Well, here we are again: stumbling to the end of yet another incoherent legislative session, with little to show for it but a busted deadline and a budget deficit the size of Eliot Spitzer’s “travel” expenses. This is certainly one for the Richmond record books: No agreement on fixing Virginia’s massively underfunded transportation system (that’ll be handled in a special session later this year, promise!), incentives for colleges to cap tuition increases at the expense of expanded pre-K programs for low-income kids, a whopping two-percent pay raise for teachers and state employees, and a parsimonious promise to cut $50 million in aid to local governments and hack $18 million out of various state agency budgets (yeah, right — we’ll believe that when we see it).
We’re floored: Loony legislation keeps pouring from the Virginia General Assembly—everything from a proposed state song presumably written by an 8-year-old to an attempt to add box-cutters to the state’s list of concealed weapons.
Even better, the two-year, $77 billion spending plan had to be completely torn down and rebuilt after the state Supreme Court threw a stink bomb into the middle of the proceedings, declaring the Assembly’s 2007 transportation bill grossly unconstitutional (seems the too-clever-by-half legislature had “delegate[d] its taxing power to a non-elected body” by creating several regional taxing authorities—a blatant constitutional no-no).
But you know what? You can read about all of that boring crap in The Washington Post. Here at the Odd Dominion, we’re far more interested in the crazy stuff that didn’t make it—the bills and proposals that were so far out there, even the den of lunatics that we fondly call our General Assembly didn’t have the stomach to pass them into law. Let’s take a quick peek, shall we?
Before we begin, however, we must give a hearty shout-out to the ever-vigilant Waldo Jaquith and the Virginia Interfaith Center, who run the Richmond Sunlight website (www.richmondsunlight.com), a meticulously updated compendium of every single bill winding its way through the Assembly’s sausage factory. Without their hard work, we might never know what laws our diligent elected officials tried and failed to foist upon us this session.
Now, the biggest loser in this year’s loony legislation race has to be our old pal Del. Dave Albo, who had a trifecta of idiotic, unnecessary laws killed in committee. First up was an attempt to add box-cutters to the Commonwealth’s list of concealed weapons. (Whoops! There goes the carpet-layers union vote.) He followed that up with a bill to allow towns to regulate fireplaces “where such use may constitute a nuisance to adjacent residences.” (He was, however, kind enough to exempt “any dwelling that does not have an adequate source of heat without burning wood.”) Finally, mistakenly assuming that the third time would be the charm, Albo attempted to make it a felony to use an emergency exit after committing larceny, thereby magically transforming some shoplifters into felons based on their choice of egress.
Pretty ridiculous stuff. But Albo had plenty of competition in the boneheaded bill department. Take Sen. Ken Cuccinelli, for instance, who wanted to make it impossible for married couples with minor children to get divorced if one spouse doesn’t want to. (What a great way to create healthy, unconflicted offspring!) And don’t forget about Del. Dave Marsden, who wanted to make it a Class 3 misdemeanor for someone to willingly submit to a gang hazing (because, you know, getting beat up by a bunch of wannabe Crips isn’t punishment enough), or Del. Mark Cole, who tried to make it legal for two motorcycles to ride side-by-side in one lane. (Gee, we wonder who has a hog or two parked in his garage?)
But our favorite recent pair of unpassed laws, without a doubt, were both submitted (without irony, we presume) on the very same day. The first was offered by the aptly named Del. Dave Nutter, who yearned to make Virginia’s state song “Virginia: Where Heaven Touches Earth,” a bit of doggerel presumably written by his 8-year-old niece. (Sample lyric: “Mountain laurel fills the air/Dogwood blossoms everywhere/Autumns painted red and gold/So much beauty to behold!") The second was submitted by our very own Del. Rob Bell, who was keen to amend the official definition of prostitution to include “manipulation of the genitals of another by hand resulting in ejaculation.” Ah, Virginia: So hopeful and maudlin, and yet so very, very dirty.
Great work, guys! But, you know, maybe next time you can spend a little less time on the box-cutters and hand jobs, and a little more time on fixing Virginia’s budget mess. Just a thought.