The Senate Democrats today kicked off the beginning of a process — the process to re-balance the structure of the Senate so that it reflects the Senate membership and the Commonwealth’s actual voting population.
For the past six weeks, we’ve had a 20-20 Senate which has functioned under the optical illusion of “majority” and “minority” caucuses. As a result, we’ve had the flood tide of legislation (mandatory ultrasound, “personhood,” etc) which is usually reserved for the House alone, where the R’s have a 2-1 advantage. Historically, those House bills have died in the Senate, even when it was Republican majority.
This year the applecart officially overturned. The result has been like a car running on three wheels. When that’s the case, you pull over and make a change.
Today the Senate failed to pass its budget. Now there are a lot of organic reasons for voting “no” on the Senate budget (#1 in my book is its use of $68M from the national mortgage settlement for a one-time state employee bonus). There are also reasons to vote “yes” such as the Senate’s restoration of funds for K-12 education.
However, the real reason the Senate Budget must lose — at this point — is so the power balance in Richmond can be adjusted and the national embarrassment can end.
With both sides and the Governor facing a fiscal year with no State Budget, the need to compromise will be intense. Part of that intensity must perforce drive the Senate Republicans to accept an even division on Committees (especially Courts of Justice and Education and Health, where so many key decisions are made).
With the committees adjusted to reflect the actual make-up of the Senate, we can get back to the real business of Virginia and leave the recent foolishness behind.
There’s no need for this process to take a long time. It can start tomorrow. In the meantime, we won’t have a budget … yet.
There are several more rounds to go.