First-year Del. Suhas Subramanyam (D-87th) and veteran state Sen. Emmett Hanger Jr. (R-24th) have joined forces to co-chair the new Commonwealth Caucus designed to increase bipartisanship during the new General Assembly session in Richmond.
State Sens. John Bell (D-13th) and Jill Vogel (R-27th), both of whom represent portions of Loudoun County, are members of the caucus. (See full membership below.)
In a news release, the caucus leadership said one of their top priorities will be structural election reform.
Speaking to that issue, Subramanyam told the Times-Mirror: “Electoral reforms is pretty broad and includes, but is not limited to redistricting, making it easier to vote, absentee voting, campaign finance laws and [the] referendums process. So we mean it in the broadest sense of the word, but one thing to note is that the group has not taken an official position on any of these things ...”
Caucus representatives said they hope to adopt practices from both new and veteran members, facilitate conversations and debates, find consensus on issues important to Virginians and provide a new mechanism for legislators to find bill co-patrons across both chambers.
The development of the caucus comes at a time in which several controversial bills have been filed focused on adopting gun reform changes, ratifying the Equal Amendment Rights and providing localities the authority over war memorials and monuments.
In November, Democrats took majority of both the House and Senate.
“This newly created caucus will increase bipartisanship by facilitating conversations between legislators not only across party lines but across chambers. Virginia has always set the course for our nation's democracy, and now it can be a leader in giving everyone a voice regardless of party and uniting our divided politics,” Subramanyam said in a prepared statement.
Hanger Jr. added, “The Commonwealth Caucus is a member-driven bipartisan group in the Virginia General Assembly that incorporates representatives from both chambers. The purpose of this caucus is to gather members together on a regular basis to build camaraderie across the aisle, and to discuss and collaborate on important policy and legislation, including electoral reform as one of the priorities of the caucus.”
Late in the first day of session last week, the caucus had 14 members, with seven from each party.
In November, Subramanyam became the first Indian American and Hindu American to be elected to the Virginia state legislature. He represents parts of Prince William and Loudoun counties.
The delegate said he's looking forward to serving his constituents.
“I hope to make them proud and fulfill some of the critical promises I made when I started this journey: fully funding our schools, making health care more affordable, continuing the economic success in Northern Virginia, keeping our communities safe, addressing climate change, and working tirelessly for constituents in need” Subramanyam said in a prepared statement.
Founding members of the Commonwealth Caucus:
-Sen. John Bell (D-13th)
-Del. Robert Bloxom (R-100th)
-Del. Glenn Davis (R-84th)
-Sen. Adam Ebbin (D-30th)
-Sen. Emmett Hanger, Jr. (R-24th)
-Del. Dan Helmer (D-40th)
-Del. Sally Hudson (D-57th)
-Sen. Jennifer Kiggans (R-7th)
-Del. Martha Mugler (D-91st)
-Del. Sam Rasoul (D-11th)
-Del. Suhas Subramanyam (D-87th)
-Sen. Jill Vogel (R-27th)