Last week, Speaker of the House of Delegates Bill Howell announced his retirement, setting off speculation over who would take over the dias. Well, speculate no more. The House Republican Caucus voted to name Delegate Kirk Cox as the Speaker-designate. Here’s five things you need to know about the presumptive next Speaker of the House of Delegates.
1. Cox’s power as Speaker will be wide-reaching
The Speaker of the House of Delegates is a powerful position in state government. When Cox takes up the mantle, he’ll control which Delegates sit on which committee, which bills are assigned to which committees, and other important behind-the-scenes maneuvers that often predetermine legislation’s fate. His predecessor, Speaker Bill Howell, used this authority to sideline outspoken progressives on low-profile committees. Howell would often quietly kill legislation he didn’t like in specially designated subcommittees stacked with his lackeys. Keep an eye on if Cox follows along with this tradition.
2. Cox has taken $200,000 in campaign cash from a leading corporate polluter
Utility giant Dominion is often viewed at the power behind the throne in Richmond. Don’t expect Cox to stand in the way of their agenda as Speaker–he’s taken almost $200,000 from the corporate polluter over the course of his career, making, his top donor.
3. Cox is a member of ALEC–a notorious corporate bill mill.
Like Speaker Howell before him, Cox is an active member of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a Koch-backed corporate bill mill. At ALEC conferences, legislators meet with corporate lobbyists behind closed doors, where they hand off corporate-written bills to bring home and pass in the states.
Cox received over $5,000 in gifts from ALEC. And when it comes to writing checks, he didn’t just spend his campaign money—he also spent thousands of taxpayer dollars on ALEC conferences, for the honor of fulfilling ALEC’s bill wishlist. It’s no shock we found Cox’s name on a half dozen ALEC-written bills in our 2012 research report.
4. Cox is a retired high school government teacher.
Once a upon a time, Cox taught high school students to understand Virginia’s state and local government structure and the political process. He spent 30 years teaching the fundamentals of government. Perhaps he skipped teaching the lesson about our government being for and by the people.
5. Cox hates health care access.
Cox led in the House of Delegates’ obstruction of expanding Medicaid to close the coverage gap, denying up to 400,000 Virginians access to quality, affordable health insurance. And he’s championed the outrageous and constitutional sham restrictions on abortion providers, going so far as to testify at a Board of Health hearing to insist they continue to impose politically motivated restrictions on abortion providers to deny women access.