This Week in Statehouse Action: Waiting, Wishing, Hoping edition

  • The House version of the budget is currently stuck in the Senate Finance Committee, which Senate President Norment controls.
  • The Senate next convenes on Tuesday, May 22, and Senate Democratic Leader Dick Saslaw—who has reason to believe that there are at least the two Republican votes in the chamber needed to pass the Medicaid-expanding budget (the Democratic LG can’t break ties on budget votes)—is plotting drastic action to get the budget to the floor.
    • If a bill is stuck in committee, a senator may make a discharge motion, which requires a simple majority vote—meaning just one GOP defector—to pass (Democratic Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax could absolutely vote to break this tie) in order to bring a bill out of committee and to the Senate floor for debate and vote.
    • This may sound simple, but deploying this tactic is all but unheard of in a legislature that leans heavily on tradition and hasn’t brought a bill to the floor in this manner since the mid-1970s (it was attempted in the 1980s to free the Equal Rights Amendment from a hostile committee, but it failed).
  • But why, you may wonder, is Senate GOP leadership so obstinate on Medicaid expansion, while House GOP leadership was willing to change its tune after years of standing in opposition?
    • Because the latter faced Virginia voters just last fall, and voters were pretty dang clear that they were sick of how Republicans were doing things in Richmond. Losing 15 members of your caucus in a single night is enough to rattle any pragmatic partisan.
    • The Senate wasn’t up for eelection last year, thought, and Norment doesn’t seem to think that the same wave that came for the House GOP could sweep him out of power next year, even though, again, his party holds only a one-seat majority.

Next Tuesday’s session should be … interesting, to say the least. Stay tuned!

Speaking of that one-seat Republican majority in the Virginia House …

She’s Waiting: Remember that “tied” Virginia House election that was decided by “drawing lots”—specifically, film canisters out of a fancy bowl? Well, it’s what let Republicans cling to their one-seat House majority.

And a new Washington Post report reveals that it wasn’t so much luck that let the GOP hold on to the chamber. Rather, it was black disenfranchisement.

  • In this case, a review of voter registration records and district maps found that 26 voters “in a predominately African American precinct that heavily favored Democrats in the fall” in House District 94 instead were mistakenly given (and cast) ballots in a neighboring district.
  • So much for that ostensibly tied race: These votes would almost certainly have given Democrat Shelly Simonds a narrow but undeniable victory, and it would have ended the Republican majority in the Virginia House.

(Also, a tied chamber would have been all sorts of fun, but that’s another story.)

  • This screw-up wasn’t the only electoral error in Virginia last fall. The Post published an analysis in January 2017 that found about 6,000 voters were assigned to the wrong House districts, and about 2,600 of those voters cast ballots last November.

Fun fact! Six Virginia House races were decided by fewer than 500 votes.

Waiting In The Weeds: Another Tuesday night, another special election win for Democrats this week—but also another loss. Nothing like a mixed bag to get the people going, I find.

Wait, no, actually, complicated stuff does not, in fact, get the people going. Oh, well. If you’re still reading at this point in the newsletter, I think we’re good.

  • Helen Tai flipped Democrats’ 41st state legislative seat from red to blue in Pennsylvania House District 178!
    • This suburban Philadelphia seat has been held by Republicans for over 30 years, and Romney and Trump both won it at the presidential level. 
    • In a 5-point swing from Clinton’s performance in the district in 2016, Tai picked up this seat on Tuesday.
  • But Republicans flipped a seat on Tuesday, too! They picked up HD-48.
    • The Democrat in this western Pennsylvania district also performed 4 points better than Clinton, but that just wasn’t enough to pull off a win in a seat Trump won 55-41.

This was Republicans’ fifth blue-to-red flip of the cycle.

And proud we are of all of them.

Waiting For The Night: … as in, the cover of. Because New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu is brave that way. He wants to sign a voter suppression bill, but he wants the state Supreme Court to promise him they won’t rule it unconstitutional first.

  • Sununu claimed to “hate” this proposal in December. Now he says “it would be hard not to sign it.” Leadership!
  • The legislation at issue essentially imposes a “poll tax” by forcing the state’s registered voters to purchase in-state drivers licenses and pay the cash money required to register their cars locally.
    • The measure passed with no Democratic support, which makes sense because Republicans are targeting college students, many of whom are from other states but can legally vote in New Hampshire while they’re residents—not to mention tend to vote for Democrats.

Waiting Game: That’s kind of what a filibuster is, right? And in South Carolina, Democrats won.

  • After three days of debate and no end of Senate Democrats’ epic filibuster in sight, Republicans voted a just a couple of Fridays ago to send a bill that would have outlawed virtually all abortions in the state back to committee, effectively killing it for the year.
    • Republicans tried to wait the Democrats out, knowing that if just a few Dems gave up and left the chamber, the GOP could call a vote and get the three-fifths majority needed to sit their impressively durable colleagues down.
    • But Senate Democrats weren’t having it. The filibuster began on Thursday with an eight-hour monologue from Sen. Marlon Kimpson.
    • Then his colleagues lines up one after another to keep debate going.
    • Some canceled travel and vacations plans to stay in the chamber, and in the end, not a single one left.
  • The measure literally would have outlawed all abortions except for those performed to save the woman’s life or in cases of incest or rape.

Well, it looks like my own waiting game may finally be over—the AC repairperson is here! With the needed part! And freon, because there’s apparently a leak that’s not at all worrisome!

Until next week, stay cool.

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