UPDATED: Repeal amendment stumbles at first Senate legislative hurdle
The top priority of Virginia tea party groups was summarily killed Tuesday morning by a subcommittee of the state Senate.
On a 4 to 3 party-line vote, Democrats on a subcommittee of the Senate's Privileges and Election committee agreed to pass by indefinitely a bill that would have put Virginia on record supporting a convention to amend the U.S. Constitution and add a provision to allow federal laws and regulations to be invalidated by the agreement of two-thirds of state legislatures.
Many tea party activists believe such an amendment would curb the federal government and restore a balance of power between states and Washington. State Sen. Don McEachin (D-Henrico) said the subcommittee was concerned that such an amendment would let the states invalidate any federal statute, even those that have been on the books for decades, creating deep uncertainty.
Plus, he noted that the amendment could result in small states overturning laws passed by representatives of large states. "A minority of the population could end up invalidating an act of Congress," he said. "And that's antithetical to our system of federalism."
The issue has not ended for the session. A similar bill is being carried in the House of Delegates by Speaker Bill Howell (R-Stafford).
UPDATE 2:51 p.m.: Sen. Ryan T. McDougle (R-Hanover) , who is sponsoring the repeal amendment, said he hopes his proposal might still have a hearing in front of the full Senate committee. Unlike the House of Delegates, which regularly kills legislation in subcommittee, the Senate generally allows all bills to be heard by larger committees, even when they've received a negative recommendation from a subcommittee.
"I would expect that, just like with every other bill, they will follow Senate rules on this," McDougle said. He called the proposal "not partisan legislation" that would reset the balance between state and federal government.
McDougle's bill was one of several top Republican priorities that met a similar fate in front of the subcommittee. On a 4 to 3 vote, the panel also nixed bills to write a constitutional amendment protecting Virginia's right to work laws and another to require unions to use secret balloting in elections.
Senate Privileges and Elections Chairwoman Janet Howell (D-Fairfax) said the measures all received full hearings before the subcommittee. "I doubt we're going to have time to hear things that have died in subcommittee," she said. But she said she is drawing up lists of bills to be considered at future meetings and no final decision has been made.
Rosalind S. Helderman
| January 18, 2011; 11:49 AM ET
Categories: General Assembly 2011, House of Delegates, Rosalind Helderman, State Senate, William Howell
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