It’s 5 p.m. and Del. Tag Greason (R-northeastern Loudoun) is just half way through his day.
As a freshman at the Virginia General Assembly last year, Greason didn’t know what to expect upon his arrival in Richmond. Now, sitting on the dais in the General Laws Committee, he snacks on candy bars and sips on Diet Coke while listening to issues ranging from the commonwealth’s green certification to fireworks laws.
The January 2010 assembly was his first session as a Loudoun delegate. His biggest challenge? Learning the colloquialisms of the house floor.
“There’s an enormous learning curve that you’re trying to overcome,” he said.
There is a specific language used on the House floor – the way you address the speaker and other colleagues – that took him some time to get used to, he said. Greason, who had no political or legislative experience before his election, has now learned the specific procedures and protocols of the floor, which was “like learning a different language.”
Additionally, first-year delegates do not receive their committee assignments until they start their first day.
“There is no way to prepare or research what you’ll be working on,” he said.
Greason is now in the throes of his second session and has made it through his “cross-over,” the date by which he had to complete work on his own legislation. Both congressional houses must have completed their legislation by Feb. 8. The Virginia General Assembly will adjourn Feb. 26.
This time around, Greason said he feels much more comfortable and can now focus on the content of the bill he’s presenting and not how he’s presenting it.
Greason spread his wings with his most recent bill. The bill, if passed, would provide insurance coverage for autism in children—providing medically necessary therapies for children ages 2 through 6, with a $35,000 cap on annual benefits. The bill has advanced through the House and passed in the Senate Feb. 8.
Autism affects hundreds of thousands of people across the commonwealth, he said. Several of his constituents have come to him describing the cost burden of caring for their autistic children.
“One in every 110 children is affected by autism. How can you turn your back on it?” he said.
People have been discussing or working on the autism bill for years, but Greason and the bill’s coauthors finally created a bill that was delicately balanced and fair to both the business communities and the families, he said.
During last year’s session, Greason introduced eight bills to the General Assembly. This year, he’s introducing the maximum 15 bills, ranging from a bill to provide a gambling-addiction treatment fund to designating September as Pediatric Cancer Awareness Month. Greason sits on the Finance, Education and General Laws committees.
“It is fascinating to be exposed to so many different issues,” he said. “In a five- minute span you can be dealing with insurance, child abuse, autism or transportation.”
If it seems like a delegate’s day is jam-packed, it is. From the moment Greason steps into his office at 7 a.m. until he leaves his committee meetings around 10 p.m., every minute of his time is spoken for. Don’t just drop in. It’s not uncommon for Greason to be out of his office for hours on end. However, he and his staffers are very willing to schedule meetings.
His office décor relays the image of his fast-paced lifestyle – with some balancing details: Energy bars sit next to a Keurig coffee machine. Pictures of his wife and three children line the windowsill, and two Bibles rest atop his end table.
“Because we’re only here for 60 days, everyone in the entire commonwealth who has an interest in what we’re doing comes to see us,” Greason said.
The entire General Assembly building is bustling from morning till night with staffers and interest group representatives. This often leads to the spread of the common cold, and hand sanitizer machines abound. Nevertheless, Greason remains upbeat.
“I like to engage with people on issues that they care about,” he said. “The variety is absolutely exhilarating.”
Interest groups have stopped by Greason’s office to object to his votes on certain decisions. He has quickly learned that no matter what decision he makes, someone will always be unhappy with it. But he said he has found that if he can explain why he voted the way he did and that he researched it, he has never been faulted for a vote.
“I don’t pretend to know everything there is to know,” he said. “If you try to please everybody, you will fail.”
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This article was first published by Hannah Hager on LoudounTimes.com.