 bills, with just 2 passing, for a 40% legislative “batting average.” One of the two bills Runion passed was HB134, which “[r]equires the Department of Education to establish guidelines for individualized education program (IEP) teams to utilize when developing IEPs for children with disabilities to ensure that IEP teams consider the need for age-appropriate and developmentally appropriate instruction related to sexual health, self-restraint, self-protection, respect for personal privacy, and personal boundaries of others.” Runion only cast 114 committee votes (serving on the Communications, Technology and Innovation and Privileges and Elections committees)…and apparently had even more free time on his hands than Coyner did! Haha.

Del. Clint Jenkins (D-HD76): 3 of his 8 patroned bills passed, for a 38% legislative “batting average.” One of the bills Jenkins passed was HB821, which “[c]larifies that the Department of Forensic Science may retain a DNA sample from a person who was arrested for a violent felony if such person was convicted of a misdemeanor offense that would otherwise require the sample to remain in the DNA data bank.” Jenkins cast just 184 committee votes, serving on the Counties Cities and Towns, Public Safety and Communications, Technology and Innovation committees. Pretty quiet start for Del. Jenkins.

Del. Amanda Batten (R-HD96): Introduced just 6 bills, and of that small number only 2 passed, for a 33% legislative “batting average.” Nothing particularly noteworthy in terms of legislative impact. Batten cast just 207 committee votes, serving on the Education and Public Safety committees. Overall…meh at best.

Del. Shelly Simonds (D-HD94): 3 of her 9 patroned bills passed, for a 33% legislative “batting average.” One of Simonds’ bills that passed was HB880, “Provides that, upon motion by a petitioner to dissolve a protective order, a dissolution order may be issued on an ex parte basis with or without a hearing and that a hearing on such a motion shall be heard by the court as soon as practicable.” Simonds cast 279 committee votes, serving on the Agriculture, Chesapeake and Natural Resources, Public Safety and Privileges & Elections committees. Overall, a pretty quiet start for Simonds, after her tied election – with the winner (not her, unfortunately) drawn out of a ceramic bowl –  in 2017 made a *lot* of noise.

Del. Will Wampler (R-HD4): Went 5 for 15 (33% legislative “batting average”) on his patroned bills. Most of Wampler’s bills that passed were of local focus, such as HB 1145 (“Pound River; designating as a Va. scenic river”). Wampler cast a solid 350 committee votes, serving on the General Laws and Education committees.

Del. Scott Wyatt (R-HD97): Patroned just 6 bills, and only 2 passed…for a 33% legislative “batting average.” One of Wyatt’s bills was surprisingly decent, given how right-wing this guy is – HB454, “Directs the Department of General Services to make state agencies aware of the availability of recycled materials and products certified as climate positive.” Wyatt cast just 186 committee votes, serving on the Transportation and Counties, Cities and Towns committees.

Del. Dan Helmer (D-HD40): 4 of his 16 patroned bills passed, for a 25% legislative “batting average.” Several of Helmer’s firearms-related bills were left in the Public Safety Committee, while his HB1295 (“Imposes a tax on investor-owned electric utilities and electric cooperatives based on the amount that the utility invests in a year on fossil fuel infrastructure”) was left in Finance Committee. Helmer’s HB1268 (” Provides for a referendum at the November 3, 2020, election to approve or reject a personal property tax exemption for a motor vehicle that is owned and used primarily by or for a veteran of the armed forces of the United States or the Virginia National Guard who has a one hundred percent service-connected, permanent, and total disability”) passed overwhelmingly. Helmer cast 296 committee votes, serving on the Agriculture Chesapeake and Natural Resources; Communications, Technology and Innovation; Public Safety; and Transportation committees.

Sen. Jennifer Kiggans (R-SD7): Introduced 11 bills, with just 3 passing, for a 27% legislative “batting average.” One good bill by Kiggans, who appears to lean pretty far to the right rhetorically (although not particularly in her legislation), that passed was SB318 (“Reduces the number of balloons per hour that a person may release without penalty from 49 to one”). Also, Kiggans’ SB316 (“Changes the date of the primary election held in June from the second Tuesday in June to the third Tuesday in June”) is now awaiting action by Gov. Northam. Kiggans cast 457 committee votes (serving on the General Laws and Technology; Local Government; and Rehabilitation and Social Services committees), ranking her third from the bottom in the State Senate. It’s hard to get a read on this freshman so far…other than we’d be much better off if Democrat Cheryl Turpin had won the election last November. 

Del. Suhas Subramanyam (D-HD87): 3 of his 11 patroned bills passed, for a 27% legislative “batting average.” One important bill by Subramanyam that passed was HB528 (“Requires the State Corporation Commission to determine the amortization period for recovery of any appropriate costs due to the early retirement of any coal-fired or natural gas-fired electric generation facilities owned or operated by any Phase I or Phase II Utility”). Subramanyam co-chaired the new, “bipartisan” “Commonwealth Caucus,” of which I’m not a fan at all. Subramanyam also was one of only 9 House Dems out of 55 who voted for the fatally flawed constitutional redistricting amendment…again, I’m not a fan at all. Subramanyam cast 283 committee votes, serving on the Counties Cities and Towns; Communications, Technology and Innovation; and Education committees. Overall, I’m kinda puzzled by Subramanyam’s first session. We’ll see how next year goes, I guess.

Del. Sally Hudson (D-HD57): 4 of her 20 patroned bills passed, for a 20% legislative “batting average.” One excellent bill by Hudson which passed was HB1103 (“Provides that elections for local governing bodies may be conducted by ranked choice voting”). Another excellent bill by Hudson was HB1625 (“authorizes a locality to remove, relocate, or alter any such monument or memorial on the locality’s public property upon the affirmative vote of its governing body”), which was incorporated into Del. Delores McQuinn’s HB1537, which passed. One of Hudson’s bills (HB1116 – “Directs the state political party chairmen, or their designees, to notify the Department of Elections of the party’s adoption of a primary election for any office”) passed the House fairly easily, then was defeated on a 26-14 vote in the State Senate. Hudson cast 266 committee votes, serving on the Agriculture Chesapeake and Natural Resources; Communications, Technology and Innovation; and Finance committees.

Del. Don Scott (D-HD80): 3 of his 15 patroned bills passed, for a 20% legislative “batting average.” One of Scott’s bills that passed was HB1462 (“ Eliminates the provision prohibiting a judicial officer who is a magistrate, clerk, or deputy clerk of a district court or circuit court from admitting to bail, that is not set by a judge, any person who is charged with an offense giving rise to a rebuttable presumption against bail without the concurrence of an attorney for the Commonwealth”). Several other progressive criminal justice reform bills did not pass. Scott cast a solid 359 committee votes, serving on the Communications, Technology and Innovation; Courts of Justice; and Finance committees. BTW, Scott was very impressive on the floor – an excellent speaker with a sharp wit and great sense of humor.

Del. Joshua Cole (D-HD28): 3 of his 21 patroned bills passed, for a 14% legislative “batting average.” One excellent bill by Cole that didn’t pass, but should have, was HB111 (“Prohibits any candidate from soliciting or accepting a contribution from any public service corporation, as defined in § 56-1, or any political action committee established and administered by such a corporation”). Overall, it seems like a lot of Cole’s bills that didn’t pass were progressive criminal justice reform, labor (e.g., earned sick leave), etc., and it’s a bummer they didn’t pass.  Cole cast a solid 343 committee votes, serving on the Agriculture Chesapeake and Natural Resources; Education; and Public Safety committees. Cole is also an excellent speaker. We’ll see how Cole does in 2021, when he’ll also be up for reelection in a competitive, “purple” district.

Del. John Avoli (R-HD20): Patroned just two bills – HB 1590 Air cannons; local regulation; HB 1591 Virginia long rifle; designating as the official firearm of the Commonwealthand they didn’t pass. Avoli did cast a solid 337 committee votes, serving on the Education and Health, Welfare and Institutions committees. Overall, though, Avoli didn’t exactly emerge as a powerhouse legislator in his first year in the House of Delegates…

Del. Wendell Walker (R-HD23): Went zero-for-six (0% legislative “batting average”) on his patroned bills – including one related to “carrying dangerous weapon to place of religious worship,” another related to “Informed consent; medication-based abortion” and another to remove the statue of Harry F. Byrd  Walker cast 265 committee votes, serving on the Transportation and Health, Welfare and Institutions committees.  All in all, not a successful – or impressive – session for Walker.