Today, the Senate began the day with a floor ceremony remembering two American scientists, long-time residents of Virginia, who worked on the Manhattan project in the 1940′s and helped usher in the nuclear age.
Shortly after the ceremony, the Senate re-enacted Newton’s Third Law of Physics: for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.
Two years ago, the Senate walked out of an election cycle with a 20-20 deadlock. The Lt. Governor was in “R” hands, which meant that they had the 21st vote, if necessary, to impose their will.
This was new ground for the Senate. In the only previous “20-20″ chamber in 1995, the Senators had entered a power-sharing agreement which evenly divided committees (for the most part) and appointed co-chairmen. We could have done that again in January 2012, when we convened a new Assembly.
But the Republicans opted not to do that. Instead, they took 100% of the power, using the tie-breaking power of the Lt. Governor. There were a lot of unhappy people (me included), but the central message was clear — “20+1″ equals a majority.
Of course, that interpretation held an inherent risk. Once the Lt. Governor changed hands, then the situation would be reversed. Regardless, the Republicans rolled the dice.
Last fall, it came back as snake-eyes. The R’s lost every statewide race, as well as the two special elections to fill Senate vacancies. So the Democrats returned with the advantage and every right to use it.
Today, we reshuffled the deck. Democrats took control, with Chuck Colgan being elected President Pro Tem, Dick Saslaw as majority leader, and Creigh Deeds, Janet Howell, Mamie Locke, Toddy Puller, Don McEachin, Phil Puckett and John Edwards as committee chairs. (Walter Stosch will remain as a “co-chair” of Finance).
For my part, I was able to reclaim the seat on Courts of Justice which I lost in 2012.
In other words, the Democrats pulled off the inverse of the power play of January 2012. Of course, it didn’t have to be this way. A little cooperation in 2012 would have given long-term dividends to everyone (including Bob McDonnell who could have used a Democratic-controlled Health Committee in 2013 to defeat the ultrasound bill).
Anyway, those were the cards dealt in 2012. And 2014 merely evened the score. For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.