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Posted at 7:23 PM ET, 02/27/2011

Virginia General Assembly adjourns final time

By Fredrick Kunkle

Virginia's General Assembly voted to adjourn its annual legislative session sine die Sunday evening after wrapping up business on the state's budget and Gov. Robert F. McDonnell's transportation plan.

In one of its final pieces of business, the House and Senate approved a list of adjustments to the state's two-year $78 billion budget. For the first time in memory, the vote of both chambers was unanimous.

"We went through the budget and made painful choices between the "got‐to‐do's" and the "nice‐to‐do's," Del. Lacey E. Putney (I-Bedford), who chairs the House appropriations committee, told lawmakers.

Budget negotiators from both parties and both chambers hammered out the final details after pushing early into Sunday morning. McDonnell spoke to budget conferees several times during negotiations, and called them late Saturday when he heard some were threatening to leave town without a budget. He told them he would immediately call them back into a special session to amend the budget. "I made it clear that was unacceptable," he said.

On the floor, Senate Majority Leader Richard Saslaw thanked McDonnell for intervening in budget negotiations about 8 p.m. Saturday and helping to put things back on track. "It was a big plus," Saslaw said.

Before adjourning, the General Assembly also passed McDonnell's plan to accelerate the previously approved borrowing of $2.9 billion for transportation -- though not without a Democratic floor speech against the plan and one more prop, this time from Del. Scott A Surovell (D-Fairfax).

"This thing still has a lot of debt in it," Surovell said, adding that the package also seriously shortchanges Northern Virginia. Then he unveiled the last prop of the session. (Others included a stuffed shark with license plates, sandbox toys, pictures of the Taj Mahal and a yacht, and marshallows.)

This time, it was a sheet cake iced to look like a "Commonwealth Express" credit card in the name of R. F. McDonnell. Its expiration date was February 2034--the year when the transportation bonds would expire. And the logo -- made to resemble the American Express' card's Roman centurion -- was none other than a Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli.

"What this symbolizes at the end of the day is that we are telling our constituents we can have our cake and eat it too, and I think tonight we should join them," Surovell said.

Following tradition, a delegation of lawmakers then formally conveyed the news of adjournment to the governor.

The General Assembly then formally reconvened its first special session, which will deal with redistricting, and then recessed.

--Staff writers Rosalind S. Helderman and Anita Kumar contributed to this item.

By Fredrick Kunkle  | February 27, 2011; 7:23 PM ET
Categories:  Robert F. McDonnell  
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