Richmond—Virginia Beach’s voice on the Senate Finance Committee was removed Tuesday, when Senate Democrats eliminated a spot once held by Republican Kenneth Stolle.
Reducing the committee from 16 members to 15 gives Democrats a slightly wider margin of 9 to 6 against Republicans, as members prepare to grapple with Virginia’s $4 billion deficit. Senate Republican Floor Leader Thomas K. Norment Jr. told the Richmond Times-Dispatch the change was unfair and a disappointment to his party.
But Senate Majority Leader Richard Saslaw said Democrats are only dishing out what they’ve received in the past.
“We treated them better than they treated us when they had a majority,” Saslaw said. “We have not called as many slots on committees as they did and we didn’t take anyone off…they did.”
Norment did not return calls for comment.
During their respective reigns, both parties have taken opportunities to tweak the finance committee make-up in their favor.
Republicans reduced the size of the committee from 17 to16 when they dominated the Senate in 2001. But they didn’t remove anyone from the seat; rather, they chose not to refill it when Democratic Sen. Richard Holland died, according to Senate Clerk Susan Schaar.
Republicans eliminated another seat in 2003, when two committee members, one Republican and one Democrat, resigned.
Similar modifications have been made by Democrats, who have added members of their own party to the committee two more times in the last 15 years.
The subtle power struggles between the parties seem to reflect the influence that resides in the Senate’s most powerful committee, expected to become a battleground as Democrats and Republican clash over budget cuts and tax increases this session.
But regional concerns also play into many decisions made by the committee. For the first time in at least two decades, Virginia’s largest city will not be represented on the committee.
Bob Matthias, assistant to the city manager of Virginia Beach, doesn’t seem too concerned.
“The good news and bad news is there is not much money for them to divvy up this year, anyway,” Matthias said.
Until retiring last year, former Sen. Ken Stolle represented Virginia Beach since 1992. Although no one will be filling his spot on the committee, Virginia Beach officials can turn to Democrat Yvonne Miller for representation, Matthias said.
“Miller represents some areas of Virginia Beach,” Matthias said. “We have very good relationships with most of the other members. We’re going to have to rely more on Miller and other people.”