With the state Senate in the unusual position of being evenly split between Republicans and Democrats, avid followers of Richmond can expect a rollicking if not hyper-partisan few weeks in the General Assembly.
Lingering questions about who had official control of the Senate were laid to rest a week ago, when Republicans asserted themselves in the upper chamber. Backed by Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling’s (R) tiebreaker vote on most issues, the GOP snatched control of the Democrat’s last bastion in Richmond.
But in a memo, Bolling limited himself from weighing in on every item the Senate sees during session, including the budget, constitutional amendments and judge appointments. That means both parties must reach the occasional compromise, which possibly sets the stage for some deal making.
Republicans, further emboldened with a supermajority in the House, may use the opportunity to ram through bills that a year or two ago might have died in committee in the Senate. It’s not necessarily the best political strategy, but it’s too early to say what tact the GOP will take, said Daniel Palazzolo, a professor of political science at the University of Richmond. Senate Democrats aren’t exactly toothless.
“[Republicans] going to need to work with Democrats. The minority party can create some problems, some serious problems,” he said. “It’s not a slam dunk. It’s not like [Republicans] are just going to go forward and bully their way through on all this stuff.”
It will be interesting to see if the Senate will approve any of the socially conservative bills — think guns and abortion — expected to come out of the House.
That could potentially put Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) in a tough position as speculation of his vice presidential aspirations kicked into overdrive following a recent appearance in South Carolina.
McDonnell doesn’t want to be ruled out because Republicans in the General Assembly forced him to sign legislation that irks voters outside of Virginia, Palazzolo said. A politically-savvy McDonnell will push fellow Republicans to stick to what Palazzolo calls “bread and butter” issues: job creation, transportation and education.
“He can always say to the folks in the party who want to advance social agendas ‘there’s always next year,’” Palazzolo said. “The last thing he needs is Mitt [Romney] saying: ‘Gee Bob, you’ve got a lot going for you, but …”