Despite the drama in the last few weeks about who will control the Virginia House of Delegates, the session kicked off Wednesday with a unanimous vote for speaker.
Delegate Kirk Cox now holds the gavel and the title of Speaker of the House. The former schoolteacher was first elected to represent Chesterfield and Colonial Heights back in 1989. He started off his first term as speaker by talking about the intense partisanship of the last few weeks as Democrats and Republicans have fought in dueling press conferences and lengthy court hearings.
“The five feet wide center aisle that symbolically separates the two parties of this chamber has sometimes felt five miles wide,” Cox said.
Cox was unanimously elected speaker and every Democrat in the chamber voted for their opposition to seize power. “We are not two parties," Cox told the Delegates. "We are one House, tasked with the responsibility of governing one commonwealth.”
Delegate Ken Plum of Reston says the House has a long tradition of unanimously electing speakers. “There have been people who deviate from time to time. But for the most part, it’s been a unanimous body saying here we are as delegates of the people of Virginia. We need to do the people’s business,” Plum noted.
Cox called on the House to balance the budget, improve schools and fight the opioid crisis.
Shortly after Cox's election, Delegates approved a new set of rules that guarantees proportional party representation on committees. It also requires recorded votes in committees and subcommittees, a measure reformers have long advocated for.