Not three weeks ago, Newly elected Gov. Terry McAuliffe stood before the Virginia State Capitol and extolled a new era of bipartisanship in Richmond. It doesn’t seem to have lasted very long.
Whether by design or chance, a series of events have strengthened the state Democrats’ hand and terrified the Republicans who have dominated the agenda for the past four years.
Attorney General Mark Herring made the dramatic announcement that he would not defend the state’s ban on gay marriage, saying it went against the U.S. Constitution.
McAuliffe partly sidestepped delegates from both parties who are proposing a toothless ethics reform in connection with the gifts scandal that led to the indictment of former GOP governor Robert F. McDonnell and his wife. The new governor issued an executive order that forbids executive branch employees from accepting gifts of more than $100 and sets aside $100,000 for a State Ethics Commission that presumably would have true investigative power.
The latest news is that the Democrat won a special election for a state Senate seat that truly upsets the GOP’s apple cart. Not only do the Democrats now control the Senate, they have made a rule change that allows the chairman of the Rules Committee to kill bills that have been significantly altered by the House of Delegates. An example of such a bill is one in 2011 that would have addressed infections in hospitals but was turned by the House into a crackdown on abortion clinics.
McAuliffe and his team are now in a much better position to try to push ahead with the Medicaid expansion that conservative Republicans are fighting.
Naturally, there is much gnashing of teeth among GOP legislators, who claim the developments are “dangerous.” Herring’s move on gay marriage has prompted calls for his resignation. A bill to impeach him, supported by the Tea Party, is making the rounds.
My takeaway? Amusement. Not that long ago, the state was enduring hard-right attorney general Kenneth Cuccinelli’s legal moves to advance his highly-politicized agenda, which didn’t have much to do with the needs of the state. Many of the very same conservative Republicans now screaming bloody murder worked hand and glove with Cuccinelli.
The shoe is on the other foot now.