Senator Marsden Comes to NOVA

State Senator Marsden's district and NOVA's Annandale campus.
State Senator Marsden’s district and NOVA’s Annandale campus.

Virginia State Senator Dave Marsden visited my Geography 210 (Cultural Geography) class on Wednesday, March 16. He talked about the life of a state senator and the importance of legislation passed by the General Assembly in 2016. He also mentioned that members of the Virginia Senate and House of Delegates would return to Richmond to deal with any bills that Governor McAuliffe amends or vetoes.

One of Marsden’s bills, SB 49 (Senate Bill 49), makes it a felony for a person under a protective order for family abuse to possess a firearm. Marsden noted that state senators from western and rural Virginia usually oppose any gun safety measures; but this bill was passed as part of a compromise, ultimately passing the Virginia Senate 40 to 0. Governor McAuliffe signed it into law February 26.

Geography students listening to Senator Marsden.
Geography students listening to Senator Marsden.

Marsden also discussed gerrymandering—the manipulation of voting districts to favor a political party. For example, Virginia’s 3rd congressional district was drawn in 2011 by Republicans in the Virginia legislature to be 56% African American, packing the urban black vote, spanning 100 miles from Richmond to Norfolk, in just one district (see district 3, map below left). Challenged in court as an “unconstitutional racial gerrymander,” the redrawn 3rd District is geographically centered on the urban areas of Hampton Roads (see map, below right).

Change to congressional districts in southeastern Virginia.

The 4th District was also affected by the boundary changes and now includes Richmond and Petersburg. This change to the 4th District is seen as an opportunity for Democrats to pick up this seat in the U.S. House of Representatives in November 2016. Marsden added that his colleague, Senator McEachin, recently decided to run for the 4th District seat; the Republican incumbent, Representative Randy Forbes, decided in February to run for the 2nd District seat, which has more Republican-friendly voters.

Finally, there was good news for education in the budget approved by Virginia’s General Assembly, with an additional $104 million going to higher education and $56 million more allocated for financial aid to college students.



Author: David Miller

Learned about the wonders of geography while working at National Geographic for some 25 years. Started teaching one class a semester at NOVA in the 1990s but became a dedicated instructor in 2010.

24 thoughts on “Senator Marsden Comes to NOVA”

  1. A state senator creates and votes on countless amounts of bills every year, going towards the direction for which the local public (and political party) would have the best interest in. One major thing that intrigued me about Senator Marsden’s talk was the role that he goes through as a senator. Since there are 40 senators, I never really thought about them having single roles, but rather thought about them playing a unitary role as one. I also thought trading bills strategically was very interesting.

    As a person not too big into politics, something I learned was that there are elections every year, with the most important ones having a better chance with a “persuasion” campaign, and the smaller elections relying heavily on hardcore political persons.

    1. Great comments! The reply was a bit long; but you had some key points, especially about base (hard core) voters in off year elections where there is low voter turnout.

  2. State Senator Dave Marsden was a delight to have in class. I was very intrigued to hear his stories regarding his work with senators in southern Virginia. I grew up in district 40 of Virginia, so I have some knowledge about issues and politics within that area. Marsden explained a gun control bill that he had worked on getting passed with our class. Both his explanation of the bill and of the deal he tried to make in order to pass the bill were easy to follow and very interesting. Before this visit I did not realize how much influence individuals in the Virginia Senate have on the laws of Virginia.

    1. Thanks for the comment. I looked to see where Senate District 40 is located; it is as far west and south as a resident of Virginia can go. I have stayed in the Wytheville and Abingdon areas, and I like the region.

  3. Senator Marsden was very interesting to listen to. I respected his passion on the reform of the correctional system, especially since he has had personal experience in that field. I agreed on a lot of what he was saying, especially with guns laws. However, the idea of making deals still seems a little unclear, but I think they are worth it if, and only if, it benefits the people he is representing. I found it interesting how morals and business comes together, if you are not careful there could be a lot of disappointment.

    1. Yes, Senator Marsden cares about corrections issues, especially about the juvenile justice system. On justice and guns he seems to take the long view of making things better through incremental steps. Thanks for your comments.

  4. Having Senator Marsden come into our class was really interesting and fun, it was nice being able to talk to him about his fews and what types of laws that he believes in. I really liked how he wanted us to ask him questions, one of my questions was on why he got into politics. I found it interesting that he really just fell into politics, and not that he was looking into going into politics from the beginning. I loved that he talked about what really made him passionate about law making, and how he can help make what he believes in and what the people he represents believe in become laws, even if it does take more than one law to do it.

  5. It was a pleasure having Senator Marsden speak in class. He briefly discussed the life sentence penalty for a juvenile who committed homicide. My co-worker’s brother did so at age 15 and received 25 years (life) in prison. Questions were clarified of whether he would be eligible for parole. Since he is over half way done with his sentence, he will most likely not be eligible.
    I am happy to know if I have any future questions or recommendations to law, I can send a letter to Senator Marsden.

  6. I thought it was very intriguing to learn that the senate of the district has over 200,000 people to keep track of in there district and make sure there district is organized and running. He is a very intelligent and a very good speaker. He kept it interesting and humorous at the same time. He has submitted many laws to the house and got a couple passed.

  7. I thoroughly enjoyed having Senator Marsden visit our class. He was quite a fascinating fellow, and it was intriguing to discover all the things that he does. I did not previously know there were specific sessions in which Senators vote, and also the number of bills that he attempts to put through is quite intense. I had previously not known that there was no parole in Virginia. This is something that quite angered me, as some people make mistakes, and I hope he one day gets a bill passed on it.

  8. It was so cool to have Senator Marsden speak in our class. His topics were very interesting, especially the trading bills strategy. That was cool, and I didn’t even know that clever strategy was used in politics.

    I also agreed with pretty much all of his views, especially his stance on gun control.

  9. Having Senator Marsden speak in our class was an amazing experience, and I’ve learned so much from it. It was incredible hearing about the negotiations and deals made with the opposite party to settle for what laws they could pass, in this case gun control laws. Hearing this really put government in perspective and made me realize that I never really knew how difficult it was to pass a law, and keep it in action.

  10. It was so great having Senator Marsden in class. I liked how he talked about working with other senators within the Democratic Party about new bills because sometimes they want to propose the same or similar bill. I believe when people work together they are more likely to achieve their goals. I also liked how he is so passionate about his job. A topic he discussed multiple times was about the corrections system and wanting to reduce time for people who ran into trouble or just made mistakes in their lives, so they would not be paying for those mistakes for the rest of their lives.

  11. Even though I never was very good at following politics I thought Senator Marsden’s visit was both interesting and informative. One of the topics that stood out to me was his role in opening up some waterways for canoeing and the somewhat sneaky or round-about way it had to be done. It was also very interesting to hear a real life example of “trading” bills.

  12. It was an amazing experience hearing Senator Marsden speak about our district. He seem very interested in what we (college students) asked and very curious about. He also had very good explanations on reasons why he supported the bills for the state. I was interested in politics already, but meeting the senator made me really think about the state laws and the bills that are soon to come to our states. It was very interesting to hear about our correction system, I believe that it would be great way to give people a second chance. Wish he knew a little more about education, would of love to hear about where our education stands in Virginia.

  13. Senator Marsden touched on many important topics and shined light on different aspects of politics that many people are unaware of. I watch House of Cards on Netflix, and it’s all about how politics works behind closed doors. The deals that are made between opposing parties in order to get things done is a huge factor in politics, and when Sen. Marsden talked about that I immediately thought of House of Cards.
    Another interesting topic he brought up was medicinal cannabis and how CBD extracts work. He seems to know what he’s talking about and genuinely cares for the people who need this type of medicine, so I just hope he’s able to come through for them in the near future.

  14. I really enjoyed the senator’s visit. He shared lots of interesting information. As a responsible gun owner I apprecaite the lengths he is going to keep things safe such as the felony for possessing a gun if you are under a protective order. I agree completely with him on this. I was disappointed to hear that in order to get that bill he had to give up on the conceal carry issue this time. I agree with him that if you carry in Virginia you should have to meet Virginia standards. That just makes sense – it is the responsible thing to do if you are going to allow people to carry weapons. I knew trading to get bills passed happened, but I didn’t realize just how “normal” this was until the senator talked about it.

  15. I liked how Senator Dave Marsden talked about negotiations with the other party (Republican). I did not know that senators did that as in one would give something up to get there bill passed. One of the examples I remember him giving was the one about the places in Southern Virginia where people use there dogs to hunt foxes. He also mentioned negotiating for his desired gun control bill.

  16. I really enjoyed having Senator Dave Marsden visit the class and discuss the joys and challenges of representing such a huge district. I thought it was good that he had such an interest in public safety. He has passed bills to enforce thorough background checks on weapon carriers and even bills making sure that out of state licenses are up to par with the standards in Virginia. I definitely learned a lot and saw his passion for hearing out what lobbyists are fighting for–whether he agrees with their point of view or not. That is commendable.

  17. Senator Marsden plays a large role in representing a democratic position in an important, highly populated area of Virginia, fighting to pass legislature that’s important to the people of the communities he represents. To me, it’s vital that representatives of our communities focus on environmental sustainability initiatives. I asked Senator Marsden if he focused on any initiatives involving agriculture, and he informed me that he helped pass an important bill that requires landscape companies to clean up fertilizer from sidewalks, so that the nitrogen containing chemical fertilizers can’t leach out and wash into rivers, where there is a threat of eutrophication, especially to the Chesapeake Bay. Thanks Senator Marsden! 🙂

  18. I reviewed Senator Marsen’s 2016 SB bills, and the one I will address is SB 106 about Absentee Voting. This bill makes it easy to vote with an absentee ballot, without giving reason why a person may want to vote on a day other than Election Day. It may create some problems in the long run, such as voter fraud and responsibility. It is best to have people vote on Election Day, and only under special circumstances should it be okay to vote with an absentee ballot, like with military members or people who are traveling, or who are sick. But convenience is not a reason to be granted an absentee ballot.

  19. Senator Marsden’s bill about absentee voting is really convenient for citizens. A person can mail in their vote as an absentee ballot without having to explain why they couldn’t vote in person. There are many reasons for people who can’t come in and vote in person, so this absentee voting is really convenient. Although laziness shouldn’t be a reason someone provides an absentee ballot, other emergencies can come up for people. This is a great way to make sure even those who can’t make it to the polls, can still vote.

  20. I want to say that it was unfortunate for me to miss this awesome special guest and presentation. But I did go ahead and read more about him and what he has done. Very impressive I should say! I do also agree on the gun views as well!

  21. I was delighted to meet Senator Marsden. Not being a very politically minded person, I was amazed at some of the legislative issues that he has to deal with on a annual basis, such as the bill for medicinal marijuana use and the trials that one of his constituents has to endure to help her child. Or the fact that over 1000 new bills are presented to the Virginia State legislature every year. I wouldn’t have thought that Virginian’s have that much to complain about. Lol.
    It was enlightening to hear about all those issues and how some of them even affected me, without my being aware of their impacts.

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