Still Plenty of Potholes for the Transportation Bill

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By Michael D. Shear
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, January 25, 2007

RICHMOND

Virginia's Republican lawmakers announced their transportation deal a week ago with all the fanfare of an end-of-season sports championship.

But in reality, it was more of a kickoff than a touchdown.

House Bill 3202, introduced by House Speaker William J. Howell (R-Stafford) just under the wire of Friday's filing deadline, has a long and tortuous path ahead before it can be declared a victory for Howell's Republican Party.

The same goes for the identical plan introduced as Senate Bills 1414, 1415 and 1417 by Sens. Jeannemarie Devolites Davis (R-Fairfax), Kenneth Stolle (R-Virginia Beach) and Thomas Norment (R-James City). Those bills, too, will face threats to their passage before the session ends Feb. 24.

But the transportation plan will benefit in both chambers by some well-greased skids. It is unlike 2004, when Gov. Mark R. Warner (D) attempted to get a massive tax bill past a House of Delegates controlled by a determined opposition.

This year, the plan's powerful sponsors in both chambers are determined to make sure of its swift passage.

Here is a quick guide to the likely legislative hurdles:

The House

All House bills that deal with revenue -- that is, taxes and fees -- must be referred first to the Committee on Finance.

Except when the speaker doesn't want them to be. And in this case, he very much does not.

That particular committee is stacked with some of the most conservative, anti-tax lawmakers in the General Assembly. Howell should know: He helped make it that way, knowing that it's a surefire way to frustrate tax-increase proposals such as the one that got forced on him during the 2004 fight with Warner.


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