Read the Bills Act Coalition

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Gov. Kaine is responsible for the UNCONSTITUTIONAL Transportation Amendments

Posted by MAXIMUS

From this weekend's Richmond Times Dispatch:

Passing the Buck

Sunday, Mar 23, 2008 - 12:05 AM

The so-called abusive-driver fees provoked citizen outrage that recalled the Boston Tea Party. A unanimous Virginia Supreme Court threw out attempts to allow unelected transportation authorities to levy regional taxes. The virtual collapse of last year's celebrated transportation package cast unflattering light on just about everyone.

Certain partisans want to pass the buck. Democrats blame Republican Attorney General Bob McDonnell for failing to alert legislators to constitutional problems. He supposedly should have foreseen the outcome in the courts.

The rap against him is bum. Here's a reason: According to the summary of the package as introduced by House Speaker Bill Howell, the bill "provides . . . authority to localities in Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads to impose additional fees for transportation." Identical language appeared in the version passed by the General Assembly and sent to the governor. Gov. Tim Kaine subsequently submitted amendments, which were incorporated in the version that became law. The final summary said the bill "provides . . . authority to the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority and the Hampton Roads Transportation Authority to impose regional fees and taxes in their respective areas."

The new language shifted the power to raise fees and/or taxes from localities to authorities -- i.e., presumably from elected bodies to unelected ones. Democrats critical of McDonnell apparently are dismayed the Republican did not denounce their fellow Democrat.

The tale grows more amusing: When the House of Delegates passed a transportation bill that had a better chance of passing constitutional muster, the chamber split 64-34. The vote on the legislation that flunked the Supreme Court's test split 85-15. The difference came primarily from Democratic legislators who opposed the plan when it was associated with the GOP but supported it when Kaine signaled his willingness to sign an amended bill.

The blame game is unseemly, which is to say typical. House Democrats have no basis for passing the buck to McDonnell or anyone else. The transportation debacle embarrasses almost every senator and delegate, as well as the governor. Del. Bob Marshall led the constitutional challenge. The Republican from Manassas does not rank among our favorite lawmakers, yet he is one of the few to emerge from the debate with his image enhanced.

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