Judge to rule next week in case on Va. Senate control


Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling (Steve Helber/Associated Press)

For more than an hour, Richmond Circuit Court Judge Beverly W. Snukals heard arguments for and against a proposed temporary injunction to prevent Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling (R) from voting on matters of Senate organization. The organizational matters are critical to control of Richmond’s upper chamber because they would give the GOP power over committee assignments in the evenly divided Senate.

Since elections last month left the Senate split 20-20 between Republicans and Democrats, the parties have argued over control of the chamber.

Democratic Caucus Chairman Donald McEachin of Henrico filed a lawsuit Monday in Richmond City Circuit Court against Bolling. It seeks a declaratory judgment that Bolling does not have the constitutional right to vote on matters of Senate organization. It also seeks a temporary injunction preventing Bolling from voting on organizational matters until the issue is resolved.

The dispute has left control of the chamber in doubt with just a month before the General Assembly returns in January for its 60-day session. Legislators will consider thousands of bills, including the state’s two-year budget and new lines for Virginia’s 11 congressional districts.

In the meantime, both Sen. Richard L. Saslaw (D-Fairfax) and Sen. Thomas K. Norment Jr. (R-James City) have been claiming the “majority leader” title.

Republicans, who already hold the House and governor’s mansion, have contended that they’re in charge of the Senate since Bolling (R) has the power to cast tie-breaking votes.

But Democrats have argued that Bolling’s voting power is limited, and does not extend to judgeships, the budget and organizational matters such as committee appointments. Democrats say the parties should share power, as they did in the 1990s, the only other time the 40-seat chamber was split down the middle.

Democrats announced their intention to sue last month. Republicans have characterized them as “sore losers” for turning to the courts.

Laura Vozzella covers Virginia politics for The Washington Post.

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