RICHMOND, Va. - Danica Roem made history by winning a seat in the Virginia House of Delegates as an openly transgender woman. Now, she is learning the ropes and navigating the politics in the state's capitol.
Roem is off to a bumpy start at her new job. She has proposed more than a dozen bills. However, all but one have been struck down so far.
Two of the bills that failed would have impacted students across the state. One focused on guaranteeing each student two hot meals a day at school while the other one would have expanded suicide prevention efforts.
When the former journalist ran for office, she was surrounded by plenty of fanfare. She even received famous endorsements from celebrities. But with the real work underway, Roem is now facing an uphill battle.
“The bills didn't make it because of a party line vote on both of them where all the Democrats on the subcommittee voted for them and all the Republicans voted against them,” she said.
The Democratic freshman delegate's suicide prevention bill actually had bipartisan support, but not enough.
“At this point, I think it's really important for people to understand that preventing death in school among students and making sure kids have two hot meals a day, these are not party line issues,” Roem said. “These are not partisan issues and they shouldn't be turned into partisan issues here in the General Assembly.
From her Richmond office, Roem explained how she plans to convince Republicans to support her bills.
“You become a sophomore,” she said. “Other than that, what I will end up doing between now and 2019 at the start of that session is I will be sitting down with the subcommittee members who heard both of these bills and asking them how can we work together to make better bills."
She added, “I was able to answer every question they asked regarding how the meals bill would be funded. I did have a thorough explanation of three different routes that localities can go to and I think that there was a misunderstanding as well.”
Roem said her school lunch bill was not about free meals, but more about avoiding lunch shaming across campuses. Even so, she said both bills will be back next year and she is here to stay.
“It has nothing to do with my identity,” she said. “It is entirely about being a Democratic freshman.”
The school lunch bill failed on a 5 to 3 vote along party lines.
Roem said both bills were brought to her attention by constituents in Prince William County.