Assisted Conception Option For The New Realities

Rick Olson, Jay Timmons and children at their McLean home.

A major revision of Virginia’s assisted conception laws has fought its way through to a final vote in the State Senate Monday, pushed by a former Virginia official who has gone public with his unconventional and very 21st century family.

Jay Timmons and his husband Rick Olson faced a major legal battle in Wisconsin a few years back over the surrogacy agreement they had with the mother of their third child.  The child was conceived using a frozen embryo from a couple that had used a similar method to build a family of four, didn’t want to use the remaining embryos themselves, but also didn’t want them destroyed.

The Virginia couple went to Wisconsin to contract with the surrogate mother in part because Virginia law is written to allow surrogacy only for traditional married couples, a man and woman.  Then approval of their arrangement landed in front of a Wisconsin judge who clearly hated the idea and forced an expensive appeal process.  Here is a quote from the judge used in a piece on their case in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: “Can any such arrangement be made without violating human trafficking laws?”

His ruling was reversed.  But similar heated complaints are being raised as Timmons’ advocates for House Bill 1979, which amends Virginia’s surrogacy law to allow for its use by same sex couples and single parents, already recognized as candidates for adoptions.  It also addresses the legal status of the embryo used, and the very word “ownership” has become a source of controversy.  Continue reading

Hat tip: John Butcher

Data Centers Spur Electricity Demand in Virginia, Says Greenpeace

Continued expansion of data centers in Virginia is driving demand for electricity, which gives Dominion Energy the justification for expanding its gas-fired generating fleet and building the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, according to a new report by Greenpeace, “Clicking Clean Virginia: The Dirty Energy Powering Data Center Alley.”

While several major providers of cloud services — Amazon, Facebook, and Microsoft most prominently — have committed to deriving their electricity from renewable energy sources, the boom in data centers has outpaced the ability of the data center industry, Amazon in particular, to line up renewable energy contracts.

“While electricity demand for utilities is flat or declining, electricity demand from data centers in Virginia has grown sharply, between 9 and 11 percent year year, offsetting declines elsewhere, with data center demand regularly touted by Dominion to its investors as a sign of continued growth,” states Greenpeace.

Ironically, although the Greenpeace opposes the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, information in the report undercuts an argument the environmental group’s Virginia allies use against the Atlantic Coast Pipeline: that Dominion forecasts have consistently overstated future electric load. While electricity load has plateaued or even declined in many states, demand from data centers continues to push demand incrementally higher in Virginia. Continue reading

What? You Want Us to Be Consistent?

The rule maker, Senate Majority Leader Tommy Norment, gets to decide the exceptions to the rule.

by Richard Hall-Sizemore

In 2014, Sen. Philip Puckett, a Democrat from far Southwest Virginia, was in a quandary. His daughter was vying for a juvenile and domestic relations court judgeship, to which she had already been appointed as a substitute judge. However, Republicans in the Senate, led by Sen. Tommy Norment, R-James City, were holding up her election, not based on any objection to her qualifications, but because of a tradition of not supporting family members of sitting Senators for judgeships.

Fast forward to 2019. Until yesterday there was a vacancy pending on the Virginia Supreme Court. A Republican senator from far Southwest Virginia is, according to newspaper reports, lobbied his fellow senators to elect his sister, currently a member of the Virginia Court of Appeals, to the higher post.  Norment said that situation was different because the senator’s sister had already been elected to a judgeship before her brother had been elected to the Senate. Continue reading

Virginia Goes Wet With Nary A Whimper

“Dry Messiah: The Life of Bishop James Cannon” by Virginius Dabney

It has only been a century since Prohibition was approved with ratification of the Eighteenth Amendment in 1919.  Is it finally over in Virginia?  For Virginia, a century is but a moment.  Are we rushing this?

A bill is sitting on Governor Ralph Northam’s desk that would not have been successful ten years ago, would have been political suicide fifty years ago and even now deserves attention.  It makes all Virginia localities wet, allowing ABC stories and mixed drinks in restaurants within their boundaries.  The 31 counties that remain dry or partially dry can only maintain their restrictions on demon rum if a local referendum approves continued prohibition.

According to the last Alcohol Beverage Control Authority annual report, nine Virginia counties are totally dry: Bland, Buchanan, Charlotte, Craig, Grayson, Highland, Lee, Patrick and Russell.

To now require a local prohibition vote is a complete one-eighty from what has been the law for decades, requiring a local referendum to allow liquor sales in state ABC stores or in restaurants.  Two versions of the same bill have passed, one sponsored by Republican Senator Bryce Reeves and the other by Democratic Delegate Christ Hurst.   Continue reading

More Ralph-Northam Hypocrisy from the Left

Ibrahim Samirah

Two weeks ago Ibraheem Samirah, a second-generation Palestinian running for an open seat in the 86th district of the House of Delegates, joined other Democrats in calling for the resignation of Governor Ralph Northam for appearing in black face in 1984. Now, it turns out, Samirah has to answer for some intemperate remarks he made five years ago about Jews.

Samirah has kinda-sorta apologized for saying on Facebook that sending money to Israel is “worse” than sending money to the Ku Klux Klan, that Israeli teenagers used Tinder to “cover up the murders in their name,” and that former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon would burn in hell — assuming that calling the charges against him a “slander campaign” constitutes an apology. Continue reading

Race, Hypocrisy and Bare-Knuckle Politics

Wes Bellamy at Richmond rally

A group calling itself Virginia Black Politicos rallied near the Governor’s Mansion yesterday and called for the resignation of Governor Ralph Northam. Prominent among the speakers was Charlottesville City Council member Wes Bellamy, who, according to WVIR TV, said it was time for the governor to step down so that Virginians can heal.

“What will we tell them that we did in regard to stand up for white supremacy?” Bellamy said. “What will we tell them and their colleagues and their pupils in school that we did in the year 2019 when our governor decided to make fun of our people.”

This is the same Wes Bellamy who was called out in 2016 for making racist comments of his own. As the Washington Post summarized the controversy back then, the then-30-year-old stepped down from a position on the Virginia Board of Education when it was revealed that in 2011 he had tweeted gay slurs, made light of sexual assault, and made anti-white comments.   Continue reading

Let a Hundred Food Trucks Blossom, a Hundred Schools of Cuisine Contend

A Bite of Maine, rated a Top 3 food truck of Virginia Beach.

Food trucks are an increasingly vital part of the urban scene across the United States, yet many suffer from excessive local regulation. In Virginia Beach, food trucks are prohibited from operating on public or even private property unless there is a permitted event.

But Virginia Beach City Council is considering an ordinance that would allow food truck operators to set up in certain areas like side streets and corporate business parks, according to WVEC TV. The ordinance still would restrict trucks from operating on Pacific and Atlantic Avenues in the beach-front resort district, but it would represent a significant step forward. Continue reading

Yum, Yum. Loblollies Love More CO2 Plant Food

Projected temperature increases in the range of loblolly pine in 2040-2059 time frame under IPCC worst case scenario

Despite rising temperatures, increasing concentrations of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere will give a 30.4% productivity boost to the growth loblolly pine forests in Virginia and 11 other Southeastern U.S. states by 2060, according to recent research from Virginia Tech.

The research team lead by Harold Burkhart, professor of forestry, modeled the effects of increased ambient CO2 concentrations and the interaction of changing climate and C02 enrichment on loblolly pines, which constitutes more than half of total pine volume.

Change in precipitation in loblolly pine range in 2040-2059 time-frame under worst-case IPCC scenario.

The study, “Regional Simulations of Loblolly Pine Productivity with CO2 Enrichment and Changing Climate Scenarios,” assumed that CO2 levels will continue to increase in line with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s worst-case RCP 8.5 scenario. It modeled the impact on a stand of planted loblolly of about 500 trees per acre growing until harvested after 25 years. Continue reading

GA Bills You For Industrial Electricity Discount

The people who make the real decisions about what we pay for electricity in Virginia, which would be the members of the General Assembly, have just cut electricity costs for large Dominion Energy Virginia customers by up to $10 million and shifted those costs over to other customer classes, including residential.

This is yet another small but significant gift to you from the 2018 Ratepayer Bill Transformation Act, which really had little to do with transforming Virginia’s electricity distribution grid.  Dominion’s plans for the grid remain stalled, but this little add-on provision from the same legislation just got approved by the State Corporation Commission on February 8.

Cost allocation and rate design are major points of contention at the Commission sometimes, involving economists, accountants and reams of data.  Now you can just slip a paragraph into complicated bill and bypass all that.

This was ordered by an enactment clause (number 11 of 24) at the tail end of last year’s bill and may be the first example of the General Assembly dictating the fine points of cost allocation among rate categories.   The Assembly is deciding what plants to build, which transmission lines should be buried and when federal environmental regulations are inadequate.  Why not move into rate design? Continue reading

Dominion Rolls Out Methane-Reduction Plan

Mapping gas pipeline leaks.

Dominion Energy has announced a plan to reduce methane emissions from its natural gas infrastructure by 50% from 2010 levels over the next decade. The voluntary initiative will prevent more than 430,000 metric tons of methane from entering the atmosphere, the equivalent of taking 2.3 million cars off the road or planting nearly 180 million new trees.

“We recognize we need to do more to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to further combat climate change,” said Diane Leopold, President and CEO of Dominion Energy’s Gas Infrastructure Group. “We’ve made significant progress, but we’re determined to go much further..” Continue reading

Northam’s Apology Tour: Reconciling with the Left

I’ve been somewhat sympathetic to Governor Ralph Northam during his blackface ordeal, arguing (a) that we should not reach a judgment until all the facts were in, and (b) that we should not judge a man solely upon the basis of an act committed 35 years ago but upon his lifetime’s work.

Well, all the facts are in (at least a lot more of the facts than we knew when Northam issued his first mea culpa), and we can say with confidence a couple of things we could not when the blackface fracas began: While it may be true that neither the man in blackface nor the KKK hood in the infamous yearbook photo was Northam, the governor has yet to offer a plausible explanation of how he came to submit that particular photo for publication. The protocol was for Eastern Virginia Medical School students to select their own photos, put them in sealed envelopes and submit them to the publication. Unless someone working for the publication surreptitiously inserted the notorious photo — a claim that no one is making — Northam was the one who selected it. Thus, one can legitimately press the point: Why did he choose that photo? Even if he was not wearing the blackface or KKK hood, it appears that he had no problem publicly associating himself with the people who did. His dissimulation on the subject is as almost as troubling as the offense itself.

Now Northam is embarking upon an apology tour, starting with an appearance next week at Virginia Union University in Richmond. Continue reading

Revised Again, Tax Bill Envisions Future Reforms

The possibility of additional future state tax reform or tax cuts improved Monday under a new version of the pending bill that puts Virginia into conformity with the federal Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.  The resulting tax revenue not returned by the modest policy changes in this bill are to be held in reserve for future action.

The language in the bill now better matches the earlier rhetoric about preventing a huge inflow of new income tax revenue.

The legal reality is no General Assembly can bind a future one, so the 2020 session could disband this new fund and just spend the money.  But it is a stronger statement of policy and intent, and perhaps will add focus to the debate over tax policy which is inevitable in the 2019 legislative elections.  Continue reading

Ralph Northam Panders to Save His Own Skin

Mr. Sincerity

by Hans Bader

It’s unsavory for a politician to try to buy forgiveness from those he has offended with taxpayer dollars. But that is what Virginia Governor Ralph Northam is doing. In an interview with the Washington Post, he announced plans to spend more money on government programs like “affordable housing” in the name of racial “equity” and fighting “white privilege.”

How this would actually benefit black people is unclear. Many wasteful and destructive programs exist in the name of “affordable housing.” Cities like Detroit have blighted and decaying public housing projects that consumed taxpayer money only to end up producing concentrated crime and poverty. One national “affordable housing” program produced 50 rapidly decaying slums, according to the Los Angeles Times.

As Jazz Shaw notes, Northam’s aides are also “saying that he will be focused on things like new legislation to enforce diversity and equality along with pushing through new funding for Virginia’s five historically black colleges and universities.”

Continue reading

The Politics of Empty Symbolism


Every day gets crazier here in Virginia. The politics of symbolism have taken over, and real problems requiring careful analysis and sustained attention go neglected.

For an example of a festering problem with real-world consequences for African-Americans, read the previous post by Richard Hall-Sizemore. An electronic health records system would improve the quality of medical care of Virginia’s prison inmate population, which is disproportionately African-American, but the Commonwealth of Virginia has struggled for years to fund one. The obstacle has not been lack of money but the inability to sort out competing bureaucratic agendas. Meanwhile, Virginians are treated to stories like this…

Governor Ralph Northam, we read on the front page of the Richmond Times-Dispatch this morning, committed the cardinal sin of referring to the first Africans setting foot on Virginia soil as “indentured servants.” They were sold by Dutch slavers, but Virginia law had not yet codified slavery, so, technically, slavery did not exist. As PBS summarized the status of these Africans: “With no slave laws in place, they were initially treated as indentured servants, and given the same opportunities for freedom dues as whites.” Continue reading