Virginia budget leaders say no public meetings planned as negotiations enter third month
As Democrats and Republicans continue to point fingers over who’s to blame for Virginia’s delayed budget, the two lawmakers leading the negotiations said Monday they have no plans to hold any public meetings that might offer more insight into how those talks are going.
In brief interviews with the Mercury after an unrelated legislative meeting, House Appropriations Chairman Barry Knight, R-Virginia Beach, and Senate Finance Committee Chairwoman Janet Howell, D-Fairfax, both said they’re still making progress.
Knight said he and Howell met a few times last week and are now waiting on budget staffers to finish some assignments to “get us real close.”
“We’re working as hard as we can,” Knight said.
But he said there have been no discussions of calling a full meeting of all 14 lawmakers assigned to work on the budget, a step that would trigger open-meeting requirements and allow reporters and the public to see what each side is offering and what’s causing the holdup.
“That’s what has always worked here at the legislative branch,” Knight said of the backchannel negotiations through which budget deals are usually worked out.
“Traditionally, the budget conferences are kept private,” she said. “Otherwise, it’s almost impossible to make any progress.”
State law says meetings of legislative conference committees, the small panels of lawmakers picked to work out lingering disagreements on bills expected to pass, are subject to open-meeting rules as long as enough members attend to make a quorum.
The Virginia Mercury is a new, nonpartisan, nonprofit news organization covering Virginia government and policy
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