Work on the budget stretched late into the night. Only after that work was wrapped up would legislators turn to judicial appointments — a matter that had become contentious in recent days as conservatives pushed to reject the appointment of a Richmond prosecutor who has been outspoken on gay rights issues.
The House of Delegates slogged through McDonnell’s amendments for about eight hours — rejecting 26 by unanimous or near unanimous votes. The Senate struck down another five, including one that would have allowed the governor to divert surplus general funds for transportation. And then both chambers took up the judicial appointments, which had not been decided by press time.
“The number of proposed amendments that were rejected was probably more than I’ve seen at any session,” said Del. Lacey Putney (I-Bedford), a 50-year veteran of the House who caucuses with Republicans and chairs the House Appropriations Committee. “But I can’t say that I was much surprised.”
Del. Mark Sickles (D-Fairfax) said the governor, who opened this year’s legislative session cautioning fellow Republicans not to overreach, tried to do just that with his amendments.
“He just went several steps too far,” Sickles said. “I guess he expected the Republicans to fall in lock step. It was the most bipartisan day of voting in my nine years down here.”
McDonnell did not make himself available to reporters, but his office issued a statement late Monday night that said in part that 72 percent of the governor’s amendments had been approved. “[I]t is unfortunate that the General Assembly also rejected several important amendments that would have helped with our ongoing effort to control state spending and make state government more efficient and effective,” the statement also read.
The state budget has been delayed by partisan wrangling over Senate committee assignments and funding for a project to extend Metrorail to Dulles International Airport. McDonnell made relatively modest changes to the budget this month, but legislators weren’t having much of it.
The governor had submitted $43.9 million in amendments, some of them directing more funds to education and economic development, including adding $2 million to lure filmmakers to Virginia.
McDonnell prevailed on the movie industry money, over the objections of Del. Scott Surovell (D-Fairfax), who held up an E.T. doll to argue that affluent filmmakers didn’t need a break from the state. “E.T. can phone home, but he can do it on his own dime,” Surovell said.
The movie incentives also surived a vote in the Senate.