Before we knew Senate Republicans would attempt to seize a ten year super-majority via legislative coup, the story of this session was going to be Uranium Mining and whether advocates would be successful in legalizing it here in Virginia.
Many reporters have reported on this story, and brought us some interesting positions against the standard party vote on this- Democratic Leader Dick Saslaw for uranium mining, while Republican leaders in southside are opposing it in both the House and Senate.
But Julian Walker is apparently the only reporter in the capital who knew that the committee assignment for this bill would determine its fate and waited for that information to come out.
It's a doozy- devastating news to those advocating uranium mining.
In the Senate, uranium advocates wanted the bill in Commerce and Labor- where the bill sponsor John Watkins is committee Chairman, committee membership is 10 Republicans and 5 Democrats and Dick Saslaw (D-Uranium) is one of the five Dems. The bill would have sailed out of this committee.
Instead they got the bill sent to the Senate Agriculture and Conservation Committee. That committee has 8 Republicans and 7 Democrats with two of the Republicans- Bill Stanley and Frank Ruff already having come out opposed to lifting the uranium mining ban. This means that uranium supporters would need the other 6 Republicans and at least 2 Democrats to advance this out of committee. But Dick Saslaw is not on this committee- look who is:
Northern Virginia Senators Adam Ebbin, Chap Petersen and Dave Marsden
Hampton Roads Senators Ralph Northam and John Miller
Richmond area Senator Donald McEachin
Southwest Senator Phil Puckett
Ebbin and Petersen both have strong environmental ties so rule them out. Northam has come out against uranium mining. Marsden got $50,000 from the LCV last year- a clear indication of where he is headed on this issue.
That leaves John Miller, Donald McEachin and Phil Puckett, with uranium supporters needing two of the three to win passage to the full Senate.
It's possible to pass this committee, but extremely uphill. If opponents to uranium mining can get McEachin and either Miller or Puckett then uranium mining is officially "radioactive" and dead in 2013.
To the other reporters covering the statehouse- pay attention to the process and you can start being a real reporter like Julian and breaking some important news.
UPDATE: Donald McEachin just posted this on Facebook and declares uranium mining dead in the Senate:
"To my good friend Ben Tribbett a/k/a Not Larry Sabato:
Excellent analysis on the uranium issue. However, no one has to get me on this issue. As a progressive and a LCV legislative hero, my vote against lifting the ban should be considered a foregone conclusion. I have been working since with LCV and the business coalition that has formed to oppose lifting the ban. Since my Caucus has honored me by electing me to be their chair, I have had to become proficient at counting to 21 (I have also become fairly good at figuring out when I am going to fall short). I can state with a great deal of confidence that there are less than 5 votes on the committee for lifting the ban. I can also tell you that there are not 21 votes in the Senate to lift the ban.