It's funny how certain bills not in your bill profile seem to pop up wherever you go. Such is the case of HB 1522, patroned by freshman Delegate Jimmie Massie (R-72, Henrico). We've mentioned it twice before. It's a bill which would merge two bureaucracies and save taxpayers $200,000 a year. Specifically, it would merge the Department of Business Assistance with the Virginia Economic Development Partnership, and by all accounts would create better synergies and efficiencies, and better work in recruiting new and fostering current businesses in Virginia. It just seems whenever I pop into a committee room or tune in a floor debate, this commonsense bill is being discussed. Such was the case today when I poked my head into Senate Room B for the General Laws and Technology Committee, to spy out a few senators I needed to lobby on another bill in another committee. (That's one of the primary techniques used in lobbying.)

Turns out Delegate Massie was in form, explaining his bill when all the usual fuss broke out by bureaucrats and liberals about how it is these government agencies responsible for all these great jobs in Virginia. Hmmm. I thought it was the companies and the entrepreneurs who are responsible, but I guess I just don't know economics. But with liberals, all flows from the government, whether it's how to raise your family or do your business.

By the way, why was this bill in General Laws? This is not a general law, it is a finance and budget question, and should have been in the Finance Committee where, apparently, they have had trouble finding stuff to cut in a $78 billion budget. (More about that in future posts.) In the House, it was appropriately in the Appropriations Committee. I guess I don't know my economics or bill germaneness.

Interestingly, the Finance Committee chairman, Senator Chuck Colgan (D-29, Manassas), is on General Laws as well. What must have he been thinking? "I didn't want to deal with this is Finance, but I get stuck with it here. Hmm. Maybe I'll walk." Which he did. His vote was cast by proxy, a peculiar Senate tradition where the people you elect don't have to be in the room to vote and can leave their proxy with another committee member. So, you elect Senator Colgan, but perhaps Senator McEachin casts his vote (sometimes with instructions, sometimes not). Good to know when I go to the polls to elect a senator that someone else may be voting for my district anyway. Just thought y'all ought to know how your lawmakers work.

So, it was actually kind of fun for a while. There was Senator Walter Stosch (R-12, Henrico) asking the bureaucrat why, if her agency dealt in small business grants, the Commonwealth was giving grants to Booz Allen Hamilton and Donnelly, for example, two very large corporations. Her response was, "Sztwg jtrop qicvmmlk ddpplkwzx, senator." Not exactly, but made about as much sense. Really, she didn't have an answer. Senator Stosch politely pursued it and wondered out loud a couple of times how this could happen. Losing your majority can make you get religion quick! Maybe he'll follow up on this . . . . Okay, I'm trying not to get too carried away.

Alas, freshman Senator Donald McEachin (D-9, Henrico) moved to PBI the bill, and the motion carried on a 8-6 party line vote, with Senator William Wampler (R-40, Bristol) not in attendance. (Where was his proxy?) Poof! Another $400K of our money gone to the wind. But of course, there's no fat to cut in the budget and we have to raise taxes.

Another big-government witness said these two agencies were supercharged "engines of economic activity." These are times when I would give anything to be a legislator, because I would have asked, "Then we should expand these agencies, right? If they create so many jobs, maybe we should create more economic development agencies, right? If spending $400,000 creates all these jobs in Virginia, lets spend $400,000,000, and everyone will have a great job!" Just to see what the bureaucrat would say. But it would probably sound like, "Sztwg jtrop qicvmmlk ddpplkwzx, senator."