Under the leadership of Speaker Howell, Virginia has become known for its sound fiscal management. While Washington deals with massive debts and deficits, Virginia has produced four straight budget surpluses totaling $2 billion. Virginia’s Rainy Day Fund is on track to exceed $1 billion by the end of the next budget cycle. Virginia has made targeted investments in education, public safety and other core services while keeping taxes low and reducing the state’s debt burden. As a result of this conservative approach, Virginia is one of only 12 states with a Triple-A bond rating from all three major credit agencies.
Speaker Howell has led the charge to tackle some of the Commonwealth’s most pressing challenges. In 2012, Speaker Howell advocated major reforms to the Virginia Retirement System that reduced unfunded liabilities by nearly $9 billion. In 2013, he took the unprecedented step for a Speaker of sponsoring a comprehensive transportation funding plan – the first transportation funding overhaul in 27 years. Working with Governor Bob McDonnell, Howell helped successfully pass the bill, which will generate over $6 billion in new statewide funding for roads, highways and transit over the next five years.
Speaker Howell is also a strong advocate of environmental preservation and conservation efforts. A strong supporter of restoring the Chesapeake Bay, he led the effort to enact Virginia’s national model program for open-spaces land preservation using free-market principles. Speaker Howell has also been a leading proponent of Virginia’s land conservation tax credit program, which has helped preserve over 500,000 acres since its creation 10 years ago.
Speaker Howell was named the 2013 “Legislator of the Year” by the Virginia Chamber of Commerce. He was also named one of Governing Magazine’s 2013 “Public Officials of the Year.”
Speaker Howell has been nationally recognized for his leadership in standing up to Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion. A column in the Wall Street Journal called Virginia’s efforts to resist Medicaid expansion “A Republican Victory on the Front Lines of Obamacare.”
Speaker Howell performs a number of important duties as presiding officer of the 100-member chamber. He assigns all bills to House committees and appoints the Chairs and all members of the 14 standing committees of the House. The Speaker names delegates to all House and Senate conference committees, including the one for the biennial state budget, and appoints lawmakers and citizens to various state boards and commissions.
Speaker Howell also chairs the House Rules Committee and the Joint House-Senate Rules Committee.
Howell is involved in many legislative leadership activities. He currently serves as Chairman of the National Speakers Conference, a national organization of state House speakers. In 2009, Howell served as National Chairman of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), the nation’s largest nonpartisan individual membership association of state legislators. He’s been on ALEC’s Board of Directors since 2003 and, in 2001 they honored him as State Legislator of the Year.
Howell earned his Juris Doctorate from the University of Virginia School of Law and his bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from the University of Richmond. The University of Richmond Alumni Association honored Howell in 2005 by presenting him their Distinguished Service Award.
A citizen-legislator, Bill Howell practices trust and estate law in a restored log cabin which overlooks the Rappahannock River near his home in historic Falmouth. He and his wife, Cessie have been married for 50 years, have two sons, and enjoy seven energetic grandchildren.