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General Assembly: Week Three
The Glenn Miller Effect
By Stephen J. Rossie

Square2017 imageRichmond – You have to make certain adjustments when your caucus slips from super majority status to a fingertip grasping one seat advantage in one fell swoop. Adjust House Republicans did.

Last session the party leadership smartly employed maneuvers from the back chapters of the parliamentary playbook to maximize its strength. For example, it has done its best to schedule committee and subcommittee meetings as far apart as logistically possible so that members can be in their seats and not be in another meeting presenting a bill.

Since that is inevitable because of limited hours and the condensed nature of the 46- day short session, chairmen are sitting in on their committees’ subcommittee meetings because, as ex officio members of all subcommittees within their committees, they can vote upon the absence of a member and it is rare that subcommittees of any committee meet simultaneously.

Another, very legal, play was to dename all subcommittees, which previously were organized by topic. Now they simply are numbered. This way, bills that would automatically get assigned to certain subcommittees, which might not have a favorable composition to the leadership — or the base, for that matter — can be routed to any subcommittee, including designated "kill” subcommittees, ready and willing to dispose of the worst of the worst.

It’s so tight that even the election of former Delegate Jennifer Boysko (D-Herndon) to the Senate to fill the vacancy created by fellow Democrat Jennifer Wexton’s election to Congress was seen as a bit of an advantage — the special election in that heavily Democrat district won’t be held until near the end of session, giving the GOP a 51-48 edge. When it’s that close, you gladly accept any advantage that lands in your lap.

Despite the best plans and new tracks to keep the trains on time, they occasionally crash into each other. Last Wednesday a House Courts of Justice subcommittee went deep into the night because it couldn’t keep a quorum while plowing through a typically long docket of complex bills. By contrast, a House Agriculture, Chesapeake and Natural Resources subcommittee had a pizza party while in an adjacent room people spilled into the hall for a Health, Welfare and Institutions subcommittee that dealt with telemedicine and cannabis oil.

Meanwhile, a member of that ACNR pizza party, Delegate James Morefield (R-North Tazewell) had to miss a Cities, Counties and Towns subcommittee meeting, and two Delegates, Matt Fariss (RRustberg) and Robert Bloxom (R-Mappsville), and to be in and out of a Finance subcommittee meeting, activating the respective full committee chairmen, Delegates Riley Ingram (R-Hopewell) and Lee Ware (R-Powhatan Country) from bench roles to starters.

In a corner of the Pocahontas Building stood Delegate Mark Levine (D-Alexandria) trying to explain his bill to price fix dry cleaning and laundry services of men’s and women’s clothing — under the investigative authority of the Office of Attorney General. Seriously. It’s the Glenn Miller effect. Session is in full swing.

Stephen J. (Steve) Rossie is a Richmond-based public and government relations’ consultant. He has been a General Assembly lobbyist since 2006 and has written about Virginia government since 2007.


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