GOP delegates object to rule change on debate

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By Megan Poinski

House Minority Leader Tony O'Donnell

House Minority Leader Tony O'Donnell

A change to the House of Delegates to curtail “dilatory or frivolous” conduct was approved Thursday morning, but not without rounds of objections from the chamber’s Republican minority.

The amendment, which gives the speaker of the House the duty of preventing the type of conduct meant to obstruct the business of the House, passed with a vote of 87-46. As defined by Parliamentarian Brian Feldman, D-Montgomery, dilatory conduct is meant to delay the debate, while frivolous conduct has no sound basis and is intended just to disrupt.

Majority Leader Kumar Barve introduced the rule change.

“As we get to the end of session, it is important to us as a chamber to process all of the bills before us so the voters can know how we stand on all the bills,” Barve said. Generally, as the days of the legislative session wind down, or as controversial issues come up, floor debate and amendments can go on for hours.

Minority Leader Anthony O’Donnell, Calvert and St. Mary’s, said there was no need for such a rule. The House of Delegates has gotten through debates without it in the past, and could continue on in the future. Bringing up last year’s lengthy debate on the alcohol tax, O’Donnell said the minority had legitimate issues about the tax increase.

“We are not dilatory. We are not frivolous. We take our responsibility seriously, but we don’t need this rule to make it easy to shut down debate like happened at the end of session last year,” he said.  “And that’s what this is. It’s another affront at transparency, it’s another affront to the rights of the minority.”

Del. Jeannie Haddaway-Riccio, R-Talbot, the minority whip, said that the speaker of the House already has that kind of power, and the House of Delegates has a Democratic majority.

“It’s already in the rules,” she said. “Why would you put it there again? Do you have to be super-sure?”

Feldman said that the purpose of the rule is to take something currently found in the cumbersome Mason’s Manual of Legislative Procedure and put it in the House of Delegates’ rules.

“I’d rather have this in the House rules than have the parliamentarian cite Mason’s,” Feldman said.