Categorized | News

Good News and Bad News at Senate Rules Friday!

There was excitement at the Friday morning docket of the Senate Rules Committee and I was there to see the adventures of SJR 51 – the statewide indigent defense study bill.  BUT I also saw something else I did not like at all:  More public-private nonsense – yes the Sports Hall of Fame issue I wrote about earlier.

But first the indigent defense bill:  I was all ready to speak on the importance of making the promise of Gideon v. Wainwright possible for all Virginians and how we probably have the funds necessary to accomplish it and why we need to study the issue of statewide indigent defense when my bill’s sponsor, Senator Rosalyn Dance, and Chairman (and my senator) Ryan McDougle began a discussion in the committee (Dance is also on Rules).

McDougle advised Dance that the Crime Commission could not study all the aspects of this issue in several years, let alone one, and thus it would be better to just study the issue of a statewide APPELLATE defender’s office (with perhaps a post-conviction unit yet) and the bill was amended by the committee (and thus it became a COMMITTEE bill instead of just Senator Dance’s bill!) and it passed!  Here is the NEW SJR 51 – maybe we are one tiny step closer to equal justice under law for all Virginians.  Here is the new operative paragraph (emphasis added):

RESOLVED by the Senate, the House of Delegates concurring, That the Virginia State Crime Commission be directed to study the feasibility and costs of establishing a comprehensive indigent defense system at the appellate level in the Commonwealth and potential sources of funds for a statewide public defender system with an appellate defender and post-conviction unit. In conducting its study, the Virginia State Crime Commission shall focus on three broad areas: the feasibility of a statewide system and how best to establish and maintain such a system; the costs to establish and maintain a statewide system, including identification of potential sources of funds; and the disparities that exist as a result of the existing system, including whether those disparities warrant the establishment of a statewide public defender system at the appellate level.

Pardon me if I cry all over the laptop!  🙂  (No laptop was injured as a result of this blog post!)

NOTE:  Senator McDougle could have killed this indigent defense bill.  But he did not; he worked with Senator Dance to make it work.  It might even be better now than before.  I thanked him already last evening in an email.  You can and should do so too:  District04 at

Now the bad news:  The Virginia Sports Hall of Fame – the well-intentioned but very bad idea by Senator Louise Lucas.  (SB 28)  It was first thing up on Friday AM and the result gives credence to that old aphorism attributed to Otto von Bismarck that if you like legislation and sausages don’t watch them being made.

The Virginia Sports Hall of Fame is a private institution (with a significant subsidy from local government although that subsidy has come under fire as it should and is not as large as it was) and Senator Lucas and her allies want to do in effect a friendly state takeover (I could call it “nationalization” although it is not entirely accurate) and the bill would establish a state board with some from the House of Delegates and some from the Virginia Senate and some appointed by the governor and some by the board itself and also expend $150,000 to hire a executive director.

So I was waiting for my indigent defense bill to come up and Senator Lucas made a short pitch for the bill.  She was questioned by Senator Obenshain who said public funds should not be used for this otherwise worthy endeavor.  (He also offered – perhaps jokingly – $1000 toward the private effort.  the reaction was such I think he’ll do it.)  I wondered if I should say something…it looked like I did not have to at first.

It was quickly moved and seconded to kill the bill through what is called PBI (Pass by indefinitely) and although people were overly trying to be kind to the effort (I think civility is great to the sponsor but if an idea is bad – say it!) and the vote was taken and the vote was an astounding six in favor of killing the bill and seven against it!  (I am sorry this roll call vote was not recorded at the VGA website but several Republicans voted to keep this bill alive – McDougle voted to kill it!)

So it was referred to the Finance Committee to consider it because it had that $150,0oo price tag (remember the Tip of the Iceberg Law!) and off it went to the Finance Committee by a 9-5 vote (but technically reported from Rules favorably) and here is THAT vote from the legislature’s website:

SB 28 Virginia Sports Hall of Fame; created, report.

02/05/16  Senate: Reported from Rules (9-Y 5-N)

YEAS–Hanger, Wagner, Vogel, Stuart, Stanley, Reeves, Saslaw, Locke, Dance–9.

NAYS–McDougle, Newman, Ruff, Obenshain, Carrico–5.


So we must now go to Finance to kill this thing.  It may be that this was the intention of some who voted to refer to Finance to kill it.  This is a vote that is not easy to track.   I just made a FOIA request to get the PBI vote from the Senate Clerk’s Office.

In the meantime, here are the members of the Senate Finance Committee:


Senate Finance


Norment (Co-Chair), Hanger (Co-Chair), Howell, Saslaw, Lucas, Newman, Ruff, Wagner, McDougle, Vogel, Carrico, Alexander, Obenshain, Barker, Dunnavant

Now politely but firmly let your senator know you want this bill killed:

  • It’s not a proper governmental function to acquire private entities that do not affect a core function of government.  (It violates the Whitlock Test!)
  • it will take a nice honor and politicize it – the Sports Hall of Fame should be beyond politics.  I could see controversy arising for a potential honoree due to his or her political beliefs or causes they supported or opposed.
  • The $150,000 is the Tip of the Iceberg.  The board can acquire the existing museum and eventually the state will have to “bail out” the museum (which is the reason they want the board established in the first place) and this will cost hundreds of thousands if not millions of dollars.  And we are stuck with the museum.

Senate Finance meets next on Tuesday February 9 and Wednesday February 10 at 9 am.  Look here for details.  Who wants to come to Richmond and speak against this thing!  Remember how disrupted you were because of the publicly funded bike race?  Now you can take a stand.



About Elwood Sanders

Elwood "Sandy" Sanders is a Hanover attorney who is an Appellate Procedure Consultant for Lantagne Legal Printing and has written ten scholarly legal articles. Sandy was also Virginia's first Appellate Defender and also helped bring curling in VA! (None of these titles imply any endorsement of Sanders’ views)

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Tom White Says:

Nothing is more conservative than a republican wanting to get their majority back. And nothing is more liberal than a republican WITH a majority.

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