The new Republican majority in the state Senate quickly went to work reorganizing committees while in town for the special session on the budget and Mediciad. Of course, those who’ve been paying attention may remember the battles over committee makeup when Republicans took over the Senate with then LG Bill Bolling casting the tie breaking vote, only to see a reversal of fortune in January when Democrats took control with LG Ralph Northam. Bad blood has been flowing between the two caucuses ever since, so the changes made by Senate Rs with their one vote majority as a result of Ben Chafin’s election in SD 38 should surprise no one.
Some interesting notes:
Senate Finance is dominated 10-5 by Republicans, though some of those Rs have been more than willing to raise taxes and expand Medicaid.
Commerce and Labor was gutted of Democrat representation, with Republicans holding a 12-2 majority.
The Courts of Justice committee has a 9-6 Republican majority, with a strong lean toward the conservative side.
The all-important Education and Health committee was revamped, with John Cosgrove, elected to the state Senate late last year in a special election (where he replaced Harry Blevins) being the new 8th Republican member. As interesting, new Democrats on the committee include Lynwood Lewis, who won his special election earlier this year by just 11 votes, and Chap Petersen, who will sometimes buck his caucus on religious liberty issues. They replace John Miller and Barbara Favola who generally march to the orders of Senate Minority Leader Dick Saslaw.
You can check out the recent Family Foundation Action Report Cards by clicking here.
On the surface, it appears the reorganization may indicate a significant change in philosophy. There was a time when, even as Republicans had healthier majorities in the Senate, the committees were still gauntlets for conservative legislation. With just 21 votes to work with, this majority’s committee decisions seem much friendlier this time around.
General Assembly 2015 could prove quite interesting.