House Democrats revisit subcommittee votes measure
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.