Bolling tells senators his tie-breaking vote is limited

Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling, who will preside over a state Senate equally divided between the parties next week, told senators Tuesday that he believes he can vote on organizational matters, but not the budget and certain other matters.


Virginia Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling arrives in Manassas, VA to attend a Small Business Roundtable on Dec. 7, 2011. (Tracy A. Woodward/THE WASHINGTON POST)

In a four-page memo written to senators a week before the 2012 legislative session start, Bolling (R) said he has concluded that the state constitution requires approval by a majority of the members elected to the Senate, including the budget, taxes and amending the constitution.

Bolling said he relied on a “clear reading” of the constitution and prior attorney generals’ opinions and advice.

“I recognize that Senators o both sides of the aisle may be disappointed with my conclusions, albeit for entirely different reasons,” Bolling said. “However, throughout my service as lieutenant governor, I have tried to preside over the Senate in a fair and impartial manner, and I will continue to do so.”

“In addition, I have taken a solemn oath to uphold the Constitution of Virginia, which allows us to faithfully serve the people who elected us to our offices,” Bolling added.  “I believe that what I have outlined above is a correct and impartial interpretation and application of the Constitution of Virginia, and therefore, I will act accordingly on any matters that come before the Senate.”

 Last fall’s elections left the Senate evenly split between Democrats and Republicans. With the Republican lieutenant governor presiding, the GOP has control of the chamber and power over its committees.

Last month, a Richmond judge ruled against a Democratic senator in a lawsuit seeking to block Republicans from taking control.

Richmond Circuit Court Judge Beverly W. Snukals declined to issue the temporary injunction but did not rule on the underlying lawsuit, which seeks a declaratory judgment that the lieutenant governor is not entitled to vote on certain matters.

The Republican and Democratic leaders in the Senate, Sen. Tommy Norment (R-James City) and Sen. Dick Saslaw (D-Fairfax), did not immediately return calls.

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