Following the completion of the most recent session for the Virginia General Assembly, Del. Wren Williams, R-Stuart, reflected on his second year in the House of Delegates.
“I was very happy with how the session went, and very happy with my successes in the house. I’m looking forward to going back because we’ll have even more opportunities next year with more bill slots and another budget year,” he said.
Williams said one of the major lessons he learned was the importance of creativity.
“You can’t just go up pound your fists and wave your arms around and expect to get things done. You have to be diligent and knowledgeable,” he said. “You have to be capable of explaining and arguing these nuances.”
Williams said he believes he implemented those concepts this year, especially because he knows the process and rules better than during his first session.
“I was able to be much more successful in the legislative process,” he said.
During the session, Williams was able to get seven bills passed. While many were more administrative-focused, one success was the Religious Freedom Bill, which was designed to prevent the closing of churches.
The bill, he said, stemmed from the Covid-19 pandemic, “because that was something that really upset me and the folks in my district, which was not being able to go to church and fellowship at that time,” he said.
Williams said his bill would bar governors from using the Emergency Powers Act to close churches and other places of worship.
He believes his ability to get the bill passed was huge, considering the House has a Republican majority while the Senate has a primarily Democratic majority.
“I was able to really get creative with the language, because that’s what we have to do around here,” he said.
Williams said the bill that won approval was similar to one he brought last year, but then “I worked to get the words right so that voting against it was almost immoral,” he said. “That’s how we were able to get it through” the Senate.
One of his administrative bills focused on the removal process of an elected official that is failing to do their job.
“It’s always been a very complicated process because you have to have signatures on a petition, but there was no signature standard form,” Williams said. “So, you might get 10 percent of the electorate to sign pieces of paper and then show up to court” and have “the judge say, ‘you didn’t do it right.’”
His bill crafted “a much better solution, and a much cleaner process, and a much more clear and understandable duty, and it moves at a much quicker pace,” Williams said of the proposal that also won approval.
Additionally, “it’s much quicker, like a few months,” he said. “If you had all your signatures together and you knew what you were doing, you could do it in about 45 days.”
He explained that he carries “a lot of those like nuanced, legislative bills that are fixes, or they’re like large packages of bills that really play more in a state-wide arena because of my relationship with the Attorney General’s Office. They gave me a number of bills this year,” he said, adding he’s honored the office trusted him to carry some of its signature legislation.
Another bill he helped get passed was the bipartisan Parole Board Transparency Bill.
“We wanted to see more sunlight on the Parole Board, and so did the Democrats. We wanted to do it a little bit different, but ultimately, we were able to come to an agreement about what was best and that passed,” he said.
Williams said his impetus for proposals comes from a variety of sources — representatives collect ideas, learn about problems, and needs throughout the district and the communities.
“Last year, we heard a tremendous amount of concern from all of our localities when it came to outdated and failing and crumbling water and sewer infrastructure,” Williams said. “We heard it from multiple localities, so we worked on putting together a study for opportunities for rural area public water and sewer system upgrades.”
If he’s elected in the Nov. election to serve the new 47th District, Williams said he looks forward to listening to the new district’s concerns and issues and then putting his experience as a successful legislator to work to find solutions.