Killing Bills Quietly

Image credit: Virginia Public Access Project

From the Richmond Times-Dispatch: The General Assembly killed 1,221 of the nearly 3,000 bills introduced during the 2016 legislative session. Two-thirds died without a recorded vote in committee, according to an analysis by the Virginia Public Access Project.

“The number of bills that do not receive a recorded vote has consistently increased year over year,” said Megan Rhyne, director of the Virginia Coalition for Open Government. “It’s as important to know how your lawmaker voted on bills that were defeated as it is to know how they voted on bills that passed.”

The transparency trend, reports the T-D‘s Jim Nolan, stands in contrast to a positive rule change enacted by House Speaker William J. Howell that ended the practice of conducting committee meetings at desks in the House chamber, and by decisions in both the House and the state Senate to wait 48 hours before taking a final vote on the state budget.

Bacon’s bottom line: As members of the political party whose ideology is most distrustful of politicians and government (a mistrust that is more richly deserved with each passing year, I might add), one would think that Republicans would stand at the forefront of the transparency-in-government movement. As the party that controls both houses of the legislature, Republicans are in a position to set new, higher standards for openness and transparency in government. Unfortunately, we’re getting a country line dance — one step forward and one step backward. The GOP can do better.


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10 responses to “Killing Bills Quietly”

  1. Rowinguy Avatar

    I look at this as an incumbency driven issue, rather than a party driven issue. The party out of power always favors more open government right up to the moment it gets control of either the executive or legislative branch.

  2. Steve Haner Avatar
    Steve Haner

    Rowinguy, I commend to you the first chapter (or the first episode if you get the actual TV show video) of “Yes, Minister.” That brilliant British show about government and politics which I would call a parody except it isn’t a parody, but is a reality show…..The first show/chapter is “Open Government.”

    The untold story here is 90 percent of the bills so treated should be so treated because they were duplicates, poorly drafted, just plain dumb, or obvious efforts just to generate a roll call for cheap partisan theatrics. Missing from the stats is any mention of how many bills were stricken at the request of the patron. Maybe in 10 percent of the time “Good Government” would be better served by a roll call. But in those cases, you still need somebody on the committee willing to make an actual motion and garner a second, and lacking that, the bill should just quietly die….no vote is less embarrassing to the patron that a unanimous vote to kill a bill.

    What I really hate is when the bill of some weight comes up, gets debated, is subject to testimony, and then there is no motion whatsoever so no vote, but again, that means nobody could persuade two committee members to buck the will of the rest of the committee and force them onto the record. That can only happen when the members of both parties are in cahoots.

    1. This rings true. With 3,000 bills submitted, a lot of them are bound to be crap. Let’s say 90% of them are garbage that nobody cares about. That still leaves 60 to 70 where the votes matter.

      1. Rowinguy Avatar

        Oh, there’s no doubt that there are any number of crappy bills that can and do die without mourning during any Session, including, as Steve notes, at the request of the patron.

        My point was that as neither the Ds nor the Rs are particularly virtuous once IN POWER, Jim’s assumption that his party “would stand at the forefront of the transparency-in-government movement” was not something I could readily accept. Both sides like wonking about in the dark.

        1. Agreed, when it comes to playing politics, there’s not a dime’s worth of difference between the two parties.

    2. TooManyTaxes Avatar

      I think Steve makes a good point. I’ve never been in public office, but have served on many nonprofit & community organization boards and committees. I’ve voted on many items, both in committee and on the board. Most business is not controversial. A voice vote can take care of all, but a few, important items. And a member can always ask for a division, which, in my experience is a show of hands. Further, I’ve never seen a presiding officer not ask for a show of hands on any controversial or key item. I suspect BoS, school boards, city or town councils and the GA can function the same way. Roll Calls aren’t needed on everything.

  3. LarrytheG Avatar

    re: not a dimes worth

    well it sorta depends on who has been claiming all along that they want transparency and accountability then when the time comes – they’re nowhere to be seen.

    I don’t defend those who oppose it but I do hold to a higher standard, those that have spent time saying it’s part of their principles they advocate for and then don’t.

  4. Steve Haner Avatar
    Steve Haner

    Don’t come down to the Assembly during session, Larry, your blood pressure simply couldn’t take it…..

  5. Steve Haner Avatar
    Steve Haner

    Can I just add a random limk, today’s Correspondent of the Day in the TD? Many from other parts of the state might miss this and it is just too hilarious to ignore…..

  6. LarrytheG Avatar

    well it IS funny but isn’t Trump sort of a moral to the story of “right” politics of the last few years?

    His supporters very much see him as a Lincoln figure… a strong leaders who will do what is necessary – once he figures out what has to be done.. oh sorry…could not resist.

    but HEY – Saint Ronald Reagan and sidekick Nixon first executed their famous Southern Strategy which specifically sought a certain demographic that had here-to-fore belong to the Dems – and succeeded spectacularly!

    We’re getting , I might say, One HELL of a civics lesson on the true dimensions of how our founding fathers actually set up the country.

    and YES – just as we have found out in the middle east – giving everyone the right to vote – a democratic principle most of us say we’d die to protect – is no guarantee of good government!!

    We’re actually deciding if we want to keep Social Security, Medicare, public education, eminent domain, EPA, etc… we’re re litigating it literally and truth be known – a significant percentage of the electorate would make changes… even if they don’t know what the hell they’re doing .. in their minds.. breaking it .. is a way to reform it.

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