Garrett leads fight in ‘consolidation of power’

Published 3:14 pm Thursday, November 19, 2015

State Sen. Thomas A. Garrett Jr. (R-Buckingham) is leading a fight to keep the reigns of power separated between the positions of senate majority leader and chairman of the Senate finance committee.

Republican State Sen. Thomas K. Norment Jr., the present majority leader of the chamber, is in line to become chairman of the Senate finance committee as its two co-chairs are retiring, according to The Washington Post.

Sen. Thomas Garrett

Sen. Thomas Garrett

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Garrett, a Republican, who said he’s not interested in becoming majority leader in the Senate, in which Republicans hold a slim majority with a 21-19 membership over Democrats, said that his efforts to keep the positions in the hands of two people instead of one “has everything to do with what’s proper and best for the Virginia Senate.”

Sen. Thomas Norment

Sen. Thomas Norment

“There’s a reason that there are two different positions — one finance chairman and the other majority leader — and not one,” Garrett said. “And that is that the founders and the people who crafted the Virginia Constitution believed that that power should be dispersed among individuals.”

Garrett, who represents Buckingham, Cumberland and Prince Edward in the Senate, said leading the movement has been uncomfortable. “There’s no doubt that I have been the leader of this movement … And that’s no fun … I got elected to do the right thing.”

Garrett has served in the Senate since 2012, while Norment has served since 1992.

“It has nothing to do with me and I’ll say this from the rooftops,” Garrett said. He said a move to consolidate that power of the two positions was “not unprecedented, but it is not without any good precedent. Every time it’s been done it’s ended badly … It’s about doing what’s right.”

Garrett said that if an agreement was crafted where Norment wouldn’t seek the position of finance committee chairman, “then I could see a circumstance in which I would support that agreement. I will not under any circumstances support the consolidation of power under one set of hands.”

Garrett called the positions the two most powerful in the Senate.

“If he comes to us and says ‘Okay, I give up. I want to be majority leader but I don’t need to be the chairman of finance,’ then I can see a circumstance when I would be supportive.”

Garrett said that Norment has made it clear that he wanted both positions.

“We can all just go home and let him run the Senate at that point,” Garrett said of Norment if he were to serve in both positions.

“It’s absolutely a stand on principle — the principle being that the consolidation of power in one set of hands is bad for business when we have an entire 8.3 million-person commonwealth that needs representation.”

Norment couldn’t be reached for comment.