We don’t need no stinking openness in government!, Part 2

Raising Kaine: House Republicans Reject Open Government

UPDATE: Hiliarity from the AP via NBC4: Va. House Kills Bid To Record Subcommittee Votes:

Democrats failed Wednesday in an effort to prevent bills from being killed anonymously by a handful of House of Delegates members in sparsely attended subcommittee meetings.

Open government groups and organizations as disparate as the conservative Virginia Club for Growth, the League of Women Voters and the AARP had called for requiring recorded votes when a subcommittee acts on a bill.

But on a nearly party-line 45-54 vote, the first substantial policy issue vote taken in the opening hour of the 2008 General Assembly, Republicans used their majority to defeat the amendment offered by Del. Kenneth R. Plum.

“The public’s right to know is a basic tenet of all we do. It’s why we pass freedom of information law,” said Plum, D-Fairfax.

Virginia’s part-time legislature relies heavily on its committee system to vet legislation and either advance it to the House or Senate floor or kill it. Committees appoint subcommittees to edit and amend the bills before they come before the full committee. Votes were not recorded, but subcommittees could not kill bills.

Two years ago, the House changed the rules to allow subcommittees to kill legislation. Critics objected that bills should not be killed by a few people without a recorded vote.

Plum argued Wednesday that some subcommittees consist of as few as five delegates, that they can meet with a quorum, which is three delegates, and that a majority of that quorum — just two delegates — can kill a bill with no record of their action. And because subcommittees often huddle at odd times ranging from dawn to evening hours in out-of-the-way niches across Capitol Square, it’s difficult if not impossible for the press or public to monitor them.

“The public needs to know how we conduct our business,” he argued.

House Majority Leader H. Morgan Griffith countered that requiring recorded votes for subcommittees would make an already heavy work load of about 3,000 bills over just 60 days almost unbearable.

“If we go to this process, we might as well forget about subcommittees and go to hearing all bills in full committee,” said Griffith, R-Salem.

House Minority Leader Ward L. Armstrong, D-Henry County, argued that a transparent legislature is more important to voters and taxpayers than a streamlined one.

“If want to take (Griffith’s) argument that this saves time, gee, think how much time could be saved if we didn’t bother with recorded votes here on the floor,” Armstrong said.

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