Wednesday, March 7, 2012

The “whys and wherefores” of the Virginia state senate budget impasse

Virginia State Senator John Edwards


Valerie Garner interviews  Senator John Edwards about what the heck is going on in Richmond.

With national attention on ultrasounds that turned Governor Bob McDonnell’s VP aspiration from Vice President to Vaginal Probe a gift dropped in the Republicans laps. The Senate Democrats rejected even their own proposed budget.

Roanoke’s Senator John Edwards said, “had the Senate been organized the way it should be we would not have this kind of budget and you would not have extreme social legislation coming to the floor.” The Senate structure was gerrymandered and doesn’t reflect the equal division in the committees. “That is the basic problem,” said Edwards.

Republicans try to make it about ego and it has nothing to do with that said Edwards. The power sharing arrangement in 1996 worked out very successfully. “We represent half the citizens,” said Edwards “and that is not reflected in the committee structure.”

Governor Bob McDonnell said he wouldn’t overreach and they did. He needs to tell the Senate Republicans that he said.

In order to get to the point where the Lt. Governor could vote on the reorganization they had to first change the decades old rules. Those Senate rules have always stated that it takes 21 votes to sustain the ruling of the chair.

Edwards said, “since they could not then come up with 21 they [arbitrarily] said the old rules don’t apply anymore. ”They began using George Mason’s Manual rules of procedure that only requires 20 votes to sustain the ruling of the chair instead of 21. “On January 11 the old rules evaporated,” said Edwards.

Common reasoning says the old rules apply until you develop new rules. The only thing that happens on the first day of the Senate is that you don’t need a 2/3 vote to change the rules – a majority gets you the rules explained Edwards.

“Legally you continue with the old rules until you change them or else you have no rules.”

“Did we have a vote to change using to George Mason’s Manual? – No, you need 21 votes for that,” said an exasperated Edwards. “We’re just going to do it,” said Sen. Tommy Norment according to Edwards.

Democrats asked Norment how he arrived at using Mason’s rules. Edwards said the response was “well, we think it’s a good one.” By sustaining the ruling of the chair the vote becomes 20-20. Democrats tried but they were shot down because they decided to use Mason’s Manual that only required 20. They didn’t use the existing Senate rules. How did they get away with that? “Because I just did,” said Norment according to Edwards. That all happened before voting on Senate reorganization.

[Clarification: A negative response “no” would have been the winning response for the Democrats – “no” afirmation for the chair to vote on reorganiztion]

“They had to violate the rules to violate the rules,” Edwards mused. Judges that heard the Senate’s complaint were picked by House Republicans. It’s an outrage how the House Republicans question judges up for appointment. They are intimidating. It’s really an assault on the independence of the judiciary.

On judges he didn’t know if they would get to them this session. “My guess is we won’t do judges unless we also can reorganize the Senate.” We’ll get judges about the time we get a budget.

The easy way out of the impasse is for Republican to reorganize the Senate a little. So far they’ve dug in their heels.

Posted By Valerie Garner

Categories: Politics, State Politics

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