LEFT IN THE dust of an otherwise fairly productive General Assembly session in Richmond this year was a significant portion of the state's population: black people, who got a symbolic back- of-the-legislative-hand from their lawmakers on more than one occasion. Along with all other Virginians who had hoped for better from their lawmakers on this score--including Gov. Charles S. Robb-- constituents were treated to two insensitive decisions: rejection of the effort to establish a state holiday honoring Martin Luther King Jr., and--here's insult to injury of the first order--the killing of a bill that would have denied tax-exempt status to schools that segregate.

If there is hope that these are merely the last vestiges of the bad old days, it is that Virginia's governor is outspoken in his disappointment about these decisions. Yesterday, Gov. Robb made a point of noting that the legislature had stumbled and indicated that he is by no means giving up efforts to turn things around in the future. Mr. Robb did invervene on the last day of the session to try to reverse the vote on the school-exemption measure in the House Finance Committee, but the bill never was revived. "I am clearly on the side of those who find totally unacceptable any state or federal incentives for discrimination on racial grounds."

Now, that should not be a controversial stand anywhere in this land, but until enough members of the General Assembly in Richmond put it in writing--on the books--every strong statement the governor can make on this subject is as welcome as it is important.