With one day left before they all go home, the 100 members of the House of Delegates today turned slightly silly.
The speaker of the House was given a gargantuan gavel from an anonymous donor, a Northern Virginia delegate recited some daffy definitions to "allow even the rankest newcomer to understand what is going on in the House," and a Roanoke lawmaker punctuated an argument on a health bill by saying "apples are salubrious."
That same lawmaker who referred to apples, Del. Ray L. Garland (R-Roanoke), also said that late in the session he and his colleagues become "tired, befuddled, befogged and bewildered."
To bring a little confusion to the bewilderment, Del. Warren E. Barry (R-Fairfax), who in past sessions has suggested half-seriously that Northern Virginia secede from the Old Dominion, introduced what he called "Barry's Unabridged and Unamended Guide to Legislative Obfuscation."
Barry prefaced his definitions with the proviso that they do not apply to the 40-member state Senate, "since no man nor woman alive really knows what goes on in the strange and twisted deliberations of that particular body."
Barry did not mention that he is known to be considering a Senate bid himself.
The definitions presented by the delegate from Fairfax included:
Little Old Bill -- Any bill which, if passed, would shake the very foundations of the commonwealth.
Housekeeping Measure -- The state's $9 billion budget.
Distinguished Colleague -- Any fellow member who has agreed to support your legislation.
Amendment -- Closely associated with embalm. When a committee informs you it is going to amend your bill to put it in proper posture, this means it is about to be embalmed and the proper posture is prone.
Successful Investigative Reporter -- Gossip columinist.
Not wanting to ruffle too many House feathers, Barry saved his sharpest jibes for the Senate, an institution he called "The geriatric ward of the House."
The House, on the other hand, was twice referred to by its own members today as "the world's finest legislative body."
When there is disagreement on a bill between the Senate and the House, the traditional practice of the General Assembly is to send a representative of one body to inform the other of the impasse. Barry today described what happens when the House gets a message from the Senate:
"This event happens far too often and is generally received with disdain by the House. In most instances, a senator, accompanied by a paramedic, journeys from the west end of the Capitol, enters the House chamber... and delivers such pertinent messages as.. 'Lincoln is dead.'"
Soon after Barry spoke about the ancient characteristics of Senate members, Sen. Charles J. Colgan (DPrince William), who was born in Frostbite, Md., in 1926, arrived on the House floor to announce Senate agreement to conference committee action on a utility bill.
The House roared with laughter; Colgan, appearing confused, smiled.
Today's session began when Speaker John Warren Cooke (D-Mathews) took possession of the massive, engraved gavel. The gavel -- and the speaker, who has said he may retire this year after 28 years in House -- got a standing ovation.