Local Commentary

Delegate Hull’s News from the Coffin Corner

The regular session of the General Assembly adjourned on March 13 and we immediately went into a special session called to handle a bond bill.

Special, Indeed

The regular session of the General Assembly adjourned on March 13 and we immediately went into a special session called to handle a bond bill.

We then adjourned to come back six weeks later to finish that special session following the “Veto Session” in April.

Both of those took only one day. But, now it looks like legislators will be back in Richmond in June for another special session.

This one is to be called by Governor Kaine to deal with transportation. It will be the sixth special session since 2001.

The majority of the members of the House of Delegates have been elected since then and they probably have come to expect these special sessions.

Yet, there were only four of them in the seven years that I served before that and one only lasted a few hours.

Roads and Rail Again

We were supposed to have taken care of transportation last year when we passed a “groundbreaking” balanced transportation package.

Yes, it was balanced all right. Half of the bill was constitutional and the other half was unconstitutional, as the Virginia Supreme Court told us.

That bill had the slight problem of the General Assembly trying to delegate its taxing authority to unelected transportation authorities.

That, on top of that cute idea called abuser fees that hit Virginians but left out-of-state speeders off the hook, doomed that bill.

So, we are off to see the Wizard one more time and we hope that there will be something of substance behind the curtain.

Is It Soup Yet?

But, even though the Governor unveiled a transportation plan on Tuesday, there is no consensus among legislators of what should be in the final package.

In fact, there is no guarantee that there will be any final product. Partisans on both sides of the political aisle may want nothing so they can blame the other side for the failure.

But, the people of Virginia clearly would not be served by such a legislative failure. It does not help Governor Kaine’s reputation either.

While he may not be interested in future political office, getting nothing out of this special session would tarnish his reputation no matter what he does.

The problem is that the House Republican majority does not want to raise taxes, even though that is the only way to increase revenue.

The problem that they face is not a defeat at the polls in the general election for raising taxes, but losing a primary against an anti-tax challenger.

They would rather see any tax increases limited to regional plans in Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads.

But, the problem with that is that we desperately need more revenue for road maintenance on a statewide basis.

Traditionally, maintenance funding has come from the fuel tax and the Senate Democratic majority wants to raise gasoline taxes.

Not only do GOP members not want to do that, but the Governor has ruled it out and some House Democrats are afraid of it, too.

Where is The Wiz?

At the end of the Yellow Brick Road, the Wizard of Oz helped Dorothy’s friends find courage, intelligence, and a heart.

If all of that can be brought together in Richmond, then we will succeed in the upcoming special session regardless of our initial differences.

But, my fear is that we will come away from there without even a pair of red slippers. By the way, happy birthday, Bridget!