Republicans will chair all 11 committees in the Virginia Senate as a result of their vote Wednesday (January 11) - with the tie-breaking assistance of GOP Lieutenant Governor Bill Bolling - to organize the evenly divided chamber in their favor, the Richmond Times-Dispatch reports .
Control of the Senate has been a point of contention in Virginia since November, when Republicans picked up enough seats to force a 20-to-20 tie. Democrats have argued that they deserve a share of the power, but Republicans say they alone should be in control because Bolling, in his dual role as Senate president, can cast tie-breaking votes.
On Wednesday, despite loud Democratic objections, Bolling voted with his party to give the GOP broad control over the Senate's agenda, schedule and power structure
. Besides taking over the chairmanship of all Senate committees, Republicans voted to give Democrats majority representation on just one panel - "
the less-than-sought-after local government committee," as the Times-Dispatch
puts it. Republicans also gave themselves "comfortable majorities in two money committees that are critical to policy and budget decisions," the paper reports.
With control of the state Senate, Virginia Republicans now are in charge of both chambers of the legislature and the governor's mansion.
Tied state legislative chambers are nothing new, and political parties frequently joust for power when there is an even split in representation. But Virginia Republicans have the clear advantage because of Bolling. Other states have had to come up with complicated power-sharing arrangements. Oregon, for example, last year elected two House speakers who alternated the gavel every other day and named Democratic and Republican co-chairs to each House committee.