one amendment I’d recommend the General Assembly
consider would be this:
Amend Article 12, Section 1, to require a
two-thirds vote in each house before any proposed
amendment to our state constitution proceeds.
looks like some form of legislative
stomach stapling is the only thing that might work
with this crowd down there now.
this session, which piddled to adjournment on
Feb. 26, ever outlives the “drawers” bill,
perhaps it will best be known as the one in which
members lost the last semblance of self-control
where our state constitution is concerned.
brief—and final—word on the "drawers" thing:
Don’t blame Algie Howell.
Blame Lionel Spruill.
Had Spruill not savaged Howell during the
floor debate, the bill would have died in its tracks
and that would have been the end of it.
Spruill’s comments were so vicious they
shifted the mood of the floor—it happens—and
members voted the bill out, more in rebuke to
Spruill’s tone and demeanor than to anything
a terrific piece earlier last week, Bob Lewis,
writing for the Associated Press, examined a few of
the unprecedented 76 constitutional amendments filed
of them remain alive, having passed either the House
or the Senate. Among
them are measures that would ban marriage (or
anything resembling it) for same-sex couples,
abolish the personal property tax on
private cars and bar the General Assembly from
incorporating churches,” Lewis wrote.
is almost as if some of our representatives think
they can distance themselves from the responsibility
to govern, once elected, by kicking controversial
social matters or those that suffer terribly the
want of legislative discipline, back to the
electorate via the amendment process—a tactic Dick
Howard finds troublesome.
matter how you feel about any particular amendment,
there seems to be a crescendo of trying to solve
every social problem by amending something into the
am very uncomfortable with that,” Howard said in
the Lewis piece.
of course, is the UVa law professor and
constitutional scholar who chaired the last—and
fifth—complete revision of the constitution since
revisions became effective in 1830, 1851, 1870, and
so many other disconcerting controversies of late,
this one seems to be centered in the House, rather
than the Senate.
Daily Press opinion piece observed Sunday:
“But in the House these days, anything goes.
Discipline and coherence count for little;
tradition counts for less.”
exact sentiment was expressed in Lewis’ piece by
House Democratic Caucus Brian Moran, who said the
glut of constitutional amendments is the result of a
Republican majority unable to restrain itself.
Griffith, the Republican House Majority Leader,
thinks it might be time for another start-to-finish
rewrite of the constitution, but that is not a
sentiment shared by Moran.
don’t think we need to be rearranging Mr.
Jefferson’s words, certainly not with this gang in
charge,” he told the Associated Press.
is not meant to be a partisan comment—what happens
in the Virginia House of Delegates rests with the
Speaker of the House, Bill Howell.
That’s the way it is in Virginia.
the Speaker can’t keep some of this inane clutter
from getting to the floor, he could make some effort
to at least accommodate coherence, perhaps by
borrowing a tactic from Major General John Sedgwick,
the federal commander who found some renown during
the Civil War siege of Petersburg.
intentionally kept a known dimwit assigned to his
good man’s job was to simply read Sedgwick’s
orders and pronounce whether or not he understood
them. If he
did, they were issued to the line officers.
But if the dimwit couldn’t follow the
orders, they went back to re-write.
the future Bill Howell might consider such an
arrangement for the stuff he lets come to the floor.
Sure, good help is hard to find, even when
you’re the Speaker of the Virginia House of
Delegates, but Howell will be pleased if he thinks
about it. He’s
got several obvious candidates for just such an
assignment—if he can pull them out of the
amendment saloon and get ’em sobered up.
February 28, 2005