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General Assembly "Yard Sale" Uncovers 40 Years of Virginia Political Knickknacks

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That was the mantra on the third floor of the General Assembly Building on Wednesday, where pages held a “yard” sale filled with stuff that’s accumulated in lawmakers’ office cabinets and closets over the years.

The GAB, as it’s affectionately known by regulars, is coming down after more than 40 years serving as one of the epicenters of the legislative process.

Lawmakers and staffers are packing to move down the hill to the Pocahontas Building for a four-year temporary stay until a new building is constructed in the GAB’s spot.

Everything they didn’t want to move was brought to the third floor.

And, boy, were there a lot of tchotchkes and knickknacks:

AARP hats, posters from 2001, fake plants and fake giant pinecones.

Books, a small treasure chest, a tiara, a silver platter, Valentine’s Day decorations, candy, coasters from the Commissioners of the Revenue Association and pens from the Virginia529 College Savings Plan.

A “One Nation Under God” cross-stitch. A colored-pencil drawing of the state Senate chamber.

Mugs from nearly every organization and association in the state.

Lots of vases. (Lawmakers get lots of flowers.)

“All the stuff we already have,” Sen. Bill Stanley, R-Franklin County, quipped to pages as he browsed.

The most coveted item? A bottle of Trump Winery champagne donated by Sen. Frank Wagner, R-Virginia Beach. Coffeemakers went fast, too.

Pages – middle-schoolers from around the state who spend a few months at the General Assembly assisting lawmakers and learning about the legislative process – hawked goods like savvy salespeople.

Proceeds went to the Central Virginia Food Bank, the pages’ annual charity of choice.

The General Assembly Building is home to committee hearing rooms, 140 lawmakers’ offices and the pages, and during each year’s session it’s filled with lobbyists, reporters and the public. It’s being torn down this fall.

It’s composed of four buildings mashed together over time and filled with asbestos, mold, leaks and other problems. Its committee rooms are often too small with plenty of columns to obstruct views. It’s often too hot or too cold, depending on the room. The elevators are always too crowded .

A bill to authorize the sale of surplus property passed the Senate on Wednesday with an emergency clause, meaning it would go into effect as soon as the governor signs it.

“The building is coming down pretty quickly,” said Sen. Ryan McDougle, R-Hanover.

A $300 million plan calls for replacing the GAB, building a parking deck across the street at 9th and Broad streets, and renovating the nearby Old City Hall, which houses government offices.

Officials will keep the facade of the Life of Virginia Building, the GAB’s initial structure.

In the meantime, the Pocahontas Building south of the Capitol at 10th and Main streets will be home to the Division of Legislative Automated Services, the Division of Legislative Services, the House Appropriations and Senate Finance committees, and both chambers’ clerk staffs.

Meeting rooms in the Capitol and Patrick Henry Building will be used for committee hearings and other gatherings.

Officials are working on designs for the new building. Work is expected to be completed by 2021.


This story originally appeared on PilotOnline.com.

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