This broke earlier tonight on BearingDrift.com, which got it from a report by the Richmond Times-Dispatch. The Washington Post and HuffingtonPost.com report it as well: Democrat Senator Phil Puckett will resign from the Virginia Senate Monday morning leaving the chamber with 20 Republicans and 19 Democrats, rendering Lt. Governor Ralph Northam's tie-breaking vote useless in reorganizing the Senate. Or should I write "re-re-organizing the Senate," since Democrats engineered an unprecedented mid-session takeover of committees earlier this year when two special election victories gave Democrats 20-20 parity and Northam's tie-breaker vote. Here's the BearingDrift.com story with its link to the Times-Dispatch article:
According to the Richmond Times-Dispatch, Democratic State Senator Phil Puckett (D-Russell) has resigned, shifting the balance of power in the State Senate from a 20-20 tie with LG Ralph Northam breaking the tie to a 20-19 Republican majority.
Congratulations to Senate Majority Leader Tommy Norment for regaining control of the Senate – without an election!
This resignation could not come at a worse time for Governor McAuliffe and Senate Democrats who are anxious to push through the Medicaid expansion before time runs out on the current Commonwealth Budget at the end of June.
This, coupled with the fact that both Senate Minority Leader Dick Saslaw and Senate budget conferee Janet Howell are both on vacation (and Howell is out of the country), Norment apparently has enough votes to pass a budget over Democratic objections.
Under Virginia Code § 24.2-216, the Governor must issue a writ of election to fill the vacancy when the General Assembly is not in session, and the Senate President pro tempore issues the writ when the Senate is in session.
UPDATE: Bearing Drift has learned that Delegate Ben Chafin (R-Russell) will likely seek the seat vacated by Phil Puckett. Chafin was elected with 98% of the vote in 2013 when he ran unopposed in the 4th House District.
Notes: Ken Cuccinelli and Mitt Romney both carried the Senate district by at least 64 percent in the last two elections. The reason for Senator Puckett's resignation are said to be jobs: One for him on the Tobacco Commission and judgeship for his daughter. More certainly will follow after an official Monday morning announcement. But it appears a done deal, with legislative Democrats already in fully decry mode and Governor Terry McAuliffe admitted he's resigned to the fact that he has lost his redoubt in the General Assembly.
Affect on the budget: Senator Norment's budget will not include Medicaid/Obamacare expansion. With Republican Senator Emmett Hanger recently backing down from his support of including it in the budget, and with the two Democrats out of town, Senator Norment won't need the two other Republicans who have sided with Senate Democrats. Since the General Assembly is in special session, expect Republicans to end the recess and send the Obamacareless budget to Governor McAuliffe.