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Howell has no plans to fiddle with committee rules

Rosalind Helderman

Of all the many rumors flying around Richmond at the moment, here's one we can actually put to rest: House Speaker Bill Howell plans to honor current rules of proportional representation as he reorganizes House committees in the wake of the Nov. 3 election results.

That means Howell will add one Republican to each committee, in line with the GOP caucus' growth from 55 to 61 members. He will not be adding two Republicans, as has been widely rumored, according to Howell chief of staff Paul Nardo.

"The speaker is committed to proportional seating and will continue to abide by his commitment to fairness to all members through proportional seating in the chamber and on the committees," Nardo said.

Proportional representation -- where parties are balanced on each committee in the same ratio as they are in the entire chamber -- has been a GOP mantra since the party began its march from minority to majority status in the 1990s. This year, however, there has been much speculation that Howell might put proportionality aside in favor of taking full advantage of his party's huge Election Day gains by putting additional Republicans on various committees.

But Nardo said Republicans have little reason to expand their power on committees, given that under current rules, they will already go from 13 to 9 majorities to 14 to 8 majorities on each committee. "We don't need to be playing games to advance our initiatives," he said.

Nardo did say Howell is examining one change closely. He might reduce the number of members serving on the powerful House Appropriations Committee from 24 to 22, bringing it in line with other committees. That would mean that instead of appointing three new Republicans and one Democrat to the committee, he would appoint just two new Republicans.

According to Nardo, the appropriations committee was expanded as part of a power-sharing deal, but the Democrats' diminished caucus removes the logic for a larger appropriations panel.

"The rationale for having it just doesn't exist anymore," he said.

By Rosalind Helderman  |  November 20, 2009; 1:38 PM ET
Categories:  General Assembly 2010 , House of Delegates , Rosalind Helderman  
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