Delegate David Toscano

Breaking News: Two Budget Reform/Transparency Bills Up Tomorrow Morning!

The House Appropriations Sub-Committee on Technology Oversight and Government Activities released only a few hours ago its first meeting agenda — and the meeting is tomorrow morning! Why is this significant? Bills dealing with budget reform are difficult to get through the General Assembly. Here's our chance! These are the two bills: HB 1681, patroned by Republican Delegates Dickie Bell, Ben Cline and Mark Cole, that would put Virginia make Virginia budget writers appropriate on a zero-based principle. Currently, if an agency has a budget of $10 million one budget cycle, it starts off the next budget cycle at $10 million. This makes reducing government difficult. If, however, an agency must prove, via its performance, what budget it deserves, efficiencies and a smaller government can be realized.

The second bill is HB 1869, patroned by Delegate David Toscano, a Charlottesville Democrat. It would provide that the House and Senate Budget conference committee could not include in its budget, which is what both chambers vote on during each session's final day, items to a non-state agency, not introduced as legislation, nor not included in either chamber's version of the budget unless the chairmen of the money committees notify, via letter, all 140 members of the legislature and post it on the committees' Web sites. This is vital! So much of the final budget is a mystery and lawmakers only have a few hours to digest all $70 billion in the document. Last year, this bill was not even heard in committee.

This is no way to run the country's best managed state. Contact members of the sub-committee! Here is the sub-committee list with links to their contact information.

Moment Of The Day

We've had Quotes of the Day. We've had Bills of the Day. Now, for the first time ever, we have a Moment of the Day! Here's what happened:

In the House Courts of Justice Civil Sub-Committee a couple hours ago Delegates David Toscano (D-57, Charlottesville) and Rob Bell (R-58, Charlottesville) each had a bill dealing with mortgage re-financing, HB 1682 and HB 2061, respectively, each in the exact same language. Delegate Bell was not in the room to present his bill, but Delegate Toscano, a sub-committee member, was. So he introduced his bill and had witnesses as well. Delegate Bell then arrived and pitched in the conversation as well. When the sub-committee seemed inclined to report the bill, the question remained — whose version would get "rolled" into whose version?

Pride of authorship was at stake. Sometimes the more senior member gets the honor, or the lawmaker who filed the bill first. If a committee chair is involved, he or she is given deference. Many times, it is a matter of partisanship: the member of the majority is going to get the credit. That simple. But in a rare General Assembly moment, when humility reigned supreme . . .

They decision was decided by a . . . coin flip! Delegate Toscano called heads and won. A great moment for our very first Moment of the Day!

A Year Later, Transparency, Again!

You may remember last year one of our priority areas of legislation was government spending transparency. After two years of persistence, Virginia now is in the process of creating more windows and letting in more sunshine to the way it spends the hard earned money we send them, thanks to bills patroned by Delegate Ben Cline (R-24, Amherst) and then-Senator Ken Cuccinelli. But the issue hasn't gone away because to have true government by the people and for the people, the people must be given every tool to monitor its own government's operations. This session, two very good bills were introduced. One, HB 62, patroned by Delegate David Toscano (D-57, Charlottesville), would have added transparency to the budget making process. Unfortunately, it was left in the House Appropriations Committee where it died, having never received a hearing.

The other bill, SB 431, patroned by Senator Mark Herring (D-33, Leesburg), would fill in some gaps in the laws written by Cline and Cuccinelli. Although the bill as originally crafted had a lot more to it — it was pared down due to the inevitable Fiscal Impact Statement — it retains two important provisions: That each agency post online all checks and credit card purchases it makes, including the vendor name, date of purchase and purchase description. It also stipulates that each agency install an icon on its Web site that links directly to a page on Commonwealth DataPoint, the state's window on government spending and accountability. In an editorial yesterday in the Loudon Independent, called "Checking the Checkbook," the paper wrote:

A bill is being reviewed by the House of Delegates that could shed light on the age-old question, "Why does government spend so much?" For those with a bit more innate trust in government, the question could also be, "Where are my tax dollars going?"

We agree. Making it easier to find and locate government spending has numerous benefits, among them that the more eyes looking into how bureaucrats spend out money, the more chances we have of saving it by catching waste and eliminating it. That's something lawmakers should embrace anytime, not to mention these challenging times. Currently, the bill sits in the Appropriations Technology Oversight and Government Activities Sub-committee, although a hearing date is not scheduled. However, we are hopeful one is in the works and look forward to supporting it once it's scheduled.