Cutting Off One’s Nose To Spite One’s Face

by Dick Hall-Sizemore

The Virginia Senate Democrats have acted irrationally. They have refused to confirm four of the five appointments made by Governor Youngkin to the Parole Board. This action was in retaliation for the House refusing to confirm 11 appointments made by then-Governor Northam last year, including those to the Board of Education and the State Water Control Board. The only Parole Board appointment confirmed was that of retired judge Chadwick Dotson to be the board chairman.

Until new members are appointed by the Governor, no decisions will be made on the cases of those offenders who are eligible for parole consideration and a backlog will be created and grow. Furthermore, the Parole Board hears the cases of offenders on parole who are charged with “technical violations,” that is, violation of their terms of parole, but not charged with the commission of a new crime. Each month, the Board considers several hundred parole and parole violation cases.

In summary, until the Parole Board has additional members some offenders will not be granted parole and accused parole violators will remain in jail, awaiting a hearing. It is fairly certain that this is not a result that many Democrats would want.

In theory, the Parole Board could function without any additional appointments. The law says that the Board shall consist of “up to five members.” The rule of the Board provide that it takes the vote of three members to grant parole. Those rules can be changed with the approval of the Governor. Therefore, a situation could be created in which the chairman, as the sole member, would constitute the Parole Board and would review and make decision on all parole cases, as well as hold all revocation hearings, meet with victims, and carry out all the administrative duties of running an agency. Practically speaking, however, it is doubtful that Judge Dotson, or anyone, for that matter, would be willing to take on such a workload and would probably resign rather than do so.

Beyond the practical results, the refusal to confirm the governor’s appointments is a bad decision as far as public perception is concerned because the prior Parole Board had lost all credibility.

According to an old saying, “Revenge is a dish best served cold.” If they wished to retaliate for the snub of Northam’s appointees, it would have been better for the Senate Democrats to have waited until the 2023 Session, when they could have refused to confirm Youngkin’s appointments for those positions.

This tit-for-tat on appointments could get uglier. The House Republicans also refused to confirm Northam’s appointment last year to fill a vacant SCC judgeship. Also, there are two pending vacancies on the state Supreme Court to fill. If the two parties do not agree on nominations for these posts by Saturday, when the legislature is scheduled to adjourn, Governor Youngkin would be able to make interim appointments to those judgeships, subject to General Assembly confirmation in the 2023 session.

There are three scenarios that could play out. One, Youngkin makes the appointments and the General Assembly confirms them next year. Two, Youngkin makes the appointments and the Virginia Senate refuses to confirm all or some of them next year. Three, the Senate refuses to adjourn and instead insists on going into recess.

Under the provisions of the state constitution, neither house can adjourn without the consent of the other. Furthermore, the constitution authorizes the governor to fill a vacant judgeship when the General Assembly is not in session. If the legislature is in recess, it is still legally in session and the governor is prevented from making any appointment to a vacant judgeship. The General Assembly is very protective of its prerogative to elect judges and both sides have resorted in the past to the tactic of going into extended recess, rather than adjourning, to keep the governor from filling vacant judgeships.

The sniping over appointments could escalate into a serious impasse unless the two sides tamp down the rhetoric and reach a bipartisan compromise. In past years neither Todd Gilbert, Speaker of the House, nor Dick Saslaw, Senate majority leader, have shown the temperaments needed to do that. (Saslaw spent much of the past two years feuding with the previous Speaker, who was a member of his own party.) Someone else needs to step in to cool the situation down and broker a compromise.

Share this article


(comments below)


(comments below)


22 responses to “Cutting Off One’s Nose To Spite One’s Face”

  1. James Kiser Avatar
    James Kiser

    Of course they want it. Democrats manufacture crises like viruses from a Chinese lab.

  2. James McCarthy Avatar
    James McCarthy

    Apologists will chime that elections have consequences. Sad, when such partisanship injures the public interest. This spat reflects the abyss of discourse in the politisphere. Both sides are to blame.

  3. Nancy Naive Avatar
    Nancy Naive

    Full sentence by default.

  4. Kathleen Smith Avatar
    Kathleen Smith

    It is like playing basketball. The ball is in your court but no one makes a basket.

  5. Fred Costello Avatar
    Fred Costello

    Both parties seem to be behaving like little brats.

  6. VaNavVet Avatar

    So where is the leadership from Gov Youngkin who spoke so elegantly about unity and cooperation?

    1. vicnicholls Avatar

      Your Dems were the ones who decided to respond with Tweets about brick walls and stopping putting a hold on the gas tax. Then no parole board. There’s more but you get the idea.

    2. Dick Hall-Sizemore Avatar
      Dick Hall-Sizemore

      On my first draft, I included a suggestion about Youngkin stepping in to broker a compromise, but I thought better of it. The Democrats would not trust him and, if he proposed anything favored by Democrats, the Republicans would see it as betrayal. This is a family fight, and, like most families, they would not appreciate outsiders butting in.

      If the governor gets the chance to appoint SCC and Supreme Court judges, he would be wise to consult leaders of both parties and try to nominate people both sides can live with. Otherwise, the Senate Democrats are likely to refuse to confirm them next session. After all, the memories of Republicans recently refusing to confirm a McAuliffe Supreme Court appointee and a Northam SCC appointee will be fresh in their minds.

      1. VaNavVet Avatar

        Good advice for the Gov. I am waiting to see if the Senate goes into recess if Youngkin refuses to consult with both leaders. That would be a real failure of his leadership in my mind.

  7. Ronnie Chappell Avatar
    Ronnie Chappell

    Hall-Sizemore has found the silver lining in the dark cloud cast by democrats in the Senate. Thanks for brightening my day. Reminds me of that old joke about democrats and firing squads. They always stand in a circle.

    1. Dick Hall-Sizemore Avatar
      Dick Hall-Sizemore

      I think Steve Haner has made the same observation about Republicans.

      1. LarrytheG Avatar

        dueling firing circles!

  8. Stephen Haner Avatar
    Stephen Haner

    Quoting Klingons? Dick, I’m impressed. I always love to see the law of unintended consequences in action. It hits General Assembly actions regularly (yes, Mr. McCarthy, both ways). Are those salaried positions? Like the ABC board? Where’s my resume…

    1. Dick Hall-Sizemore Avatar
      Dick Hall-Sizemore

      Yep. They are salaried positions. Very good salaries. The law authorizes three full-time members and two part-time members. The salary for the vice-chairman is $121,394 and for the other full-time member, $119,014. The part-time members usually get half the full-time salary.

      1. Nancy Naive Avatar
        Nancy Naive

        Bennies for PT?

        1. Dick Hall-Sizemore Avatar
          Dick Hall-Sizemore

          I don’t think so.

          1. Nancy Naive Avatar
            Nancy Naive

            Drats! Oh well, maybe just a reimbursed fact-finding mission to Norway to study their low recidivism rates…

    2. James McCarthy Avatar
      James McCarthy

      TY. It is also impressive that the level of discourse has not yet been marked by name calling and snarky insults. Then, it may be early days as the Brit detectives are fond of saying.

  9. Nancy Naive Avatar
    Nancy Naive

    Apparently, there are more, uh make that less, bloody ways to denasal…

  10. “. . . .until the Parole Board has additional members some offenders will not be
    granted parole and accused parole violators will remain in jail,
    awaiting a hearing.”

    So you’re saying that the DEMS have in effect, stopped letting criminals out of jail EARLY? Damn – I’ll vote for each and every one of them next go round!! Twice in fact, like a good Democrat does.

    Peace on our streets and in other’s neighborhoods!

  11. Fire ’em!

  12. Eric the half a troll Avatar
    Eric the half a troll

    “The party that rejected 2nd look, rejected sentence credit, won’t stop solitary confinement, won’t end using dogs on people and doesn’t want returning citizens to VOTE. But now, the last few hours of session, they claim to care about criminal justice reform.”

Leave a Reply