Freshman Virginia state Sen. Bryce E. Reeves (R-Fredericksburg) just got his first bill through the chamber, but it didn’t feel much like a legislative victory. More like a low-grade hazing.
The legislation was not especially controversial. Intended to make sure war veterans get the help they need, it specifies that the Virginia Department of Veterans Services will have at least one claims agent for every 23,000 veterans in the state. It was listed on the Senate’s uncontested calendar, which usually means the proposal will be approved, without debate, with a bunch of other no-brainer bills.
But Senate Majority Leader Thomas K. Norment (R-James City) piped up Friday to ask that the bill be pulled off the uncontested calendar.
“Several members have expressed some grave concerns about Senate Bill 254,” Norment said.
Reeves rose to defend his proposal. Flustered, he fumbled first with his microphone, then with parliamentary procedure.
“Mr. President, I wish to address this body in reference to Senate Bill 254,” Reeves said.
Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling, who presides over the Senate, informed him, “You need to make a motion.”
“I make a motion to speak to the bill,” Reeves said.
Bolling: “You need to make a proper motion.”
“May I request a little help from my colleagues?” the freshman pleaded.
Reeves consulted the more experienced senators sitting behind him, and from their conflicting advice, managed to come up with a motion to pass the bill and speak to it. He went on from there to make a case for his legislation.
Then came the vote. The electronic board that displays yeas (green) and nays (red) flashed lots of reds, then greens, then more reds and, finally, all greens.
“We were just having a little fun,” Bolling said, explaining to visitors in the gallery that the Senate has a grand tradition of razzing freshmen. on the occasion of their first bill’s passage.
The House, which welcomes its newbies in similar fashion, already has subjected several of them to it this year. Reeves just happened to be the first freshman senator to pass a bill this General Assembly session, so he fell for it.
“We got him good,” said Jeffrey L. McWaters (R-Virginia Beach).
Among those who watched the joke unfold from the gallery were McWaters’s parents, who were visiting with a group from their assisted living facility.
Patricia McWaters, 83, wasn’t sure her son should have participated in such tomfoolery.
“I thought he was doing something he shouldn’t do,” she said.