Tag: 2012 Virginia General Assembly
A few select legislators from each body will meet in secret and decide the spending priorities for the next two years. There will be no chance for other representatives of the people to have input about the decisions that will be made. It's just the "good ole' boys" (plus, token women Janet Howell and Beverly Sherwood) deciding how many elderly poor will receive state Medicaid money, how much funding local school boards can expect to help pay for education, how much the state will expend for all the vital services the citizens of the Commonwealth need.
This year's "budget politburo" consists of House members Lacey Putney (the budget czar), Kirk Cox, Steve Landes, Chris Jones, Beverly Sherwood, and token Democrat Johnny Joannou. From the Senate are Walter Stosch, Tom Norment, Emmett Hanger, John Watkins, and token Democrats Charles Colgan and Janet Howell. (Note well the lack of any minority viewpoint in the group.)
So, let's face facts. Representative democracy, "Virginia style," means a few long-time survivors of the legislative process determine the level of state (and local) services the rest of us receive. I realize all budgets need a starting point and will be shaped by those in leadership positions, but this process means that all give-and-take is done in secret, all horse trading happens over taxpayer-funded fancy dinners. There will be no committee hearings, no chance for input by anyone else. This is budgeting, Virginia style, left over from the old, dictatorial Byrd machine.
That is the position Governor Bob McDonnell finds himself in tonight. McDonnell has been running from his thesis since September 2009, and for the most part, he has done so masterfully. He has played off his extremist views to please the extremists in his party, while steadfastly maintaining a moderate line so as not to offend mainstream Virginia voters. Tonight, that balancing act came to a sudden, jarring end, as McDonnell found himself in a place where he could not please both his extremist base and Virginia's main street.
The issue was trans-vaginal probing; a vicious punitive measure put forward by legislators from the Virginia Republican base seeking to punish and humiliate women seeking abortions for any reason. The law made no distinction between women who were victims of rape or incest or women who desperately wanted children but who had a problem pregnancy that threatened their own health. The proposed law was transparently intended to hassle women at a moment in time when they were exercising a constitutional right to control their own reproductive systems at a moment of tremendous personal--and therefore private--stress.