Appropriations Chairman Plans to Appoint Ranking Democrat as Subcommittee Chair

By MICHAEL MARTZ Richmond Times-Dispatch January 11, 2018

The Republican chairman of the House Appropriations Committee will name a ranking Democrat as a subcommittee chairman on the powerful budget panel.

Appropriations Chairman Chris Jones, R-Suffolk, said Wednesday that he plans to make Del. Luke E. Torian, D-Prince William, chairman of the Subcommittee on General Government & Capital Outlay, pending committee appointments by new House Speaker Kirk Cox, R-Colonial Heights.

Jones intends to announce subcommittee assignments Thursday after Cox completes appointments under new rules adopted by the House of Delegates that ensure proportional representation on committees and subcommittees despite the GOP’s 51-49 majority in a chamber radically changed by elections in November.

“This further demonstrates the trust and respect we have for one another on the Appropriations Committee, regardless of whether we’re a Republican or Democrat, when doing the people’s business,” Jones said in an interview. “We focus on policy rather than politics.”

House Minority Leader David J. Toscano, D-Charlottesville, praised Jones’ decision as “a very constructive and significant move.”

“Chris has said since Election Day we’re going to have to start doing some things differently, and he’s living up to his word,” Toscano said.

Torian, a five-term delegate who joined the Appropriations Committee in 2014, has been the sole Democrat serving as a budget conferee in negotiations with the Senate for the past two years. “I’m grateful and appreciative to the chairman for giving me this opportunity,” he said.

Earlier, Torian seconded the nomination of Cox as speaker to succeed Del. William J. Howell, R-Stafford, who retired after 30 years in the House and 15 as speaker.

“I’m grateful that he has that confidence in me,” Torian said of Jones’ decision to make him chairman of the subcommittee, replacing Del. Thomas A. “Tag” Greason, R-Loudoun, who was defeated by David A. Reid, a Loudoun County Democrat who joined the House on Wednesday. “He and I have worked well together in the time I’ve been on the Appropriations Committee.”

The Appropriations Committee will have seven members to replace: Cox, elected as speaker Wednesday; retiring Dels. Jimmie Massie, R-Henrico, and Daun Hester, D-Norfolk; and four Republican members defeated in an election that whittled the GOP majority from 32 votes to two.

Under the proportional representation, the speaker will appoint 12 Republicans and 10 Democrats to the budget panel, which would add four Democrats and three Republicans to the existing members, assuming they are reappointed.

Jones, who became chairman in 2014, also plans a shake-up of subcommittee chairs to provide them seasoning in different areas of the state’s two-year budget, now $107 billion. The biennial budget Gov. Terry McAuliffe has proposed would increase to $115 billion, including all sources of revenue.

“We’re going to do some cross-training,” he said. “My goal is to broaden the members’ knowledge of the budget.”

In addition to Torian, Jones will name as subcommittee chairs:

  • Del. Riley Ingram, R-Hopewell, on Commerce, Agriculture, Natural Resources & Technology, replacing Del. John M. O’Bannon, R-Henrico, who was defeated by Democrat Debra H. Rodman;
  • Del. Chris Peace, R-Hanover, on Elementary & Secondary Education, replacing Massie;
  • Del. Nick Rush, R-Montgomery, on Higher Education, replacing Cox;
  • Del. Scott Garrett, R-Lynchburg, on Health & Human Resources, replacing Ingram;
  • Del. Chris Stolle, R-Virginia Beach, on Transportation, replacing Peace;
  • Del. Barry Knight, R-Virginia Beach, on Public Safety, replacing Del. L. Scott Lingamfelter, R-Prince William, who was defeated by Democrat Elizabeth Guzman; and
  • Del. Charles Poindexter, R-Franklin County, who will remain head of Compensation & Retirement.

Control of the House had been in doubt since election night, when Democrats briefly enjoyed a 50-50 balance of power. However, Del. Tim Hugo, R-Fairfax, retained his seat after a post-election canvass reversed the result in his race with Democrat Donte Tanner.

A recount gave Democrat Shelly Simonds a one-vote advantage over Del. David Yancey, R-Newport News, but a three-judge panel ruled a disputed ballot in the Republican’s favor, forcing a drawing that awarded him the 94th District seat.

Had the races resulted in an evenly divided House, Torian likely would have shared the Appropriations chairmanship with Jones, who expressed confidence in the committee’s highest-ranking Democrat.

“Luke is someone with whom I have a very good working relationship,” Jones said. “He’s done a very good job on the committee. He deserves a subcommittee chairmanship, given his body of work.”

mmartz@timesdispatch.com

(804) 649-6964