“Why do they even bother to come to Richmond?” she said.  “Who?” I asked.  “Those politicians in the legislature,” she replied.

We were in the grocery store as the conversation continued and her protests unfolded.  She made sense and provided for me new insight into how cynicism, distrust and disrespect towards politicians are fueled.

She didn’t cover everything or everyone, and she acknowledged that decent men and women served in the General Assembly.  But she did note it was hard to find them sometimes.

“We’re paying them to come to Richmond and spend time passing legislation establishing as state law that someone cannot put a microchip in my body without my permission.  And they think we need such a law?  Can we say assault and battery?  Where did they park their brains?” she noted disdainfully.

I don’t think she knew that some supported the bill for fear that the chips constituted the “Mark” of the “Antichrist.”  Why anyone not so afflicted with this delusion would support the bill remains a mystery. 

One searches in vain for a sensible reason why anyone could believe such a bill is needed and why one second would be spent on such nonsense when the Commonwealth struggles with gargantuan challenges.

Then there is the highly publicized repeal of the limitation on purchasing more than one hand gun a month.  Wow!!!  Now talk about legislation that is really needed.  It was just reported out of committee and received preliminary approval in the House of Delegates.

How has Virginia survived since the Wilder administration with this monumental restriction on personal liberty infecting our statutes?  Think of how many people are sitting at home counting down the hours, nay minutes, when they can walk, whoops run, to their nearest gun store and buy more than one hand gun a month!!!  And the scary part-just who might that be and what do you think they might do with those hand guns?

Sell them illegally to those who cannot buy them directly?  Now who would think such a thing!!

Talk about a wise use of time and resources.  We should be thankful our elected officials think so deeply about our needs that they took their precious time and our precious resources to steer these two measures through the House of Delegates (assuming the repeal passes).

Maybe, just maybe, the Senate will remind us why we have two Chambers in the General Assembly and send these two measures to an early grave.  But don’t hold your breath!!

Then on a much more unfortunate note, we have Speaker Bill Howell, assuming Virginia’s version of Nebraska’s United States Senator Ben Nelson, who engineered the infamous Cornhusker Kickback-the enticement to Nebraska in the form of special Medicaid monies for Nelson’s support of Obama’s health care legislation.

Speaker Howell, according to numerous press reports and conversations with legislators, unabashedly nearly exhausted his power to reward, pressure and punish delegates to support a bill benefiting a single Fortune 500 company and insulating (pun intended) it from lawsuits based upon it (or a company it purchased) inflicting asbestos related injuries on innocent victims.

The Speaker is a decent and likeable man.  His conduct here is puzzling. Bluntly, everything about this bill and the Speaker’s high-handed (to be polite) tactics is offensive.  Since the Speaker declined to be interviewed in the articles I read, I am unaware if he has publicly provided a strong defense for the bill.  Some defended it as necessary to prevent the company, Crown Cork & Seal, from closing Virginia plants and eliminating those jobs.  And in this session it’s all about jobs, right?

Never mind the victims.  Never mind that only one company benefits and others must still contend with the lawsuits, as of course they should.  What about those jobs?  Oh, I forgot, never mind they are not in Virginia!  This is a dangerous precedent.

Never mind the flow of campaign funds from Crown Cork & Seal to important destinations.  Never mind the cynicism this fuels.

Again, thankfully there are two Chambers.  The Speaker’s reach into the Senate is limited.  He can’t punish Senators by removing them from Committees or reward them by appointing them to choice assignments.  He still has some ability to influence events there but hopefully not enough to help this monstrosity pass.

Surely, the Commonwealth will survive these ventures into the legislative dark side.  But in the meantime, it is not a pretty sight.

Wyatt Durrette is a Director at DurretteBradshaw, PLC (www.durrettebradshaw.com) and co-founder of the XDL Group. He served three terms in the House of Delegates and was the Republican candidate for Governor in 1985.

6 Comments

  1. do we really need MORE laws?

    i urge all of you to contact your Delegate & urge him/her to vote NO to raising civil court fees. Do we want our courts to be open ONLY to the wealthy & to criminals?

  2. Many thanks to Mr. Durrette for a wonderful commentary on the 2010 Session.

  3. Yeah, those guys in Richmond sure find it easy to get distracted. Mr. Durrette only scratches the surface. There is a battle over educational funding based on a 30 year old revenue sharing deal between the City of Charlottesville and the County of Albemarle. Needless to say, this battle is being fought in the General Assembly. So, representatives from NoVa and Tidewater will be voting on a bill addressing a local dispute between Charlottesville and the county which surrounds it.

    Why? I’ll give you my take (happy to hear other views or be told that I have it wrong)…

    Virginia has a very strong implementation of Dillon’s Rule. Dillon’s Rule is a legal precedent named after the Iowa judge who first described the precedent over 100 years ago. Basically, Dillon’s Rule observes that localities were given no power in the US Constitution and, therefore, can derive power only if the state grants them power. Very interesting legal theory in an academic kind of way.

    Most states have amended their constitutions to provide some level of “home rule”. Home rule is the way that states can dilute Dillon’s Rule. For example, a state could pass an amendment to the state constitution which delegates control of local roads to municipalities within the state. The localities would have to raise taxes, plan roads and get them built and maintained. Nothing else would be delegated. Dillon’s Rule is not black or white, it’s more black or gray.

    Virginia has reserved almost all power for the state government. While there are occasionally laws that delegate power to localities those laws are not enshrined in the constitution. What the General Assembly gives it can take away. The recent controversy over the Local Composite Index (LCI) was a case in point.

    The localities in Virginia are fundamentally emasculated. The part-time General Assembly tries to make all decisions in a couple of sessions per year. This might have been a good idea back in Thomas Jefferson’s day but it’s a questionable approach to governance today. The Commonwealth of Virginia spends over $30B / year. Can you imagine investing in a company with $30B / year in revenue run by part – time executives? Virginia is also much more diverse today than it was 240 years ago. It is no longer a consistently rural state. There is a mixture of rural, suburban and urban areas. Sometimes this creates bizarre situations. For example, Margie Vanderhye was, until last November, the representative to the House of Delegates from the McLean / Great Falls area of Northern Virginia. One of the committees to which she was appointed was agriculture. Does this make sense? Ms. Vanderhye had lived in Northern Virginia for decades. Is that really where you would find expertise in agriculture? Should Northern Virginia politicians be making any significant decision regarding agriculture? Or should decisions about agriculture be left to the localities where there actually is agriculture? I mean no disrespect to Ms. Vanderhye. I just wonder about an all powerful, part time state legislature where suburban politicians are assigned to agricultural committees.

  4. Until the Democrats offer a credible reason for an alternative and honest leadership, the people are going to go with the other party. What other choice do they have?

  5. Groveton:

    You need to check out http://www.brookings.edu/reports/2003/01metropolitanpolicy_richardson.aspx

    Dillon’s Rule is used in 39 states and is not the problem.

  6. [...] out his piece, entitled “General Assembly Shenanigans,” and you’ll find Durrette railing at the current solons for spending time on “nonsense when [...]

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