spending transparency bill

Update: Okay, So We Have Spending Transparency After All

Lost in my curiousness over Governor Tim Kaine's proposed substitute for HB 2285, Delegate Ben Cline's (R-25, Amherst) spending transparency bill, which passed both chambers of the General Assembly unanimously, is that the same day he signed SB 936, patroned by Senator Ken Cuccinelli (R-37, Fairfax). Both bills are written exactly the same. (I blame the Legislative Information System, which sent notice only on HB 2285. A manual check of matters legislative today shows that the governor signed SB 936.) So, there you go. Kind of anti-climatic. Spending transparency will be law as of July 1. 

But why did the governor sign one but amend the other? If he had done this today, we'd think it was a prank. Does he really want more thorough transparency and reform? Was SB 936 only a hedge, securing a baseline while trying to get more? If so, we gladly welcome him to the club. We're not sure yet that his HB 2285 substitute does that, although it sure looks good. We're in the process of trying to learn more. 

There are other theories out there. One we're not counting on is that he was trying to make Senator Cuccinelli look good for his run for attorney general. On the other hand, the governor did sign his Choose Life license plate bill. Hmmm.

BREAKING: Spending Transparency Will Go To The Governor!

The Senate earlier this afternoon passed by a vote of 38-0 SB 936, by agreeing to the House's amendments, thus avoiding a conference committee and sending the spending transparency bill to Governor Tim Kaine (contact here). The bill, patroned by Senator Ken Cuccinelli (R-37, Fairfax), did not receive a single negative vote in two Senate committees, one House sub-committee, two House Committees, one House floor vote and two Senate floor votes, three bill versions and three fiscal impact statements. Within the last few minutes, on the House floor, the House agreed to the Senate substitute of HB 2285, patroned by Delegate Ben Cline (R-24, Rockbridge). Then, by a vote of 93-3, it rejected the Senate floor amendment which would have added legislative transparency to the budget writing process, but had nothing to do with the posting of actual state spending online. It was rejected because the same basic idea of the amendment was rejected by the House Appropriations Committee earlier this session as a free-standing bill. Lawmakers are hesitant to approve policy on the floor as bill amendments when previously rejected in committee where the pros and cons were aired out.

This action makes the bill conform to SB 936. It goes back to the Senate to accept or reject the House's action, probably tomorrow. If it accepts it, it will go to the governor as an identical bill as SB 936. If not, there will be a committee of conference at which point the amendment will be accepted, rejected or negotiations will fall apart and the bill will die. Either way, SB 936 is a baseline, and there is the slimmest of chances — if the amendment is included — HB 2285 can be made a bit stronger. At the very least, SB 936 will go to the governor!

UPDATE And Clarifications: Cautiously Optimistic On Transparency Bills

Hopefully, sometime today, or, if not, then tomorrow, we will have a  spending transparency bill sent to Governor Tim Kaine (contact here) for his signature. Here's the status of both HB 2285 and SB 936: The former, patroned by Delegate Ben Cline (R-24, Amherst), is back in the House after getting conformed to the Senate version then amended further. The House must accept the amendments or reject them. If the former, it will go to the governor. If not, it goes to a conference committee. As amended, it has a bit more transparency than the Senate version.

The Senate version is back in the Senate because the House made amendments, but it should have no problems — the House amendments were offered by the patron, Senator Ken Cuccinelli (R-37, Fairfax), when it was in the House. When amendments by the other body are supported by the patron, they are accepted. Then that will go to the governor.

Right now, it's a matter of seeing what the House does. If it accepts the Senate amendments, we're golden. If not, it will probably end up mirroring SB 936. Either way, it looks like we're going to get at least an moderately expanded window in which to view the doling out of our tax dollars.