Senate Finance Committee co-chair Sen. Emmett Hanger, R-Mount Solon speaks during a committee meeting at Hotel Madison last month.

Since being elected to the State Senate in 1996, Sen. Emmett Hanger, R-Mount Solon, has spent half of his legislative career in the minority and built a reputation of working on both sides of the aisle.

The only difference between this upcoming session and sessions in the past is that Democrats are in control of the House of Delegates, Senate and the governorship.

“The first term I served in the Senate, we basically moved into a power-sharing agreement where we were 20-20,” Hanger said. “Democrats were still in control of the House, but then the next term Republicans took control of the House.”

Hanger said with Democrats in control of state government there is no “checks and balance.”

“Right now, there is a perception that there is a more progressive representation in Democrats and both House and Senate that will attempt to do some things not possible in the past,” he said.

With his experience in working within the majority and minority, Hanger has been able to reach across the aisle.

“You need to basically be fair in terms of working with those in the minority because they tend to basically use that example when the situation gets reversed,” he said.

Hanger said with the Senate Finance Committee being the most powerful committee in the General Assembly, Democrats could “return the favor” by having more Democrats in the group than what was normally allowed.

Democrats could also remove Hanger from his responsibilities as co-chair of the Senate Finance Committee, but hopes he would remain a member of the committee.

Exercising his belief of being fair, Hanger has built a working relationship with Sen. Creigh Deeds, D-Bath, who said Hanger is a great guy.

“I have a lot of respect for him,” Deeds said. “I think he thinks about policy before politics and Emmett is pretty good with looking at the big picture.”

Deeds was elected to represent the 25th Senate District in 2001, which includes neighboring counties and cities to the 24th Senate District.

Deeds said once you are elected, you represent everyone, and Hanger does just that.

“He is someone I lean on for advice, guidance and assistance,” Deeds said.

With the next session only 23 days away, Hanger said he is expecting a lot of work to be accomplished that he thinks will be bipartisan in nature.

Hanger said there will be a lot of discussion revolving around the Second Amendment as more than 50 localities have passed resolutions to become a Second Amendment sanctuary.

“My opinion is I think we will resolve that in a reasonable manner, hopefully,” he said.

His legislative priorities will focus on improving Virginia’s current health care system while controlling the cost of mental-health and substance-abuse treatments.

One issue that Hanger said was “very important” is putting the authority of redistricting in the hands of a bipartisan commission, adding that he will be a part of legislation to try to accomplish that.

Hanger is also a chief co-patron for the ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment that would make Virginia the 38th and final state to adopt the ERA, which would put it in the United States Constitution as the 28th Amendment, making it unlawful to discriminate on the basis of sex.

“I hope Republicans will come on board with that in terms of extending women under the law, and I believe it will pass,” he said.

Other items of interest for Hanger’s “ambitious agenda” this session are creating legislation for equal taxing authority for counties, improving the funding flow on Interstate 81 and conducting a more thoughtful study while looking into all angles of gun violence.

“There are a lot of people who are concerned,” he said. “Most localities are expressing strong support for the Second Amendment and a strong push back on anything unconstitutional, but this isn’t 1776 and I am not interested in going back there.”

With Hanger’s seat on the Senate Finance Committee and Del. Todd Gilbert, R-Mount Jackson, no longer the House Majority leader, the voice of the Valley remains in question.

“I am interested in promoting opportunities in rural Virginia, who is largely represented by Republicans,” Hanger said. “I don’t think the Valley will be in jeopardy. We are fortunate in the Valley that we have a strong moral compass.”

Hanger will also be a strong voice for the agricultural community, with National Affairs Coordinator for the Virginia Farm Bureau, Ben Rowe, saying Hanger is an “excellent representative for rural Virginia and the agriculture industry.”

“Sen. Hanger has a long history of successfully working across the aisle to represent his district and Virginia’s agriculture industry,” Rowe said. “The population of rural Virginia continues to shrink every year, yet the economic impact of the agricultural products produced in these areas continues to grow, and agriculture remains the largest industry in the Commonwealth.”

Rowe said regardless of where constituents may call home or their political affiliation, everyone benefits from a safe, affordable and domestic food supply.

“With this in mind, Farm Bureau looks to critical allies like Sen. Hanger who can not only build consensus between political parties, but can bridge the rural-urban divide to ensure agricultural and rural Virginia is well represented in the General Assembly,” Rowe said.

Contact Jessica Wetzler at 574-6279 or jwetzler@dnronline.com. Follow Jessica on Twitter @wetzler_jessica

(1) comment


I suspect we're about to learn how little Virginia democrats care about the Shenandoah Valley and Emmett Hanger.

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