South for the Winter

The migratory routes of the snowbirds from the Northeast to the condominiums of south Florida each winter season are well established. Less well known are the routines of Northern Virginia members of the General Assembly making the annual trek south to the capital city of Richmond for the annual session of the state legislature. It is hardly a vacation; we do not travel farther enough south to miss the snow or cold temperatures.

This year I will be making my 39th such move. It is a move by choice I recognized when I first ran for a seat in the House of Delegates. I am not complaining but rather thought that the lifestyle of state legislators might be of interest to readers. During the regular legislative session, 60 calendar days in the even-numbered years and 45 days in the odd-numbered years, I lease a short-term living space. This session I will be living in a hotel next door to my office and across the street from the Capitol. In previous sessions I have often rented small furnished apartments. I get home most weekends, but trips homes during the week are almost impossible with the long work days. Some meetings start as early as 7 am, and others run past dinner time in the evenings.

If the calendar seems crammed, it is. It is one of the inconveniences that come with having part-time citizen legislators who presumably can better represent their constituents because they live among them for most of the year. At the same time, some issues do not get the consideration they deserve because time simply runs out. During the rest of the year I make day trips to Richmond for study committee and commission meetings.

I never celebrate my time away from Reston; summer vacations for a couple of weeks make me appreciate home even more. After all, Money magazine named Reston the 29th best place to live in the United States in 2017. Using different criteria, US News and World Report ranked Richmond the 24th best place to live and the 32nd best place to retire in the country. Among its inviting features, Richmond is the only region in America with whitewater rapids running through its downtown district. The Capital Trail from Richmond to Williamsburg is great for bikers and walkers. Downtown tobacco warehouses of the past have been converted to very attractive loft apartments. Richmond has wonderful restaurants that many think are even better than those in Northern Virginia.

I have little time to enjoy the amenities of the Capital City as I am generally warming myself by the fires of committee meeting discussions. If you have an opportunity to visit during the legislative session, please plan to come to see the legislature in session even though some have likened it to making sausage. Just send me an e-mail and I will help you plan your trip south!

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