Update: Herring Hands Stoney Contract Investigation to State Police

by James A. Bacon

Attorney General Mark Herring has authorized the Virginia State Police to investigate Mayor Levar Stoney’s circumvention of procurement protocols to award a $1.8 million Confederate statue-removal contract to a campaign contributor, reports Virginia Public Media.

The investigation, requested by Richmond City Councilwoman Kim Gray and rival candidate for Richmond mayor, had been handed to Timothy Martin, commonwealth’s attorney for August County, as special prosecutor. He kicked it over to Herring, and Herring has given it to the state police. I was concerned that Herring might simply bury the case, but I am pleased to see that he did not.
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Facebook, MailChimp Suspend Virginia Gun Rights Group’s Access

Philip Van Cleave. Credit: Rappahannock News

by James A. Bacon

Are the social media giants moving beyond de-platforming groups and individuals who participated in the mob assault on the U.S. Capitol building to de-platforming conservative groups indiscriminately?

Philip Van Cleave, president of the Virginia Citizens Defense League (VCDL), says his personal Facebook account was suspended last week. That action followed Mailchip’s suspension of its email service to VCDL. Continue reading

Combating Past Racism with Reverse Racism

Del. David Reid, D-Loudoun

by James A. Bacon

Del. David Reid, D-Loudoun, has introduced HB 1980, a bill that would establish the Enslaved Ancestors College Access Scholarship Program. Beginning in the 2022-2023 academic year, five public Virginia universities each would provide scholarships to at least one African-American Virginian student born in the Commonwealth sufficient to cover tuition, fees, room, board, books, other educational supplies, and even tutoring — a full ride.

To qualify, the student could come from a household earning up to four times the federal poverty guidelines (roughly $70,400 in 2020 for a family with a single parent and single child). The State Council of Higher Education (SCHEV) for Virginia would implement the program in collaboration with the institutions and report periodically to the General Assembly. Continue reading

Northam Again Targets Virginia Business Taxpayers

Finance Secretary Aubrey Layne. Photo credit: Daily News.

By Steve Haner

Washington giveth and Richmond taketh away. Once again, the Northam Administration wants Virginia to ignore business income tax changes made at the federal level because they would lower state revenue.

Governor Ralph Northam’s finance secretary was in front of the House Appropriations Committee Friday explaining the reasoning and complaining that new federal rules represent a double tax benefit for the affected businesses. “Not only is it expensive, it’s bad tax policy and it’s bad public policy,” Aubrey Layne, a certified public accountant, said at one point in the meeting.

Expensive is one of those “point of view” words. Expensive to whom? In this case, expensive to the public treasury. Should Virginia fully conform with all the changes in the CARES Act from early in 2020 and from the Comprehensive Appropriations Act (CAA) in late December, projected revenue would decline an estimated $190 million in the current fiscal year and almost $1 billion in Fiscal Year 2022.

For tax wonks and accountants, here is a letter Layne provided legislators with plenty of details.  Continue reading

Democrats Propose Expanded Virginia Government Personal Information Collection, Integration and Dissemination

George Orwell

by James C. Sherlock

There are few things the Left desires more than government access to personal data on every citizen and everything he or she does. Virginia continues down that path.

Government Data Collection & Dissemination Practices Act Chapter 38 of Title 2.2 of the Code of Virginia (§ 2.2-3800 et seq.) reads in part:

B. The General Assembly finds that:

1. An individual’s privacy is directly affected by the extensive collection, maintenance, use and dissemination of personal information;

2. The increasing use of computers and sophisticated information technology has greatly magnified the harm that can occur from these practices;

3. An individual’s opportunities to secure employment, insurance, credit, and his right to due process, and other legal protections are endangered by the misuse of certain of these personal information systems; and

4. In order to preserve the rights guaranteed a citizen in a free society, legislation is necessary to establish procedures to govern information systems containing records on individuals.

Democrats in the General Assembly consider those principles trumped by their desires for control of every aspect of citizens lives from birth until death. Thus they are leading an effort to expand government collection, dissemination and integration of citizens’ personal information.  Continue reading

What Is a “Low Dead Space” Syringe and Why Is It So Important?

by Verhaal Kenner

Governor Ralph Northam has shifted Virginia into phase “1B,” meaning that a “front line” worker, or anyone over 65 or with a chronic health condition, is eligible for COVID-19 vaccination. That’s clearly a population several times the estimated 440,500 that are in the state’s  “1A” group  – only about half of whom have gotten a first dose. Expanding eligibility was needed because bureaucratic and resource constraints were clearly delaying getting shots out of the freezers and into people’s arms.

The next issue will quickly become managing events and appointments to avoid the type of long-line chaos in Florida. We also need to make sure we don’t waste the doses we have.

A surprising discovery that physicians made when they received the distribution of Pfizer vaccine is that the 5-dose vials actually contain enough for six doses, or in some cases enough for seven.* The key to getting this extra dose or two is to use syringes that don’t waste any of the vaccine. Waste normally occurs in a small dead space in the top of the syringe just below the needle. The low dead-space design often has the needle manufactured as an integral part of the syringe or with a greatly reduced cavity under the snap-on needle assembly. Even within low dead space versions, there are specific products that waste less and, thus more reliably offer the extra dose. Continue reading

Northam Proposes Legal Marijuana in Va Within Two Years

by DJ Rippert

Ralph Reefer. On Wednesday the Northam Administration unveiled legislation to legalize recreational use of marijuana in Virginia. The legislation will be introduced by House Majority Leader Charniele Herring, D-Alexandria, and Senate President Pro Tempore Louise Lucas, D-Portsmouth. Sen. Adam Ebbin, D-Alexandria, and Del. Don Scott Jr., D-Portsmouth. Northam took up the cause of legalizing marijuana last November citing both racial equity and financial issues. Sale of legal marijuana would start by Jan 1, 2023, under the Northam plan. Continue reading

General Assembly Education Bills – What is Missing?

Speaker Eileen Filer-Corn

by James C. Sherlock

This is one of a series of regular a weekly updates on bills in the 2021 General Assembly that will affect education. I will discuss some the newly filed education bills tomorrow. After that, health care and health insurance.

What is missing so far in educational legislation is more important than what has been introduced.  Some examples follow.

Colleges and Universities

  1. No bill addresses the devastating results of the college free speech survey reported in this space and requires adoption of University of Chicago principles for free speech by state supported colleges and universities.
  2. No bill restricts state-supported colleges and universities from educating students from China and Iran in science and technology. What could go wrong?
  3. No bill stops the headlong expansion and reduces the current size of administrative bureaucracies in Virginia’s state-supported colleges and universities to reduce overhead costs and improve general efficiency. The first step would be to get a handle on the size of the problem with a JLARC report. Administrator per student, administrator per teaching position in each school and administration costs would be good measurements to have when considering legislation. Find out what those numbers are and direct the state-appointed Boards of Visitors to cut those costs by ten percent a year for three years. Then have JLARC report if they are even missed. Continue reading

Is Abolition of Life Without Parole Next?

by Hans Bader

Governor Ralph Northam and other Democratic Party leaders are backing legislation to abolish the death penalty. But that’s not all. A newly submitted bill would abolish life sentences without parole, even for serial killers and those who once would have been sentenced to death.

The powerful head of the state senate’s Courts of Justice Committee, Sen. John Edwards, D-Roanoke, has just introduced a bill, SB 1370, to bring back parole and retroactively make people eligible for parole even if they were sentenced at a time at which there was no parole. Parole will be made available even to people who commit “a Class 1 felony,” which includes the worst murders, such as serial killers who commit the “willful, deliberate, and premeditated killing of more than one person” in a single crime spree. If the death penalty is abolished, this legislation would mean that even the worst murderers could be paroled. Continue reading

Breath-Taking Hypocrisy

Northam’s opening words in his state-of-the-commonwealth address: “The chamber looks pretty good from up here, doesn’t it? You know, it’s a proud moment to look out and see a General Assembly that reflects more than ever the Virginia that we see every day.” The 200,000 citizens of Southwest Virginia’s 38th senatorial district whom Northam deprived of representation might beg to differ.

by James A. Bacon

When Governor Ralph Northam delivered his state-of-the-commonwealth speech two days ago, he gave a special nod to Sen. Ben Chafin, R-Russell County, who had died several days previously from complications relating to COVID-19. “He was my friend, and I miss him,” Northam said. “Whether on the Senate floor or in my office, his presence always brightened my day.”

“I hope that fond memories of Ben will help his family through these difficult times,” he added. “I ask you to join me in a moment of silence to honor Ben, and everyone who has lost their lives to COVID-19.” Then he briefly waxed philosophical. The epidemic, he said, has made everyone stop and ask some basic questions. “What’s really important? What do I believe in? Am I taking actions that reflect my values?”

One of the actions the Governor should be questioning is whether he honored Chafin’s memory by delaying the election of his successor until March 23 — after the General Assembly, effectively depriving the residents of Chafin’s district of representation during the 2021 session.

Equity was a big theme of Northam’s speech. Virginia needs to take steps to ensure more equity in public health, in education, in criminal justice, and in voting rights, he said. Indeed, one of his signature initiatives this session is changing the state constitution to provide automatic restoration of voting rights to felons. The concern for equity apparently does not extend, however, to the members of Chafin’s Republican-leaning district in impoverished Appalachia. Continue reading

The Speaker Rules

Speaker Eileen Filler-Corn

By Dick Hall-Sizemore

The Speaker of the House of Delegates is the most powerful position in the legislature. One of her most potent tools is the power to assign members to committees. Eileen Filler-Corn has again wielded that power.

Members usually retain their committee assignments during the two years of their terms. However, circumstances leading up to this session led to an unusual mid-term shuffling of committee assignments.

The first circumstance was the election of three new Delegates to fill the seats vacated by Joseph Lindsey, D-Norfolk, Jennifer Carrol Foy, D-Prince William, and Chris Collins, R-Frederick. Newly-elected members do not automatically inherit the committee assignments of their predecessors.

The second circumstance was Filler-Corn’s stripping Republican delegates Mark Cole (Spotsylvania), Ronnie Campbell (Rockbridge), and Dave LaRock (Loudoun) of one of their committee assignments in response to their urging Vice President Mike Pence to nullify Virginia’s electoral votes. Continue reading

Hark! A COVID Miracle!

by Kerry Dougherty

I tend to be cynical, but still I dismissed the folks who predicted that once Joe Biden was elected, the lockdowns and shutdowns that had crushed the American economy would start to fall away.

“Just wait till after the election,” they warned.

You’re insane, I thought. I believed — still do — that the Biden administration would pressure governors to close it all down, then, as the vaccine was widely distributed and warmer weather arrived, the new president could claim victory over the pandemic.

Maybe I was wrong. Look at what’s happened in just the past week even as COVID infections grow in many places, including Virginia.

Gov. Ralph Northam, the man who once outlawed sitting on the beach or playing loud music in the sand as bizarre COVID-curbing measures, and the first governor in the country to shutter schools for the entire 2020 school year, now says it’s imperative schools reopen because our kids are turning into dunces. Continue reading

More Loss of Press Coverage

by Dick Hall-Sizemore

In the past two years that I have been posting on BR, I have relied heavily on the coverage of the General Assembly by the Daily Press of Newport News, particularly the reporting by David Ress. It seems that he is now off the Virginia state government beat and now mostly covers news related to the military. That is a shame. For the top story from yesterday related to the legislature, Sen. Amanda Chase’s reaction to the effort to censure her, the Daily Press reprinted a story from the Petersburg Progress Index. With the further decline in coverage by the Daily Press and the Virginian Pilot, the residents of the second most populous section of the state will learn less and less about what their state government is doing.

Employer COVID Mandates Might Outlive Pandemic

by Steve Haner

Virginia’s emergency temporary workplace standards on COVID-19 are one step closer to becoming permanent, over the continuing loud objections from employers that they are duplicative, expensive, and not making anybody any safer than existing health and safety protections already do.

The 9-4 vote by state’s Safety and Health Codes Board Wednesday followed a longer and more open process than used for the adoption of the temporary standard about six months ago. This time around extensive public comments, spoken and written, were accepted and drafts were circulated with reasonable time for study. Written public comments pro and con and other key documents are on a Department of Labor and Industry website.

The supportive comments most often come from organized labor, strongly in favor of a permanent standard and with various recommendations to strengthen it. Few employers, public, private or non-profit, are exempt from this standard and its potential penalties.

UPDATE:  The text of the final permanent standard approved Wednesday was finally posted publicly Jan. 15. 

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Open Letter to the W&L Board and Community

The Generals Redoubt, a group of Washington and Lee University alumni, have published this open letter. The document explores major themes of interest to Bacon’s Rebellion readers, and we reproduce an abridged version here. — JAB

Introduction

As the Washington and Lee Board of Trustees considers changing the name of the university, The Generals Redoubt (TGR) wishes to share statistical information and other research findings to aid them in their decision-making. …

Findings Supporting the Retention of the Name Washington and Lee University – It Conveys a High Quality Educational Experience

Washington and Lee consistently ranks in the top ten of liberal arts colleges and universities overall. U.S. News and World Report ranked W&L 9th among private colleges and universities in 2020. In that same year, College Factual ranked W&L as the #1 college or university in Virginia and #3 in the Southeast. Kiplinger notes that Washington and Lee is highly selective and accepted 21% of its applicants in 2019. In 2020, Niche listed W&L at 16th among national liberal arts college and universities for its low acceptance rate. …

Over the last several years, Washington and Lee has continued to attract an ever larger and diverse number of qualified applicants and enrollees. Applications to the undergraduate school have increased each of the last three years. And it has been reported that current applications to the law school are up about 40% over the same time last year. Continue reading