By WILLIAM PAINE
For The Patriot
In November 2021, Marie March was elected to the General Assembly as the delegate representing Virginia’s 7th District. Delegate March, who lives in Floyd County and owns several businesses in the area, recently completed her first session in the General Assembly and agreed to share her experiences.
After arriving at the state Capitol to take her seat, March’s first order of business was to orientate herself to her new surroundings.
“You don’t even know where you’re going,” March admitted. “You don’t know what elevator to take. You don’t know what floor you’re going to … Then after you’ve been there a few days, you start to kind of gather where you’re going and what you’re doing.”
Learning the rarely utilized Jefferson Rules of Order used in the General Assembly was another challenge for March, as most all board meetings in Virginia are governed by Robert’s Rules of Order.
“My biggest kind of Achilles Heel was ‘procedure,’ March said. “But I will say a lot of the Republican leadership was more than happy to help with that.”
Freshmen lawmakers all must learn the ins and outs of the General Assembly, as well as learning that more seasoned lawmakers know how to work the system.
“All of Richmond is new to me, because I’m a grassroots candidate and I didn’t come from politics,” March explained. “When you first get there, there’s a lot of embedded politicians that have been there a long time that are very good at trading deals to get what they want. So, when you’re a new freshman delegate, you don’t have any cards to play. So that makes it kind of difficult.”
Delegate March did not let her inexperience dampen her enthusiasm for her new position. In her first term in office, she acted as Chief Patron for 22 legislative bills.
In the politically divided General Assembly, only one bill she authored was signed by the governor into law.
“The one bill that I got that passed through both the House and the Senate, was a transparency bill that requires municipalities to start posting their minutes publicly after those minutes are approved,” said March. “So that had bipartisan support and it was signed into law.”
Several bills that Marie was directly involved with met their end in the Democrat dominated State Senate.
“We got the Tim Tebow bill to allow the homeschooled kids the ability to play public school sports through the House,” Marie recounted.
Delegate March also managed to shepherd the Red Flag Gun Confiscation Repeal Bill through the State House. In the previous session, Democrats passed a Red Flag law allowing for an individual’s guns to be confiscated if a person in authority declared that person to be a “substantial risk.”
“The Substantial Risk order was created two years ago by the Democrats,” March affirmed. “So, if a policeman or Commonwealth’s Attorney or lawyer or magistrate or judge deems this person as a risk, based on no evidence at all … not a trial not a jury … not any due process, the police are then allowed to come to your house and seize your guns. So, it’s seizure of personal property without due process.”
Democrats killed both of those bills in the Senate.
Even so, there were Republican victories, one of the most notable coming soon after Marie arrived in Richmond.
“Letting parents decide if they want their children to wear masks was great,” she said. “Glenn Younkin signed it into law and we all got behind it. So that was one of the first really good things that happened that I was behind.”
In at least one case, the Republicans pushed through a bill, known as the Farm Use Tag bill, that Marie later regretted supporting.
“When bills come through committees uncontested, we vote them through on the floor in a block vote,” March explained. “They’re uncontested and you assume that because it’s a Republican majority on the committee, that they’ve vetted the bills and they’re good bills. Farmers are now going be required to go to the DMV and get a $23 Farm Use tag for their farm use vehicles and I’m like, ‘Whoa, wait a minute. I don’t agree with this at all!’ But I was brand new and I didn’t know the procedure to pull it out of the block. So, it went through.”
Delegate March served on three committees during her first term in office: the Public Safety Committee, the Health, Wealth and Institutions Committee and the Cities, Towns and Counties Committee.
“Health, Wealth and Institutions, that’s where all of the medical bills go,” March explained. “That’s actually a tough committee to get on. I was also on the Public Safety Committee. So, everything that came through that was a bad or a good bill, I got to vote on.”
“We killed the bills to introduce more red-light cameras throughout the Commonwealth,” March stated. “I also voted against facial recognition software. Why? It’s Big Brother. Government has been known to spy on its own citizens and I think the rural voters in my district very much don’t appreciate that.”
“The third committee I was on is Cities, Counties and Towns and that pretty well handles charter changes for localities,” March continued. “Most people don’t want to be on it. Well, I wanted to be on it because I feel like a lot of government overreach can go on at the local level and I wanted to make sure that didn’t slip through the cracks on my watch.”
When asked if anything about her first term in office shocked her, March had this to say.
“I’m 44 years old and the older you get, you’re not shocked quite as much,” she replied. “I knew that there would be a lot of favors and a lot of backroom deals and all that really does go on with the lobbyists.”
“I guess the biggest shocker involved one of the bills that I carried,” she continued. “In my district, we’re having a hard time keeping and recruiting volunteer fire fighters. One of my districts is down to like four volunteer firefighters. They were like, ‘Marie, we need help. North Carolina just passed a bill where they offer free lifetime hunting and fishing privileges to first responders and firefighters if they’re volunteer.’ It sounds like it won’t cost taxpayers anything, so, I was like, ‘sure I’ll carry that bill.’”
“The Department of Natural Resources came to me like an hour before I was to present the bill and they’re like, ‘Marie, the fiscal impact of this is somewhere between $6 million and $50 million to the state.’ I’m like, ‘How did you arrive at that that price tag?’ Basically, they decided that the whole state is going to bum rush this program and everybody is going to become a volunteer firefighter because they’re going to get lifetime hunting and fishing privileges.”
“The bottom line is they play numbers games to keep any funding from going to anything besides their agency and their department,” March continued. “Those are the games that get played in Richmond. The agencies are all in cahoots behind the scenes making sure that they keep all of their funding and they grow their funding. But if it’s something that’s actually going to go back to the districts, they make sure that’s not going to happen. That really pissed me off!”
It seems clear that 7th District Delegate Marie March is happy with progress made in her first term and is excited to continue her work in Richmond. In her short tenure, March has already garnered some powerful allies.
“One of the organizations that ended up being solidly in my corner is the Family Foundation,” she said. “They got behind the Tim Tebow bill in a big way and helped us to get it as far as we got it. Virginia Constitutional Conservatives is also a big supporter of mine, as is Young Americans for Liberty … and the Club for Growth. So, we had an array of very conservative groups that got behind me and my bills and that was really good to see because I’m probably, the most conservative elected official in all of Southwest Virginia.”
Virginia’s 7th Delegate District is currently comprised of all of Floyd County, most of Pulaski County and a large swath of Montgomery County.