Facts from the Floor: Week One

January 13, 2020

Week one of my first General Assembly session has come and gone in the blink of an eye. It was an amazing three days that started off with my entire family, parents, and many local friends joining us for a day that included the Commonwealth Prayer Breakfast, my swearing in to the Virginia Senate, a delicious cake reception, and a long day in the chamber waiting on the House to organize and rules to be presented. The day concluded with the Governor’s State of the Commonwealth address and a reception at the Governor’s mansion. My goal was to watch and learn this first week and get a feel for how this session would go.

I got off my couch last March and worked my tail off to earn a seat in the Virginia Senate because I felt like Virginians like myself were under represented in state government. I come from a district that is fairly evenly split in numbers of Democrats and Republicans. As you know, I won the election on November 5th with just over 50% of the vote (50.87% to be exact!) That means HALF of the people who live in the 7th district lean toward electing a conservative legislator to represent them. In a district with a Democratic governor, two Democratic Senators, a Democratic congresswoman, and 3 out of 4 Democratic state delegates, I am the only voice many of my constituents have in Richmond. I take that responsibility seriously.

I went to Richmond with the mindset that there would be a spirit of congeniality and bipartisanship on many issues. I saw glimmers of this but also quickly realized that there is a fractured atmosphere in the General Assembly with new victors who are exuberant that their “progressive” agenda can now be realized without much recourse. There were many times I felt like the Democrats wanted to pour salt on the wounds of the new minority Republicans without much hesitation. With the delay in established rules, a last minute and very unorganized committee meeting to ban guns in the Capitol, and an unprecedented holdup over timelines for bills and budget amendments, my optimistic outlook become tinged with skepticism. Maybe it was just an off-week. Maybe not…..

My first committee meeting was eye-opening and the first time I had to make tough votes on controversial issues, namely parole and food stamps. For the record, I would have been happy to vote for allowing geriatric and terminal illness patients to be eligible for parole after felony convictions, but the addition of the group “permanently physical disabled” with no concrete definition as to what degree of disability would be considered, forced me to vote “no” to the bill as a whole. Hearing loss in one ear? Loss of one toe? The Democrats did not allow for an amendment to remove the term “permanently physically disabled” and I voted “no” to the parole with felony conviction bill keeping the rights of victims and families of violent crimes in mind.

The second tough vote was to allow food stamps to continue for persons convicted of drug-related felonies. A reformed, nice young man stood before us telling us of his difficult past of growing up with an addicted mother, no electricity or food, and wrongly getting involved in a life of drugs and how food stamps would have made things easier for him if he was eligible. His story specifically told of being hungry and forced to get a job at a restaurant to be able to afford to buy food. From there he went to barber school and subsequently turned his life around. Although I recognize that some people are faced with unfair challenges throughout life, I want them all to realize that same motivation this man realized and the path to success that employment brings and I, therefore, voted “no” to this bill.

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Week one of session ended early afternoon on Friday. I was happy to drive home to Virginia Beach to have the weekend to spend time with my husband and children and to sleep in my own bed for a few days. Next week starts bright and early Monday with a Local Government committee meeting. I am looking forward to a new week and to representing my constituents who sent me to Richmond to speak for them. In closing, I leave you with my Top 5 Most Shocking things I saw in the Virginia Senate this past week….

SENATOR KIGGANS’ TOP FIVE MOST SURPRISING THINGS SEEN IN THE VIRGINIA SENATE THIS PAST WEEK:

1- One of the first orders of business was the House rulebook which changed pronouns to add the word “she” every time word “he” was mentioned.

2- Being in a roomful of people during Governor’s State of Commonwealth surrounded by people hooting and hollering while giving standing ovation to the mere mention of allowing women to have abortions. No abortion should ever be applauded.

3- House leaders falsely blaming Capitol police for suggesting banning guns in General Assembly buildings.

4- Being assigned seating on the far left side of my first committee meeting while ALL other Republicans sat on far right side thus isolating me from my party.

5- Arriving to first day at work greeted by several topless women holding ERA signs! In my opinion, not the best tactic to secure equal rights….!