by Karl Kurtz
In a previous post, "Virginia Senate Tied*", I said that partisan control of the Virginia Senate should be listed with an asterisk to indicate that the chamber is tied between the two parties but under effective Republican control because of the lieutenant governor's tie-breaking vote. Not so fast (maybe).
Yesterday, according to an AP story, Democratic senate leaders said that they plan a court challenge of Republican Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling's right to vote on organizational matters because he is a member of the executive branch:
While the right of lieutenant governors to break Senate ties on general legislation is unchallenged, Saslaw said lieutenant governors in the past have declined to vote on the state budget and judicial elections. In those cases, [Senate Democratic leader Dick] Saslaw said, the Constitution specifies a vote only "by a majority of those elected" for passage. They contend the same is true in organizing the Senate.
"This lieutenant governor says there's nothing he can't vote on. So it's not just a matter of this year; it ought to get settled for all time, and that's the purpose behind this," Saslaw said in a telephone news conference Monday morning.
The issue has never been tested in court.
Republican senators, with the support of Gov. Bob McDonnell, are united in the view that the lieutenant governor has the right to vote on all matters and plan to exercise that power when the chamber organizes itself.
In the meantime we'll re-think how we list the Virginia Senate and leave them in the tied column until the organizational session actually takes place.