Tommy Norment first came to Virginia’s 3rd Senatorial District as a child when his father worked at Cheatham Annex.
A graduate of James Blair High School in Williamsburg, Norment attended college at Virginia Military Institute before returning to Williamsburg to attend the Marshall-Wythe School of Law at the College of William and Mary. In 1987, he was elected to the James City County Board of Supervisors. He served as Chairman of the Board in 1991 before being elected to the Senate of Virginia.
Norment maintains an active role in the community. He is a member of the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation’s Board of Trustees and the Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation’s Board of Directors. He is on the Hampton Roads Board of Directors of TowneBank and he chairs the Williamsburg Board of TowneBank. Norment is also a member of the Williamsburg Area Chamber of Commerce and the James City County Ruritan Club.
Professionally, Norment is an attorney with Kaufman and Canoles, P.C., and a professor at the College of William and Mary. He and his wife, Mary Humelsine Norment, reside in James City County. They have two grown daughters and one grandson.
Now that your district has changed so much, are there any new issues you’ll be addressing? What concerns are you hearing from your new constituents?
As I travel through the new areas of the district, I am struck by the diversity of interests expressed by residents of the newly drawn 3rdSenatorial District. With a district that stretches from rural King and Queen County all the way to the Cities of Hampton and Suffolk, I hear a lot of different specific priorities, but with one overarching theme: economic growth. People ask, “How do we bring business to our region? What can we do to retain and grow our existing businesses and industries?” The specifics of the concern are different in different parts of the district. For example, people in King William and King and Queen Counties often express a desire for broadband, which residents believe will be an economic driver for the area.
During November and December, I will meet with the leadership from each locality so that I can learn firsthand the legislative needs of each community. I am looking forward to the opportunity to better understand the priorities of each locality, particularly in the areas of the district that I will be representing for the first time, and to hear directly from them exactly how I can serve their needs in Richmond.
Some of the buzz words in the state now are tourism, transportation and job creation. What specific things would you like to see happen in the state to address these issues?
I am pleased to see the state working now to actively promote tourism by partnering with localities and offering incentives. Earlier this year, I sponsored legislation that enables localities to more easily fund their tourism projects. This is a positive step, and I think it is critical for localities to capitalize on this opportunity. I believe that we are just beginning to see the benefits of this legislation, and I am encouraged by the state’s active organization of the upcoming Tourism Summit.
During the recent General Assembly session, we made substantial progress in providing additional funding for transportation. This measure was long overdue and offered a good beginning, but we have many transportation issues that require costly attention. In Virginia, we rightly prioritize maintenance of roads over new construction, yet we will soon lack adequate funding to even maintain our roadways. Likewise, those of us in Hampton Roads know that the traffic continues to worsen and that there is no easy or inexpensive solution. Recently, there has been discussion regarding the approval for tolls on I-95. Some people favor the placement of tolls, while others are adamantly opposed. We will obviously be hearing more about this proposal and other proposals during the upcoming months. The focus should be on examining viable options that command public and legislative support, and to abandon failed efforts to raise the gas tax, which – having been repeatedly rejected – now constitutes little more than political posturing.
Virginia is on the right track in regard to job creation, and this is borne out by our ranking as America’s “Best State for Business.” Still, we face challenges during the upcoming budget cycle that could endanger our continued progress. The federal stimulus dollars that were used to alleviate shortfalls during the two most recent years are no longer available to us. While we are required to balance the budget, we must do so in a manner that preserves and protects the programs and incentives that continue to make Virginia an attractive location in which to do business.
K12 and higher education have received cut after cut over the years in state funding. Would you say this is the new norm, or do you see a chance at restoring funding over the next few years? Why?
With continued supplemental federal funding no longer available, we face serious obstacles to restoring or increasing funding for K12 and higher education in the upcoming budget cycle. Our focus instead should be on limiting further cuts. Last year, I advocated strongly against additional cuts to funding for education, and I will continue to do so this year.
Local governments have been grumbling about unfunded state mandatesthat add an unfair financial burden to localities that are also struggling through tough times. What can you do to help them with this?
Having served on the James City County Board of Supervisors, I understand the negative fiscal impact on localities that is caused by unfunded mandates from the state. Earlier this year, the General Assembly passed legislation to establish a Task Force for Local Government Mandate Review. I am pleased that the Governor recently appointed members to this task force and assigned them to work with the local governments throughout the Commonwealth to modify or eliminate burdensome unfunded mandates. In conjunction with the establishment of this task force, the Governor is offering to exercise his ability to temporarily remove unfunded mandates on localities if the mandate creates an undue fiscal hardship. This is a step in the right direction, and I strongly encourage all local governments to review and seek relief from the unfunded mandates that impact their locality.
Are there any other issues that are high priority for you in the coming year? If so, what are they?
As a member of the Senate Finance Committee and a budget conferee, I will obviously be focusing much of my attention on crafting a two-year spending plan for the Commonwealth. In my capacity as Republican leader, I hope to be leading the new majority in enacting items in Governor McDonnell’s reform agenda that will be under consideration in the next session. With a cooperative legislative partner in the Senate of Virginia, I am very encouraged for the prospects of the Governor’s ongoing efforts to grow the economy in all regions of the Commonwealth. And again because of what I hope will be a new Senate majority, I am encouraged that the prospects for my legislation to make the budget process more transparent and accountable to the public will be improved.
Discuss a few of the accomplishments you are proudest of from your current term.
As a budget conferee, I am privileged to have a seat at the table each year as we work to balance the state’s budget. This opportunity permits me to have a direct say in determining the funding priorities in our Commonwealth and to ensure that the needs of my constituents in the 3rd District are addressed. Earlier this year, for the first time in Virginia’s history, we passed a budget with a unanimous vote in both the Senate and House. I believe this level of support is a reflection of the efforts made by myself and my colleagues. Also this year, I was honored to be selected as the Virginia Sheriffs’ Association’s legislative leader of the year for my efforts in support of the law enforcement community. Public safety remains my high priority, and I was please to sponsor legislation to ban the distribution and sale of synthetic marijuana. I also sponsored legislation this year to increase transparency in the budget process, and I remain committed to legislative reform initiatives that will make our state government more accountable to taxpayers.