Can’t they do anything right?

Courtesy of Jeff Schapiro, in today’s Richmond Times Dispatch:

On Page 104 of the Republican transportation bill, there’s a reference to a section of state law that doesn’t exist.

This is no small screwup. The bungled language designates for roads an uncertain source of cash: $57 million to $108 million from stiff fines on lousy drivers.

Because of the blunder, the money goes into a black hole.

More of the blunders with the Transportation Compromise bill (AKA Bill Howell’s Tax Increase) have been documented in this blog previously. For example:

  1. The Single Object Rule
  2. Another Reason to Worry About the GA Transportation Plan
  3. Building Roads With Regressive Taxes
  4. The Equal Protection Clause

Given the many legal and constitutional questions surrounding this bill, one can’t help but wonder: Can’t our representatives in the General Assembly get anything done right?

Makes one wonder how many other bills get enacted into law with similar problems and legal questions that aren’t known or reported because they’re not receiving enough attention?

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9 responses to “Can’t they do anything right?”

  1. Anonymous Avatar

    Just because there had to be a court order estopping the enacted blue law re-write from taking effect and requiring payment of treble wages on Sunday – what gives you pause to worry about other legislation?

  2. Anonymous Avatar

    I don’t know if this section was but a lot of this bill was written in the middle of the night by GA members in conference committee that had been up all night… When you wait that long under those circumstances mistakes are bound to happen. That’s why we a a governor.

  3. Phil Rodokanakis Avatar
    Phil Rodokanakis

    Anon 5:11: I agree with you, but don’t forget that this bill combined a number of bills that had been submitted by other members of the House of Delegates. In partcular, the provisions of the bill calling for additional civil penalties to “traffic abusers” came from separate bills submitted by Delegates Tom Rust (R-Herndon) and Dave Albo (R-Springfield). These two guys, have been submitting similar bills for more than three years now. You would have thought that with all this “experience” they would have at least gotten the provisions of this section right.

  4. Anonymous Avatar

    The constitutional arguments about the “one object rule” and equal protection clause are truly not worthy of serious discussion. They rise just above the level of frivolous.

    Courts do not overrule a law on equal protection grounds unless it involves discrimination against a suspect class (race, gender, religion, etc) or involves the denial of a fundamental right. Not paying taxes is not a fundamental right.

    The single object argument has already been conclusively rebutted.

    If you want to tackle a true constitutional issue, the better one is how in the world the bonds can be “revenue bonds” when no dedicated revenue mechanism is tied to them. They look an awful lot like general obligation bonds to me, which are limited by the state constitution.

  5. E M Risse Avatar
    E M Risse


    I tend to agree with Anon 6:58 about nits and picks.

    However, on the larger point:

    You are right. Citizens of the Commonwealth deserve a far more professional legislative process at the state and at the regional scales.

    Fundamental Change in governace structure would replace the short and long sessions that are left over from the days of gentleman planter – legislatures with a full time legislative process.


  6. Phil Rodokanakis Avatar
    Phil Rodokanakis

    Anon 6:58.

    Regarding your contention that the single object argument has been conclusively rebutted, I do not believe that is correct. Are you referring to a lawsuit filed two or three years ago challenging a bill’s lack of single object? If so, you are correct that the courts ruled the suit lacked standing. But the bill involved spending issues and the courts have habitually held that citizens lack standing in such suits.

    On the other hand HB 3202 involves the raising of taxes. Therefore, any taxpayer should have standing to challenge the bill’s failure to abide by the constitutional requirement for a single object.

    You’re also missing my point as to the equal protection. I’m not suggesting that one challenges the state’s right to raise taxes. I’m suggesting that the way the “traffic abusers” fees will be applied will result in serious inequities in the collection of civil penalties, meaning that in-state drivers will be treated as a different class compared to out-of-state drivers.

    I wholeheartedly agree with you with the problem you raise regarding the bonds. Pat McSweeney has written more about this in a column that was published in BR last month. (See: “Down the Wrong Road.”)

  7. anon 6:58 Avatar
    anon 6:58

    Here is the title:

    A BILL to amend and reenact §§ 2.2-1514, 10.1-1188, 15.2-2403, 15.2-4831, 15.2-4839, 15.2-4840, 33.1-1, 33.1-2, 33.1-3, 33.1-13, 33.1-19.1, 33.1-23.03, 33.1-67, 33.1-72.1, 33.1-221.1:1, 33.1-223.2:12, 33.1-268, 33.1-269, 33.1-277, 46.2-332, 46.2-694, 46.2-694.1, 46.2-697, 46.2-1135, 58.1-540, 58.1-605, 58.1-606, 58.1-609.5, 58.1-811, 58.1-2403, and 58.1-2425 of the Code of Virginia; to amend the Code of Virginia by adding a section numbered 15.2-2223.1, by adding in Chapter 22 of Title 15.2 an article numbered 9 consisting of sections numbered 15.2-2328 and 15.2-2329, by adding in Article 1 of Chapter 24 of Title 15.2 a section numbered 15.2-2403.1, by adding a section numbered 15.2-4838.1, by adding in Title 30 a chapter numbered 42, consisting of sections numbered 30-278 through 30-283, by adding in Title 33.1 a chapter numbered 10.2, consisting of sections numbered 33.1-391.6 through 33.1-391.17, by adding sections numbered 46.2-206.1, 46.2-702.1, 46.2-755.1, 46.2-755.2, 46.2-1167.1, 58.1-625.1, 58.1-802.1, 58.1-802.2, 58.1-815.01, and 58.1-815.02, by adding in Chapter 17 of Title 58.1 an article numbered 4.1, consisting of sections numbered 58.1-1724.2 through 58.1-1724.7, by adding sections numbered 58.1-2402.1 and 58.1-2402.2, by adding in Article 2 of Chapter 25 of Title 58.1 a section numbered 58.1-2531, and by adding sections numbered 58.1-3221.2, 58.1-3221.3, and 58.1-3825.1; and to repeal the tenth enactment clauses of Chapter 1019 and Chapter 1044 of the Acts of Assembly of 2000, and to authorize the Commonwealth Transportation Board to issue certain bonds, relating to transportation.

    It was artfully worded to avoid a substantive challenge. Happens all the time. Compare it to the budget bill, which is to appropriate money, yet routinely levies “fees” to raise the money also.

    I understand your point about the equal protection issue. I’m just telling you “right church, wrong pew.” The equal protection analysis used by today’s courts won’t go there.

  8. Phil Rodokanakis Avatar
    Phil Rodokanakis

    anon 6:58 said: “It was artfully worded to avoid a substantive challenge.”

    Obviously our respective definitions of what constitutes an “artful change” differ widely. If that’s artful, I’d hate to see what an artless title for this statute would sound like.

    To find the “single object” in the title you quoted one must possess the powers of Alexander the Great when he tackled the gordian knot…

    I guess we’ll have to wait and see if this abomination of a bill gets signed into law and then if some of its provisions get challenged in court. Until then your “conlusions” are just as speculative as my theories concerning potential legal challenges.

  9. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    In theory the legislators have support staff to “make it happen” but I think what this points out is that the two houses and the majority had not agree to the core of the legislation and thus it was ready to go to negotiation over the “nits”.

    Basically all they did want punt the disagreements from a larger to a smaller group – with the mandate to no introduce “deal breaker” stuff but they were free to do major surgery.

    I basically blame the R’s for this and the reason why is not that I think the Dems are correct in their approach.

    In fact their approach is fairly predictable. It’s the same approach they use for Education or just about any other budget that wants more money.

    The R’s simply did not show how to go forward without more money.

    The have the rehetoric but there is no beef.

    They talk the talk then self-implode.

    Give the D’s credit – what they propose is “clean” and self-consistent” bald-faced proposals.

    More taxes for more roads.

    It’s a concept everyone can understand.

    Now tell me what the Conservative R’ basic concept is.

    “no more taxes” , reform, live within your means, self-responsibility and user pays

    so what did they put on the table??

    vile smelling sausage….that resembled the original pig in that it had lipstick smeared on it.

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