Tuesday, December 18, 2012
Editorial: Virginia doesn't need 140 governors
A proposed constitutional amendment would let legislators circumvent the regulatory process.
From the RoundTable blog
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We had a long list of reasons why uranium mining in Virginia is a bad idea. Thanks to Dels.Greg Habeeb and Chris Head, we can add one more.
The delegates are trying to amend the state constitution to give the General Assembly the authority to undermine the normal regulatory process.
The resolution filed by the two Republicans from Southwest Virginia seeks an amendment that would allow the legislature to nullify regulations by a majority vote. When the General Assembly is not in session, committees and commissions would have the power to suspend regulations. The resolution is vaguely worded, but seems to allow suspension by a commission with as few as 12 members, as long as they include a mix of delegates and senators.
We hope that the General Assembly will reject efforts to lift a moratorium on uranium mining. But the dangers are obvious if legislators pursue such a risky enterprise and then tinker with the rules at the whim of a handful of members. While federal rules guide milling processes and radioactive waste disposal, the state would regulate mining operations.
Legislators already have the authority to pass laws that reverse or revise regulations they dislike. But the proposed constitutional amendment would allow them to circumvent the regular legislative process. Of greater concern, the amendment would allow legislators to circumvent the governor, who now has final review authority over regulations.
"This is really a terrible idea," said Sen.John Edwards, D-Roanoke. "The governor is Xed out of it, contrary to everything else we do. This is a power grab of the worse sort."
Edwards successfully argued that similar bills filed in the past were an unconstitutional usurpation of executive power, hence the effort to rewrite the constitution.
Habeeb says the amendment is the result of concerns over child care regulations during Gov.Mark Warner's administration. Head told The Virginian-Pilot he was motivated by rules on home health care.
But there is no crisis here. Indeed, the annual Forbes "Best States for Business" survey declared Virginia to have the top regulatory environment for business.
It's no secret that nearly all 140 legislators want to be governor someday. They are welcome to seek their parties' nomination, raise money and hit the campaign trail. They are not welcome to seize executive powers without going through the niceties of an election.