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Live Blog: Virginia General Assembly Special Session


A few highlights (lowlights?) so far (9:41 am) from today’s Virginia General Assembly special session.

The Times-Dispatch reports:

In a surprise move, Virginia Senate Democrats, with the help of retiring Sen. John Watkins, R-Powhatan, adjourned the special session Monday. The move, if it holds up to parliamentary challenge by Republicans, will effectively enable Gov. Terry McAuliffe to reappoint Supreme Court Justice Jane Marum Roush to another interim term when her current interim term expires in mid-September.


Had the legislature remained in session, Roush would have to leave the court 30 days from Monday without legislative endorsement. If it remains adjourned, McAuliffe could appoint her to another interim term that would last until 30 days following the next session of the General Assembly.

“It’s a fine development for Judge Roush,” McEachin acknowledged. “I don’t think we should be removing sitting Supreme Court justices for nothing to do with their qualifications but everything to do with politics.”

But whether the Senate could remain adjourned was still in doubt Monday evening.

Following the move, House and Senate Republican leaders scrambled to see whether it was possible.

@jennaportnoy Watkins, retiring moderate Republican, was only GOP ‘no’ on Alston. He was one of few Rs for Medicaid expansion too. (A dying breed, sad to say…)

@PilotOnPolitics The Senate did not elect Alston. GOP’s Watkins joined Democrats to create 20-20 tie. Ralph Northam voted no. So election of Alston fails.

@MarkKeam  VA Republican State Senator John Watkins announces he can’t vote for Court of Appeals Judge Rossie Alston because process has been broken. (Note: Even thought Sen. Watkins is a Republican, he’s a man of integrity and good sense. I’m going to miss him.)

@NARALVirginia Sen. @TommyNorment admits he is firing Roush b/c Governor “didn’t make a phone call.” And THIS is why we’re reducing woman to political pawn

‏@AmyEGardner “Lord knows, I hate to read newspapers, for obvious reasons.” Virginia Senator Tommy Norment.

@amaxsmith Sen. Saslaw: We don’t need this nomination – we have someone already, Judge Roush.

“Couldn’t find anybody more qualified”

@alana_austin “This isn’t fair. This isn’t right. This is unprecedented.” – Sen. @Donald_McEachin

@alana_austin Sen. @Donald_McEachin says the system is “rigged.” Say Roush, sitting SCOVA justice, hasn’t even gotten an interview.

@amaxsmith #VaSenate now taking up nomination of Judge Rossie Alston to #SCOVA. Sen Norment focuses on fact selection of judges is left to Gen Assembly

@TravisFain After some huddling on protocol, McEachin effort to have Roush certified as well passed by for the day.

@TravisFain Senate Courts cmt has certified judge Alston for Supreme Court.

@jennaportnoy Del Hugo said “The governor gave [Roush] bad advice that he would politically muscle this through.”

‏@jennaportnoy Del. Miller blames Dems for playing “game of identity politics” – “There’s no war on women but that’s the narrative they want to play.”

@JennMcClellanVA  The @VAHouseDems ladies are wearing pink to show our support for Justice Roush.

[I’ve got to head out, will be back later for more of this fun ;)]

@alana_austin Del. Watts says electing Justice Roush to VA Supreme Court furthers goal of equal representation of women in the legal profession.

@Lopez4VA  Delegate Vivian Watts speaking eloquently in support of Virginia Supreme Court Justice Roush.

@C_Herring  Just finished speaking on the House Floor asking that we give Justice Roush a #fairhearing and vote. She deserves it!  (Great job by Del. Herring!)

@momofink lol Kirk Cox’s one-min goodbye speeches for Berg + Futrell and lengthy soliloquy for Joannou

11:34 am: Nauseating listening to right-wingnut Del. Chris Cox lavishing praise on anti-Medicaid “Democrat” Johnny Joannou, who fortunately was defeated in the June primary by a REAL Democrat, Steve Heretick.

@MichaelLeePope  Proto-Delegate-elect @MarkLevineTalk marks his first appearance on House floor by posting on Facebook

@amaxsmith  #VaHouse back – approve the rules. Also pass resolution limiting business to redistricting for US House, judicial elex, confirming appts etc

‏@amaxsmith  #VaHouse goes into recess for about 15 mins so Courts cmte can certify Alston pick to #SCOVA

@VaHouse  The House is now in session.  Live video – http://virginia-house.granicus…

@AliciaPetska Va. House recognizes Del. Bagby, who’s replacing controversial Del. Morrissey. Spkr Howell: We’re happy to have you here for lot of reasons.

@marcussimon Governor of Virginia addresses Democratic Caucus http://fb.me/2ldhxDUbo

@MichaelLeePope Del. Vivian Watts (D-39) questions two Rossie Alston rulings, @JacksonMillerVA responds Democrats are trying to drag him “through the mud”

@TravisFain Saslaw on Judge Alston’s chances in Senate: “They don’t have the votes to get him through…”Right now,” Saslaw adds. Senate Republicans are caucusing now.

@TravisFain  Sen. Norment doesn’t want to talk to @Daily_Press. “Don’t even waste your time,” he says. Won’t say why.

@TravisFain  Judge Alston on whether Justice Roush has been treated fairly: “I can’t comment on legislative process.”

@TravisFain Dems, plus Albo, vote to give Roush a SCOVA hearing in cmt. Fails. Other R’s vote against.

‏@alana_austin Community groups say in House Briefing room that Va lawmakers should allow public to examine maps before voting.

@alana_austin Sen. McEachin reveals discussion he had w/ Alston. Alston said his faith makes him a Republican. McEachin said his makes him a Democrat.

@amaxsmith McEachin asks any circumstance where person could cite religious beliefs to refuse service to blacks, LGBT – Alston says personal view is no

@momofink “Is this a new low?” asks @JacksonMillerVA, apparently born without a sense of irony, after a Dem dares to ask some interview questions

@marcussimon So far everything at GA is according to script. GOP dominated committees vote to redistrict by tinkering with 3rd and not to interview Roush

@MichaelLeePope  House Republicans vote against interviewing #FairfaxCounty Judge Jane Roush for Virginia Supreme Court vacancy

@alana_austin  Del. @C_Herring asks Alston if he has a copy of his financial disclosure form. She says it wasn’t included in packet for judicial panel.

@AliciaPetska  Cmte just adopted redistricting criteria. Del. Jones stressed GA won’t do total redraw of map.

@PilotOnPolitics  Del. Chris Jones says the General Assembly will get public comment on a congressional redistricting plan today but will not vote.

@alana_austin Joint legislative hearing starting up now in the General Assembly Building dealing with VA Supreme Ct interviews.  

  • From Progress Virginia:

    Richmond, VA – Community organizations this morning spoke out regarding court-ordered redistricting of the 3rd congressional district this morning, calling for legislators to release all maps under consideration and the accompanying data to the public. Advocates noted the racial gerrymandering which the federal court found unconstitutional has undermined voter confidence and requires increased focus on communities of color to rectify.

    Tram Nguyen, co-executive director of New Virginia Majority, stated, “Over a third of Virginians identify as non-white, yet only 1 out of 11 of Virginia’s congressional districts allows for communities of color to elect their preferred candidate. These districts belong to the people of Virginia, not to the legislature or even to the members of Congress who will represent them in Washington. Voters deserve a voice in how the maps are drawn and a reasonable chance to study them.”

    The Urban League of Hampton Roads and Common Cause joined new Virginia Majority at the podium. “The Urban League of Hampton Roads works hard to elevate the quality of life for citizens in our region,” said Thursa Crittenden of the Urban League of Hampton Roads. “Redistricting election districts is a serious matter with serious consequences. We understand the importance of citizen participation during the process. We ask that our legislators do their part to ensure that the process moves along with transparency and ultimately ends with all citizens having the opportunity to have adequate representation with the integrity of the vote intact.”

    Geneva Perry, a resident of the 1st Congressional district, added, “Redistricting shouldn’t be about getting or keeping political power for one party or another. It should be an impartial and transparent process with the goal of giving every voter an equal and powerful say in our democracy. I hope that is the spirit in which legislators begin their deliberations today.”

    Dale Eisman, with Common Cause, criticized today’s special session. “We’re here today because the General Assembly was neither open nor honest in fashioning the 2011 redistricting plan that now has been ruled unconstitutional in court. And it’s pretty clear, unfortunately, that today’s exercises won’t be any better.”

  • From the Virginia Democratic Senate Caucus:


    Richmond, Va. – Today, Democrats in the Virginia Senate successfully blocked attempts by their Republican colleagues to oust Governor McAuliffe’s Supreme Court appointee, Justice Jane Marum Roush.

    Justice Roush’s appointment to replace retiring Justice LeRoy F. Millette was formally announced on July 27th, following a lengthy and transparent selection process. Republican leadership in the General Assembly waited until after the process was completed and the appointment announced before voicing any concerns, and proposed their own candidate for the position – all the while failing to suggest any possible reason why they felt Justice Roush to be unfit for the job. This highly political saga culminated earlier today during a Republican controlled Joint Meeting of the Senate Courts of Justice and House Judicial Committee refused to so much as interview Justice Roush for the appointment, marking the first time in modern Virginia history that a sitting Justice has not had the opportunity to interview for his or her own appointment.

    Said Senator A. Donald McEachin (D-Henrico), Chair of the Senate Democratic Caucus, “For the first time in memory, a sitting Supreme Court Justice has not been granted an interview, and she has not even been given the courtesy of a vote by the Senate Courts of Justice Committee. Why are we doing this? No one has suggested that she is not qualified. She has been lauded as a great jurist, she has the support of the Republican Chair of the House Courts of Justice Committee. We are about to embark on a road that we don’t want to go down. Right now, today, what’s being proposed is that we allow politics to dictate who the next Supreme Court justice is. This isn’t fair, this isn’t right, and this is unprecedented. ”

    Said Senator Richard L. Saslaw (D-Fairfax), Democratic Leader in the Senate, “We’ve already got a highly qualified person on the Supreme Court in Justice Roush. I don’t practice law, so when the nomination came about I asked a number of legislators in this very chamber and got a number of glowing reports. Justice Roush is probably not only one of the brightest legal minds in the state, but one of the brightest people in the State of Virginia. There has not been one voice in favor of taking her off the bench outside certain members of this General Assembly. I have never heard or gotten so many comments from outside groups about how excellent this particular individual is. So why do we want to replace her? This doesn’t make a shred of sense other than politics.”

    Said Senator Janet Howell (D-Fairfax), “Republican objections to Justice Roush’s appointment came at the last minute and on the fly. They had no process, they did no interviews, they posted no advertisements, they didn’t involve the public, they didn’t request input from all members of the General Assembly. It isn’t even clear whether they consulted their own Caucuses. And just today they refused to interview a sitting Justice for her own position. We all know she is extremely qualified and that she comes with the highest recommendations of all the bar associations and by the Fairfax delegation. We all know this has nothing to do with Justice Roush. That’s why it’s so unfair to her, and to the institutional integrity of the judiciary – and to our own process.”

    Said Senator Mamie E. Locke (D-Hampton), “Over the past week my colleagues and I have been inundated with letters, phone calls and emails attesting to what we already know. Justice Roush is the most qualified candidate for a position on Virginia’s Supreme Court. Justice Roush was selected in a fair and competitive process that was open to law makers and the public. She was selected based on her abilities, qualifications, and recommendations from legal professionals across the Commonwealth. There is no good reason why the General Assembly should fire this eminently qualified sitting member of the Supreme Court. Those trying to do so should at least have the decency to admit that they are doing so only to make a political point. The radical steps my colleagues are taking today are unprecedented in modern Virginia history.”


  • clark

    Richmond, VA – Today Lieutenant Governor Northam cast the tie breaking vote against replacing Supreme Court Justice Jane Roush.

    “Justice Roush is eminently qualified, has bipartisan support, and is currently hearing cases as a sitting Justice of the Supreme Court. As 24 past presidents of the Virginia Bar Association rightly pointed out in their letter to members of the General Assembly, ‘the removal of this sitting justice from office would make a mockery of the Virginia judicial appointment process, constitute a gross injustice, cause great personal harm to the justice involved and strongly discourage future highly qualified potential candidates’.

    While this special session was supposed to be about fairly redrawing the state’s 11-district congressional map, which the courts have repeatedly found to be unconstitutional, it instead devolved into an unfortunate attempt to unseat a highly distinguished Supreme Court Justice solely because of partisan posturing and power politics.”  

  • From the Virginia Senate Dems:


    Republicans’ intransigence means court will redraw districts

    Richmond, Va. – This afternoon, the Senate adjourned sine die. The tie vote took place along near-party lines, with one Republican joining all nineteen Senate Democrats; the lieutenant governor broke the tie. On the floor, Democrats cited Republicans’ failure to seriously address redistricting as a reason to adjourn. The move ended the special session; as a result, court-ordered changes to Virginia’s congressional districts will be made by the court itself.

    Said Caucus Chair Senator A. Donald McEachin (D-Henrico), “Republicans have refused to meet with Gov. McAuliffe to discuss a path forward on redistricting. They failed to bring any maps today for the public to review. And we are told that the House planned to adjourn until just one day before our court-ordered deadline. That timeframe would have left little time for senators or the governor to debate or review any map they did eventually approve, and it would potentially leave the public with no real chance to offer informed comments or recommend changes. Virginians expect and deserve a fair and open process. Since House Republicans will only offer a rushed partisan circus, it is unfortunately better that the court redraw the lines.”

    Said Democratic Leader Senator Richard L. Saslaw (D-Fairfax), “Republicans in the legislature made it clear from the start that they had no intention of working towards a solution to the court-ordered redistricting ahead of the September 1st deadline. The only bills put forward came from Democratic legislators, and attempts to open up the dialogue across the aisle were instantly shut down by Republican leadership.”


    Senate Democrats have abundant evidence that Republicans have not taken the redistricting process seriously and will not deliver an adequate map within an acceptable time-frame:

    Republicans have declined the governor’s standing invitation to meet and discuss a bipartisan path forward on redistricting.

    LIS does not list any Republicans as having put forward a map for the public to review – even though they have had multiple weeks in which to prepare. (Senate Democrats have offered two: Sen. Chap Petersen’s (D – Fairfax) SB 5001 and Sen. Mamie Locke’s (D – Hampton) SB 5002.)

    Senate Democrats were told that the House would adjourn until August 31st – one day before the General Assembly’s court-imposed redistricting deadline. Any map that emerged from the House on that day would have to be reviewed and approved by both the Senate and the governor in a matter of hours in order to take effect. Additionally, depending on House committees’ timeline, the public might easily be deprived of an opportunity to adequately review and recommend changes to that eventual map.

    In years past, both chambers of the General Assembly have adjourned sine die without the consent of the other.


    RICHMOND – Governor Terry McAuliffe issued the following statement upon the conclusion of the special session on redistricting:

    “State Senators today adjourned sine die in recognition that legislators are impossibly deadlocked and have no chance of approving legitimate congressional maps capable of passing constitutional muster. This brings to a close the special session I called to resolve this issue politically. While several maps were filed by Democratic legislators and the NAACP, Republican leaders offered nothing for Virginians to consider. The opportunity for a legislative remedy has ended.

    “Therefore, it is appropriate that the Court now take action and provide relief to the citizens of the Commonwealth in the form of a new map based on the principles of equal representation, protection of minority voting rights, compact and contiguous districts, and the integrity of communities of interest.

    “It is clear, given the Court ruling, that the only means to achieve that goal is to take a comprehensive approach that starts from the beginning and erases the taint of racial and partisan politics that poisons the old unconstitutional map.”

  • RICHMOND – Governor Terry McAuliffe issued the following statement on the legislature’s failure to elect a Justice to the Supreme Court of Virginia:

    “I am shocked and saddened that Republican leaders denied a sitting Supreme Court Justice a hearing, even as she sat at her desk, across the street from today’s Joint Courts of Justice meeting, continuing to serve the citizens of the Commonwealth of Virginia. This is not the Virginia way to treat anyone, let alone an outstanding female jurist. Republicans have yet to raise a single concern about Justice Roush’s legal skills or her integrity. Indeed, they have repeatedly acknowledged that her qualifications are unmatched.

    “Republican leaders ultimately were incapable of electing anyone, leaving the state’s highest court in a state of uncertainty. It is disgraceful that Republicans have turned a serious decision affecting Virginia’s entire judicial system into an embarrassing partisan circus. I call on lawmakers to return to Virginia’s time-honored traditions for electing judges. I ask that they walk across the street and invite Justice Roush to a new hearing, one that is open and fair, and gives this highly qualified judge the respect she is due.”

  • Why would Republicans fire an extremely qualified female Supreme Court Justice??  No one knows!!!

    The House Republicans would not even interview the sitting female Supreme Court Justice while they did provide the opportunity for their candidate to be interviewed by the Joint Judicial Panel of the House and Senate Courts of Justice Committees.

    Help me change the House of Delegates so this doesn’t happen again.  The only way to change this is to change the people who sit in the seats. DONATE TO MY VIRGINIA FIRST PAC to help elect more Democrats to the House of Delegates.

    Justice Jane Rousch has gotten rave reviews as a Judge, presiding over the Washington Sniper case as well as complex litigation.  Yet she was not even given the courtesy of an interview to retain her job!  

    Give what you can today-$5, $50, $500 to help today- and help change Virginia.

    We need to change the composition of the House.  Help us put a stop to this.  DONATE TODAY.


    David Toscano

  • Whatever.

    Senate Democrats’ unconstitutional attempt to adjourn sine die directly defies a federal court ruling, ignores repeated requests from Governor Terry McAuliffe and singly-handedly eliminates any possibility of a legislative remedy on redistricting.

    As Governor McAuliffe repeatedly said, the General Assembly is under a court ruling to redraw Virginia’s Third Congressional District by September 1st. The Governor called this special session of the General Assembly specifically for the purpose of redistricting. The House of Delegates acted in good faith and announced five days ago committee meetings and public hearings in order to develop a remedy to comply with the Court ruling. In fact, Senate Democrats took this unconstitutional action almost exactly as the House of Delegates began a public hearing to solicit citizen input on redistricting.

    Not only is this attempt to adjourn blatantly hypocritical and deeply irresponsible, it also directly defies both a federal court ruling and the Governor. Democrats have single-handedly shutdown any possibility of a legislative remedy on redistricting and have no one to blame but themselves.

    The House of Delegates remains in session, pursuant to Article IV, Section 6 of the Constitution of Virginia. Unfortunately, without the presence of the Senate, there is no possible path forward on redistricting.

  • jwsevert

    though this is not a game.

    Bravo to Donald McEachin and kudos to John Watkins.

    Senator McEachin has stepped up to lead on so many other other occasions.  Today, he took it to another level and has my thanks and admiration.

    A good day for the Commonwealth and democracy.