It all started with this:
Now State Senator Steve Martin is throwing down the gauntlet, as David Shephard graciously allowed the senator to express his feelings on the matter:
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.
Open government only matters when it works in State Senator Howell’s favor. She should resign her position as P&E chair immediately to allow a more fair-minded Democrat to uphold “the Virginia way” as it was intended to be held.
UPDATE: Krystle Weeks adds her thoughts to the mix:
Things are looking shady in the Virginia State Senate, as the Democrats decided to break the rules. Leading the charge, State Senator Janet Howell (D-Reston), who refused to vote on things like Right to Work and Congressional overreach. Ironic, don’t you think? I think the Virginia Senate Democrats are taking a page from the U.S. Senate Democrats by doing nothing.
She adds her voice to those calling for Howell’s resignation as chair.
UPDATE x2: Jim Riley over at Virginia Virtucon points out the hypocrisy:
Hit pause during the roll call vote to take in the reactions of Sens. Ralph Northam, George Barker, Chap! Peterson (looking very smug – see below), Don McEachin, John Edwards, Creigh Deeds, Mary Margaret Whipple, Phil Puckett and Chairman Janet Howell.
The picture of Chap?
UPDATE x3: The ever eloquent DCH over at Bearing Drift adds:
Senator Janet Howell doesn’t want her fellow Democrats to face a politically risky vote on Speaker Bill Howell’s Repeal Amendment or a Right to Work Constitutional Amendment. So, she just ignored Senator Obenshain’s motion to put the legislation on the committee’s agenda, citing her prerogative as the chair.
UPDATE x4: Chris Beer over at Mason Conservative gives us Chuck Colgan’s thoughts on the matter:
I understand that I am but a small minority in Reston, but one would think Janet Howell would do me the favor as a constituent and at least PRETEND to uphold the rules of the Senate. Oh well, I guess thats what I get for living in Reston. What’s really incredible was the ensuing verbal smackdown Chuck Colgan put on Sens. Howell, Barker, Petersen, et al
“When we take a subcommittee and let a subcommittee decide whether something will pass or fail, that’s wrong,” Colgan told his colleagues. “When you do that, you are disenfranchising the people who sent that legislator here.”
Ouch, Mr. Speaker.
Ouch, Mr. Speaker is right. For those who don’t get the joke, click here.
UPDATE x5: State Senator Chuck Colgan, the senior ranking member of the Virginia Senate and a Democrat, announced his feelings on the matter in the Virginia Senate today. This from the Washington Post Virginia Politics blog:
Colgan, the most senior member of the senate, rose to his feet to talk about abuses of power employed by majority when he first joined the senate 36 years ago–bills that were assigned to fake subcommittees that never met; budgets crafted by a few members meeting at a hunting lodge; other items considered in executive sessions where the public and even many senators were not allowed to attend.
Noting that such practices have ended, Colgan said he believes his colleagues are generally fair and collegial. But he said he agrees with the Republicans that every bill deserves a full committee hearing.
Now if that isn’t a public shaming, I don’t know what is. Thank you, Senator Colgan, for reminding your colleagues of what Virginia should expect of her public officials.
No public word from Senator Howell as of yet.
UPDATE x 6: Mike Fletcher over at Write Side lays ’em out:
All 40 State Senate seats are up for reeelection this November. It’s time to rule Janet Howell “out of office.”
Amen to that. The longer she clings to that chairman seat, the longer we’ll remember the abuse of power (see Chris Beer’s thoughts above).
UPDATE x7: Eric Martin over at Rappahannock Republic joins the fray.
The story doesn’t look like it’s going away this morning. There’s plenty of e-mails being thrown around at this point. Howell could have a tough decision to make in the next few hours.