We like being pleasantly shocked, and this morning certainly qualified as one. Of all things, a Senate Rules sub-committee voted to favorably report two important reforms for spending and transparency: SB 867, patroned by Senator Ralph Smith (R-22, Botetourt), and SB 1353, patroned by Senator Tommy Norment (R-3, Williamsburg). The former won by a 2-1 vote with Senators Fred Quayle (R-13, Suffolk) and Phillip Puckett (D-38, Tazewell) voting in favor. The sub-committee chairman, Senator John Edwards (D-21, Roanoke) dissented. Senator Norment's bill passed 3-nil. This is a fairly major breakthrough. Though both bills have a long way to go, both cleared hurdles with which they have had trouble in years past. This was the third year for Senator Smith's bill — which requires a 72-hour period and Internet posting of the House-Senate conference committee budget before it can be voted on (read the bill!) — and the first time it has gained sub-committee approval. In fact, it had never even received a seconding motion prior to yesterday. Senator Norment's bill — which requires the disclosure of all "earmark" type spending in the conference committee report — also has been defeated in the early legislative stages in past years.
Not only will these bills, if they become law, make for more open and accountable government, lawmakers will make more informed decisions, they will make for smaller government: With more eyes on the budget the more waste will be found and less pork will be placed in there to begin with. The 12 budget conferees should not have the power and privilege to stick spending items in the budget that were not voted on and vetted in the normal legislative process.
Each bill now goes to full committee which will meet by the end of the week. Please contact members of the Senate Rules Committee as soon as possible and urge them to pass these vital reforms this session. Below are the videos of each bill's hearing. Your humble blog admin makes a couple of cameo appearances.
Read the bill! Especially when you're spending $70 billion of our tax money!
A little sunshine on the sausage makes it taste a lot better!