Under cover of darkness

Published 11:54 am Saturday, January 16, 2016

So, did you hear about how Senate Majority Leader Tommy Norment (R-James City County) banished the press from the floor of the Virginia Senate the other day?


Well, that’s probably because that’s just how he wants it.

Norment, in a move more befitting a petulant, spoiled child than a 20-year veteran of the Virginia General Assembly, had all of the press’ working tables removed from the Senate floor before Wednesday’s opening session, relegating press corps members to the chamber’s balcony and away from where the business of the people is actually conducted. The practical implication for members of the press is that it will be harder for them to report on the decisions being made by our legislators. The reality for Virginians is that it further insulates lawmakers from the constituents they are supposed to serve.

Not surprisingly, this is the same guy who recently told the Richmond Times-Dispatch that, “You’ll get used to this refrain during this session: I have no comment.” But his arrogance is not isolated. In fact, it is reflective of many who travel to Richmond each January to conduct the people’s business that would rather conduct that business in private.

Norment’s decision is a slap in the face of all Virginians, not just those tasked with reporting on the legislature’s activities. Given that we live in a time when we should be demanding greater accountability and transparency from our elected officials, it is unconscionable that a move such as Norment’s would be allowed to stand. His colleagues in the Senate, rather than stand with Norment on this decision, should instead publicly rebuke him and demand a reversal. To not do so implies complicity on their part.

It is a sad commentary that a leader of the longest-standing law making body in our nation’s history feels comfortable essentially sticking his tongue out at those he has the privilege to serve. Norment should be ashamed of his behavior. But I’m guessing the contempt in which he holds the press and, by default, his constituents, clouds the judgment that would allow him to see the error of his ways.

TONY CLARK is the publisher of The Tidewater News. Contact him at 562-3187 or tony.clark@tidewaternews.com.