An exchange among senators on legislation that would change teacher’s contracts became uncivil Thursday, prompting one offended lawmaker to storm out of the Education and Health committee meeting.
Sen. L. Louise Lucas, D-Portsmouth
, took offense to remarks by freshman Sen. Thomas A. Garrett Jr., R-Louisa
. Garrett had somewhat brusquely refuted comments by Sen. Richard L. Saslaw, D-Fairfax, regarding the pay of Virginia teachers.
“I’m a purist,” Garrett said, looking down the panel toward Saslaw and the Democrats, including Lucas, seated on the other end. “If you people understood the constitution
” you wouldn’t have a problem voting for the bill, he continued, according to senators on the panel, going on to explain that teacher pay was actually lower in Maryland.
“I was going to vote against this legislation, but after being lectured by the most junior member of this body, I’m definitely going to vote against it,” Lucas said in response, addressing the committee chairman, Sen. Stephen H. Martin, R-Chesterfield.
Moments later, Martin halted the hearing to admonish the committee, saying any member has the ability to “express their thoughts…no member has any more right to speak than another,” no matter how long they have served. Martin said the Senate also has specific rules “as to calling out a member as another did.”
His remarks prompted Lucas to rise from her seat, walk toward Martin’s seat in the center of the panel and throw a copy of her proxy votes for future bills on the table in front of him. She then stormed out of the meeting
, only to return at the end, by which time Garrett had left.
Afterward, Lucas said she felt insulted by Garrett’s remarks. She said a number of senators approached her afterward to say that that they were inappropriate.