After last week’s elections left the state Senate evenly split between Republican and Democratic legislators, some political observers from both parties have speculated that Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling’s tie-breaking votes are limited.
But Bolling’s office said Tuesday they are relying on a legal opinion written by University of Virginia law professor A.E. Dick Howard as a guide about what he can vote on.
In addition to hundreds of other bills, Bolling (R) believes he can vote on the budget, tax bills, general obligation bonds, amendments to the state constitution and the election of judges.
Those are the votes that the constitution says must be passed by a majority of members elected — and which some believe Bolling should not be able to vote on. But with no court case on the subject, his staff says they will use Howard’s opinion.
The opinion was written on the request of Senate Democrats. After decades of Democratic control, the chamber split evenly in 1996. Democrats, who had 20 senators plus the lieutenant governor, intended to control the chamber after receiving Howard’s opinion.
But Sen. Virgil Goode, a Democrat who later switched parties while serving in Congress, would not agree to the Democrats controlling the chamber. The two parties shared control for four years.