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Posted at 3:16 PM ET, 02/ 4/2011

Senate GOP ratchets up protest while McDonnell still looking at ABC options

By Rosalind S. Helderman
Rosalind S. Helderman

Senate Republicans have delivered a petition to Democrats who control the chamber, protesting the majority's refusal to hold hearings for some bills in committees this year, notably a proposal advanced by the governor to privatize state-run liquor stores.

The issue has been simmering for several weeks after one committee chairwoman declined to have her full committee hear several GOP priorities that had been killed already in a smaller subcommittee. In the House, subcommittee action is regularly considered the chamber's final word. But under the tradition of the Senate, full committees generally hear bills, even if they receive a negative vote from subcommittees.

The issue flared again Friday, as a chairwoman rejected a Republican motion that a committee hear a bill to convert 333 state-owned Alcoholic Beverage Control stores into 1,000 private retail outlets.

Senate leadership has said they will not hear the ABC bill until it is acted upon by the GOP-led House. In the House, a Republican chairman has likewise declined to hear the bill -- sparing the governor a likely defeat by members of his own party.

The Senate petition calls on the two committees to meet immediately and hear the Republican bills.

It was signed by 16 of the chamber's 18 Republicans -- Obenshain said two absent Republicans also agreed with its contents.

Meanwhile, Tucker Martin, a spokesman for Gov. Bob McDonnell, said he'd "prefer these eight Senate Democrats tell us why they oppose this small-government proposal, rather than just seek excuses to not even discuss it. They weren't sent to Richmond to hide."

Martin also notes that legislative rules allow the governor to send bills to the legislature at any time -- even after next week's cross-over deadline, after which the House and Senate typically are only allowed to consider bills that have been approved by the other chamber.

"We are keeping all of our options open," he said.

And how might another ABC bill be greeted in the Senate?

"Same way," said Senate Majority Leader Dick Saslaw (D-Fairfax).

"I have made it abundantly clear to the governor's office that this would not be taken up unless his own Republican House of Delegates took it up, and they never did," Saslaw said. "We were prepared to take it up, but they never took it up. And they never took it up because they said it was such a terrible idea. Well, if he can't get his own party to take it up, why should we take it up?"

By Rosalind S. Helderman  | February 4, 2011; 3:16 PM ET
Categories:  General Assembly 2011, House of Delegates, Robert F. McDonnell, Rosalind Helderman, State Senate  
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Next: Virginia House passes McDonnell's transportation funding plan


The governor should be standing with Virginia's families -- not with Big Alcohol and Big Retail and the 'think tanks' that can't get it in their heads that 'free markets' and hard liquor is a toxic cocktail. Triple the liquor outlets? Unacceptable. This week the republican governor of Idaho rejected privatization citing virtues of the state system -- reliable revenue and lower alcohol consumption.

Posted by: anonymousid | February 4, 2011 11:30 PM | Report abuse

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