Well, we made it from Hampton Roads to Richmond for the special session in record time — only once stopping for White Castle (transportation crisis, what crisis?). We’ll be live-blogging throughout the day. So is Garren Shipley.
Today’s highlights so far include getting shut-out of going on the House floor by the Speaker and sitting in the LG’s waiting room. Why do I get the sense this might be indicative of our day?
11:45 a.m. Things haven’t changed too much. Now we’re waiting in the AG’s lobby. One thing we have noticed is that there are ton of pieces of paper announcing live, in-person recycling training. Anybody notice the irony of this?
First — how many man-hours will be wasted teaching bureaucrats how to recycle (couldn’t that money be used for transportation…I mean, that has to at least afford an off-ramp)
Second — how many trees were killed printing these signs that will need to be recycled?
Third — only government workers would need to be taught live, in person, how to recycle. How about throwing a bin in the office and say, “use it”
12:15 p.m. —Podcast with the AG
12:30 p.m. — Democratic solutions to transportation, in a nutshell, courtesy of Sen. Yvonne Miller:
“Although we want to solve the problem, we have decided that there are only certain ways we can fund it, and I think that limits us in trying to find a solution to the problem,” Sen. Yvonne B. Miller (D-Norfolk) said.” (Statewide Solutions on Roads Discussed, The Washington Post, May 8, 2008)
1:30 p.m. — The governor has concluded his speech that outlined his calls for statewide tax increases, including a grantor’s tax on homeowners during a housing slump:
Lt. Gov. Bolling attempts to wake the Speaker. Not sure he was successful.
A very interested Del. Jeff Frederick and Del. Bob Marshall listen to the governor’s speech.
1:45 p.m. — Del. Brian Moran (D-Alexandria) made an impassioned plea to the body on the vital reasons to raise taxes on the good people of Roanoke, Chesterfield and Bath County, including one very personal to him:
“I lost my favorite secretary,” Moran complained.
Apparently Moran’s secretary moved to Gainseville and then promptly quit because it took too long to get to work.
2:30 p.m. — Speaker Howell just adjourned the House until tomorrow and scheduled no committee hearings. Del. Moran rose to ask if committee meetings had just not been announced, or would no committees meet. Speaker Howell said no committees will meet. Moran countered “if no committees are scheduled, why would we reconvene” and the Speaker replied “Probably some guys aren’t done talking.” The Speaker then commented that some committees will consider bills “sooner rather than later.” Maybe after tomorrow’s session.
The war of attrition has begun!
8:45 p.m. — Back from Richmond, and the spin has begun…from the Democrats:
Richmond- Virginia’s Republican lawmakers had a lot to say about transportation today, the first day of the special session to once again address the state’s transportation crisis. Unfortunately, none of what Republicans had to say moved us any closer to solving our problems. Instead, what Republicans gave Virginia motorists was more gridlock- both on the roads and on the floor of the House of Delegates.
While Gov. Kaine has submitted a comprehensive plan for solving the state’s transportation crisis, Republican leaders have offered lots of criticism but no substantive alternatives. And as if that weren’t enough, it turns out House Speaker William J. Howell hasn’t even scheduled a committee meeting to discuss the Governor’s proposal, passing the buck on to the Senate and further delaying any progress on relieving Virginia’s clogged roads.
From the Republicans in Capitol Square:
RICHMOND, VA – In preparation for Special Session II of the 2008 General Assembly on transportation, Speaker of the Virginia House of Delegates William J. Howell (R-Stafford), House Majority Leader H. Morgan Griffith (R-Salem), House Majority Whip M. Kirkland Cox (R-Colonial Heights), House Majority Caucus Chairman Samuel A. Nixon, Jr. (R-Chesterfield), Senate Minority Leader Thomas K. Norment, Jr. (R-James City), and Senate Minority Leader Pro Tempore Kenneth W. Stolle (R-Virginia Beach) today announced a proposed procedural schedule to coordinate the flow of legislation in Special Session II. Virginia Republican leaders determined their course of action after learning three days ago that Governor Timothy M. Kaine, who called the Special Session, decided to not even bother to find a patron to submit his tax package in the Democrat-controlled Senate of Virginia.
“We will gladly work together with Governor Kaine when his positions are sound and constructive – as we did last year on the Comprehensive Transportation Funding and Reform Act, and this year on mental health reform and higher education construction,” noted Speaker Howell. “But when it comes to protecting hard-pressed families from onerous new taxes on gas, vehicles and homes in tough economic times, our duty as representatives compels us to place the interests of the people we serve ahead of cooperating with the Governor. While Republicans are continuing to advance substantive ideas on how to address Virginia’s transportation challenges, it is obvious to everyone that, since a Democrat Governor called this special session, the body controlled by his party should act first on his legislation. When the Governor’s allies in the Senate send us a bill that they have passed and that he will sign, then we will give it full and fair consideration.”
“Many have suggested that the Governor’s real goal for this session is not to pass a bill, but to create an election issue for next year’s campaign,” remarked Delegate Griffith. “His lack of serious effort in preparing for this special session suggests that may well be true. Now we have a special session on transportation being convened today – at taxpayer expense – by a political Governor who has not even done the most basic legislative homework. We have a Governor who talks about bipartisan cooperation but has not led effectively even within his own party. Since the Governor called us into this special session, the onus is on him to deliver to the House a bill from the new Senate Democrat majority whose victories he underwrote.”
“It would be easy enough for us to quickly dispatch the Governor’s proposal in the House of Delegates, and in so doing, reject not only his ill-conceived tax scheme, but this whole special session gambit with its ‘gotcha’ brand of politics as taxpayers foot the bill,” said Delegate Cox. “Instead, we are going to wait for action by the Senate and then appropriately consider whatever they send us. The Governor campaigned across this state last year telling everyone how much more effective he would be if his party controlled the Senate. Well, now they do. So we will see if he is serious about legislating or is content to politically posture for the next election.”
“As a candidate, Tim Kaine repeatedly pledged not to raise taxes,” recalled Delegate Nixon. “Then, just six days after his inauguration he unveiled his first proposal for a billion-dollar tax hike. That effort failed. Now, he is back again with basically the same proposal. Never mind the severe economic stress now on working family finances. Never mind the fact that the historic statewide funding plan for transportation approved just last year remains largely intact. Governor Kaine insists on hiking taxes during a period of economic uncertainty. You have to ask yourself why he would make this proposal again now. It makes no sense until you consider that his real consuming passion this year is not governing, it’s vice-presidential politics. Unfortunately for Virginia taxpayers, Governor Kaine has spent more time out-of-state campaigning for the Obama ticket than he has spent in-state trying to garner support among Senate Democrats to introduce and pass his transportation proposal.”
“We have been listening to our constituents, and they do not want higher statewide taxes, especially in the middle of a severe economic downturn, with pocketbooks already pinched by high gas and food prices,” observed Senator Stolle. “They tell us that higher taxes now would only add insult to injury.”
Senator Stolle has proposed placing tolls on interstate highways to provide the $500 million of interstate maintenance costs and dedicating a portion of growing future revenues generated by the Port of Virginia to Hampton Roads projects.
“Senate Republicans believe it is entirely appropriate that action on a transportation tax plan be taken first by the Senate,” stated Senator Norment. “In the absence of a patron for Governor Kaine’s own tax plan, it is incumbent upon his party in the Senate to offer legislation the Governor is willing to sign.”
“Unlike his predecessors who called prior special sessions, Governor Kaine has not even bothered to introduce his bill in the Senate,” concluded Speaker Howell. “Consequently, a sensible schedule for this special session is one that requires Senate action first. The Democrats, who control the Senate and the Governor’s Mansion, need to demonstrate they are serious by sending us a real piece of legislation to consider. As we await such action, House committees are prepared to advance our innovative agenda and expedite their work on other bills that do not include statewide tax increases. When the Senate sends over whatever tax plan they ultimately approve, we stand ready to act swiftly on the tax bills offered by the Senate, House members, and the Governor. If they cannot or will not send an approved bill the Governor will sign, then it will be apparent that this special session is just a ploy to score political points at taxpayer expense.”