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Bolling files motion to dismiss Senate Democrats' suit on tiebreaker

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Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling on Wednesday filed a motion to dismiss a lawsuit brought by Virginia Senate Democrats seeking to prevent him from casting the tiebreaking vote to organize the 20-20 chamber in favor of the Republican Party.

The motion to dismiss, filed in Richmond Circuit Court on Bolling's behalf by the Virginia Attorney General's Office, argues that claims made by the Senate's Democratic caucus chairman, A. Donald McEachin, about what will happen with votes in the Senate during the upcoming legislative session are "inherently speculative" and not ripe for judicial review.

The motion also says that the court cannot intervene in the matter because of the doctrine of separation of powers.

"In essence, plaintiff asks this court to intervene in the legislative process, become the de facto presiding officer of the Senate, and issue a ruling as the presiding officer of the Senate," the motion states.

In mid-December, Judge Beverly W. Snukals denied Democrats' request for a temporary injunction preventing Bolling from casting a tiebreaking vote when the Senate organizes itself on the first day of the legislative session. The case, however, is pending in Richmond Circuit Court.

On Tuesday, Bolling issued a memorandum acknowledging that he lacks authority to cast votes on the final passage of legislation that the Virginia Constitution says can only be resolved by "elected members" of the Senate, which includes votes on the budget, tax bills, judges and constitutional amendments.

But the lieutenant governor asserted that he has authority in his role as the Senate's presiding officer to cast tiebreaking votes on other legislation and, most importantly, the vote to organize the 40-member chamber — the key to putting Republicans in control of committees that determine the outcome of bills for the next four years.

Democrats have proposed sharing power.

In a meeting Wednesday with the Richmond Times-Dispatch editorial board, Bolling said he is "absolutely confident" that voting power would remain his when the General Assembly convenes Wednesday.

He also disputed Democratic assertions that the move was a Republican "power grab" in a body that was evenly divided.

"My hope is when we get there, the Democrats will look at this objectively … and will come to the conclusion that elections have consequences," Bolling said. "Twenty Republicans, 20 Democrats and a Republican lieutenant governor constitutes a Republican majority."

But Bolling knows Democrats are considering other options to force a compromise that could make the assembly's first day a long one.

"I'm not planning any dinner engagements that night," he said.

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