There is a lot of talk, amongst politicos and on the blogosphere, about what the new Democrat controlled Senate will be like. I doubt it will be as radically liberal as many suspect. Now don’t get me wrong. Will it be different than the Republican controlled Senate? Absolutely. I chuckle when I hear some in the Republican party dismiss the Senate loss, saying “it won’t be any different”. But the Democrats have a lot to lose--and gain--and I don’t think they are dumb enough to blow it. At least not yet.
The liberal wing of the Democratic party will certainly want to pull the Senate to the left. And in some areas, they may be successful. But today’s Virginia Democratic party is largely ruled from the center and those in power have their sights set on both the House of Delegates and the Governor’s mansion in 2009. A liberal agenda will give Republicans ammunition to use against them next year and could potentially cost the Democrats what could be complete control of Virginia’s political houses. Should they successfully take the House in 2009, then yes, I think the General Assembly would lurch to the left. But for the next two years, the Democrat Senate will tread lightly.
There will be efforts to role back parental notification and weaken our 2nd Amendment protections. I’d be surprised if they make it to the Senate floor. Legislation dealing with discrimination based on sexual orientation in State government probably will make it out. I was the deciding vote in 2007 to keep this type of bill in committee.
But the Democrat leadership will allow a few key issues to slip through. I predict there will be a major effort to bring back parole, but in a new form. They won’t use the old argument of appealing for leniency. The Democrats will pit the social and fiscal wings of the Republican party against one another.
Because of the abolition of parole, Virginia’s inmate population is growing. So much so that we will have to build one prison a year to keep up with the demand for beds. These prisons carry a price tag of $100 million each. With slowing revenue growth, it will be increasingly difficult for the lawmakers to find this kind of money. And there you have it. The Democrats will say it’s fiscally responsible (conservative) to bring back a form of parole and save taxpayer money by not continuing the prison building boom. If they can successfully divide the GOP on this issue, Democrats will undue one of our party’s most proud accomplishments.