On Smoking Bans and Subcommittees
I'm glad to see the latest topic spreading across multiple Virginia blogs has everything to do with a bill, not much to do with scandal, and so far, nothing to do with prank phone calls.
The "Clean Indoor Air Act" (Senate Bill 648, patroned by Senator Brandon Bell, and also known popularly as "The Smoking Ban") indeed was defeated by a 6-0 vote of the ABC/Gaming Subcommittee of House General Laws on Thursday, in a very late meeting after the House finished up with its budget.
In December 2005, we all reported on the change to the House rules which will allow bills to be "PBI'd" in subcommittee, only to be brought in front of the full committee at a Chairman's discretion. As one would expect a change in the rules initiated by a Republican majority generated generally warm feelings from conservatives and generally cold feelings from liberals (which the MSM echoed at the time). Check out Tyler Whitley's piece from last Sunday's RTD for some more recent opinions.
But now we are met with the first real test for the new rule, a bill which people cared about. I mean, a lot of people followed this bill. A large, grassroots anti-smoking lobby, a powerful restaurant, hospitality and travel industry, and TV newsfolk that can get their heads around this simple, tangible, palpable, meat-a-licious topic.
Do yourself a a February favor, and read the Richmond Democrat's account of the day. I wasn't there, so I can't comment on the behavior of Dels. Wright and Albo, or anyone else in the room that Mr. Wilmore criticizes for their personal behavior/appearance. I do believe that he's wrong in assigning blame/credit for the densely packed room and the media coverage to the "secret" nature of the subcommittee. Like I said in the previous paragraph, this is a big story, and it's an easy story, and I think it was worth Rosalind Helderman's
or Christina Bellantoni's time regardless of whether or not she would've been able to look it up on the internet later that night.
Waldo started up some discussion over at his site, and I've joined in there. I'd like to bring it up here too, maybe getting a few more GOPers into the mix. Do we have a problem with a bill dying in front of a 6 person subcommittee? Factoring in the chairman's discretion, should 7 people in the House be able to end what at least 21 folks in the Senate began? Should subcommittee votes which result in a PBI be recorded? There are important questions here and those who favor the majority need to be responsible for answering them now. Someday, and some would say someday soon, we may not be in that situation, and we need to be prepared to fully own up to the precedent we set during our reign.