ARTICLES

When It Comes to the Budget, Mandating Consent Does Not Work Either

Posted by: Necci – Mar 22, 2012

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During a time in which our Commonwealth continues to ride the waves of economic uncertainty, we look to our representatives to guide us through the storm and secure our safe landing. Specifically, we look for legislation that would encourage job growth, shore up our infrastructure, and support those within our populace who are most affected by the recent recession. Although we recognize that we collectively may be asked to tighten our belts with decreased spending and/or funding cuts, we hope that the oft-stated campaign priorities of education and public safety would ring true when tough decisions need to be made.

However, many entered this past General Assembly session with trepidation for reasons far from the economic concerns weighing our minds. Instead of addressing the issues of greatest import to their constituents, the newly-empowered Republican leadership chose to advance a socially conservative agenda, believing they had the political capital to cash. Emboldened by their representative numbers, they took aim at women’s healthcare most viciously, but they also attacked voters’ rights. They even mobilized the repeal of a handgun law that had a proven correlation to decreased violent crime, thus ensuring our continued dominance as the number one out-of-state source of crime guns in New York, and one of the top suppliers of crime guns nationally.

In short, the Republicans this session created solutions looking for problems, using red herrings instead of truth for support. And now, there seems to be genuine albeit obtuse perplexity as to why there is bipartisan rancor in the halls.

The Governor and Republican leadership have been vilifying the Senate Democrats for refusing to acquiesce to the budget that is pending in the Senate. However, the Governor is likewise being challenged to answer tough questions about funding decisions in his proposed budget that he will either have to answer or, by his silence, admit the disingenuousness of the rhetoric used by him and others to support the laws his party pushed. For example, the proposed budget would eliminate funding for teen pregnancy prevention programs, while at the same time create a de facto barrier to abortion services by not funding the mandated ultrasound now required of all women. Grand, idealized statements about education, children, safety, and health may serve well in press releases and speeches, but the true intention behind legislation is revealed when dollar signs are attached (or denied).

This past General Assembly session, Virginia’s future progress was being bartered for myopic regression. However, through his public challenges to Senate Democrats, the Governor seemingly believes there should be a mandate upon the Democrats to consent to the budget that has been presented. As many have tried to explain in other contexts, mandating acquiescence does not equate to consent, especially when such consent is explicitly required in our Commonwealth’s Constitution.

In criticizing the current budget impasse, Governor McDonnell stated, “[t]his is not the kind of history that the mother of presidents and cradle of democracy should be making.” Much that has occurred this past General Assembly session was not the kind of history that Virginia should have been making.

Tara Casey is a Richmond lawyer who lives in Hanover County with her husband and two small children; prior to her current position at the University of Richmond School of Law, she served as an Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia.

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