Division of Legislative Services > Legislative Record > 2005

HJR 707: Joint Subcommittee Studying the Balance of Power Between the Legislative and Executive Branches

August 22, 2005

The Joint Subcommittee held its second meeting on August 22, 2005, to discuss the appropriate role of the General Assembly in the appointment process of members who serve on state boards and commissions with contractual or grant authority. The forum was open to representatives of the boards and commissions to comment on the advantages and disadvantages of adding legislative appointees to the membership of these bodies.


William H. Leighty, Chief of Staff to Governor Mark R. Warner, presented an overview of the current gubernatorial appointment process and the number of appointments made by the legislature to state boards and commissions. The appointment process for the Governor begins with an extensive recruitment effort that includes outreach to legislative members for recommendations and to citizens through the Secretary of the Commonwealth's on-line application system. The process includes a series of checks and balances to ensure that appointees have the "wisdom, wealth, and work" experience needed for the position. For example, in looking for wealth of experience, appointees are evaluated for their knowledge and experience in conducting fund-raising activities. The administration continues to oversee the ability of the appointees to perform their duties. To acquaint members with their responsibilities and scope of authority, the administration encourages agencies to provide training for new board members. Because most board members serve under staggered terms, new members also have the benefit of the experience of seasoned members who bring perspective and history to the board meetings. Anita Rimler, Secretary of the Commonwealth, added that the current administration monitors members' attendance at board meetings. Board members who fail to attend three meetings held during the year are removed routinely by the Governor for absenteeism.

Currently, the legislature has appointments on approximately 63 boards and commissions. Of the 1063 members who serve on these bodies, 416 members are appointed by the General Assembly, 462 are appointed by the Governor, and 185 members are designated ex-officio members or are appointed by another appointing authority. Legislative appointing authorities include the Speaker, the Senate Committee on Rules, and the Joint Rules Committee. All legislative members are appointed by legislative appointing authorities to these collegial bodies, except members appointed to the Chippokes Plantation Farm Foundation, the Military Advisory Council, and the Tourist Train Development Authority, who are appointed by the Governor.


The joint subcommittee identified the Commonwealth Transportation Board (CTB) as a board of interest for the possible transfer of some of the appointments to the legislature because of the board's visibility and contractual responsibilities. The CTB was created to establish the administrative policies for Virginia's transportation system. The Board allocates highway funding to specific projects, locates routes and provides funding for airports, seaports and public transportation. The Board is comprised of 17 members: the Secretary of Transportation, the Commonwealth Transportation Commissioner, the Director of the Department of Rail and Public Transportation, and fourteen citizen members appointed by the Governor. Nine of the 14 citizen members must be residents of highway construction districts. The other five citizen members are selected at-large from the Commonwealth, but must represent as a group urban and rural interests.

The joint subcommittee heard from two former members of the CTB who expressed support for the current appointment process that gives the Governor the authority to appoint all of the citizen members. Whitt Clement, former Secretary of Transportation, stated that for policy boards like the CTB the General Assembly's focus should not be on splitting the appointments between the Governor and the legislature, because that would potentially divide the board on setting policy objectives. Instead, the General Assembly should concentrate on developing a vigorous confirmation process to serve as the primary check on the Governor's appointment power. Although due diligence in the confirmation process should be the legislature's first line of defense in the appointment process, the time constraints of a part-time legislature place additional challenges on exercising due diligence. Kenny Kling, a two-term member of the CTB appointed by Governor Gilmore, echoed the comments of Mr. Clement regarding the desirability of a unified Board to implement the policies established by the Governor. However, he conceded that if the Governor was allowed to succeed himself, then the appointment of the members on the CTB should be examined more closely. He also asserted that the General Assembly currently has legislative oversight of policy boards, including the CTB, through control of their budgets in the Appropriation Act. Mr. Kling advised the joint subcommittee to consider examining the highway construction districts that were created in 1932 to determine if they still represented the same communities of interest.


In reviewing the membership information on the boards and commissions with contractual or grant authority, staff pointed to two irregularities with the terms of the members of the Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) Board and the appointment authority of the legislative members on the Chippokes Plantation Farm Foundation. In the enabling legislation of the ABC Board, the terms of the members are specified for five years. However, the enabling legislation is inconsistent with § 2.2-106, which specifies that agency heads serve at the pleasure of the Governor. The Attorney General has opined that § 2.2-106 applied to the ABC Board and concluded that the net effect of § 2.2-106 converted the fixed terms of office into terms serving at the Governor's pleasure.

The irregularity in the enabling statute for the Chippokes Plantation Farm Foundation is that the legislative member is not appointed by a legislative appointing authority.


At the next meeting, scheduled for September 19, 2005, the subcommittee will continue its discussion of the appointment process by examining certain independent boards, authorities, and bodies created by compacts. The subcommittee will also return to its review of the revenue forecasting process.

The Hon. R. Steven Landes

For information, contact:
Ginny Edwards, DLS Staff



Division of Legislative Services > Legislative Record > 2005 

Privacy Statement | Legislative Services | General Assembly