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Decision Virginia Archive 8/08- 7/12

Posts Tagged ‘Tommy Norment

Budget battle continues with partisan lines drawn

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If you thought the election of 2011 was settled, think again. Virginia is in the middle of bitter partisan fight at a State Capitol historically known for its bi-partisan cooperation. It all tracks back to last November and an election that did not clearly hand power to a single party in the Virginia Senate. As a result, every controversial vote has come down to hectic, last-minute deals. Deals that often aren’t known until the vote is finally taken on the Senate floor.

While the battles over social issues are over, democrats are holding on to the one remaining power they have left to play, their vote on the budget. Republicans cannot use Lt. Governor Bill Bolling‘s tie-breaking vote to pass the budget. Therefore, their 20 votes are enough to stop the $85 billion spending plan in its tracks. It’s allowed them to whittle away at GOP priorities and inject their limited voice into the Virginia government agenda.

It was a tactic that was successful and despite some chirping from newspaper editorial boards, it went largely unnoticed by the public. Tuesday’s vote to stall the budget for the third time, for a third different reason takes the argument into new territory. Last week the Gov. Bob McDonnell led Virginia Department of Transportation warned that they will start scaling back projects on May 1st, just a few weeks away. Localities are waiting on funding decisions that could be the differences between staffing teachers and police officers or going without. It is a showdown that could leave the reputation of both sides at risk.

Here is my story from NBC12 on where things stand right now:

RICHMOND (WWBT)- The threat of a Virginia government shutdown is growing after democrats at the State Capitol refused to pass a state budget.

This is the third time senate democrats have stood their ground, for the third different reason.

The division between democrats and republicans seems to be growing wider, and the time left to pass a budget is growing shorter. If the two sides don’t resolve their differences, state government as we know it is in big trouble.

It is a warning governor Bob McDonnell first sounded weeks ago. He repeated it again Tuesday.

“Everything from teacher funding to current VDOT projects will be slowed or potentially postponed,” said the governor.

Without a passed state budget, the government can’t operate. The current budget ends June 30th. It is a date fast approaching with no tangible sign of agreement to be found.

“They are the problem,” said McDonnell.

No agreement, but plenty of blame to go around.

“This is the most fiscally irresponsible act that I’ve seen during my career,” said McDonnell.

But democrats like Sen. Don McEachin (D- Henrico) believe the republicans are blowing things out of proportion

“There are those who want to scare the public and say the government will shut down,” said McEachin. “That is not the case.”

McEachin is among the most vocal hard line democrats. A group that three different times has used their 20 votes to block the budget from moving forward.

….read and see the rest of the story at NBC12.com.

Governor Bob McDonnell kept his composure, but was clearly angry with the democratic vote:

Meanwhile Henrico Senator Don McEachin doesn’t appeared worried about the budget timeline:

Written by Ryan Nobles

April 17, 2012 at 11:29 pm

Reaction to Capitol protest arrests sparks partisan divide

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Republicans and Democrats have picked sides in a battle over the response by State and Capitol Police to an abortion rights protest that led to several dozen arrests on Saturday. Democrats spent Monday attacking the decision by Capitol Police to call in State Police reinforcements to break up what they describe as a peaceful protest. In press releases, on social media and on the floor of the House and Senate, democratic leaders evoked strong language as they expressed their displeasure with police in riot gear breaking up the protest and forcibly removing protestors from the steps of the Capitol.

Many of these democrats found a way to lay much of the blame on Governor Bob McDonnell.

Fairfax Senator Chap Petersen (D), a potential candidate for statewide office said the response was overblown.  “We are a free society.  This is a public square,” he said from the Senate floor.  “People have a right to protest, without harassment or intimidation.”

Democratic Party of Virginia Chairman Brian Moran took it a step further. He intertwined the response to the policies of the McDonnell administration and continued to push the narrative that McDonnell himself may have called for the State Police to act in the fashion that they did.

“While I cannot say whether or not the Governor authorized or had knowledge of this weekend’s regrettable arrests,” Moran said.  “There is no question that this unfortunate situation could have been avoided by a leader with the courage to resist the extreme elements of his own party and focus on making life better for Virginia families.”

But McDonnell forcefully defended his role in the Capitol Square showdown. When asked directly by our Andy Jenks if he ordered the State Police to break up the protest the governor did not mince words.

“Absolutely not. See, that’s the problem. And that’s been the problem for about a month up here,” McDonnell said. “People saying things of which they have no direct information. And saying things that are just flat not correct.” McDonnell said he was at the CAA basketball tournament during the protest and did not learn what occurred until well after the situation had ended.

But while McDonnell defended his own role, Lt. Governor Bill Bolling and GOP members of the House and Senate attacked democrats for their criticism of law enforcement. Bolling, a candidate for governor in 2013, said that they “owe Capitol Police an apology” for the way they assailed them on the floor of the General Assembly.

Senate Majority Leader Tommy Norment (R) explained that leaders of the House and Senate had worked with Capitol Police to develop a contingency plan in the event that protests in the 2012 session threatened the civil assembly of the legislature. He said those plans were agreed to by republicans and democrats. He contended that the police were just doing their job and hinted that democrats were encouraging the partisan divide as a way to avoid talking about the stalled budget process.

“There are some in this body, that have done everything that they can to exacerbate the tarnishing of that public image based social issues to try to deflect what they are not doing in other issues.”

And as the rhetoric heats up, the ultrasounds before abortions, which sparked the protest, remains sitting on Governor McDonnell’s desk waiting for the final salvo in what has been a divisive fight over social issues.

A fight that has drawn clear lines between republicans and democrats and in most cases, where you sit on those issues seems to be directly linked to how one views the response to the weekend protests.

Also.. 

See Ben Garbarek‘s report on NBC12 on those arrested on Saturday, which includes an explanation from Capitol Police as to why they responded in the way they did.

Written by Ryan Nobles

March 6, 2012 at 8:24 am

Despite judges ruling, Senate democrats plead for power sharing

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By: Ryan Nobles – bio | email

It has been a rough couple of weeks for democrats hoping to hold on to power in the Virginia Senate. First, on election night they lost two seats and were within a razor-thin margin in a third. That third seat, once held by Sen. Edd Houck, meant the difference between a 21-19 majority and a 20-20 tie.  Instead of Houck asking for a recount and hoping for a different outcome, the veteran lawmaker conceded guaranteeing a 20-20 tie in the Senate.

That meant that Lt. Governor Bill Bolling held the tie breaking vote and that democrats were now in the minority. But democrats were not ready to give up. Led by Sen. Don McEachin (D-Henrico), they filed a lawsuit in Richmond Circuit Court, requesting that they be given the opportunity to share power with the GOP. Today, Judge Beverly W. Snukals denied that request.

Now with the elections over and an unsuccessful legal challenge behind them, the democrats are left with only one option. Beg the now official majority party to share power.

“I call on the Republicans to respect the will of the voters and past history,” said McEachin. “The senate is evenly divided, 20-20 so committees and responsibilities and power should be divided to reflect that even split, just as the Republicans said in 1996.” 

Not surprisingly, the republicans don’t appear to be interested in offering democrats committee chairmanships and evenly distributing members of both parties in those committees.

“It is my hope that Senator McEachin and the Senate Democratic Caucus will realize the futility of pursuing this matter further and begin to prepare appropriately for the important work of the upcoming session,” said the incoming Senate Majority leader Sen. Tommy Norment (R-James City)

McEachin has not ruled out further moves, “both legal and procedural”, but did not go into specifics. He even pointed to a recent Public Policy Polling survey that he claims shows that Virginians want power sharing in the Virginia Senate.

“Over half of respondents, 55%, believe that power should be shared in the Virginia State Senate,” said McEachin. “These voters, constituents of both Democrats and Republicans, recognize that the Election day results created an evenly divided Senate and, therefore, the Senate should organize in a way reflective of those results.

Republicans, though don’t seem moved by McEachin’s argument. Republican Party of Virginia Chairman Pat Mullins welcomed the Circuit Court’s ruling and told the democrats to back off what he called their “sore loser suit”.

“Hopefully, Democrats will accept the judgement of Virginia’s voters – and now the courts – with a measure of grace,” said Mullins.

Despite McEachin’s persistence, the leader of the Virginia Senate democrats appeared to agree with republicans in the days after the election results came in. Sen. Dick Saslaw admitted in a conference call that all the decisions regarding who runs in the Senate were in the republican’s hands.

“They got a tie breaking vote,” said Saslaw. “If you got 20 plus 1 on a vote you pretty much don’t have to share anything!”

Written by Ryan Nobles

December 16, 2011 at 4:36 pm

Senate Democrats will fight efforts of GOP to organize as Senate majority

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Developing late Friday, the Virginia Senate Democrats have decided that they will not willingly allow the Senate Republicans to organize as the majority. The group unanimously decided to challenge the GOP effort during their caucus retreat in Fairfax.

“The Constitution of the Virginia is very clear,” said newly elected caucus chair Sen. Donald McEachin (D-Henrico). “The organization of the Senate is the prerogative of the elected members of the Senate and Lt. Governor Bolling is not a member of the Senate.”

Bolling and republicans have argued that having the tie breaking vote in the Lt. Governor’s chair entitles them to organize as a majority party. That power would allow them to set committee structure, appoint committee chairs and direct activity on the senate floor. It is a power Lt. Governor Bill Bolling has said he will use.

“While the Constitution does provide that the Senate and House Delegates shall ‘select its officers and settle its procedures’, this language does not prevent the Lieutenant Governor from voting on such matters in the event of a tie vote” said Bolling. “Should such issues come before the Senate and result in a tie vote, I will not hesitate to exercise my constitutional duty and cast the tie breaking vote on such issues.”

A similar 20-20 deadlock occurred in 1996 when George Allen was governor and democrat Don Byer was the Lt. Governor. At the time, democrats offered republicans the opportunity to share power.

“As George Allen, who was Governor of Virginia at that time said of the power sharing pact, “This is reflective of the balance and equity that should be accorded the election results.” McEachin noted.

Democrats have said that republicans should respect the will of the voters, half of which they claimed elected democrats. But would-be Senate Majoriy Leader Tommy Norment quibbled with the democratic math.

“According to the State Board of Elections, 768,545 Virginians voted for Republican candidates for Senate, while only 535,087 voted for Democrat candidates,” Norment said.

The big difference between 1996 and 2011 is the fragility of the potential majority caucus. In 1996, then Senator Virgil Goode threatened to bolt the democratic caucus if power was not shared. He later became a republican anyway and eventually ran and won a seat in congress. In 2011, republicans appear confident that their 20 votes will hold.

What is still an open question is exactly how the democrats plan to fight this organizational effort by the republicans. In most cases, the parties find a way to hash things out. Some liberal capitol watchers have suggested it is an issue that could be hashed out in court.

The full statement from the Senate Democrats and Republicans can be found after the jump:

(Interestingly.. the Dems have unveileld their leadership pics as well.. noting that Sen. Dick Saslaw is their “majority leader”.)

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Ryan Nobles

November 18, 2011 at 8:12 pm

Cuccinelli offers tepid support for Norment as Majority Leader

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By: Ryan Nobles – bio | email

The Virginia Senate is something that Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli cares quite a bit about. Before he ascended to his current post, Cuccinelli spent eight years in the Senate carving out a reputation as a tenacious voice for conservative causes, while at the same time cruising to re-election in his Northern Virginia district. 

So it is not a surprise that Cuccinelli campaigned hard for Senate republicans in their effort to capture that house and that he has an opinion about how they should conduct business now that they have a razor-thin majority.  

Shortly after the election, Cuccinelli warned that his former comrades in the conservative wing of the Senate caucus not be ignored.

“It will be important to see how the conservatives are treated in the Senate GOP Caucus,” he wrote on his facebook page.  “What chairmanships and caucus leadership positions will conservatives have?  What committee slots?”

At that point Cuccinelli did not know who the Republicans would elect as their Majority Leader.  A few days later the caucus tapped Sen. Tommy Norment, a moderate, to the post. Norment was the Minority Leader.  While Cuccinelli and Norment are both republicans, that aren’t necessarily allies.

“Senator Norment and I have had our differences,” Cuccinelli admitted during a wide-ranging interview Thursday morning.

While the Attorney General wasn’t enthusiastic about the prospects of Norment leading the GOP, he conceded his personality may prove to be beneficial when wading the choppy waters of a 20-20 split.

“He has done this 20 years,” said Cuccinelli. “He understands that it is going to be hard to keep that caucus together, not because they are dying to break apart, but because you can’t give up one (vote).”

Cuccinelli is a powerful voice in the conservative wing of the party. He doesn’t have a vote in the Senate anymore, but his support could make life easier for Senators who could face unsettled supporters hungry for their issues to be passed with a newfound majority.  

When asked he couldn’t, or wouldn’t,  come up with another member of the GOP caucus who might be able to manage the Senate better than Norment. Cuccinelli said that he and Norment are both “type-A” personalities which can be good and bad.

“If what you want is kumbaya consensus, type-A’s aren’t necessarily what you want for that role,’ he said. “But we tend to be better cat herders, so there is kind of  a trade-off there.”

And as the General Assembly convenes, conservatives will want their voice heard. If there is a sense Norment isn’t offering that, herding those cats may become difficult.

“I think the necessity of the situation is going to demand a level of diplomacy toward his own caucus, that is really going to push him from a leadership standpoint,” said Cuccinelli. “I expect he will respond. Time will tell.”

See an extended clip from my conversation with Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli below:

 

I also talked to the AG about 2012, the Virginia Senate Race and the prospects for his challenge to the Obama health care law in the Supreme Court. More on that soon on Decision Virginia.

Written by Ryan Nobles

November 17, 2011 at 7:41 pm