- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Virginia Republicans are considering limiting the upcoming 46-day legislative session to 30 days partly because some think little will get accomplished.

Senate Finance Committee Chairman John H. Chichester is the driving force behind the idea. The Stafford County Republican had said that legislative staffers could use some rest after working through one of the longest legislative sessions in state history earlier this year.

The proposal drew a mixed reaction from both parties.

Delegate Brian J. Moran, chairman of House Democratic Caucus, said the idea to limit the length of the session shows that Mr. Chichester thinks the House will not to back off its stance that it can solve the state’s transportation problem without raising new revenue.

“I think it’s a recognition of the senator that the composition of the House Republican leadership has not changed and there is no reason to believe we will come up with a transportation solution,” the Alexandria Democrat said.

Delegate Vincent F. Callahan Jr. said Mr. Chichester’s reasoning that legislators need rest was “the most absurd thing I ever heard.”

House Majority Leader H. Morgan Griffith disagreed.

“It’s an idea worth exploring,” the Salem Republican said. “If we could do the people’s business in 30 days it would be a slam-dunk. But unfortunately with the number of bills introduced we may not have time.”

Typically, about 3,000 bills are introduced each year, Mr. Griffith said.

Mr. Chichester did not return a telephone call seeking comment yesterday.

The Virginia Constitution calls for a 60-day legislative session in even-numbered years and a 30-day session in odd-numbered years.

Mr. Callahan said the General Assembly extended the first odd-year session to 46 days in 1971 and it has become commonplace ever since.

Other lawmakers said they would have a tough time squeezing the legislative session into 30 days because of the number of bills that are introduced.

“To cut one-third of the session would be fairly extraordinary,” said Sen. Kenneth T. Cuccinelli, Fairfax County Republican.

Delegate M. Kirkland Cox, Colonial Heights Republican, said the General Assembly will need the 46 days to take up important issues such as transportation, land-use reform and eminent domain.

“We need the time to work on a transportation package,” he said. “You’ve got to go into the session with the attitude that you are going to get it done.”

The Republican-controlled Legislature officially adjourned in September, after both chambers could not agree for nine months on whether to raise taxes for roads and mass transit.

The anti-tax House wanted to dip into the state’s projected surplus and free up money in the general fund through long-term borrowing.

The more centrist Senate teamed up with Gov. Timothy M. Kaine, a Democrat, to push as much as $1 billion a year in new taxes for transportation.

The two sides also could not agree on regional transportation plans, which would have given local governments the ability to raise certain fees for road improvements.

The odd-year session has taken on some political importance because it gives lawmakers a chance to push bills in an election year. All 140 members of the General Assembly are up for re-election next year.

It also hurts incumbents because state law blocks them from raising money for their re-election during the session.

“I can’t raise money for those 46 days, but my opponent can,” Mr. Cuccinelli said.

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