Last week, the Virginia Senate passed a measure asking voters to decide whether Virginia governors should be allowed to serve two consecutive terms.
Unfortunately, their counterparts in the House of Delegates appear to have little interest in allowing governors to succeed themselves.
It’s often argued that Virginia has done things this way since 1851 and, if Virginia’s constitution is amended to allow two successive terms for our governor, several other constitutional reforms would have to be considered at the same time.
That logic doesn’t add up.
Being mindful of tradition is an admirable trait, but not if it puts our state at a competitive disadvantage in a fast-moving world.
It’s worth noting that Virginia is the only state in the U.S. that attaches a “one-and-done” tag to its governor. The constitution allows governors to serve more than one term, but not consecutively.
It’s also worth noting that every Virginia governor in recent memory — Jim Gilmore, Mark Warner, Tim Kaine and Bob McDonnell among them — vigorously supported the two-term concept long after they could benefit from it.
Like others before him, McDonnell has argued that giving a governor two terms is extremely advantageous to the state’s economic development and lends critical continuity to the executive branch. It also gives Virginia voters the right to hire and fire their governor.
Virginia’s state legislature is chock full of grizzled politicians with professional staff and lobbyists who know every back-room coffee shop from Reston to Roanoke. Pitted against that back-drop, a one-term governor and a handful of fresh-faced cabinet members have about as much chance of getting something done as a domesticated cat in the jungles of Kenya.
As things are currently set up, Virginia’s governor only presides over one two-year budget that’s actually crafted by their own administration. The first budget each governor signs essentially represents the work of their predecessor.
It is time for Virginia to allow a two-term governor. Not only is it good business, it’s good government. If things do indeed fall apart this week, the earlier Virginia could see a governor with a second term would be 2021, more likely 2025. That’s kicking the can too far up the road.
With a popular Republican governor pushing for change before a Republican-led House of Delegates, this should have been the year to get something done.
“It is now our generation’s task to carry on what those pioneers began,” President Barack Obama said in his inaugural speech last month. “For our journey is not complete until no citizen is forced to wait for hours to exercise the right to vote,” was among a litany of other chores that need to be addressed.
The journey won’t be completed anytime soon, at least not in Virginia.
On the very same day as the president’s address, a Virginia Senate committee killed a bill that would have helped move the journey forward.
SB1062 would have required the state Board of Elections to find ways to minimize the lines at polling places.
The bill was shelved by the Privileges and Elections Committee along party lines, 8-5.
Oh well, there’s always next year.