Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Senator Howell Rules Republican Bills Out of Order, Senator Martin Responds

The following is a guest post by State Senator Steve MartinSenator Steve Martin represents the 11th Legislative district in the Virginia Senate, which includes a majority of Chesterfield County and all of the city of Colonial Heights. 

The Privilege &Elections chair chose not to place these 6-7 resolutions on the docket, as is her right. Senator Obenshain made a motion to add these bills to the docket, as is his right. It is always in order for a member to make such a request. The committee can, if it chooses, reject the motion. However, the chair ruled the motion out of order. When asked what rule, parliamentary guidance or other legal basis she used in her judgment, she said "because that's how I ruled."

We made a motion to challenge the ruling of the chair with the Democrats upholding her ruling on a 9-6 vote.

The chair had already acknowledged that the subcommittee’s action served only as a recommendation to the full committee. Since the subcommittee's report did not make mention of these bills, they were not placed on the docket, they are still alive in committee for consideration through the final meeting of the committee.

Some of us took the opportunity on the senate floor to express our great concern for this action. Not only was the ruling incorrect, the vote by the Democrats was a vote intended to kill the resolutions without hearing them.

We are not here to only vote on matters of substantial agreement. If that were true we would serve only as rubber stamps. We are here to take up tough matters of significant disagreement. For the system to work we must hear and vote on matters we do not like.  We also must allow votes on substantive matters, and determine their outcome and to do otherwise subverts the process and public confidence in our decisions.

A couple of democrats took the floor to reflect fondly on the days of old and how they used to do it. I recall some of that behavior through the year '89. I was about to rise to ask if they were proud of those things when the senior Democrat took the floor and told them in no uncertain terms that it was wrong to allow subcommittees to kill bills.

Once Chuck Colgan had made his remarks there was no reason to continue the discussion. He had made the point and several other Democrats have also let us know of their embarrassment for their party's action. It is not over yet. We will not allow these publicly popular measures to be killed without accountability.

No comments: