Playing Politics with the State Budget

Feb 21, 2014

One reason it's prudent for lawmakers to review the fine print of amendments offered to the Virginia state budget is because it may contain legislation that might not pass both houses on its own. Such is the case with an amendment approved by the House and attached to its version of the state budget. It directs the executive branch on how to proceed in controversial cases, such as the lawsuit challenging Virginia's same-sex marriage ban.

The GOP was outraged when Attorney General Mark Herring reversed the state's defense of traditional marriage AND joined the plaintiffs in the case. The caucus was also appalled when Governor McAuliffe chose not to intervene. The House passed one bill that gives lawmakers standing to defend state law in such cases, but its Senate fate was in doubt. So Republican Delegate Todd Gilbert offered a budget amendment.

Democratic Delegate David Toscano was opposed.

The bill gives the House Speaker authority to appoint special counsel to represent Virginia when the A-G decides not to defend the state Constitution. It also would prevent the A-G from using appropriated funds in legal matters that oppose the Constitution.

The state Senate also used this approach by passing a budget amendment to create the “Marketplace Virginia” health insurance exchange that's not popular with many delegates in the House.