Finish the legislature’s job

Published 8:06 pm Saturday, April 6, 2013

We offer our condolences to anyone who thought there was some precedent of bipartisanship set by General Assembly’s complex transportation funding plan — which, judging from a quick scan of news reports on the Internet, journalists must be required by law to describe as either “groundbreaking” or “historic.”

Delegate S. Chris Jones, the Suffolk Republican, is widely credited with cobbling together an unlikely alliance of Republicans and Democrats from the House of Delegates and the Virginia Senate to develop a compromise between the two legislative houses resulting in a transportation revenue plan that would then be acceptable to Gov. Bob McDonnell. Jones said recently that those in Richmond who follow such things and know the players involved gave the General Assembly “a 1-percent chance of success” in getting the job done this year.

Even against such odds, though, legislators were able to meet each other somewhere near the middle to write and approve a plan that will result in billions of dollars in new funds for road construction during the next five years. But beating those long odds doesn’t mean Democrats and Republicans in Virginia’s statehouse have learned to play nice together, as evidenced by the fact that legislators left Richmond on Wednesday without having named judges to the bench in a variety of Hampton Roads courthouses.

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Since the age-related mandatory retirement in January of Judge William R. Savage III, the Fifth Circuit — which includes Suffolk, Franklin, Isle of Wight and Southampton — has been without one of its full-time Circuit Court judges. Savage has been serving as a substitute judge while waiting for the commonwealth to name his replacement.

His replacement should have been named by now. Since the General Assembly could not agree on a replacement, though, Gov. McDonnell can make interim appointments, which the legislature would be called to accept or deny during its next session. With three names on the list for Suffolk — Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Bob Sandwich, Suffolk City Attorney Helivi Holland and former Suffolk City Councilman Robert Barclay — the choice might not even be an easy one for the governor.

Only the continued political logjam that has defined Virginia’s legislature for much of recent memory has kept this seat on the bench of the Fifth Judicial Circuit unfilled. Gov. McDonnell should move quickly to do the work the legislature left undone.