Assignments for three Virginia Senate committees were incorrectly listed in last week's Virginia Weekly. These are the correct assignments: Agriculture, Conservation and Natural Resources -- Clive L. DuVal II (D-Fairfax), Charles L. Waddell (D-Loudoun), Edward M. Holland (D-Arlington). General Laws -- Adelard L. Brault (D-Fairfax), Holland, Wiley F. Mitchell (R-Alexandria), Charles J. Colgan (D-Prince William). Local Government -- Joseph V. Gartlan Jr. (D-Fairfax), Waddell, Mitchell, Colgan.
The Virginia Senate opened today and immediately plunged into acrimonious debate when Republicans and some senior Northern Virginia Democrats tried to block committee assignements that they charged were politically motivated.
As visitors in the gallery watched incredulously, the normally sedate and polite 40-member body bogged down in heated discussion of whether assignments to its 11 committees had been based on proportional representation, as required by Senate rules.
Republicans complained that the committee assignments, announced today, failed to put them on some of the more influential panels. And the recently ousted former Senate majority leader, Adelard L. Brault (D-Fairfax) said another senior Democrat from the region, Sen. Joseph V. Gartlan Jr. (D-Fairfax) was denied a place on the important Finance Committee because he backed Brault over his successor in that leadership post, Sen. Hunter B. Andrews (D-Hampton).
Brault, a member of a steering committee of Democrats that made the committee appointments, said the assignments "were pretty much decided by a coalition that supported Andrews. And all the senators from southwest Virginia who supported him came off pretty well."
Brault and Gartlan abstained from voting on the appointment today. The assignments were finally adopted 29 to 9, with all nine Republicans in the Senate voting against them.
Gartlan, who declined to speculate on why he wasn't named to the Finance Committee, did say he was "mystified" at his rejection.
As the next in line in seniority to get his committee choice from the region, Gartlan said he attended the steering committee meeting Tuesday night only to discover that "the deal was all wired in advance" against him.
Senate rules state that committee assignments must be made where possible on the basis of both party and congressional district considerations so that Republicans and all areas of the state are represented on the different panels.
Republicans, led by Sen. Wiley F. Mitchell Jr. (R-Alexandria were particularly incensed at the committee assignments. They complained that leaders of the Democratic majority in the Senate had conspired to "dump them in bunches" on the lesser committees.
"With 31 Democrats, you can do whatever you want," Mitchell said. "But remember that what can happen to Republicans today can happen to Democrats tomorrow."
Mitchell, who had also sought a place on the Finance Committee, said Republicans had failed to increase their numbers on the important Finance and Rules committees even though the number of Republicans in the Senate rose from five to nine during the last four years.
Andrews, who found himself under attack on his first day as majority leader, denied that the steering committee or his supporters had been anything but fair.
"Not everyone received what they wanted, but we did what we think is right and fair under the rules," he said.
Still, confusion about the rules forced Lt. Gov. Charles S. Robb to halt proceedings for more than a half-hour before ruling that the Senate could act on the committee assignments.
Although Mitchell, too, charged that Gartlan "paid the price for supporting Abe Brault," Andrews cited other factors for the committee selections.
Putting Gartlan on the committee, he said, would have given Fairfax three representatives on the panel. Instead, the spot went to Sen. Charles J. Colgan (D-Prince William), who had four years less seniority than Gartlan.
Colgan was delighted, though he admitted the assignment came as a surprise.
"I felt bad for Joe, but I was glad I got it," he said. "I bet Prince William hasn't had a representative on Finance since Adam and Eve."