Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) eliminated one problem and moved forward with his two big legislative initiatives on Wednesday.
As you will recall, state Senate Republicans tried a cheesy power play, attempting a redistricting “fix” when one Democratic state senator was absent for the inauguration. McDonnell previously criticized the move, pointing out that it had enraged the Democrats and made progress on the state’s business difficult, if not impossible. Wednesday, the Republican speaker of the House of Delegates, William J. Howell, ruled the maneuver out of order. McDonnell released a statement: “The Speaker has exercised his exclusive legislative authority to rule that the Senate redistricting amendments to the House bill are not germane. The Speaker is an honorable man who always endeavors to rule fairly according to the rules and precedents of the House. With his ruling, concerns surrounding the process of this bill’s passage in the Senate are over.” With that out of the way, he vowed to press ahead on transportation and education bills.
As for those measures, his proposal to adopt an A-F grading scale for schools and set Opportunity Education Institution to take over failing schools and turn them around have passed both houses of the legislature. After a second round of approval it is likely to become law. (In both cases, Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling cast the deciding tie-breaking vote in the Senate.) Previously teacher training, charter schools, tenure reform and other reforms sailed through.
On the transportation front, a bill favored by gubernatorial candidate and Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli failed, as did Democratic alternatives. The governor’s plan to, among other things, dump the gas tax and raise the sales tax to provide a more reliable revenue stream for roads passed the House of Delegates. The Democrats in the Senate initially rejected it. But now they face the choice: Be the spoilers for the only transportation bill still active or go along with the governor’s plan (that garnered support from both labor and business groups). It is, dare I say, a little Obama-esque in putting the opposition party’s legislators in an unpopular spot.
There are 10 more days in the legislative session to work this all out. If McDonnell stays on track he’ll finish his last legislative session on a high note, a self-styled conservative problem solver. It’s a record of which many states and certainly federal pols should be envious.