No Surprise Here

Speaker-designate Eileen Filler-Corn, Fairfax. Photo credit: CNN

by Dick Hall-Sizemore

Both the RTD and Washington Post today reported on the new Speaker-to-be’s first committee chair appointments. (This is one of the real powers of the Speaker of the House of Delegates.  He/she gets to make all committee appointments, including the chair of each committee.)  The Post was a little more muted, but from the RTD’s headline, “3 members of  Va. black caucus to lead House panels”, one would have thought the appointments were a surprise and part of a Democratic plan to give special perks to the black caucus. The chairman of the black caucus even weighed in by praising the “historic appointments.”

What would have been surprising would have been not appointing those members to the chairmanships.  Each one is the Democratic delegate with the most seniority currently on the committee.  So far, the new Speaker-to-be (herself certainly far from what a traditional Speaker has been) is going with tradition.

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16 responses to “No Surprise Here

  1. Oh man, can’t WAIT for all that socialism to begin!

    • If by socialism you mean an intrusive government controlling more of the citizen’s lives and taking more of their earnings to fund that intrusiveness you won’t have to wait long. In fairness to the Democrats … that’s what they’ve said they were going to do all along. And, like Donald Trump, I fully expect them to make every effort to keep their election promises.

      • Oh I mean exactly what the GOP in Virginia has been warning us if the Dems are elected.

        Why heckfire, I would not be surprised at all that NoVa/Fairfax is allowed even more latitude in taxation and spending that money for more “good stuff” for citizens…

        right?

  2. It is not about who get to chair these committees. It is about whether the Democrats will continue to be fair (or roughly fair) in the proportional representation on the committees. It will also matter most who gets appointed into the various OPEN seats on the panels, which can quickly tip the balance. The openings are due to retirements or defeats, but Speakers can remove sitting committee members, too.

    All three four of those chairs were predictable, and it would have created major waves to NOT pick those four senior members. With a 55-45 split on the floor, a 22 member committee such as Appropriations could be 13-9, 12-10 and pass as fair (12-10 would be a slight tilt for the R’s, really.) For most of the time Democrats controlled in my experience, they really screwed the R’s in committee assignments, and it could easily go that way again.

    • Just curious since you do know. Did the GOP do the committees the way you say the Dems should?

      Were they as “fair”?

      Also , could you and/or Dick explain how the Committees are selected/designated in terms of Dem/GOP party members/representation?

      Finally – are we now going to see actual and visible votes by member from the committees and sub-committees? If so, how did that come about?

      thanks!

  3. Got half an hour? Yes, for the most part in the House the Republicans did split the committee seats proportionally. They tended to round in their favor. (If fair was 11.3, that became 12). Having been treated badly, their response was to do better (Speakers Wilkins, Howell and Cox.) Perfect? Probably not. There is also pressure to be regionally fair, and sometimes its a matter of making sure each congressional district has a rep or two on there.

    This is all governed by the rules, not the law or the constitution. The majority party has the votes to set the rules (simple majority.) The rules determine the number of seats on each committee (now 22 for most, could go back down). The rules also let the Speaker pick every member, even the committee members from the other party. It is good to be the Speaker. I understand Howell and Cox did confer with the Democrats about which members of their caucus went on committees, but confer is not defer….

    Committees have recorded votes as long as I’ve been around, although initially the records were not on-line, of course. They are now online, printed in the calendar with the bill (if it advances) and recorded in the published journals. Subcommittees record votes, except when they don’t, but more often than not a vote is recorded. Again, now online. (I haven’t looked to see how the printed journals treat subcommittees.) The big question around the capital is whether they will start to stream the subcommittee meetings.

    Thinking back over my career, it is the access and information technology that has changed everything.

  4. Double win. Following precedent by appointing process knowledgeable, senior delegates and virtue signaling all in one bite.

  5. I think this site had a role in motivating the GA to do better.

    Richmond Sunlight » Tracking the Virginia General Assembly

    https://www.richmondsunlight.com/

    By the way – “recording the votes’ if they are not released to Virginia voters and citizens is really NOT – it’s hypocrisy and perversion.

    It’s an example of the swiss cheese loopholes used to NOT be transparent while claiming they do have “transparency?.

    The remedy for that is Citizen initiated Referendum because “elections” don’t change it. When both the GOP and the Dems agree as parties to not be transparent – that’s tantamount to corruption.

  6. Steve is correct on all counts. It would have made major waves not to have appointed those senior members and I made that point in my post. My major point was the RTD trying to make it seem as if it were a big deal. It certainly is a big deal that the black caucus has this many members chairing major committees, but those members had been on the committees for some time.

    He is also correct about the Democrats screwing the Republicans on committee appointments when they were in the majority. But, that was twenty years ago. The Republican Speakers have been fair. For example, for the last two sessions, when the split in the House was 51-49, the Democrats had 10 of the 22 seats on Appropriations. I expect Filler-Corn will continue to make appointments proportional to the party split in the House.

    Another thing to watch will be who gets appointed to what. The tradition has been that returning members could keep their prior committee assignments if they wished. Of course, some Republicans may get bumped from committees due to the split. However, it need not happen to Appropriations; of the 12 Republican members now on the committee, only 7 will be returning. (As Steve points out, the Republicans would be entitled to at least 9 members.) The others either chose not to run again or were defeated. Sometimes, members have been bumped from committees as punishment for some transgression. The Republicans took away Appropriations Committee assignments from some of their own members who dared to support Warner’s tax bill. They also bumped some Democratic members who were too outspoken.

    In the Senate, it is a different story. That body has a tradition of giving the majority more seats on the Finance Committee than the party split would indicate. This past year, with the overall party split at 21-19, Democrats had only five seats (out of 15) on Finance. Janet Howell, the presumptive new chairman, has promised to return the favor next session. Because all the current Republican Senators on Finance will be returning next session, some will have to lose their committee seats.

  7. I find the Committee system – the way it is currently practiced as odious and anti-citizen-voter.

    The way it operates is purposely less than transparent with behind-the-scene stuff going on that most voters are clueless about.

    Only after Richmond Sunshine started manually collecting the votes and posting them then the GA decide to change.

    • The GA’s Legislative Information System has been around longer than Richmond Sunlight and contains all the information that Richmond Sunlight does. In fact, it is the source of the Sunlight data. Sunlight does not enable one to read the impact statements that have been filed on bills and these documents are sometimes informative. Sunlight does have some sorting features that are helpful and it enables users to comment. Here is the address of LIS: https://lis.virginia.gov/cgi-bin/legp604.exe?ses=192&typ=lnk&val=61

      That being said, you are correct that most of the discussion and deal-making are done behind the scenes and the average citizen is not aware of it. This is an inherent feature of the legislative process and has its good points and bad points.

      • It has been around longer but up until recently – it was HORRIBLE and lacked info on Committee voting.

        And yes, it is the SOURCE of the data but as with several areas – the data from the govt system is not timely and hard to access – Richmond Sunlight – had to manually get it then put it in a form that was easier to access and more complete.

        I do not mind the legislative “process”. I realize that there are lobbyists and other interest groups and ongoing discussions but once it gets in front of the committee – ALL the materials that staff generates to support the item – ought to be fully available to folks as well as a list of all the principles and their involvement.

        In other words – it should be in the open and not behind a virtual curtain where things go on that if the public knew – the “elected” official involved would be exposed for their conduct.

        I remain convinced that elections do not change this and that the only way some of this changes is by Citizen initiated referenda – non-partisan – it’s just about a transparent and accountable process – not one that they claim – but one that actually is.

    • Larry, have you ever set foot in a committee room? Sat through a floor session? Researched and tracked a bill on the LIS system? Doubtful, Larry. You are just blowing off. Come on down and Dick or I will show you around, pull up some of the covers and show you the workings. As noted, when I started a committee would vote and unless you kept your own checklist, or went up to the clerk afterwards, you might not know right away who voted which way. It can move fast. But now it is all recorded and reported electronically.

      • Larry represents the “outside of Richmond” mentality. So do I. You and Dick are insiders. What seems normal to you seems abnormal to us. The sub-committee and committee structure seems more designed to kill bills without a full vote than for any legitimate efficiency purpose. It would be one thing if committees studied bills and then made recommendations regarding the overall vote. Then an overall vote. But that’s not what happens. Committees are filled with majorities of safe seat Clown Show member who kill reasonable legislation so that less than safe seat clowns don’t have to go on record with their votes.

        The committee system in The Imperial Clown Show in Richmond is just another opaque scam perpetrated against the people of Virginia by the Imperial Clown Show in Richmond. Shameful.

  8. I have done both and until recently – the LIS was a joke. It was hard to use – you had to get the search phrase EXACT or else it would return nothing.

    But even now today – it’s not that timely on committee votes and the material the committee is using in its deliberations is not made available so that things referenced in the minutes are not provided.

    It’s basic design is for insiders and not the voting public. They relent on some things over time – only after something like Richmond Sunlight shows that the data is there and could be more easily available.

    I note the dustup over video – where Sunlight had to fight a pitched battle to get the video – and other info.

    so YES, I have been to several committee meetings AND I have tried to use LIS to try to follow what occurred in those meetings…

    In my view – they way they operate – foster an environment that the public cannot easily see nor understand.

    • They need to hire a lobbyist! Maybe I’ll go back into that…..Actually, you’d be surprised how many being paid as lobbyists wander around the building a little lost….

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