Assembly Access

Making government work for Virginians.

Archive for January 2008

Supporting property tax relief

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Dels. Bob Brink and Paula Miller spoke in favor of HB11 this afternoon, urging immediate property tax relief for Virginia homeowners. You can read more about the origins of the homestead exemption here and here.

Del. Brink:

Del. Miller:

Written by assemblyaccess

January 29, 2008 at 3:39 pm

Posted in Video

Nondiscrimination squashed

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Del. Adam Ebbin’s HB1493, which would have added sexual orientation to Virginia’s nondiscrimination policy for state employees, was killed in a Courts of Justice subcommittee this afternoon on an unrecorded vote. The bill would have codified Gov. Tim Kaine’s first executive order.

Unfortunately, no video is available – but in the audio clip below, Del. Dave Marsden makes the motion to report, which is seconded by Del. David Toscano. Republicans swiftly voice their opposition, and the bill is defeated.

Written by assemblyaccess

January 28, 2008 at 4:25 pm

Posted in Audio

How to kill a bill without a vote

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House Republicans are supposedly big fans of “proportional representation,” but their math skills must have failed them when handing out assignments for the Firearms subcommittee of Militia, Police, and Public Safety. The group’s lone Democrat is Del. David Poisson; the other 80% is comprised of GOP Delegates Tommy Wright, Morgan Griffith, Scott Lingamfelter and Dave Nutter.

As such, members don’t even have to vote against a bill to kill it – if no one seconds a motion to report, the bill simply dies right then and there.

In the videos below, Del. Poisson motions to report two bills pertaining to protective orders and firearms, which both promptly die when no one offers a second:

  • HB281 (HB608 was also rolled into this bill), which would prohibit someone with a protective order issued against them from possessing a firearm
  • HB814, which would help inform law enforcement if someone subject to a protective order is in possession of a firearm

The subcommittee also killed Del. Jim Scott’s microstamping measure, HB899 and Del. Jeion Ward’s HB810, which would require machine gun registrants to notify the State Police of a change of address.

Written by assemblyaccess

January 26, 2008 at 12:11 pm

Posted in Video

Gun show loophole fix killed… again

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This morning, House Republicans on the Militia, Police and Public Safety committee swiftly moved to reconsider HB745, the gunshow loophole bill, before any Democrats had a chance to open up debate again.

Below, you can listen to Del. Clay Athey make his motion and immediately call for a vote, thereby avoiding any further discussion of the matter:

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January 25, 2008 at 1:55 pm

Posted in Audio

Tyranny of the Majority

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In a failed political maneuver on the House floor today, House Republicans attempted to subvert the traditions of the House of Delegates and refused to allow Del. Adam Ebbin to withdraw his own bill from consideration. Ebbin’s bill reached the floor via a new rule introduced by Republican leader Morgan Griffith, who was unable to think of a purpose for this scheme when asked during floor debate a scant two weeks ago:

Republicans in the House Rules committee referred the bill to the full floor with no recommendation and no input from the public. In protest, Democratic leader Ward Armstrong encouraged his colleagues to refuse to vote in an act of civil disobedience.

The GOP responded by revealing the true intentions of their tactic, forcing their will upon the minority by challenging their votes one by one. Del. Jeion Ward responds below:

Del. Griffith proceeded with the list.

You can read more here.

Written by assemblyaccess

January 24, 2008 at 4:13 pm

Posted in Audio, Video

House Democrats pass tougher ethics laws

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For Immediate Release
January 22, 2008

House Democrats pass tougher ethics laws

Richmond, VA — Today, House Democrats led the way for stricter ethics reform in the Virginia General Assembly. A floor amendment offered by House Minority Leader Ward Armstrong received bi-partisan support and passed overwhelmingly. The amendment would ban legislators or statewide officials from attending an event from any organization that had given them a campaign contribution in the previous year.

The amendment was offered to HB322 sponsored by Delegate Chris Saxman. His legislation sought to make partisan issue with the Democratic Party of Virginia holding their annual Jefferson Jackson Day dinner during the legislative session.

Armstrong’s amendment sought to broaden that to all events held by organizations or registered lobbyists that contribute to legislators’ campaign accounts.

“Today, House Democrats led the way for tougher ethic reforms,” House Minority Leader Ward Armstrong said. “Rather than seeking to make partisan issue with one dinner, we believe there should be wholesale change in the way the legislature does business. We are glad that our Republican colleagues followed our lead.”

Delegate Kenny Alexander offered a similar amendment in the House Privileges and Elections Committee.

“It is a great day for the people of the Commonwealth because House Democrats have led the way in fighting off influence from lobbyist and other special interests groups during the legislative session,” Delegate Alexander said.

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Written by assemblyaccess

January 22, 2008 at 2:17 pm

Posted in Press Release

Protecting Reproductive Freedom

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Del. David Englin spoke on the floor today against Del. Matt Lohr’s HB894, which would severely limit access to women’s health services.

Written by assemblyaccess

January 22, 2008 at 2:14 pm

Posted in Video

A bit of self-promotion

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The Shad Plank mentioned Assembly Access last Friday, focusing on our penchant for popping in on those infamous 7:00 AM subcommittee meetings.

Written by assemblyaccess

January 21, 2008 at 10:39 am

Posted in Links

Protecting Women’s Health

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Del. Jeion Ward spoke on the floor today in opposition to Del. Bob Marshall’s HB188, which would delay the implementation of Virginia’s HPV vaccination program.

Written by assemblyaccess

January 18, 2008 at 5:04 pm

Posted in Video

Strike Two for Redistricting Reform

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Shortly after the defeat of Del. Plum’s redistricting measure, Republicans also killed Del. Brink’s version, HB1070. The vote was the same, with the exception of Del. Suit, who had left the meeting.

Written by assemblyaccess

January 18, 2008 at 3:02 pm

Posted in Video

Strike One for Redistricting Reform

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In a predawn subcommittee meeting this morning, House Republicans killed Del. Ken Plum’s HB339 – one of several redistricting reform measures before the General Assembly this session – on an unrecorded voice vote.

In the video below, Del. Plum concludes his remarks, Del. Bob Brink motions to report the bill, and Del. John O’Bannon makes a substitute motion to lay the bill on the table. He was joined by Dels. Chris Jones, Terrie Suit, and Rob Bell; Dels. Brink and Rosalyn Dance opposed the tabling.

You can read more about redistricting reform at www.fixthelines.com

Written by assemblyaccess

January 18, 2008 at 1:52 pm

Posted in Video

Virginia Legislative Black Caucus Unveils Agenda

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For Immediate Release
January 16, 2008

Virginia Legislative Black Caucus Unveils Agenda; Introduces Officers

(Richmond, VA) Today the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus (VLBC) released its legislative agenda for the 2008 General Assembly Session and introduced its newly elected officers.

The VLBC officers for the 2008 General Assembly session are:
Chair Delegate Dwight C. Jones
Vice Chair Delegate Kenneth C. Alexander
Secretary Senator Mamie Locke
Treasurer Delegate Jeoin Ward
Chaplain Senator Donald McEachin

“Getting our priorities right in the 2008-2010 biennial budget is the number one issue this session and the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus will play a pivotal role in that process, given its expanded representation on the two money committees and the number of new committee chairs among our members, ” said VLBC Chairman Dwight C. Jones.

Delegate Jones explained that the policy objectives the Legislative Black Caucus will pursue through the budget and in legislation are true to the Caucus’ stated mission of “voicing the legislative concerns of people of color and other historically underrepresented groups throughout the Commonwealth” and consistent with the six major objectives that form the Caucus’ covenant with its constituents adopted last year.

“These policy objectives are reflected in the broad-based legislative package that we announce today — a package that includes: i) legislation that focuses on economic security issues including pay day lending, enhanced enforcement of the minimum wage laws, and financial literacy; ii) protecting voting rights including restoration of rights to those who have served their debt to society; iii) improving health care by attacking health care disparities and reforming the mental health system; iv) promoting healthy communities by continuing to focus on responsible, common sense gun laws; v) helping to ensure everyone has a home by focusing on affordable housing; and v) criminal justice reform.” Delegate Jones added.

“Our number one budget priority continues to be funding for the proton beam treatment facility in Hampton Roads, Delegate Jones said. And, he added, “the Caucus is united in its support for ending pay day loan abuses and expanding the Commonwealth’s pre-k education programs as recommended by the Governor.” Finally, Jones said, “with expanded representation on the Assembly money committees, the Caucus is looking forward to playing a strong role in passing the Governor’s higher education bond package (which will fund important projects at Norfolk State and Virginia State) and to enhancing the funding for the teaching loan scholarship program that will help bring quality teachers to schools in our communities.”

Economic Security
“As a part of its goal to offer economic opportunity to all Virginians, the Caucus continues to support repeal of pay day lending,” said Senator Donald McEachin (D Henrico). “The average Virginian who borrows from a payday lender gets 12 payday loans per year and pays $840 to repay a 6-month $300 loan,” McEachin said. “We are united with the Family Foundation, the Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy, the Virginia Organizing Project, the AARP and others in seeking an end to this financial exploitation and abuse.”
HB 176 Database for payday lending (Delegate Ware, D Roanoke)
HB 730 Repeal of payday lending(Delegate McClellan, D Richmond)
HB 1404 36% interest rate cap (Delegate Jones, D Richmond City)
SB 156 Repeal of payday lending(Senator McEachin, D Richmond)
SB 670 36% interest rate cap (Senator McEachin, Henrico)

“Enhanced minimum wage enforcement is also a priority for us this session,” said Delegate Dwight C. Jones (D Richmond City). “We want to enhance penalties for the most serious violators and beef up the staffing for wage enforcement at the Department of Labor and Industry and the Office of the Attorney General so that every worker gets the pay that he or she has earned,” he continued. Jones also pointed out that “an added benefit to tougher wage enforcement is that cracking down on sweatshops and wage violators would be one of the most effective deterrents to employers recruiting undocumented immigrants who gain an economic advantage over their competitors by exploiting vulnerable people.”
HB 1038 Minimum wage enforcement (Delegate Jones, D Richmond)

Delegate Lionell Spruill indicated that the Caucus continues to believe that “financial literacy is the key to enhanced economic success,” and said that the Caucus will be seeking to strengthen financial literacy education by requiring 12 classroom hours of instruction.
HB 1272 Financial literacy education (Delegate Spruill, D Chesapeake)

Health Care
Senator Donald McEachin (D Henrico) expressed pride in the fact that the Legislative Black Caucus is taking a leading role in the Governor’s initiative to reform the Commonwealth’s mental health programs related to evaluation and treatment of mentally ill criminals. “Reforming our mental health system is a bipartisan priority following last year’s tragedy at Virginia Tech, and we are pleased that the Black Caucus can provide leadership on this important issue.”
SB 440 Mentally ill defendants; treatment and hospitalization

Delegate Jennifer McClellan (D Richmond City) spoke about the role that the Caucus will take in supporting the Governor’s initiative to reform health care and provide improved access through the VirginiaShare Health Insurance Program. “I am honored to be a co-patron with Delegate Phil Hamilton (R Newport News) of HB 593, which will provide health insurance premium assistance to allow eligible low-income working individuals to purchase health insurance coverage through a certified VirginiaShare Health Insurance Policy,” said McClellan. “This program will help the Commonwealth begin to address the serious problem of the working uninsured in Virginia, and move us toward a day when every Virginian will have equal access to quality, affordable health care,” she concluded.

“Another important quality of life issue important to the Caucus is the disparity in health care and medical outcomes that exists in Virginia’s minority communities,” said Senator Mamie Locke (D Hampton). “We are committed to building healthy communities, and we need to start by ensuring that all Virginians have access to cutting edge health care. Studies show that African American men are more than two times more likely to die of prostate cancer than white men. And, a recent study of geographic disparities in prostate cancer deaths indicates that from 10% to 30% of geographic differences in medical outcomes may relate to access to care. That is why our number one budget priority this year continues to be funding for the proton beam cancer center in Hampton Roads that will bring a promising new cancer therapy to Virginia and to a part of Virginia where the incidence of certain cancers is greatest.”

Voting Rights
Virginia continues to restrict access to the ballot box for thousands of Virginians. Restrictive laws on absentee voting, early voting, and restoration of rights must be set aside in favor of full and free ballot access,” said Senator Yvonne Miller. “We need to do more to assure that all voters can get to the polls and make informed choices once they enter the voting booth,” she added. “That is why the Caucus is again introducing legislation to amend the Constitution to permit greater legislative involvement in the restoration of rights, and to amend our laws to assure fuller access to the ballot box for all Virginia voters, particularly our senior citizens and those without private transportation,” she concluded.
HB 1278 Early voting (Delegate Spruill, D Chesapeake)
SJ 7 Constitutional Amendment; Restoration of rights (Senator Miller, D Norfolk)

Healthy Communities
Healthy communities are communities free from gun violence, and that is why the Caucus is supporting responsible gun regulation that will protect children and other library patrons” said Delegate Mayme Bacote (D Newport News). “It is also time that we finally close the gun show loophole that allows guns to be sold without the community security provided by instant criminal records checks,” said Senator Henry Marsh (D Richmond City). “It is also important that we give police officers information about guns in the possession of those against whom protective orders are entered so that they will be aware of the availability of firearms when they are investigating subsequent allegations of family abuse,” offered Delegate Jeion Ward (D Hampton).

HB 697 Control of firearms, libraries (Delegate Bacote, D Newport News)
HB 814 Information in protective orders about firearms (Delegate Ward, D Hampton)
S 32 Control of firearms, libraries (Senator Locke, D Hampton)
SB 109 Transfer of firearms, criminal record check (Senator Marsh, D Richmond)

Criminal Justice
“Ensuring that the criminal justice system works fairly and in a manner free from bias is a matter of essential vigilance for the VLBC,” said Delegate Onzlee Ware (D Roanoke). “That is why one of our budget initiatives will be to secure funds for a full time staff person in the Department of Criminal Justice Services to work on training and other matters related to bias-based policing and racial profiling,” he added.

“Another area of concern highlighted by the Governor’s Commission on Sexual Violence is the practice of requiring sexual violence victims to submit to lie detector tests as a condition of going forward with the prosecution of the crime committed against them,” said Senator Louise Lucas. “I am pleased to be carrying the Governor’s bill that would conform Virginia law to the federal Violence Against Women Act and end this practice in Virginia.”
SB 164 Use of polygraph on sex offense victims (Senator Lucas, D Portsmouth)

A member of the Governor’s Commission on Sexual Violence, Delegate Jennifer McClellan (D Richmond City), is carrying the Governor’s bill that would end the arcane practice of allowing a defendant in a statutory rape case involving a minor to escape punishment by marrying the child. “It is past time to repeal this law that is a throwback to another time,” said Delegate McClellan.
HB 597 Crimes; effect of subsequent marriage to child over 14 years of age. (Delegate McClellan, D Richmond City)

The Virginia Legislative Black Caucus (VLBC) is a bi-partisan organization committed to voicing the legislative concerns of people of color and other historically underrepresented groups throughout the Commonwealth. The VLBC is dedicated to improving the social, economic, educational, and political status of African Americans in the Commonwealth of Virginia. Among the purposes of the VLBC is to serve as a force to raise the consciousness of non-African Americans about the contributions made by African Americans throughout the Commonwealth.

The six major policy objectives that form the Caucus’ covenant with its constituents are:
· The VLBC will seek to bring economic opportunity to all Virginians.
· The VLBC will seek to protect the right to vote and to make voting more accessible.
· The VLBC will seek to make quality educational programs and schools equally available to all Virginians.
· The VLBC will seek to promote healthy communities.
· The VLBC will seek to assure that every Virginian has a home.
· The VLBC will seek to ensure that the criminal justice system is fair and just.

Written by assemblyaccess

January 16, 2008 at 4:06 pm

Posted in Press Release

Honoring our veterans

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For Immediate Release
January 15, 2008

House Democratic Leaders Propose Military Veterans & Personnel Bill of Rights

Richmond, VA-House Democratic Caucus Chairman Brian Moran was joined by Delegate Joe Bouchard and House Democratic Leader Ward Armstrong to propose a military veterans & personnel bill of rights for those serving honorably in the armed services.

The bill is sponsored by House Democratic Caucus Chairman Brian Moran and Delegate Joe Bouchard (HB 1193). This year’s effort will protect financial security for Virginians activated in our armed services, provide additional life insurance benefits for our veterans, decrease tax costs of service and protect service members from credit fraud. They also announced support for new mental health initiatives for our returning soldiers.

The four point bill would:
• Expand supplemental pay to any state employee who is on active military duty.
• Allow National Guard to participate in the group state government life insurance program
• Provide an income tax exemption for Guard and Reservists activated to service.
• Authorize members of the armed services and their spouses to freeze access to their credit reports.

They also announced their support for a proposal from the Joint Military Leadership Council to create a wounded warrior center for Virginia veterans with traumatic brain injury, post-traumatic stress disorder, and other concerns.

“The men and women serving honorably overseas deserve our support at home,” House Democratic Caucus Chairman Brian Moran said. “In trying times, Virginia must serve those who serve our Commonwealth and our country. This bill of rights expands protections for our services members, ensures their financial security and financial future, and protects them from fraud.”

“Having served and been a leader in the US Navy, I have seen how our soldiers and sailors serve with distinction and honor. They are entitled to all the support they can receive from the Commonwealth and from Washington,” Delegate Joe Bouchard said.

House Democratic leaders proposed a Veterans’ Bill of Rights during the 2007 fall elections. This legislation would be the first step towards achieving those goals.

“This November, we campaigned on taking care of our soldiers, seniors and middle class families in need. We plan on keeping our word to fight for middle class Virginians,” House Democratic Leader Ward Armstrong said.

Written by assemblyaccess

January 15, 2008 at 5:59 pm

Posted in Press Release, Video

Real solutions

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Del. Kris Amundson spoke on the floor today, urging the House to focus on real solutions for Virginians as the General Assembly session progresses. You can watch the video or read the transcript below.

Mr. Speaker, ladies and gentlemen of the House, like many of you, I had the opportunity to go home over the weekend. It was good to be back in familiar territory.

I did speak to a number of people who didn’t have a really clear idea of what’s going on down here. Partly that’s because we haven’t done as good a job of teaching about the whole separation of powers thing as we might – I did have to tell several people that no, I personally wouldn’t be voting to invade Iran.

And of course partly it could be because if the Washington Post is your daily newspaper, serving in the General Assembly is akin to joining the witness protection program.

But mostly, people talked to me about real problems. They’re worried about the cost of health care. They’re worried about whether they can afford college tuition – or if there will be space for their kids to enroll in a Virginia college or university.

In Northern Virginia, they’re worried about real estate taxes that keep going up, even while the value of their home seems to be dropping. They’re worried about congestion on their roads.

Now, Mr. Speaker and ladies and gentlemen of the House, we have a real opportunity and a real privilege. Because during the next 55 days, we can take action on all those problems.

Or not.

We can spend our time focusing on this kind of legislation-and there are good bills on these issues introduced by people on both sides of the aisle.

Or we can focus on things that really don’t matter in the lives of Virginians. We can get ourselves wrapped around the axle on the issues that divide us . . . rather than the problems that confront us.

Our plea as House Democrats is for all of us to remember who sent us here . . . and why. Let’s work for real solutions for Virginians.

Written by assemblyaccess

January 14, 2008 at 12:50 pm

Posted in Video

The verdict is in

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House Republicans’ opening-week antics did not play well across Virginia:

  • “Secrecy facilitates skulduggery. Sunshine is a simple and obvious test of good governance. Republicans just flunked.” (Richmond Times-Dispatch, 1/14/08)
  • “Legislators are hard pressed to come up with a legitimate reason to maintain the shroud of secrecy. Nevertheless, again this year, they will do a significant part of the public’s business without the transparency and accountability it deserves.” (Daily Press, 1/14/08)
  • “The subcommittee system remains an unaccountable black hole, where House lawmakers send unpopular measures to die.” (Andrea Hopkins, Bristol Herald Courier, 1/13/08)
  • “Call it the gulag of lawmaking. Proposed bills go into the darkness and there they are killed, no spotlight, no fingerprints.” (The Daily Progress, 1/13/08)
  • “Regardless of who controls the House, this proposal promoted openness in government. It should have been approved.” (The Daily News Record, 1/12/08)

Written by assemblyaccess

January 14, 2008 at 9:47 am

Posted in Links

More GOP intolerance

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During today’s floor session, Del. Mark Cole motioned to remove Del. Jennifer McClellan’s HJR 144 from the uncontested block of resolutions, so House Republicans could vote against it on an unrecorded voice vote instead. The resolution commends the Richmond Gay Community Foundation. You can watch Del. Cole’s motion and the subsequent voice vote in the video below:

Written by assemblyaccess

January 11, 2008 at 11:20 am

Posted in Video

Rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic

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House Democratic leader Ward Armstrong spoke on the floor this afternoon, addressing the politically-calculated committee assignments announced by Speaker Bill Howell last night. The Washington Post , Raising Kaine and Vivian Paige have more; you can listen to Del. Armstrong’s comments below:

Download (MP3, 3.86 MB)

Written by assemblyaccess

January 10, 2008 at 2:04 pm

Posted in Audio

Debate on live broadcasting of House sessions

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As they did last year, the House GOP also defeated a rules change today from Del. Ward Armstrong that would have required public broadcasting of House floor sessions. You can listen to the entire exchange between Del. Armstrong and Del. Terry Kilgore below.

Download (MP3 format, 2.76 MB)

Written by assemblyaccess

January 9, 2008 at 3:41 pm

Posted in Audio

Debate on recorded subcommittee votes

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You can listen to today’s entire floor debate on House Democrats’ proposed rule change to require recorded subcommittee votes below.

Download (MP3 format, 9.01 MB)

Note that Del. Morgan Griffith’s statements stand in stark contrast to former Del. John Welch’s assertion last year that it’s a “great thing” that House Republicans “gave killing power to subcommittees.”

Written by assemblyaccess

January 9, 2008 at 3:14 pm

Posted in Audio

House Democrats revisit subcommittee votes measure

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Today, House Minority Leader Ward Armstrong, House Democratic Caucus Chairman Brian Moran and Delegate Ken Plum will introduce a House rules change measure to require recorded votes in subcommittees.

Last session, House Republicans rejected this transparency measure on a party line vote. Since then, Republicans such as former Republican Caucus Chairman Terry Kilgore, Finance Committee chairman Bob Purkey, Tom Rust, and freshmen Delegates Donald Merricks and Brenda Pogge have pledged in a candidate questionnaire to support a rules change that would require recorded subcommittee votes. (Virginia FREE Candidate Questionnaire, 2007)

“We call on Speaker Bill Howell and House Majority Leader Morgan Griffith to join leaders in their own caucus like Delegate Terry Kilgore in support of open government and giving the people of Virginia the right to know how we vote,” House Minority Leader Ward Armstrong said.

“It’s time for us to ensure accountability in state government by making sure every vote is public,” said House Democratic Caucus Chairman Brian Moran. “Virginia is the birthplace of Democracy and Jefferson’s House deserves better than voting behind closed doors.”

“Hundreds of bills were dispensed without a recorded vote last session,” Delegate Ken Plum, who introduced the resolution last session to require recorded votes in subcommittee. “Every vote should be recorded and open to the people of Virginia. It shouldn’t matter whether it happens in a subcommittee or on the floor of the House of Delegates.”

The House Clerk’s office reports that 491 bills were killed in House subcommittees without a recorded vote in 2006. Last year, more than 840 legislative measures met their demise without a roll call vote.

“The practice of killing bills in subcommittees without recorded votes continues in the Virginia House of Delegates. Blame the House Republicans. They voted the party line Friday, opting to keep this legislation-devouring black hole in place. What a shame,” said the Bristol Herald Courier last year after Delegate Ken Plum offered his amendment to eliminate the rule. Yesterday, the Roanoke Times called on Republicans to “abandon this shameful secrecy.”

“Business leaders strongly disapprove of a new rule adopted in 2006 in the House of Delegates that allows for the defeat of legislation in House subcommittees without a recorded vote. This is a dangerous precedent that removes accountability and sunshine from the governing process,” said Virginia FREE, a bi-partisan business advocacy organization, in their Incumbent Evaluations released this spring.

Written by assemblyaccess

January 9, 2008 at 10:58 am

Posted in Press Release