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Thursday, June 20, 2013
As political views get further left and right, many politicians are afraid to cross political lines.
As the veto session ended in the early hours of April 4, I concluded my fifth session as Roanoke city’s legislator in the Virginia House of Delegates.
Although a lot of bills passed through the House and the Senate, the passing of Virginia’s first significant transportation funding legislation in 27 years gained a lot of state and national attention.
Of course with every major bill that is passed, there are going to be critics. During the first vote on the transportation bill, I was one of four Democrats who voted for the bill to pass out of the House, so that it could be considered by a conference committee. The three colleagues who voted with me in favor of the bill were Dels. Rosalyn Dance, Luke Torian and Roslyn Tyler, and they deserve just as much credit for, in effect, returning passenger rail to Roanoke. Although the bill passed out of the House by majority vote, we received some criticism from our caucus and from some of our constituents back home. We voted for the legislation, though we knew it wasn’t perfect, because we saw the potential and knew it would help our districts after it was refined by the conference committee
Although I appreciate the editorial in Sunday’s Roanoke Times (“Good news pulls into the station”), I believe my colleagues deserve just as much, if not more, credit for helping to bring the train to Roanoke. My colleagues knew that voting for the transportation bill was a political risk.
This bill has created mixed results for many of my colleagues on the left and the right. Speaker Bill Howell, who carried the transportation bill, easily defeated his primary opponent, and Dance, who voted to get the bill to conference, narrowly defeated her primary opponent. Others, however, were not so fortunate. Dels. Joe May and Beverly Sherwood, two veteran Republican delegates, drew primary opponents for voting in favor of the transportation bill and were defeated by more right-leaning primary opponents.
As political groups call upon their representatives to vote only along their party lines, voting against the active minority oftentimes will result in a politician being pushed out the back exit.
This bill was all about compromise, because Democrats and Republicans had to vote against their political principles. Republicans voted to increase taxes, while Democrats voted to use general funds.
I ask that you thank Dance, Torian and Tyler for their help in bringing the train to the Star City, because as local groups call for extreme candidates, new politicians are less likely to cross their blue or red lines. If politicians do continue to cross these groups, a new political animal may be born, the Cheetah, one that is quick to arrive and even quicker to go.