Lacey Putney and the two dwarfs

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By John Barnhart

    As I mentioned earlier this month, although the Bedford area’s elections for board of supervisors and school board consist of six races between the incumbent and Mickey Mouse, the races for governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general each feature two candidates. There are three in the 19th District House of Delegates race.

    The incumbent is Delegate Lacey Putney. Putney was first elected to that seat in 1961 and has held it ever since. Seniority, in Virginia’s general assembly, means clout. Along with getting a license plate with just the number 1 on it, Putney’s seniority, plus the fact that he knows how to use it, means that he is chairman of the House Appropriations Committee. This is a very powerful position as this committee plays a major role in shaping the Commonwealth’s budget. He also sits on the committee that reconciles the differences between the Senate and House versions of the budget, determining its final shape. In addition, he sits on the House Privileges and Elections Committee, the body that will oversee redistricting in Virginia after the 2010 census.

    Putney is an independent. Several years ago, after the then speaker of the house was ousted following a sexual harassment scandal, Putney served as interim speaker until House Republicans selected a replacement. If he had chosen to join the Republican Party, rather than just caucusing with them, Putney probably would have become the new speaker. However, he chose to remain an independent.

    The Roanoke Times, in its Oct. 20 editorial endorsing Putney for reelection, called him “an elite power broker capable of forging important and complex financial agreements.”

    It further stated, “His skills will be in demand in the General Assembly as Virginia navigates through the remainder of the recession.”

    One of his challengers is Lew Medlin. Medlin is a Democrat. “Democrats” have made a huge fiscal mess in Washington and Medlin apparently shares his party’s penchant for fiscal irresponsibility. One of his proposals from a platform that he largely recycled from his previous run for the seat, when Putney buried him in a landslide in 2007, is a call to add pre-kindergarten to Virginia’s public schools. How he thinks Virginians can pay for this when we are struggling to maintain existing educational programs is beyond me. He apparently hasn’t put a whole lot of thought into his current run.

    This election is Will Smith’s first try at elected office. Smith is running as the Constitution Party candidate. The Constitution Party has some good ideas, as well as some very bad ones. One of the worst is a call for the repeal of the 17th Amendment to the Constitution which provides for the direct election of senators. They want senators to be chosen by state legislatures. This is anti-democratic.

    Another lousy idea is a call for abolishment of compulsory school attendance laws. Their idea is that parents shouldn’t be forced to send their children to government schools that they don’t approve of. The Commonwealth of Virginia already has a better idea. In addition to the option of sending their children to a private school, Virginians have broad discretion to home-school.

    Smith has adopted his party’s national platform as his own, regardless of whether or not it fits Virginia. One thing he wants is legislation to require amendments to a bill to be germane to the bill’s subject. Apparently he is unaware that Virginia’s constitution has a provision called the “single purpose rule.” This states that a bill must be limited to a single purpose and, in the House of Delegates, the Speaker of the House can eliminate an amendment to a bill that he deems to be not germane to the bill’s purpose. The delegates can override the Speaker, but the House is very strict about germaneness. Lacey Putney told me that he has never seen the Speaker overridden, in his 47 years in the House, on a germaneness ruling.

    Will Smith really needs to do some homework before making another attempt to get elected to the Virginia General Assembly. As a candidate of the Constitution Party, a party that calls for strict adherence to the federal and state constitutions, Smith’s studies should include reading Virginia’s constitution so that he will know what is actually in it.