Decision on ties led to bud­get stale­mate

Bolling: No re­grets about Jan­uary’s ‘mea­sured opin­ion’

The Washington Times Daily - - Metro - BY DAVID SHERFINSKI

RICH­MOND | The ground­work for a lin­ger­ing bud­get stand­off in the Gen­eral Assem­bly might well have been laid Jan. 3 — roughly a week be­fore law­mak­ers were sched­uled to ar­rive in town.

Democrats had filed a law­suit about the tie-break­ing au­thor­ity of Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling, seek­ing to de­fine his abil­ity to cast votes on or­ga­niz­ing the Se­nate, split evenly be­tween 20 Democrats and 20 Repub­li­cans af­ter the Novem­ber elec­tions. Lieu­tenant gov­er­nors rou­tinely break ties on bills, but could he vote on the bud­get? On the ap­point­ment of judges?

On Jan. 3, Mr. Bolling is­sued a memo declar­ing that he could cast tie-break­ing votes on mat­ters of or­ga­ni­za­tion but not on the bud­get. Nearly three months later, law­mak­ers gaveled in a spe­cial ses­sion Wed­nes­day to be­gin work of­fi­cially on a bud­get im­passe that might not have oc­curred with­out that Jan­uary decision.

The Re­pub­li­can lieu­tenant gov­er­nor’s self­de­scribed “mea­sured opin­ion” primed the pump for what was to un­fold in the next two months. The GOP or­ga­nized the Se­nate as an ef­fec­tive ma­jor­ity, Democrats voted in lock step to block two bud­gets, and now a small group of law­mak­ers is hud­dled in Rich­mond try­ing to work out a new two-year spend­ing plan be­fore the fis­cal year ends June 30.

De­spite the im­passe, Mr. Bolling has no re­grets about his decision.

“Se­nate Democrats said from Day One that they were go­ing to ob­struct the adop­tion of the bud­get, and they were go­ing to ob­struct the elec­tion of judges,” Mr. Bolling said. “And they said from Day One that they were go­ing to do that be­cause they didn’t like the way the Se­nate was or­ga­nized.

“I thought that was a ter­ri­bly ir­re­spon­si­ble ac­tion for them to take. And my hope is that as time has pro­gressed that they have seen that and have moved be­yond that. We’ll see. I hope they have.”

Mr. Bolling ac­knowl­edged that he would have been jus­ti­fied in say­ing he could break a tie on the bud­get.

Univer­sity of Virginia pro­fes­sor A.E. Dick Howard, who helped write the mod­ern Virginia Con­sti­tu­tion, said in an un­of­fi­cial le­gal opin­ion in 1996 that the purview of the lieu­tenant gov­er­nor on tiebreak­ers was vir­tu­ally un­lim­ited.

Mr. Bolling said Mr. Howard “ba­si­cally opined that the lieu­tenant gov­er­nor could vote on any­thing.” He said Democrats were ready to pounce on Mr. Howard’s opin­ion in 1996, the last time the cham­ber was evenly split, and push Lt. Gov. Don­ald S. Beyer Jr.’s au­thor­ity even fur­ther than did Mr. Bolling be­fore state Sen. Vir­gil Goode, Rocky Mount Demo­crat, threat­ened to bolt the Re­pub­li­can

so all em­ploy­ees there could be tested for al­co­hol con­sump­tion. None of the em­ploy­ees at the sta­tion was found to have been drink­ing.

Pun­ish­ment of 24-hour sus­pen­sions was pro­posed for two men work­ing at the sta­tion, but dis­ci­plinary ac­tion was left to Chief Sterne. He is­sued rep­ri­mand let­ters to the two men af­ter de­ter­min­ing that “no in­ten­tional mis­con­duct” oc­curred.

“Your fail­ure to hold the mem­bers ac­count­able for their re­ceipt of the beer in vi­o­la­tion of the Rules of Con­duct brings into ques­tion your abil­ity to ex­er­cise proper judg­ment in the per­for­mance of your as­signed du­ties,” Chief Ellerbe wrote to Chief Sterne in a Jan­uary no­tice ad­vis­ing him of the pro­posed re­duc­tion in rank.

A lawyer rep­re­sent­ing Chief Sterne said he in­tends to file an ap­peal on the mat­ter with the Dis­trict’s Of­fice of Em­ployee Ap­peals.

“We in­tend to chal­lenge them to prove the facts of this case, and I don’t think they will be able to do it,” at­tor­ney James Pressler said.

The re­duc­tion-in-rank pa­pers stated that the ac­tion was “sup­ported by a pre­pon­der­ance of ev­i­dence,” but pro­vided no ad­di­tional con­text for the decision.

Chief Ellerbe pre­vi­ously de­clined to speak about Chief Sterne’s pro­posed de­mo­tion be­cause it was a per­son­nel mat­ter. He did not respond to a re­quest for com­ment Wed­nes­day.

The state Se­nate Fi­nance Com­mit­tee on Wed­nes­day con­sid­ered a bill to re­quire hos­pi­tals and abor­tion providers to re­port the num­ber of preg­nan­cies they ter­mi­nate.

The bill would re­quire the Depart­ment of Health and Men­tal Hy­giene to col­lect de­mo­graphic in­for­ma­tion in­clud­ing the age, race and mar­i­tal sta­tus of women treated in Mary­land.

Pro­po­nents say the bill would im­prove women’s health care.

Sen. Barry Glass­man, Har­ford Re­pub­li­can and the bill’s spon­sor, said col­lect­ing the data would help the state bet­ter as­sess preg­nancy rates.

Op­po­nents in­clud­ing rep­re­sen­ta­tives from Planned Par­ent­hood and the Amer­i­can Civil Lib­er­ties Union say the mea­sure would in­crease the in­tim­i­da­tion women seek­ing abortions al­ready feel.

DHMH of­fi­cials say the re­port­ing re­quire­ment would be “un­prece­dented” and that col­lect­ing the data of­fers no clear public health ben­e­fit.

A Green­belt man was found shot in­side a burn­ing car at a Fort Washington apart­ment com­plex, Prince Ge­orge’s County po­lice said.

Cpl. Evan Bax­ter, a po­lice spokesman, said of­fi­cers were called to the 1100 block of Palmer Road about 1 a.m. Wed­nes­day for a re­port of the sound of gun­shots.

Po­lice said of­fi­cers found a burn­ing ve­hi­cle and Mar­cel­lus Jer­maine Jack­son was in­side, suf­fer­ing from ap­par­ent gun­shot wounds.

An of­fi­cer pulled Jack­son, 33, from the ve­hi­cle and tried to put out the blaze. Jack­son was pro­nounced dead at the scene.

Po­lice said de­tec­tives are work­ing

ROD LAMKEY JR./THE WASHINGTON TIMES

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