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Posted at 6:57 PM ET, 02/16/2010

Speaker Howell's teachable moment

By washingtonpost.com editors

By Terri Ritchey
Clifton

Regarding the Feb. 10 Metro article “Va. bill to shield one firm passes”:

I’d like to thank Virginia House Speaker William J. Howell (R-Stafford) for making it so easy to teach my Advanced Placement government students about the powers of the speaker and how those powers can be abused.

Using such tactics as changing the committee assignments of members who do not support his legislative proposal gets this point across.

His actions, which protect a single Fortune 500 company from lawsuits over asbestos exposure, also help me to establish the connection between campaign contributions, lobbying efforts and interest groups or organizations in which the delegate is a member.

It doesn’t matter if these strategies are used by Mr. Howell or U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi — they raise the question of what a democracy is and the principles or ideals it should reflect in practice.

A question for my students to ponder: Shouldn’t the rest of the voting population behave the same way? Unfortunately, the only citizens who can exercise oversight over a speaker’s actions are the ones in that lawmaker’s district. But we all are subject to the way legislation is handled by the speaker of the House, be it either on the state or national level.

By washingtonpost.com editors  | February 16, 2010; 6:57 PM ET
Categories:  HotTopic, Va. Politics, Virginia  
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