Greasing the Skids for the Budget

Oxen hauling logs over greased skids Photo courtesy of Museum at Campbell River

by Dick Hall-Sizemore

The Virginia General Assembly can be efficient when it puts its mind to it.

Consider the 2024 Special Session that convened on Monday.  The House convened at noon and adjourned at 3:15. The Senate stayed around a little bit longer.  It convened at noon and adjourned at 3:51.  (Technically, both houses actually recessed, rather than adjourned, but that was done so they could come back into session later in the year if they so desire.)

During that period of a little over three hours, both houses accomplished the following: introduced guests in the galleries,  recessed so that their money committees could consider the budget bill, elected eight judges, passed a bunch of commending resolutions, and passed the budget bill.

Speaking of the budget bill, here is the legislative history of that most important piece of legislation:

Sat.  May 11

  • Prefiled
  • Referred to the House Appropriations Committee

Mon. May 13

  • Reported from House Appropriations Committee
  • Read first time
  • Constitutional readings dispensed
  • Passed by House  (94-6)
  • Constitutional reading dispensed by Senate
  • Referred to Senate Finance and Appropriations Committee
  • Reported from Senate Finance and Appropriations Committee
  • Read second time
  • Constitutional reading dispensed
  • Passed by Senate (39-1)
  • Enrolled
  • Signed by Speaker
  • Signed by President of the Senate
  • Signed by the Governor

That has to be a record—a bill passed by both houses and signed by the governor in less than half a day.  By the way, the House Appropriations Committee meeting on the bill lasted 18 minutes, most of which was taken up by a brief summary of the bill by the staff director.  There was no discussion.  The Senate Finance and Appropriations Committee took 29 minutes, most of that time consumed by a staff briefing.

The primary factor that made this extraordinary efficiency possible, of course, was the governor and the leaders of the two money committees reaching a grand compromise.  The bill’s passage was a foregone conclusion as a result.  However, one would have thought that some members would have offered amendments, either in committee or on the floor.  To forestall any such activity, the leadership proposed an extraordinary rule prohibiting any committee or floor amendment to the introduced budget bill.  The only votes available were a “Yes” or “No” on the bill as introduced.  And the members got in line.  The resolution imposing the rule was agreed to by the House, 99-0, and by the Senate, 39-1.  (Del. Rip Sullivan (D-Fairfax) did complain, in a speech during the “morning hour”, about the deletion of membership in RGGI from the bill and promised that the issue was not over.)

Citizens could be justified in asking their delegates and senators why they abdicated their duty to represent their interests regarding the budget bill.