72 Hour Budget Bill Advances

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A key Senate Rules subcommittee has surprisingly voted 2-1 to advance a transparency bill that would require the budget bill to be posted on the internet for 72 hours before any legislative action could be taken.

The bill’s patron Sen. Ralph Smith (R-Botetourt) introduced similar bills in 2009 and 2010 after being given only 34 minutes to review the final budget during the 2008 session, but this is the first time the proposal has been endorsed by a Senate panel.

“I have continued to fight for this bill because taxpayers have an expectation that their representatives are going to have more than 34 minutes to review a proposal spending their money,” said Smith.

The Virginia Coalition for Open Government, the Virginia Family Foundation, Roanoke Tea Party, and Richmond Tea Party supported the bill at the subcommittee meeting.

The State Senate subcommittee’s endorsement of the transparency reform comes less than a month after the United States House of Representatives adopted a similar rule.

The new congressional rule was adopted after Republican candidates ran on a “A Pledge to America” reform platform that included a promise to “read the bill” and require legislation be publicly available at least 3 days before voting on it.

“Transparency was a major part of the message that elected 65 new faces to the House of Representatives.  Voters want this and Virginia needs it.  There is no way to study over 500 pages of a bill spending tens of billions of taxpayer dollars in 34 minutes,” said Smith.

Smith’s proposal, SB 867, received the bipartisan support of Senators Fred Quayle (R-Suffolk) and Phil Puckett (D-Russell).  The bill will now head to the full Senate Rules Committee where Democrats enjoy a 13-4 majority.

“I am thrilled we have a bipartisan endorsement for transparency.  The road ahead is still a tough one, but this is clearly something that should not be a partisan issue,” said Smith.