Both Sen. John Watkins (R-Powhatan) and Sen. Don McEachin (D- Henrico) are physically big men in their own right. They both stand 6 feet tall and over and have strolled the halls of Virginia's Capitol building for many years.
While at different points in their career the two have distinguished themselves for one reason or another, this could be the session where their influence could make or break progress on several important issues.
Watkins has spent years sorting through the issues pertaining to the funding of transportation and the future of uranium mining in the Commonwealth. This year Watkins has a significant proposal to raise the gas tax to fund transportation long term and he has come out in support of opening up Coles Hill to mining.
Watkins is smack dab in the middle of both issues. His transportation proposal is drastically different than his fellow republican Bob McDonnell and has the support of Democrats like McEachin. Uranium mining is something McEachin opposes but many other Democrats support. Lt. Governor Bill Bolling, still flirting with a run for governor is also in opposition to lifting the ban.
But as both sides look to find common ground, it could be players like Watkins and McEachin who look to forge compromise.
"There is not one bit of daylight between John Watkins and me when it comes to transportation," said McEachin. "It's not a perfect bill but it goes a long way."
McEachin supports the transportation concept, but is not moving on the ban. He said both issues have members from both sides of the isle picking sides. It will require a bi-partisan consensus to come to some sort of resolution. And it is consensus that McEachin is looking for. Something that may not be easy in an year with state wide elections.
"I anticipate that we will have more fireworks similar to what we had last year," he said. "But my hope is we will focus on those kitchen table issues."
I have more on the role McEachin and Watkins will play in the 2013 session in my story from NBC12:
RICHMOND, VA (WWBT)- Virginia's General Assembly is back to work in Richmond. On the docket are a number of issues that could directly impact you.If you drive a car, buy something in a store or go to the doctor your life will be directly impacted by the 2013 general assembly session. The state legislature has only 45 days to tackle some big issues.
It is an odd year. That means a shorter calendar and only updating the current budget, not starting from scratch. Both sides are hoping there will be opportunities to get things accomplished.
"I think it needs to be,” said Sen. John Watkins (R-Powhatan) “Whether it bears out that way I'm not sure."
Sen. Don McEachin (D-Henrico) agreed
"It’s my hope that this year's session will focus on kitchen table issues, education, transportation, Medicaid expansion,” he said. “Those are the things that impact the lives of everyday Virginians."
Unlike last year's, session which was dominated by contentious social issues, Governor Bob McDonnell and the leaders of both houses seem ready to tackle those issues that could directly impact you.
- A ban on texting while driving.
- A new funding mechanism for transportation which could either eliminate or increase the gas tax.
- Making a decision on the future of uranium mining, something that has been pushed off for several years.
Watkins in particular has spent a great deal of time on uranium mining.
"We've got to make sure it is done safely there is no question about that,” he said. “But why do we prolong the denial of the property rights of that individual?"
Read and see the full story on NBC12.com
Video of the story can be found here: