A Richmond Circuit Court heard arguments today in a lawsuit filed by State Senate Democrats, who say the GOP Lieutenant Governor does NOT have the right to cast a tie-breaking vote on organizational matters when the General Assembly convenes next month. The Senate will be evenly divided between the two major parties, and Democrats are asking the court to step in before the decisive legislative votes are cast.
Since Senate Democrats lost two seats in last month’s elections, Republicans have said the Lieutenant Governor’s power to cast tie-breaking votes also applies to rules that include who serves on specific committees. During the hearing, Lieutenant Governor Bill Bolling’s attorneys argued that he has sovereign immunity and is an officer of the Senate. They also said Democrats can’t seek an injunction prior to a tie vote that needs Bolling’s intervention. Democratic Senator Donald McEachin, says his caucus and voters are right to be concerned.
“The rules are likely to be written in such a way, so that is takes a super majority to undo them, and we won’t be able to undo the rules after session. Moreover, there would be legislation that would pass a majority Republican committee that might pass an evenly divided committee and those things are going to effect—the Attorney General’s office is suggesting that the best way to undo that is to have individual litigants start suing after it happens. That’s a colossal waste of judicial resources,” said McEachin.
Judge Beverly Snukals is expected to rule next week.