AP Photo/Steve Helber
Any governor needs to be careful about calling in a special session of the legislature. While you may want the lawmakers to handle one particular issue, there’s rarely anything to stop them from doing other things while they’re there. They don’t answer to the governor, after all. They work for the constituents that elected them.
Yet in Virginia, Governor Ralph Northam’s special session is already heating up. It seems Republicans in the state legislature feel no need to stick to Northam’s agenda exclusively. They want to look into something else, something that needs to be looked into.
Virginia House Republicans are floating the idea of using next month’s special session on guns to hold a hearing on the sexual assault allegations against Democratic Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax.
In a letter sent to Democrats on Monday, Del. Rob Bell, R-Albemarle, said the July 9 session presents a “good opportunity” for a hearing on the Fairfax situation, or at least a conversation about scheduling a proceeding “later in the summer.”
“We respectfully ask the Democratic Caucus to agree to something — anything — that would allow bipartisan public hearings to take place,” Bell, the chairman of the House Courts of Justice Committee, wrote to House Minority Leader Eileen Filler-Corn, D-Fairfax.
Sexual assault allegations are serious. They shouldn’t be taken lightly, and while I tend to prefer the criminal justice system to look into those, with someone like a lieutenant governor, that process can’t always be trusted. Not everyone is willing to tangle with a powerful official who can make their life hell.
But lawmakers can. That’s their job to some degree. The proposed hearings are the ideal opportunity to do just that, to investigate and put the evidence in front of the people.
Only, it doesn’t look like that’s going to happen.
In a statement Tuesday, Fairfax’s office blasted GOP leaders for what he called a “shameful” attempt at “dodging a discussion” on guns.
“A Republican show trial during an election year is not an investigation that will reveal the truth,” said Fairfax spokeswoman Lauren Burke. “Speaker [Kirk] Cox and Del. Rob Bell’s goals are to embarrass the Democratic Party in an election year and avoid talking about reducing gun violence and the NRA’s control over the GOP.”
In a response Tuesday, Filler-Corn said Democrats suggested an “alternative option,” hiring a law firm or other third party to look into the matter. She said the lack of a reply and the absence of “good faith” negotiations show Democrats were right to be concerned about the Republicans’ motives.
“As such, we will not participate in House Republicans’ political games, nor will we turn such serious allegations into a partisan sideshow,” Filler-Corn wrote in her reply to Bell.
Wait, so investigating allegations of sexual assault constitutes “political games” now?
And yet, Democrats are so quick to paint Republicans as anti-woman.
There’s no reason a special session discussing gun control can’t handle other business. It’s unlikely that any proposed legislation will demand all of their time and attention. They can do both.
Virginia Democrats, however, are uninterested in that. While they’re trying to paint the GOP as bought and paid for by the National Rifle Association, they’re completely ignoring the serious allegations against Fairfax. Their ridiculous efforts to offer alternatives being ignored doesn’t show bad faith by the GOP; it shows that Democrats don’t want to touch the allegations with a ten-foot pole.