This Week in Richmond

Posted: March 10, 2004 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

This weekly column, written by Thomas Hennessey, chief of staff to President Alan Merten, is published to keep the university community informed on the legislative situation in Richmond and how those developments directly affect George Mason.

Last night was the deadline for the House and Senate budget conferees to finish work on an accord that can be presented to the full House and Senate for a vote ahead of the General Assembly’s scheduled Saturday adjournment.

After a joint session of all nine negotiators, the nine split into three smaller teams to analyze details of the rival budgets in the areas of higher education, public safety, and natural resources.

Sen. William Wampler huddled with Dels. Johnny Joannou and Phillip Hamilton and urged support for more spending on prisons, particularly for additional beds, more support for local jails holding state inmates, and additional parole officers.

Sen. John Chichester and House Appropriations Chairman Vincent Callahan Jr., Del. Lacey Putney and Sen. Charles Colgan huddled to discuss higher education. Among the topics they pondered was whether the Virginia Women’s Institute for Leadership should receive state support now that women can enroll at once all-male Virginia Military Institute and whether the emphasis on funding should be on the state’s major research universities or on smaller state-supported schools such as Longwood University and Mary Washington College.

Depending upon whom you talk with last, one would be hard-pressed to predict that the conferees will come to agreement before the end of the session on Saturday. Those of us who are eternally optimistic believe they will have a budget for both houses to consider on Saturday. Those who do not believe that is the case also argue that there is considerable incentive for the House and the Senate to come to some agreement before the end of the fiscal year, or the “budgetary train wreck.” No one wants to imagine what would happen, economically or politically, should July 1 be reached without a budget.

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