Va. Dems to select historic House speaker; GOP cancels crime commission meeting on guns

Del. Eileen Filler-Corn, D-Fairfax, addresses the members of the House during the session at the Capitol in Richmond, Va., Thursday, Jan. 28, 2016. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

The next steps toward a milestone in Virginia government could be taken on Saturday, with state Democrats poised to nominate Eileen Filler-Corn as the House of Delegates’ first female speaker in state history.

In the meantime, with Democrats due to take control of both the Virginia House and Senate in January, Republicans have canceled a State Crime Commission meeting next week that was due to discuss gun bills proposed during this summer’s special session on gun violence.

Speaker’s race

Democrats are likely to make history with their nominee for speaker when their choice is finalized by Saturday afternoon.

Current Minority Leader Eileen Filler-Corn would be the first woman to serve as the state’s speaker, apparently the state’s first Jewish speaker, and the first-ever speaker in the House’s 400-year history representing Fairfax County.

Del. Lashrecse Aird, of the Petesburg area, would be Virginia’s first female speaker and first black speaker of the House.

Del. Luke Torian, of Prince William County, would also be the first black speaker.

Del. Ken Plum, of the Reston area, is the longest-serving House Democrat, and like Filler-Corn, would be the first speaker from Fairfax County.

Torian, Filler-Corn or Plum would also be the first speaker from what we now consider the close-in D.C. suburbs in more than a century.

Republican Bill Howell, of the Fredericksburg area, was speaker from 2003 to 2017, and there were speakers from the Winchester area in stretches from 1950 to 1962 (Edgar Moore) and around 1910 (Richard Byrd), but it takes going back to 1901 to find a speaker from Loudoun County.

John Ryan, of Loudoun County, was speaker from 1893-1898 and again in 1901.

Going back farther, the last speaker representing an area closer to D.C. was Charles Stuart, who represented Alexandria and what is now Arlington, while he was speaker in 1883.

Gun bills to come back in January

The Virginia State Crime Commission had been scheduled to meet Tuesday to consider recommendations on bills meant to address gun violence in the commonwealth, but Chairman Mark Obenshain said Friday that the meeting would be cancelled.

“For reasons both practical and pragmatic, the Crime Commission will not meet on Tuesday,” Obenshain said in a statement.

Republicans had essentially all bills proposed in the special session called after the Virginia Beach mass shooting referred to the commission when they adjourned the session soon after it began this summer.

The commission’s staff report will still be released, Obenshain said in the statement distributed by Senate Republican staff.

With the decision and the Democratic takeover of both the House and Senate starting in January, the Nov. 18 return of lawmakers to continue the special session is unlikely to include any action on gun bills.

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam and other Democrats in the General Assembly expect to reintroduce their proposals to reduce gun violence when the new House and Senate are sworn in this January.

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