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This Year's General Assembly Session is Already Historic

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Michael Pope
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Members of the Virginia General Assembly are back in Richmond this week, gaveling in an historic session.

Madam Speaker. That’s a phrase now in common currency here in the House of Delegates, which has not had a woman speaker in its 400 year history. Not until now, anyways. Eileen Filler-Corn is now speaker of the House of Delegates. She opened the session by calling for lawmakers to pass the Equal Rights Amendment, address climate change…

“And I reject the notion that a state that’s good for business must be bad for workers,” Filler-Corn said, followed by applause from the chamber.

Filler-Corn isn’t just the first woman speaker. She’s also the first Jewish speaker.

Delegate Marcus Simon of Fairfax County wonders if that might mean a change in how the House opens its session each day. 

“I’m curious as to how our prayers are going to go. There have been a number of times when we’ve had some fairly aggressively pro-Jesus kind of prayers take place here in the hall, which have caused me to walk back to the break room," he said. "So we’ll see if there’s a little more deference as far as that goes in being more ecumenical.”

The first session began with a prayer by Filler-Corn’s rabbi: Bruce Aft of Congregation Adat Reyim in Springfield.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.

Michael Pope is an author and journalist who lives in Old Town Alexandria. He has reported for NPR, the New York Daily News and the Alexandria Gazette Packet. He has a master's degree in American Studies from Florida State University, and he is a former adjunct professor at Tallahassee Community College. He is the author of four books.