So What Exactly Is ‘Power Sharing’ Anyway?Nov 09, 2011
As election officials work to verify all the races from yesterday’s election, it appears that Republicans in Virginia scored two key state Senate victories, resulting in a 20-20 tie in that chamber, with Republican Lt. Governor Bill Bolling in the position of holding the tie-break. According to this afternoon’s State Board of Election’s website numbers, Democrat incumbent Roscoe Reynolds has lost his seat to Republican Senator Bill Stanley, and Democrat Edd Houck, chairman of the Senate Ed and Health Committee, has lost his seat to Republican Bryce Reeves by a slim margin.
The House Republican caucus grew by at least seven, bringing its total to a supermajority of 67 votes, with one independent that caucuses with Republicans.
What this means for the state Senate is the subject of much discussion today and likely will be for the next few weeks. Similar circumstances in the mid-90s resulted in a “power sharing” arrangement where Democrats and Republicans shared control of committees. Such an arrangement could lead to liberal Democrats retaining control of committees such as Ed and Health, while Republicans could demand control of the important Finance committee. Such a power sharing scenario doesn’t bode well for pro-family Virginians who care about both fiscal and social issues. The Family Foundation strongly opposes such an outcome.
Fortunately, statements by Governor Bob McDonnell and Lt. Governor Bolling would indicate that they have no inclination to assemble such an arrangement.
Republicans should decide that they have the majority, 21-20, and simply set up every Senate committee with an 8-7 Republican majority. Such a stance will certainly require a great deal of courage and leadership from Republican power brokers, but would result in a friendlier environment for values-based proposals. That is, as long as the majorities on the committees are made up of those friendly to pro-family issues.
Currently, there are five Republicans on the Senate Education and Health committee, and one of those “retired” due to redistricting (Fred Quayle). Consequently, if Republicans decide that Ed and Health will have eight members of the majority party, at least four new members of the GOP will sit on Ed and Health. Who those four are will be critical to the future of our agenda. Of course, The Family Foundation will be advocating that each Republican member of Ed and Health be strongly, pro-life and pro-family.
There is also the option of adding a pro-life Democrat like Phil Puckett (92% on TFF Action Scorecard) to an eight pro-life Republican majority on Ed and Health, further solidifying the committee’s pro-life stance.
In addition, the Senate has the opportunity to change their rules, including a priority for The Family Foundation, the end of the so-called “pregnancy rule” that forces every bill related to pregnancy and abortion to go to Ed and Health, even if the bill has legal implications that make it more suited to go to the Senate Courts committee. Removing this rule must be one of the first actions of the new Senate leadership.
Obviously, many decisions will have to be made in the coming days and weeks by Republican leaders that will have serious consequences for values-driven voters in Virginia.
Beyond that, yesterday’s results certainly increased the number of conservative state Senators. Replacing “moderate” leaning and liberal members with strong conservative allies will have dramatic implications in the state Senate. As I said in a media interview last night, we’re used to fighting an uphill battle in the Senate, but the hill just got a little less steep.