With a little less than three hours to go in the General Assembly, House Republicans have launched their version of a filibuster against a constitutional amendment imposing what they consider a too-weak lockbox deterring the transfer of money from the Transportation Trust Fund to other purposes.
The Republicans are offering repeated amendments to the bill putting the amendment on the ballot, knowing they will lose on each but chewing up time needed to get the bill over to the Senate. When House Minority Leader Anthony J. O'Donnell's amendment was rejected on an 89-49 vote, he urged all members who voted in the minority to explain their votes. That would have eaten up more than half the remaining time if House Speaker Michael E. Busch had allowed it to drag on, but he didn't. After four Republicans were allowed to explain their votes, he called the vote and moved on.
Del. Susan Krebs, a Carroll County Republican, then tested the limits of Busch's patience with extended questions before offering her amendment, which essentially rewrote the entire bill.
Republicans do not actually have the power to filibuster in the House, but their usually weak power to delay bills is much stronger in the waning hours of the session because many other important bills get backed up behind the bill that is their target.
The proposal under debate, sponsored by Del. Brian Feldman, would require a three-fifths vote of both the Senate and the House to divert money from the transportation fund after a declaration of a fiscal emergency. That's more than the 50 percent plus one vote it takes now, but it doesn't impress Republicans who haven't come close to two-fifths of the membership of either house for many decades.
At about 9:30, after taking almost a half-hour was taken off the board, the bill received preliminary approval -- meaning it still needs to get through final approval in the House clear three hurdle in the Senate.