McMurtrie, Goldman ask court to reconsider

Oct 13, 2001

A former member of the General Assembly and a former state Democratic chairman are trying to jump-start their 3-year-old lawsuit forcing state legislators to disclose how they spend their $18,000-a-year office allowance.

Former Del. Alexander B. McMurtrie Jr., D-Chesterfield, and former state Democratic chairman Paul Goldman of Henrico County yesterday asked the Virginia Supreme Court to reconsider its decision last month blocking the lawsuit.

The high court on Sept. 14 ruled that McMurtrie and Goldman have no basis for initiating the lawsuit because they are not directly affected by how salaries and benefits are distributed to lawmakers.

McMurtrie and Goldman argued that the court's decision was too broad; that it provides no guidance to ordinary Virginians on how, and under what circumstances, they could challenge government spending.

In 1998, McMurtrie and Goldman challenged a provision in the state budget allowing delegates and senators to pocket an extra $1,500 per month - $18,000 a year - for expenses.

The money is supposed to cover postage, telephone and staff, but because it is paid directly to legislators, they can use the funds as they please. The allowance is taxed as income.

- Jeff E. Schapiro