Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Episode 508 (1-20-20): A Water-related Introduction to Virginia’s Legislative Commissions, Committees, and Councils

Click to listen to episode (5:42)

Sections below are the following:
Transcript of Audio
Audio Notes and Acknowledgments
Extra Information
Related Water Radio Episodes
For Virginia Teachers (Relevant SOLs, etc.)

Unless otherwise noted, all Web addresses mentioned were functional as of 1-17-20.


From the Cumberland Gap to the Atlantic Ocean, this is Virginia Water Radio for the week of January 20, 2020.

VOICE – ~7 sec – “This is an issue, this is a problem, this something that needs resolution yesterday. And we cannot wait any longer.”

That’s the voice of Eileen Filler-Corn of Fairfax County, the Speaker of the Virginia House of Delegates, referring to the problem of sea-level rise and coastal flooding.  She was speaking at the December 4, 2019, meeting in Blacksburg of the Virginia Joint Commission on Technology and Science, or JCOTS.  This week we focus on JCOTS as an example of Virginia’s wide variety of legislative commissions, committees, and councils, and their connection to the work of the Virginia General Assembly.  Have a listen for about 90 more seconds to the sea-level rise part of the December 4 JCOTS meeting.

VOICES - ~98 sec

James Aylor – “Our mission, and the mission of JCOTS, really overlap extensively.   In other words, you folks are looking at science and technology for the state, and we have a set of experts…who work pretty much—well, they do work free when they do these studies.   It seemed like to me an opportunity for us to join up and do some things together. …”

Del. Eileen Filler-Corn – “Yes, I get the importance of the study, and I do think I share your interest in doing that moving forward.  What can be done prior to that study?  I’m trying to figure out what we can do now with regard to coastal flooding. I know as I spent more and more time…in your region, Mr. Chairman, countless times there were meetings and events that were literally just canceled.  People could not get out of their house, they could not down the roads.  We all know that but it’s different to actually be there and to see it. …”

Sen. Bill DeSteph – “I sit on the joint committee on coastal flooding.  We met Monday.  We had just over three hours of briefings.  I’ve been briefed by the Army Corps of Engineers; that was a six-hour brief. … The concern I have is, almost all of these folks are referring to the same NOAA [National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration] model, but for 2070 everybody’s opinion of where we’re going to be [on sea level in coastal Virginia] is different. … So I think it’s truly important to get a group of scientists [and engineers] to sit down, agree on what the underlying assumptions are, and then build a model for a recommendation, if there is a way to come to an agreement in the underlying assumptions.”

Sen. John Cosgrove – “We can go back and forth on what’s causing sea-level rise, but the sea-level is rising.  And I think this group can give us a “nuts-and-bolts/here’s-what-we-really-believe brief, with no outside influence. And I think that’s exactly what we all need.”

You heard, first, James Aylor, president of the Virginia Academy of Science, Engineering and Medicine, referring to that group’s proposal for a sea-level rise study, followed by some reactions from three JCOTS members: Delagate Filler-Corn, Senator Bill DeSteph of Virginia Beach, and Sen. John Cosgrove of Chesapeake.  Following-up that meeting, in January 2020 Sen. Cosgrove proposed to the General Assembly Senate Joint Resolution 38, which would direct JCOTS to study “the safety, quality of life, and economic consequences of weather and climate-related events on coastal areas in Virginia.”  This is an example of how JCOTS is involved in gathering information that may lead to General Assembly legislation.

JCOTS is one of over two dozen legislative commissions and other groups listed by the Virginia Division of Legislative Services, the legislative branch agency tasked with providing nonpartisan legal and research services to the General Assembly.  The subject matter and purposes of these groups vary widely, but collectively they provide information, make legislative or regulatory recommendations, monitor implementation of some legislation, and perform other services for the Assembly.

Besides JCOTS and its water-science connection, three other long-term groups particularly relate to water: the Chesapeake Bay Restoration Fund Advisory Committee, the State Water Commission, and the Coal and Energy Commission.  Water can also be the subject of shorter-term study committees or subcommittees that the General Assembly appoints from time to time; one current example is the Joint Subcommittee on Coastal Flooding.

While the General Assembly is in session for only about one to two months each year, during the rest of the time legislative commissions, committees, and councils help carry out Assembly actions and gather information to support future bills.  More information on these groups is available at the Division of Legislative Services’ Web site, dls.virginia.gov.


Virginia Water Radio is produced by the Virginia Water Resources Research Center, part of Virginia Tech’s College of Natural Resources and Environment. For more Virginia water sounds, music, or information, visit us online at virginiawaterradio.org, or call the Water Center at (540) 231-5624. Thanks to Stewart Scales for his banjo version of Cripple Creek to open and close this show. In Blacksburg, I’m Alan Raflo, thanking you for listening, and wishing you health, wisdom, and good water.

The voices heard in this episode were recorded on December 4, 2019, at the meeting of the Virginia Joint Commission on Technology and Science (JCOTS) at the Virginia Tech Inn in Blacksburg.  The comments presented here are excerpts intended to give the sense of the speaker’s comments at the time.  The excerpts are in the order in which people spoke during the sea-level rise segment of the meeting.

Thanks for James Aylor, president of the Virginia Academy of Science, Engineering and Medicine, for providing information for this episode.

Click here if you’d like to hear the full version (1 min./11 sec.) of the “Cripple Creek” arrangement/performance by Stewart Scales that opens and closes this episode.  More information about Mr. Scales and the group New Standard, with which Mr. Scales plays, is available online at http://newstandardbluegrass.com.


Dr. James Aylor, president of the Virginia Academy of Science, Engineering and Medicine, making a presentation to the Virginia Joint Commission on Technology and Science at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, December 4, 2019.


Following are the commissions, committees, subcommittees, and councils listed by the Virginia Department of Legislative Services (DLS), online at http://dls.virginia.gov/commissions.html, as of January 20, 2020.  The categories are as listed on the DLS page, and the group hyperlinks from that page are retained here.

Commission on Electric Utility Regulation
Commission on Economic Opportunity for Virginians in Aspiring & Diverse Communities
Health Insurance Reform Commission
Manufacturing Development Commission
Small Business Commission
Joint Commission on Technology and Science
Commission on Unemployment Compensation

Commission on Civic Education

Energy and Environment
Chesapeake Bay Restoration Fund Advisory Committee
Coal and Energy Commission
State Water Commission

Autism Advisory Council
Virginia Disability Commission

Brown v. Board of Education Scholarship Committee
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Commission
Virginia World War I Commemoration Commission
Virginia World War II Commemoration Commission

Virginia Housing Commission

Legal and Regulatory
Administrative Law Advisory Committee
Joint Commission on Administrative Rules
Virginia Code Commission
Virginia Conflict of Interest and Ethics Advisory Council
Freedom of Information Advisory Council
Commissioners for the Promotion of Uniformity of Legislation in the United States

Procurement Processes
Public-Private Education Facilities and Infrastructure Act Model Guidelines Working Group

Joint Subcommittee to Evaluate Tax Preferences

Joint Commission on Transportation Accountability

Interim Study Committees
ABC Subcommittee of the Senate Committee on Rehabilitation and Social Services
Joint Subcommittee to Study Mental Health Services in the Commonwealth in the 21st Century
Joint Subcommittee on Coastal Flooding
Joint Committee to Study the Future of Public Elementary and Secondary Education in the Commonwealth
Paid Family and Medical Leave Study

Other Legislative Commissions and Councils
Commission on the Virginia Alcohol Safety Action Program
Capitol Square Preservation Council
Chesapeake Bay Commission
Virginia State Crime Commission
Joint Commission on Health Care
Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission (JLARC)
Virginia Commission on Youth


Virginia Academy of Science, Engineering and Medicine, online at http://www.vasem.org/.

Virginia Division of Legislative Services (DLS), “Commissions and Committees,” online at http://dls.virginia.gov/commissions.html; “Joint Commission on Technology and Science,” online at http://dls.virginia.gov/commission/jcots.htm; and “Joint Subcommittee on Coastal Flooding,” online at http://dls.virginia.gov/interim_studies_flooding.html.

Virginia General Assembly, “Interim Studies and Commissions Listing/Joint Commission on Technology and Science,” https://studies.virginiageneralassembly.gov/studies/179.

Virginia General Assembly, “Virginia House of Delegates Member Listing,” online at https://virginiageneralassembly.gov/house/members/members.php; and “Senate of Virginia,” online at https://apps.senate.virginia.gov/Senator/index.php.

Virginia Legislative Information System, “Bills and Resolutions/2020 Session/ Senate Joint Resolution (SJ) 38: Coastal areas; study on economic consequences of weather-related events,” online at http://lis.virginia.gov/cgi-bin/legp604.exe?201+ful+SJ38.  This is the source of the quote from SJ 38 in this episode’s audio.


All Water Radio episodes are listed by category at the Index link above (http://www.virginiawaterradio.org/p/index.html).  See particularly the “Community/Organizations” subject category.

Virginia’s State Water Commission was the focus of Episode 347, 12-19-16.

This most recent episode on the Virginia General Assembly is Episode 506, 1-6-20; the show notes for that episode include links to previous General Assembly episodes.

Following are links to some other episodes on Virginia state agencies.
Department of Game and Inland Fisheries – Episode 322, 6-27-16.
Marine Resources Commission – Episode 91, 12-5-11.
State Water Control Board – Episode 94, 1-9-12.
State Parks System – Episode 320, 6-13-16.


The episode—the audio, extra information, or sources—may help with the following Virginia Standards of Learning (SOLs).

2010 Science SOLs

Grades K-6 Earth Resources Theme
4.9 – Virginia natural resources, including watersheds, water resources, and organisms.
6.9 – public policy decisions related to the environment (including resource management and conservation, land use decisions, hazard mitigation, and cost/benefit assessments).

Grades K-6 Living Systems Theme
6.7 – natural processes and human interactions that affect watershed systems; Virginia watersheds, water bodies, and wetlands; health and safety issues; and water monitoring.

Life Science Course
LS.11 – relationships between ecosystem dynamics and human activity.

Earth Science Course
ES.8 – influences by geologic processes and the activities of humans on freshwater resources, including identification of groundwater and major watershed systems in Virginia.
ES.10 – ocean processes, interactions, and policies affecting coastal zones, including Chesapeake Bay.

Biology Course
BIO.8 – dynamic equilibria and interactions within populations, communities, and ecosystems; including nutrient cycling, succession, effects of natural events and human activities, and analysis of the flora, fauna, and microorganisms of Virginia ecosystems.

2015 Social Studies SOLs

Virginia Studies Course
VS.10 – knowledge of government, geography, and economics in present-day Virginia.

Civics and Economics Course
CE.7 – government at the state level.
CE.10 – public policy at local, state, and national levels.

World Geography Course
WG.2 – how selected physical and ecological processes shape the Earth’s surface, including climate, weather, and how humans influence their environment and are influenced by it.

Government Course
GOVT.8 – state and local government organization and powers.
GOVT.9 – public policy process at local, state, and national levels.
GOVT.15 – role of government in Va. and U.S. economies, including examining environmental issues and property rights.

Virginia’s SOLs are available from the Virginia Department of Education, online at http://www.doe.virginia.gov/testing/.

Following are links to Water Radio episodes (various topics) designed especially for certain K-12 grade levels.

Episode 250, 1-26-15 – on boiling, for kindergarten through 3rd grade.
Episode 255, 3-2-15 – on density, for 5th and 6th grade.
Episode 282, 9-21-15 – on living vs. non-living, for kindergarten.
Episode 309, 3-28-16 – on temperature regulation in animals, for kindergarten through 12th grade.
Episode 333, 9-12-16 – on dissolved gases, especially dissolved oxygen in aquatic habitats, for 5th grade.
Episode 403, 1-15-18 – on freezing and ice, for kindergarten through 3rd grade.
Episode 404, 1-22-18 – on ice on ponds and lakes, for 4th through 8th grade.
Episode 406, 2-5-18 – on ice on rivers, for middle school.
Episode 407, 2-12-18 – on snow chemistry and physics, for high school.
Episode 483, 7-29-19 – on buoyancy and drag, for middle school and high school.