"RICHMOND -- The Virginia House of Delegates passed a bill that would help protect a single Fortune 500 company from asbestos lawsuits -- a proposal that House Speaker William J. Howell has been quietly maneuvering to have his chamber support for weeks.
The powerful Republican leader took the unusual step of pleading his case to his caucus behind closed doors, said several delegates, who spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of repercussions. Howell also personally visited individual delegates, including Democrats, and encouraged them to back the measure as a "personal favor," according to several sources. And he reshuffled the committee that was considering the bill -- which it approved last week after it was unexpectedly killed in committee two years in a row.
As he presided over the debate on the House floor this week, an unusually curt Howell told one Democratic delegate who stood to speak on the bill to sit down, and ignored a question from another."