Friday afternoon, we were the first to alert the public that the Senate had assigned the Virginia Health Care Freedom Act (HB 10), in a blatant violation of its rules, to the Education and Health Committee. The bill, which overwhelmingly passed the House 72-26, by rule of the Senate should have been assigned to the Commerce and Labor Committee, where three similar Senate bills shocked the political establishment earlier in session by passing on 8-7 bipartisan votes. But yesterday, the bill's Web page listed its assignment to the decidedly less friendly Ed and Health Committee. The bill, patroned by Delegate Bob Marshall (R-13, Prince William), would exempt Virginia and Virginians from an individual health care mandate by the federal government. It appeared that the liberal Senate majority, licking its wounds from the surprise losses in C&L and Senate floor, wanted a pyrrhic victory by sticking it to the leader on the issue — Ed and Health at best would fall one vote short based on its membership and its 10-5 , well-out-of-proportion-super-majority. Of course, the train had left the station — the three Senate bills passed the House without amendments (thus avoiding a conference committee) and now are on their way to Governor Bob McDonnell.
This wasn't the first time this session the Senate had tried chicanery with bill assignments. Earlier, the Legislative Information Services Web site gave away the Senate majority leadership's strategy on SB 504 when it whitewashed its Courts of Justice sub-committee actions and, without and committee vote, had moved it to Ed and Health. So, was this another trick by the Democrat majority? Or did the Senate Clerk make a mistake, intentional or un? Or a combination thereof?
We don't know, but, alas, we can breathe easy. Either we stirred up a hornet's nest, the Senate leadership was adequately burned last time or there was a mistake — of some sort, by someone. Today, according to the bill's Web page, it is rightfully assigned to the Commerce and Labor Committee (again with no mention of the previous committee assignment). So, we can expect another spirited debate in the Senate Commerce and Labor Committee later in session. At least we hope so. There are other tricks in the legislative bag to pull out. We hope they stay put. If not, we'll be there to expose them. Again.