Bill to require recorded votes in General Assembly dies

RICHMOND — The bill to require recorded votes died without a recorded vote Thursday morning.

The bill carried by Del. Ben Cline, R-Rockbridge County, would have ended the House of Delegates practice of killing bills through motions to table on nameless voice votes in committees and subcommittees.

“Just the irony of having an unrecorded voice vote on a bill about recorded voice votes speaks for itself,” said Megan Rhyne, executive director for the Virginia Coalition for Open Government.

House Majority Leader Kirk Cox, R-Colonial Heights, said it would be improper as a bill and may be appropriate as a rules change at the beginning of a General Assembly session. Minority Leader David Toscano, D-Charlottesville, urged Cline to bring the rules change to the floor this year.

“You’d get a vote right on the House floor on that change that you want to propose. And Ben can do that. If he thinks this change is important then he can submit a rule change to request a change in the rules. I’m sure most of the people on my side will agree. We think it’s good to have recorded votes,” Toscano said.

Cline conceded to leadership. He and Rhyne said having the conversation was progress.

“We now have the answer that the legislative route is not acceptable to leadership and the rules change is the appropriate route,” Cline said. “… That being the case we will pursue a rules change for next year’s rules and hopefully we will be successful.”

Last year, a House rules change added 48 hours of open review before the budget could be passed. This year, the House ended the longstanding practice of holding committee meetings at desks.

The House clerk reported the vote only as “laid on the table by voice vote,” but Republicans who control the committee appeared unanimous in voting to table.

One yes vote was audible from the Democrat side. Toscano said later he voted against tabling it, but if he hadn’t, it wasn’t because he didn’t support the bill.

House Rules Committee is held in the speaker’s conference room where committee members sit at a board room table. The room does not have electronic vote counters or microphones found in large committee rooms.

Nine-five percent of votes killed in House Rules died without a recorded vote last year, according to the Transparency Virginia report compiled by volunteers with Rhyne at the head.

Last year, the House considered 1,892 bills and 76 percent of those died without names attached compared to 7 percent in the Senate, the report said.

Speaker William Howell, R-Stafford, who chairs the committee, said previously the House covers many bills in a short period of time and delegates may ask for a recorded vote.

Cline did not ask for a recorded vote. He said he would not ask to change the rules this year.

“That rule has been proposed many times. That rule has been defeated many times to be blunt,” Cox said in the meeting.

Cline was supported by members of the Transparency Virginia, including Rhyne and the League of Women Voters of Virginia.

The other committee members are: Del. Steve Landes, R-Augusta County, Del. Terry Kilgore, R-Gate City, Del. Lee Ware, R-Powhatan, Del. Chris Jones, R-Suffolk, Del. Robert Orrock, R-Caroline, Del. Barry Knight, R-Virginia Beach, Del. Riley Ingram, R-Hopewell, Del. Jimmie Massie, R-Henrico, Del. Gregory Habeeb, R-Salem, Del. Lionell Spruill, D-Chesapeake, Del. Kenneth Plum, D-Reston, Del. Betsy Carr, D-Richmond.

“We shouldn’t have to be here to see whether people raise their hands,” Carol Noggle, legislative coordinator for League of Women Voters of Virginia, said.

News & Advance
By Alex Rohr
View original article here.