Senate Democrats kill measure allowing legislators to defend state laws in court

Democrat vs. Republican on whiteThe Senate Rules Committee voted Friday along party lines to defeat a bill that would have allowed members of the General Assembly to take the place of the attorney general in court. The bill was passed by indefinitely.

HB 706, patroned by Del. todd gilbert (R – Woodstock), would have enabled either chamber or any member of the General Assembly to represent the Commonwealth in court if the attorney general and governor both declined to defend a given law. The bill had reported from the House on a largely party-line vote.

Democrats touted today’s outcome as exemplary of the pragmatic, problem-solving approach they promised upon taking control of the Senate earlier this year.

Said Caucus Chair Sen. Donald McEachin (D – Henrico), “Past attorneys general, including Ken Cuccinelli and Jerry Kilgore, declined to defend laws they deemed unconstitutional. On both occasions, the legislature stayed out of the process. Now that Democratic attorney general Mark Herring has followed their precedent, Republican legislators suddenly want to be involved. That’s a little too convenient, and I’m glad we defeated this ideological and partisan bill.”

Said Committee Chairman Sen. John Edwards (D – Roanoke), “We don’t need 140 little attorneys general running around. Virginia should be represented in court by a single voice, and that voice should be the attorney general.”

Said Democratic Leader Sen. Dick Saslaw (D – Fairfax), “Our politics are already strained and polarized, and House Republicans keep passing bills that make the problem worse. Democrats promised voters to be fair, pragmatic, and problem-solving. We did that today, and we intend to keep doing it.”

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