Republican Sen. DeSteph worries General Assembly committee assignments will impact Virginia Beach

Virginia Politics

RICHMOND, Va. (WAVY) — There’s already a fallout over Republicans not being in control for this year’s General Assembly session, and it could hurt Virginia’s largest city, Virginia Beach.

The General Assembly handled committee assignments Thursday. Democrats control the assignments, and a Democratic leader, Del. Lamont Bagby, D-Henrico, told WAVY News Wednesday both parties would be treated fairly.

However, Republican Sen. Bill DeSteph, Virginia Beach, says he was — in a way — snubbed by Democrats from the Commerce and Labor committee and also the Finance Committee, which are two major committees. He went to the Senate floor disappointed, to say the least.

“Mr. President, we are telling our business community there ‘You don’t matter.’ Mr. President, we are telling the largest tourism attraction and destination ‘You don’t matter.’ Mr. President, we speak about gross geographical disparity, and this is gross geographical disparity,” DeSteph said.

Republican Del. Barry Knight, 81st District, said he and Hampton Roads were treated fairly by Democrats on committee assignments. Four House members are on the powerful budget and House Appropriations Committee.

“Myself, Glenn Davis, Jay Jones and Cliff Hayes are on it. Two from each party. We are very good friends. We work very well together. We are going to hitch up to the same wagon, and see what we can bring home to Hampton Roads,” Knight said.

Casino business

Another issue involves Knight, who helped co-write a casino bill that will go to the General Laws Committee.

That committee will decide whether the casino bill moves forward. Knight was named to that committee Thursday.

On Wednesday, state Sen. Tommy Norment said there can only be one casino in either Norfolk or Portsmouth.  

“Norfolk and Portsmouth need to consolidate on one venue. If they both try to construct a casino, it will be mutual destruction, and someone is going down. They need to come to a single venue and do a revenue sharing approach so they can prosper, and they aren’t fighting each other,” he said.

State Sen. Louise Lucas insists a casino must be in Portsmouth.

“I have worked too hard not to have it in Portsmouth. It will be in Portsmouth,” she told 10 On Your Side in December.

Knight helped write the casino bill and appreciates Lucas’ drive.

“Senator Lucas has been pushing for so long, over 20 years,” he said.

Knight thinks there will likely be two casinos because the Norfolk proposal with the Pamunkey Indian Tribe makes more economic sense to come under the state plan and the federal plan could take longer.

“So we have to include Norfolk to make them come under commercial licensees, so we can have some control,” he said.

WAVY News reported Andy Fox mentioned Lucas’ insistence for a Portsmouth casino to Norment.

“Senator Louise can be very reasonable sometimes with the power of persuasion, and I want to continue to help her to help Portsmouth and Norfolk as a unit. It is a mistake for them to create separate facilities,” Norment said.

WAVY News mentioned all this to Knight.

“Senator Norment is very powerful, but so is Senator Lucas. She is very powerful, so I will let the Senators have that fight,” he said.

So, what does Norment think about building the facility in Norfolk?

“It makes more sense to me because they don’t have to pay to go through a tunnel,” he said.

Moves on the ERA

Supporters of the Equal Rights Amendment gathered Wednesday in a large rally outside the General Assembly session letting legislators know, with a new Democratic majority in the House of Delegates and State Senate, now is the time to be the 38th state to pass the ERA.

Meanwhile, Thursday’s headline showed some more progress on the ERA: The Senate Privileges and Elections Committee — led by Democrats — voted the ERA bill out of committee to begin the process of becoming law in Virginia.

Knight took notice. He will soon vote for or against the ERA.

“They certainly have the votes for the ERA in the Senate and the House, and the governor will sign it,” Knight said.

When asked if he will vote for the ERA, after a slight pause, Knight said “I probably will.”

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