The Chamber recently spoke with Larry Roberts, Director of the Sorensen Institute for Political Leadership at the University of Virginia, who offered the following thoughts on the benefits of bipartisanship to Virginia government and its business community. The Sorensen Institute and the Chamber have formed an Advancing Civics partnership to promote bipartisanship and civil discourse as means toward effective public leadership. Registration for the first event in the Advancing Civics series, held on May 10th, can be found here.
Each year, the Chamber publishes its Legislative Agenda, representing the policy priorities of the Region's business community for the upcoming Virginia General Assembly session and beyond.
The agenda is not premised on which party is in power in Richmond and, very often in recent decades, neither party has a “trifecta” of controlling the Senate of Virginia, House of Delegates, and Governor’s office.
The result is a need to work effectively with both Republicans and Democrats to ensure passage of key Chamber priorities. One result is that the Chamber’s PAC – NOVABIZPAC – has a track record of endorsing candidates from both parties.
At the Sorensen Institute for Political Leadership, we do not take issue positions and we do not endorse candidates. But we share an interest with the Chamber in bipartisanship, sound public policy processes, and public leaders who value trust, civil dialogue, respect, and ethical governance.
Virginia does better when public leaders find ways to work together across partisan, regional, and other divides to make sure that Virginia is a national leader in areas such as governing, business climate, economic development, education, health care, transportation, public safety, and protecting our environment.
Virginia has had numerous examples of leaders who have been willing to build bridges and find ways to work together:
- Governor Mark Warner’s 2004 tax reform plan was approved by a Republican-controlled General Assembly;
- Governors Tim Kaine and Bob McDonnell secured passage of transportation funding plans – including regional funding options with bipartisan support;
- Governor Tim Kaine and Attorney General Bob McDonnell worked closely to ensure bipartisan support for Commonwealth initiatives to enhance public and campus safety in response to the Virginia Tech tragedy;
- Republican leaders -- Senator John Warner, Congressman Frank Wolf, and U.S. Transportation Secretary Mary Peters -- worked with Democratic Governor Kaine to secure federal funding for Metro’s Silver Line;
- Republican General Assembly members worked with Democratic Governor Ralph Northam to expand Medicaid eligibility – with the support of the Chamber;
- Governor Youngkin recently signed bipartisan legislation to consolidate and transform Virginia’s workforce development system, supported by a broad coalition of businesses, trade and industry groups, labor unions, and workforce leaders.
The bipartisan nature of these actions has meant that they have been sustainable even with relatively frequent changes in which party is in power in Richmond.
Through its Advancing Civics partnership, the Chamber and the Sorensen Institute seek to bring together diverse groups of Virginians, help promote understanding of the power of collaboration, and encourage policy makers to find equitable solutions to public policy challenges.