What would happen if Virginia governors had a little more time to get their agendas through – good or bad?
What would happen if Virginia governors had a little more time to get their agendas through – good or bad? That’s a question one legislator is asking with a new submitted for the upcoming 2017 General Assembly session.
“This bill isn’t anything new,” Senator Adam Ebbin, D-Alexandria, sponsor of SJ 217, the constitutional amendment which would extend term limits for VA Governors to a second consecutive year. If successful, the policy wouldn’t take effect until 2021. “It’s been floating around in the General Assembly for years. It’s not something I thought of first it’s something I thought should be moved forward on passed.”
The Governor of Virginia has only been able to serve one term since revisions were made to the state’s constitution back in 1830. This was the first time the document had been amended since it was first signed in 1776.
This proposed increase has been a point of contention among Virginia’s elected officials for some time. Last year, senators on both side of the political aisle were divided on the fairness of the current governor having the ability to seek re-election.
“There are monumental challenges that would benefit from the leadership that could be provided by a governor,” Sen. Thomas Garrett, R-Lynchburg, told the Virginia Pilot last year. Garrett supported the bill last session, saying a single term often leaves Governors as lame ducks, deadlocked with a new House and/or Senate, unable to pass any legislation.
As elected officials debate over this bill and what the change would mean in the tradition of Virginia’s governing system, there are some who wish to see the state progress.
According to Governing.com, former governor and U.S. Senator George Allen was a fan of the system. He and others like him believe the single term “promotes balance between the executive and the legislature and ensures that the top ranks of state government will be open to new blood every few years.”
“Virginia is the only state in the country right now that doesn’t allow the governor to run for a consecutive term,” said VCU professor, Dr. Ravi Perry. Perry is an advocate for a number of progressive causes and sees the term extension as a way to bring the Commonwealth into the 21st century.
“Some of the original ideas about wanting new leadership, wanting a change in executive power, so that the people can weigh in and make their voices heard regularly,” he said.
Though Perry admits the legislation’s failure is often ironically connected to the way conservative legislators interpret Virginia’s Constitution in the founders original words.
“The legislature is now controlled by the GOP and they are sticklers for what they consider to be the original construction view of government founding documents,” he said. “I would be surprised if this passes, but I hope that it does.”
For Ebbin, it really comes down to having the ability to govern and make more impact, adding a level of continuity to programs and appointments.
“It takes the governor’s months to get appointments filled and within three and half years people leave and the new governor may not continue in the same direction,” Sen. Ebbin said. “It can be the choice of the people, if they are running for office for a second term, the people get to decide if they are satisfied by their performance.”
Dr. Perry also pointed to how state budgeting works with the previous governor setting the ledger for the the next governor in line.
“It seems to me that the governor should prepare the budget for the term that they are in,” he said.
We’ll continue to track this legislation and others as the 2017 GA session opens this January.