Norment: Running race, protecting majority

Published 9:55 pm Thursday, October 31, 2019

Senate District 3

The majority of District 3 is made up from three counties – James City, Gloucester and York County on the Peninsula. New Kent and Isle of Wight counties make up just under 10 percent of the district, each, while it also includes parts of King William County, as well as small parts of Poquoson and Suffolk.

Senate Majority Leader Tommy Norment has divided attentions as the election campaign nears a close.

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On the one hand, Norment is fending off a challenge from New Kent County Democrat Herb Jones for the Senate District 3 seat. On the other, Norment is trying to help preserve slim majorities for Republicans in both the House of Delegates and the state Senate.

“I confess, it’s been somewhat of a balancing act between my personal campaign and overseeing, with my political team, the critical races that are in the Senate.”

In his own campaign, Norment said he has been playing up his experience and fiscal stewardship.

“I have the experience to continue to best represent the citizens of the Third Senatorial District,” Norment said.

He cites his cumulative legislative experience — his four years on the James City County Board of Supervisors followed by his time in the state Senate, where he was first elected in 1991. That experience, he said, gives him the necessary budgeting experience, as well as understanding the importance of delivering services to residents.

Norment also notes honors such as being named legislator of the year by the Virginia Chamber of Commerce as just one example of what he says is his effective legislating. He said that, having gone from the lowest-ranking member to Senate Majority Leader, he has accumulated working knowledge to be an effective voice for issues in his district.

He said his partnership with Republican Del. Chris Jones, who chairs the House Appropriations Committee, “has positioned the Hampton Roads community with chairs of the two money committees that determine the appropriation of taxpayers’ dollars.”

Norment authored the legislation to provide state taxpayers with a $110 refund for individual taxpayers or $220 to married couples this year and steered it to passage in the General Assembly.

“I just use those as examples that I’ve been able to deliver on what I say,” Norment said, “and so, I hope it resonates with the people I represent.”

He said voters are concerned about pocketbook issues — controlling spending and trying to put more money into public education and health care.

“Medicaid expansion took place, and I expect it will remain there,” said Norment, who opposed it because he said it was not fiscally responsible. “But the questions are, the cost of medical insurance is continuing to skyrocket as a major portion of individuals’ budgets. They’re interested in whether or not there’s some things we can do for cost containment on medical expenses.”

He said Virginia’s contract with the federal government on Medicaid and Medicare means that if the federal government increases the reimbursement to health care providers for services, the state must also do the same. Senate Finance Committee staff has told him that, over the next budget, that it could run from $800 million to $1 billion in new money.

“That is significant before you deal with anything else,” Norment said.

He called the Medicaid expansion bill’s work requirement “nothing more than political veneer and camouflage” so reluctant House of Delegates members could say, ‘Oh, I voted for Medicaid, but the people have to work.’”

He said the work requirement was too broad, because people could take classes, look for a job or perform community service, and it would meet the requirement. He said he was also concerned about what agency would monitor the work requirement.

Medicaid expansion will continue to be a financial challenge for the legislature, he said, noting that dealing with both Medicaid and Medicare will impact public education, higher education and public safety.

According to Norment, Layne told lawmakers at a recent cabinet retreat that state agencies need to start making cuts in their budgets now in anticipation of a difficult budget cycle.

On guns, Norment said he opposed the special session that Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam called in the wake of the May 31 mass shooting in Virginia Beach. It adjourned 90 minutes after it started.

With another General Assembly special session coming Nov. 18, he hopes both parties can find agreement in a less politicized environment.

“Hopefully some of the hysteria will have died down and we can find some common ground between Republicans and Democrats that is truly meaningful rather than optic,” Norment said.

He said with 73 bills that were filed before the summer special session, there was not enough time to deliberate on them. Norment also said it did not give the Crime Commission — on which he serves — enough time to study the bills.

On red flag laws, Norment said there may be due process issues with them.

“I think there’s got to be a discussion on whether or not legislation could be crafted that would protect people’s due process and not be subject to abuse,” Norment said.

Norment has introduced his own legislation to incorporate gun safety and responsibility into the mandatory family life education program.

He does not expect there to be much support for confiscation of guns, nor does he see that as viable. There could be discussion on the financial feasibility of establishing an emergency response team in each locality so that if there is concern about someone with a mental or emotional issue, and they have firearms — and it raises the concern of family, friends or neighbors — there could be an emergency response team made up of law enforcement, mental health advocates and counselors that could immediately react.

“There’s a whole gamut of opportunities out there,” Norment said.

Norment said he expects budget discussions to overshadow all other issues.

“What is very, very important is, where do you put your money in the budget? That is the clearest, non-political, articulate expression of what your priorities are to the citizens of Virginia — where you put your money.”