Republicans in the Virginia House of Delegates charged today they were shortchanged today by Democrats in key committee assignments.
The GOP members were particularly incensed that they received only three seats on the powerful 26-member Privileges and Elections Committee that will hammer out crucial reapportionment decisions this year and next.
"This is the first step in this House toward gerrymandering reapportionment," complained Minority Leader Jerry H. Geisler (R-Carroll). He said the GOP should have been given five seats on the committee in proportion to its 25 seats in the 100-member House.
"I hope we're not going back to the dark ages," said Del. Martin H. Perper (R-Fairfax), referring to the heyday of the Democratic Byrd machine 25 years ago when all Republicans were condemned to phantom House Committees that never met.
The new House speaker, Al Philpott (D-Henry), who drew up the committee assignments, denied Geisler's charge that he had succumbed to pressure from fellow Democrats to cheat the Republicans.
"That is a bunch of junk," said Philpott, who had previously stated he would take a more partisan role as House speaker than his predecessor.
Fears expressed by some Northern Virginia legislators that the conservative Philpott would strip liberal Democrats of some important committee assignments never materialized. Most of the 19 area legislators said they were reasonably satisfied with their assignments.
For some there were pleasant surprises, Del. Gladys B. Keating (D-Fairfax), a consumer advocate, was pleased to find herself the first woman ever assigned to the Corporations, Insurance and Banking Committee. It oversees nearly all legislation dealing with business matters, utilities and the powerful State Corporation Commission.
Perhaps the biggest surprise was the appointment of freshman Del. John S. Buckley (R-Fairfax), at 26 the House's youngest member, to the Finance Committee, which will rule on tax issue, including the Dalton administration's proposed gasoline sales tax.
Some House members said Buckley's appointment was the result of last-minute maneuverings by Northern Virginians who learned that Philpott was planning to appoint Del. Lawrence D. Pratt (R-Fairfax), considered a right-wing indeologue by some law-makers, to the committee. Members of both parities said they bonded together last night to lobby with Philpott confidants to sabotage Pratt's appointment.
William Robinson, a Norfolk Democrat and a college professor, became the first black to head a House committee when he became the senior member of the Health, Welfare and Institutions Committee, which oversees much social legislation
As in the last session, Northern Virginia has no representation on the vital seven-member Rules Committee, which consists only of important committee chairmen plus one Republican. Washington-area legislators blamed lack of seniority for their exclusion.
The region has only three representatives on the 20-member Appropriations Committee, considered the House's most important because it rules on state expenditures.Some members were hopping Northern Virginia would get a fourth seat.
The region's legislators were assigned in abundance to the lowly Claims and Militia and Police committees, where Northern Virginians make up five of 15 members in each.