Delegate Lacey Putney

Reconvened Quotes Of The Day

The General Assembly is meeting today in its annual one-day reconvened session, commonly referred to as the “Veto Session,” where it considers the governor’s vetoes and amendments to bills passed during the regular session that met during the winter. Whereas the “Morning Hour” — a fairly open-ended time for members to comment on matters not directly dealing with the legislative calendar — of a regular session consists mainly of welcomes to constituent groups, lifting the profile of a bill or policy position and assertive partisan speeches, Morning Hour during the reconvened session typically plays homage to the members who have announced their retirement. With eight members making the announcement since the end of session in February, there was a lot of talking going on, but none more so than that on behalf of Delegate Lacey Putney (I-19, Bedford), the last of the independents and powerful chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, whose first term began in 1962. He is the longest serving member in the 400-year history of the longest continuously meeting legislature in the New World. That meant lots of laud from numerous colleagues — and a great deal of story telling. After the very lengthy praises were over, Delegate Putney, soon to be 85, took the floor and brought down the House (get it?) with this:

It's not often that I’m speechless, but I hardly know what to say today. I feel like the mosquito at the nudist camp. There is so much territory to cover, you don’t know where to start.

It took several minutes for delegates to contain themselves and the chairman proceeded to compliment colleagues of both parties past and present and the demeanor of the chamber, explain what his time there meant to him, and recount humorous anecdotes, history and the accomplishments of the General Assembly over his 50-plus years of service. The last of the retirees to be recognized, and on the other end of the service scale, was Delegate Donald Merricks (R-16, Chatham) retiring after only three terms. Described by Delegate Rob Bell (R-58, Albemarle) as a workhorse and not a show horse, one who rarely took the floor to embellish himself and one, most importantly, who told you where he stood and never held out his vote for something else.

Then the man of few words took the floor to acknowledge his colleagues' ovation. By now it was nearly two hours after session started with a long single-day's worth of business ahead. He recounted his favorite Bible verse from Exodus, where the Israelites were at the Red Sea with the Egyptians in hot pursuit. Moses prayed to God for a means of escape while others complained that they were better off as slaves in Egypt. Delegate Merricks then relayed how a scholar translated God's answer to Moses:

"Stop praying and start moving the people!" So let's stop talking and get on with the calendar!

To which House Speaker Bill Howell (R-26, Stafford) replied:

If I knew you were going to say that, I'd have recognized you first!

 

If The Chairman Doesn't Know What's In The Budget . . .

It makes you wonder . . . what exactly is in a $78 billion budget? How much waste and unwanted and unneeded programs are embedded in it? While it is pardonable that the average Joe and Jane Virginian does not to know, most might think the chairman of the House Appropriations Committee — the budget writing committee — would know. But Delegate Lacey Putney (I-19, Bedford) was candid with the Washington Post Monday, telling Anita Kumar, regarding a special appropriation patroned by House Majority Leader Kirk Cox (R-66, Colonial Heights) and Speaker Bill Howell (R-28, Stafford):

Do you think I know everything in the budget, honey? I don't know what's in a $78 billion budget . . . I don't know.

Realistically, he is exactly right, and no blame goes his way. But if the chairman doesn't know, that tells us all we need to know — the amount of state spending remains considerable and much more needs to be done to get it to a reasonable level.

BREAKING: Spending Transparency Approved In House Committee!

Just a few minutes ago, the House Appropriations Committee approved by unanimous voice vote, HB 2285, patroned by Delegate Ben Cline (R-24, Amherst). Were it so easy. This is the background: The bill wasn't heard until late in the process by its committee of jurisdiction and, with an unjustifiable price tag by the Department of Planning and Budget of up to $3 million, it was doomed for Appropriations.

Plan B: Scale it down. Instead of a new or rebuilt data collection system, both Delegate Cline and Senator Ken Cuccinelli (R-37, Fairfax), patron of the Senate companion, SB 936, worked with the Auditor of Public Accounts to improve current data collection and "retrievability" by the public, to go along with "searchability" improvements the auditor instituted since last year.

Problem: Despite all that, the jurisdictional Appropriations sub-committee had finished its pre-crossover meetings. Solution: Pressure and persuassion, and the chairman allowed for an additional meeting.

What just happened: After all that, and a glowing endorsement for two days running in Senate committees by the auditor, and Senate Finance taking the first step in the water, you'd think all was a slam dunk. More like those blooper reel missed dunks. At the sub-committee this afternoon, Delegate Cline was late and almost got passed over. Then, once he introduced the substitute, he and committee staff realized he had no substitute. Legislative Services, which drafts legislative language, and Delegate Cline had a failure to communicate, apparently, and either there was no substitute in front of the committee or there was, but with the original bill's summary attached. That meant is that the FIS was still in play. Not gonna pass in that posture. A sinking feeling if ever there was one.

What to do? Or is there anything to do? Delegate Scott Lingamfelter (R-31, Woodbridge) attempted to save it with a motion to report to the full committee with the understanding the Senate language would be introduced. Not what the chairman, Delegate Steve Landes (R-25, Augusta), wanted.

Delegate Landes then threw Cline a lifeline of sorts, agreeing to report with no recommendation if the proper substitute could be drafted by the full committee's last hearing, about a half hour hence. Proviso: Bills recommended in this manner only are brought up at the full committee chairman's discretion.

Scramble: Cline, committee staff and Legislative Services hustled to unravel the knots. Meantime, potential wolves at the gate: A guy from Virginia Enterprise Application Program showed up with questions and talked with yours truly and another pro-transparency lobbyist. Not against, but concerns, and concerns are enough for Appropriations to put the kibosh on apple pie and the flag. More: He tipped us off that General Services was against it. What a perfect Friday early evening.

Finally, full committee in progress and after a few bills were heard, and wondering exactly how many days it would be before I'd see family and friends, a mini-miracle. After a lengthy and contentious debate on transportation funding, where Democrats grilled Delegate Glen Oder (R-94, Newport News) on his innovative plan while Republicans grilled, in turn, Transportation Secretary Pierce Homer for not having a plan at all, the Chairman, Delegate Lacey Putney (I-19, Bedford) called up HB 2285, substitute ready and all!

Here's what I don't get: The committee has the correct substitute language, and during discussion of the bill several key members say they have had conversations with people who could be affected or must administer the bill if it becomes law, including the auditor and the Secretary of Technology,  and they report these people say there are no costs. (Question: How did they know what to ask if they didn't know what the substitute language was?) But they want the committee staff's opinion. Not that committee staff isn't great. They are. But how much vetting do you need when the members have gone to the top guys to begin with and they can see the difference in the substitute and original?

More discussion. Costs or no costs? How can we be sure? No one from Public Accounts to verify, but luckily the VEAP guy is silent and no one from DGS is around. Then, what's the purpose? If the information is out there, why do we need this? Is this about transparency? Is this about good government? Come clean Delegate Cline.

Finally, a motion and a second. Unanimous voice approval. I wiped the sweat off my brow and made the Sign of the Cross.