Monday, January 31, 2011

What a sweet guy

I got a press release from Del. John O'Bannon (R-Henrico) Friday.

He was pretty proud of himself.

He'd asked for and gotten an opinion from Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli that two of Gov. Bob McDonnell's proposed amendments to the budget were unconstitutional.

That's pretty unusual, because everybody involved -- O'Bannon, Cuccinelli and McDonnell -- are Republicans. Usually that's not the kind of thing a delegate, or an attorney general, would do to a governor of his or her own party.

What was O'Bannon's objection?

Was it money for the Governor's Opportunity Fund, which provides corporate welfare to attract businesses here. These are deals on which the state usually gets the short end, since there is no enforcement if the businesses actually bring the jobs and the economic activity they've promised?


Was it breaking the agreement that the state made years ago with public employees, requiring them to pick up more of their own pension costs in return for a raise that would see them lose "only" 2% from their take-home pay?


Was it issuing between $3 billion and $4 billion in new debt to pay for highway contruction?


What O'Bannon wanted stopped were two amendments, each for $500,000, for Operation Smile and the Federation of Food Banks.

Operation Smile is a worldwide charity that provides medical volunteers to treat facial deformities -- like cleft palates -- in poor children.

The food bank group is pretty self explanatory. The money was to buy food that would be distributed to needy Virginians.

So what Del. O'Bannon found objectionable in the state's $70 billion-plus budget was giving deformed children a better appearance and outlook, and feeding hungry Virginians.

That's certainly the way to win friends and influence people and disabuse anyone of that old notion that the Republican Party doesn't have any compassion.

What a sweet guy, that O'Bannon. And he's a doctor.

I'm sure he has a great bedside manner.

Cuccinelli ruled that the amendments were unconstitutional under Article IV, Section 16 of the Virginia Constitution.

And he's probably right.

The point of that article is clearly to prohibit the use of public funds for charitable purposes.

As Cuccinelli's opinion points out, this isn't the first time the budget has appropriated money to charitable organizations. In the last dozen years, homeless shelters, organizations that provide rural health care, an arts festival and the Special Olympics have benefitted from state appropriations.

Why were those not ruled unconstitutional?

Probably because no one was so tone deaf and so cold-blooded that they felt the need to challenge them.

Unlike Del. O'Bannon, those legislators couldn't be bothered to save the Commonwealth from the dangers of Christian charity.

The General Assembly adopts lots of practices that are likely unconstitutional, but no one challenges them because they serve a good purpose.

For instance for years, to circumvent the restrictive rule that required a super majority to pass laws only affecting one locality, including charter changes, every localitiy in the state could be referred to as a population bracket instead of its name. For instance, the mythical city of Meganovalopolis would be "a city with a  poplution between 1 million and 2 million" or the equally fake town of Rural would be "a town with a population between 650 and 685 persons." Eventually, the General Assembly decided this was ridiculous and stopped it. And people stopped raising silly objections to charter bills.

I suppose the allocation of state funds to making sure that kids don't have to go through life deformed or that needy Virginians don't have to go to bed  hungry posed some grave danger to the state.

So, thanks Del. O'Bannon.

You've likely saved the state from spending a million dollars on two good causes. That would have been terrible.

Maybe we can use that money for tax credits for tobacco companies or building a couple of prison cells or a couple of hundred yards of interstate highway.

I'm sure Gov. McDonnell appreciates you saving him from the "angels of his own better nature."

I know the rest of us do.

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