Senate Dems Praise McAuliffe's Creation of Good Government Commission

Governor’s new commission will review issues Senate Dems have long worked to address

RICHMONDThis afternoon, Senate Democrats praised Gov. McAuliffe’s creation of a new commission to propose ethics, transparency, and various other good government reforms, emphasizing the need to restore Virginians’ trust in state government and reiterating their belief that this year’s ethics omnibus left important work undone.

Said Democratic Leader Sen. Dick Saslaw (D – Fairfax), “In light of recent events, we need to restore Virginians' trust in their elected representatives. Our Commonwealth should have an ethical, transparent government that is fully responsive to citizens' needs. This commission will move Virginia in the right direction, and I commend Gov. McAuliffe for his good work. I look forward to working with the commissioners, and I await their recommendations with interest.”

Said Democratic Caucus Chair Sen. Donald McEachin (D – Henrico), “As a strong proponent of ethics reform and ensuring we have the highest standards, I look forward to working with the governor's commission to create real reform. I am confident the commission will work with the legislature to protect the prerogatives of the people of Virginia. I encourage the commission to do everything they can to find ways to restore Virginians' confidence in the integrity of our government and our elected officials. I thank the governor for this critical step in that process.”

Said Sen. Adam Ebbin (D – Alexandria), “I am a strong supporter of ethics and transparency reforms. When this year’s ethics bill passed, there was still much left to do, and I am glad to see our governor take up that work. I look forward to working with this commission to enact the common-sense standards that Virginians expect and deserve.”

Said Sen. John Miller (D – Newport News), “We must take politics out of redistricting.  For years, I have introduced legislation to create a bipartisan redistricting commission. I am very pleased to see the governor’s new commission will recommend changes to take the redistricting pen out of legislators’ hands and give it to people who do not have a vested interest in the outcome. I look forward to working with the commissioners to ensure that voters choose their elected representatives on the basis of their vision for Virginia — and not on party label.”

BACKGROUND


Senate Democrats have worked hard to address many of the issues the governor’s commission is slated to review, including both ethics laws and redistricting reform.

Ethics Reform


Earlier this year, Democrats criticized SB 649 — the bipartisan ethics omnibus passed in response to the McDonnell gifts scandal — for falling far short of Virginians’ expectations.

When the bill passed the Senate, Sen. Ebbin noted that it “[had] a lot of room for improvement.” Sen. Chap Petersen (D – Fairfax) said it failed “to get basic items correct such as the definition of 'personal friend.' ” And Sen. McEachin expressed his hope “that we can continue to work on ethics reform and not see this as any kind of final project.”

All three senators offered amendments to strengthen the bill. Several were rejected by the Senate; another amendment — banning travel reimbursements for legislators who attend conferences and meetings with secret agendas — was initially accepted, but stripped from the final bill.

Redistricting Reform

Several Democratic senators have carried bills or constitutional amendments to implement non-partisan or bipartisan redistricting. Notably, both Sen. Miller and Sen. Creigh Deeds (D – Bath) have routinely introduced legislation.

Redistricting reform has repeatedly passed the Senate with bipartisan support, only to die in the GOP-dominated House of Delegates. This happened even when Democrats held the majority; Sen. Deeds’ SB 173, for instance, passed the Senate in 2010.

More recently, Sen. Miller introduced SB 158 — a bill to hold a statewide advisory referendum on redistricting reform — earlier this year. Similarly, Sen. Deeds introduced SJ 37, which would have removed the General Assembly from the redistricting process entirely.

Sen. Miller’s bill passed the Senate but was killed by the House. Sen. Deeds’ resolution was continued to 2015.

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