The 2003 session of the General Assembly started off like it always does, being called to order. But a new appointment is bringing new life to these old chambers.
Stafford Delegate William J. Howell was sworn in as the 54th Speaker of the House. He took over the position from interim speaker Lacey Putney, who stepped down this summer when Vance Wilkins was forced out after allegations of sexual misconduct.
"I know hard work is important, knowledge of Parliament, willingness to listen and be understanding," new Speaker of the House Howell told the House of Delegates.
While Howell was welcomed with thunderous applause, this upbeat spirit may not last long. Legislators have a budget mess on their hands and the clean up won't be easy.
"We've got to cut the fat. We've cut some fat, but there's still more to go. We've gotten to the point where government does everything for us," said Del. Glenn Weatherholtz.
A number of problem-solving ideas have been tossed around -- everything from realigning the state tax structure to privatizing the sale of alcohol. Every aspect of state spending is being scrutinized.
"We have to find money to be able to fund initiatives and carry them on. It's going to be a combination of things we have to do to put this all together. It's going to be challenging, but it's going to be exciting," said Del. Allen Louderback.