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Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling’s good government agenda makes sense, and that’s what dooms it with the legislature.
Wednesday, October 2, 2013
Another week. Another palm slap to the forehead. Another “Gee, we could have had Bill Bolling” moment for Virginia voters.
As gubernatorial candidates Ken Cuccinelli and Terry McAuliffe competed to see who could come up with the most inane email accusing the other of plotting to shut down the government, Lt. Gov. Bolling rolled out a set of policy proposals Monday worthy of a serious candidate to lead the commonwealth.
Bolling advocated for allowing future governors to serve two consecutive terms — if voters feel an incumbent deserves a sequel. The Republican also reiterated his support for creation of a bipartisan commission to draw legislative and congressional districts. He proposed giving a similar commission the task of vetting judges to ensure they are chosen based on merit. And he called for a full review of exemptions to the Freedom of Information Act with the goal of maximizing open and transparent government.
There is much merit to these proposals, and their merit is what dooms them. State legislators aren’t interested in common-sense government. They are interested in their own desires. Virtually all of the 140 lawmakers are convinced they will be governor one day, so they don’t wish to gum up the pipeline by allowing one person to hog the executive mansion for eight years. Legislators also benefit from the status quo in which the majority gets to draw its members’ districts to ensure safe seats. And they have no desire to give up the ability to hand out judgeships to their buddies and political allies.
Unfortunately, Bolling’s term will end early in the next General Assembly session, so he won’t be around to shepherd his bills through unfriendly committees.
Cynics will say that Bolling found his moral high ground only after losing the GOP gubernatorial nomination to Cuccinelli. While we wish the lieutenant governor had shown more verve in his response to partisan machinations that thrust him aside in favor of his flashier opponent, it would be unfair to suggest Bolling’s motives are so shallow. He has a genuine heart for good government, as demonstrated by his long-time support for bipartisan redistricting reform despite its unpopularity within his own party.
And Bolling keeps churning out still more ideas worth considering. He wants the governor and lieutenant governor to run as a ticket, with the latter elevated to a full-time job to ensure he or she is prepared if thrust into the top post. He wants a performance review commission to assess state agencies and boards for efficiency every eight years. He would revise the state budget cycle to give governors greater input.
It’s true that if Bolling were on the ballot this fall he would be under pressure from fellow partisans to avoid talking about these issues. Whether he would have resisted those pressures only he can say. Regardless, he has done all Virginians a service by injecting meaningful policy proposals into a campaign otherwise mired in slime.
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