For many years, Virginia’s lieutenant governors had the power to assign bills to Senate committees. As LG’s were generally members of the Senate “club,” and Senate committee chairmen were far more powerful (if not downright lordly) than they are today, there was no perceived harm in allowing an LG to assign bills.
That rule was changed many years ago (possibly as a check on Virginia’s original progressive Democrat, Henry Howell) and the power to assign bills now resides with the Senate clerk and Majority Leader.
Why the history lesson? The gaggle of Republican candidates seeking the party’s lieutenant governor nomination all say they view the office as more powerful than ever because the LG has the power to break ties in the evenly-divided Senate. That’s true as far as it goes. But breaking ties, even with a split Senate, is still a fairly rare thing. Assigning bills to committees, though, is a lower-profile, but arguably much more important power. Just ask pro-life advocates how big a deal this is.
Senator Steve Martin and Corey Stewart have made restoring the LG’s bill assignment power an issue — not a big one, but it’s on their radar. Pete Snyder has said he would consult Republican leaders before making a move to restore the assignment power.
The rest? We don’t know.
But for candidates who truly want to do something as lieutenant governor besides wait and hope for ties to break, getting the Senate to restore its rules to their pre-Henry Howell days and returning the bill assignment power to the LG is an issue they need to address.
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