On January 8, 2003, Bill Howell was sworn in as the 54th Speaker of the Virginia House of Delegates. He leads a nearly 400-year old institution, the oldest continuously elected law-making body in the New World. First elected a delegate in 1987, he represents the 28th House District which includes parts of Stafford County and the City of Fredericksburg.
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 chairmen and all members of each of the 14 standing committees of the House. The Speaker names delegates to all House-Senate conference committees, including the one for the biennial state budget, and appoints lawmakers and citizens to various state boards and commissions. Speaker Howell is the chairman of the House Rules Committee and the Joint House-Senate Rules Committee.
Under Howell’s leadership, Virginia has adopted fiscally responsible state budgets with investments in education, public safety, mental health and other core services while avoiding higher taxes and creating costly new programs. In 2007, 2011 and 2013, Howell took the unprecedented step for a Speaker of sponsoring and successfully enacting comprehensive transportation plans with significant VDOT reforms, historic land use changes that combat sprawl and $3.5 billion in statewide and regional funding for roads, rail and transit. 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. Additionally, he has championed improving access to health care and Medicaid along with greater choice, better quality and cost savings through sound reform.
Howell is involved in many legislative leadership and historic preservation activities. Currently serving as First Vice-President of the National Speakers Conference (a national organization of state House Speakers), Howell was recently named Chairman beginning in 2014. In 2010, Governor McDonnell named Speaker Howell as Co-Vice Chairman of the Governor’s Commission on Government Reform and Restructuring. 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 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 log cabin that he had restored and which overlooks the Rappahannock River near his home in historic Falmouth. He and his wife, Cessie have been married for 46 years, have two sons, and enjoy seven energetic grandchildren.