Lt. Gov. Bolling: Anti-gun bill panel creation broke Senate rules
Friday, March 12, 2010
Yes, Democratic leaders in Virginia's Senate broke the rules when they killed a bunch of gun rights bills in a specially formed subcommittee. And, no, there's not a thing anybody can do about it.
That's the upshot of a ruling that came down Friday from Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling (R), who is president of the Senate.
The controversy began when Senate Majority Leader Richard Saslaw (D-Fairfax) and Courts of Justice Chairman Henry Marsh (D-Richmond) created a special subcommittee to consider several gun bills passed by the Republican-controlled House, including an attempt to repeal Virginia's ban on buying more than one handgun a month.
Almost all of the gun bills, except those that were similar to measures adopted by the Senate, died there last week on party-line votes. Among the dead was Del. Scott Lingamfelter's (R-Prince William) closely watched attempt to repeal the gun-a-month law.
Some gun-control advocates praised the end if not the means. Others criticized Senate leaders only for not thinking of the idea sooner. But gun-rights supporters derided the Courts of Justice special subcommittee as "the death star" committee and accused the Senate leadership of acting like autocrats.
Other newly created subcommittees killed other unwanted House bills too, including one that would have protected Virginians from involuntary microchip implantation -- a measure derided by critics as the "mark of the Beast" bill.
Saslaw wasn't shy about the purpose of the Courts of Justice special subcommittee, which was stacked with four Democratic senators and one moderate Republican. Saslaw said in interviews that the Democratic-controlled Senate was merely engaging in a little payback after years of watching bills roll out with significant majorities only to die at the hands of a few delegates on subcommittees in the Republican-controlled House.
On Thursday, Sen. Jill Holtzman Vogel (R-Winchester) tried to revive a gun-rights measure--shielding public access to the list of concealed weapon permit holders--by amending another gun-related bill on the floor of the Senate. She withdrew the amendment eventually, but not before criticizing the handiwork of the newly invented subcommittees and their propriety.
His March 12 memo, citing Rule 20 (h), says:
"Accordingly, and based on my objective interpretation of the Rules of the Senate, it is my belief that Senate subcommittees do not have the authority to take final action on any bill or resolution referred to them. The subcommittee can consider such bills and resolutions, but ultimately, the subcommitee is only empowered to make recommendations to the full Committee. The ultimate authority of taking final action on such bills and resolutions rests solely with the full committee."
Bolling's memo also points out that, unlike the Senate, the House's rules specifically grant subcommittees the authority to take final action on bills.
Bolling spokeswoman Ibbie Hedrick said the memo cannot force compliance of the rules. "It's just his opinion on the matter," she said.
But Bolling's memo also included a genteel reminder to the senators to play nice:
"As you know, the Senate has long prided itself on compliance with the Rules and traditions of the Senate. It is important that the Rules and traditions of the Senate be complied with when they advance members ultimate goals and objectives, and even when they do not."
For additional information contact Ibbie Hedrick at 804-225-2487 or firstname.lastname@example.org.