Some say lawmakers brought the reversals on themselves with “extreme lawmaking.” Others blame activist judges, liberal bureaucrats and a headstrong chief executive. Others simply chalk it up to the downside of part-time legislating.
“We’re only there two months. As soon as everybody leaves, they do whatever they want to do,” said Del. David B. Albo (R-Fairfax). “It’s like when you’re in high school and your parents leave for a long weekend and — ‘Party at your house!’ ”
Whatever the reason, the dissing of state lawmakers has been very much on display. In the space of three business days, the court and the health board defied the General Assembly, while House budget writers publicly railed against the $6.4 million “corporate welfare” deal struck with the Redskins earlier in the month.
While the attorney general’s office contends that the health board’s ruling was contrary to state law, everyone concedes that the court had the authority to appoint the judge and that Gov. Robert F. McDonnell (R) had the power to make a deal with the football team. But many lawmakers, conservatives in particular, see all three actions as affronts.
“Many of these things are not illegal, but it represents a whole new level of combat with elected officials that we don’t usually see in Virginia,” said Stephen Farnsworth, a University of Mary Washington political scientist. “Normally, the legislature enjoys a much greater level of deference and respect than they currently enjoy.”
Del. R. Steven Landes (R-Augusta) strenuously objected to the Redskins deal, called the health board’s decision “just a blatant disregard of the state law,” noted that Tracy Thorne-Begland’s appointment to Richmond’s General District Court bench is a temporary one that lawmakers can reverse next year and suggested that the circuit judges who put him on the bench may not be reappointed.
“They ought to run for the state legislature, not try to make legislative decisions that are up to the General Assembly,” said Landes, referring to the court and health board.
Farnsworth said the General Assembly is getting a well-deserved comeuppance after a session dominated by highly contentious social issues. One bill in particular, which originally called for women seeking an abortion to undergo a vaginal ultrasound, was lampooned on national television.
“They have a credibility problem because the lawmakers made Virginia a national laughingstock,” Farnsworth said. “Extreme lawmaking builds up a lot of resentment.”