Critics cry foul over lawmaker's sudden departure

Virginia State Sen. Phillip Puckett, D-Russell

A Democratic state senator in Virginia planned to relinquish his seat on Monday, and at least one Democratic legislator in the state claims the departure is a trade with Republicans for a position on the state's tobacco control board, according to an article in the Washington Post.

Sen. Phillip Puckett's (D- Russell) departure on Monday will leave a temporary Republican majority in the Senate, and could thwart Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe's plan to expand Medicaid in the state, under the Affordable Care Act. Republicans are expected to summon legislators to Richmond, and with key Democrats out of town, the Senate could pass a state budget without the Medicaid expansion Virginia's Democrats have been pushing.

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Three anonymous sources cited in the article said the Virginia State Tobacco Indemnification and Community Revitalization Commission will likely appoint Puckett to the job of deputy director.

Puckett's resignation will also allow the Virginia Senate to approve the appointment of Puckett's daughter to six-year term as a family court judge in the state. She is already serving a temporary appointment on the bench, but the state Senate has a policy against approving family of legislators to full terms in judicial positions.

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Puckett's office apparently did not return the Post's requests for comment. But the chairman of the commission, Del. Terry G. Kilgore (R-Scott), said the group will meet soon to consider appointing Puckett, citing his experience on the commission. Kilgore and other Republicans disputed the claim that the appointment would be a trade-in-favors for Puckett's resignation.

Read the full story in the Washington Post.