Author Archives: Dick Hall-Sizemore

Criminal Law and Public Safety Bills of Interest

By Dick Hall-Sizemore

Despite recently having a special session to devote to criminal justice reform, the General Assembly has a healthy docket of criminal law and public safety reform bills to consider this session. I have selected a few to highlight below. Unless otherwise noted, the bills are still in their original committees.

Democratic Priorities

Elimination of the death penaltySB 1165 (Surovell—Fairfax), HB 1779 (Carter—Prince William), and HB 2263 (Mullin—James City). The Senate bill has been reported out the Senate Judiciary Committee (why do they insist on changing longstanding committee names?) and is in Senate Finance (being a creature of habit, I will continue to use the former committee name, rather than Finance and Appropriations). Continue reading

The Cost of Criminal Justice Reform

By Dick Hall-Sizemore

Examining the projected costs of criminal justice reform enacted by the 2020 Special Session may be a bit of old news, but I think it is still useful.

The General Assembly has appropriated $27.2 million for the current biennium to support its criminal justice reform initiatives. If one includes the additional $800,000 included by the Governor in his introduced budget bill, the total is $28 million.

To be fair, $15 million of that total was in the form of one-time appropriations in the first year of the biennium. From the perspective of ongoing costs, the base budget in FY 2022 will have increased by about $10.7 million. However, much of the projected costs for some of these initiatives will not be incurred until subsequent biennia and the total overall cost will be substantially higher. Finally, some of the potential costs cannot be projected now. 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

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.

Legislative Persistence and Character

Del. Frank Hargrove, Sr.

by Dick Hall-Sizemore

Twenty years ago, a senior member of the House of Delegates introduced a bill to abolish the death penalty. The introduction of such legislation was unusual in itself; even more unusual was the patron: Frank Hargrove, a Republican delegate from Hanover County.

Hargrove, who had been in the General Assembly for 18 years by that time, seemed an unlikely candidate to introduce a bill to abolish the death penalty. He was a staunch conservative and had even introduced a bill years earlier to bring back public hangings. However, regarding his prior beliefs about the death penalty, he told a reporter, “My stand was one of significant uncertainty. My own logic told me it wasn’t right, but it seemed to be what the general public wanted in terms of dealing with these criminals. But [my stand] was very shaky.” He explained that his bill on public hangings was motivated by his feeling that the public had become too comfortable with executions.  Continue reading

Virginia Republican Congressmen Support Coup Attempt

Photo credit: The Sun

By Dick Hall-Sizemore

After taking an oath on Sunday to support and defend the Constitution, four Republican members of the House of Representatives from Virginia supported an attempt to disregard the votes of about 5 million citizens in a vain effort to keep Donald Trump in office.

These Congressmen were Morgan Griffith (9th District), Ben Cline (6th District), Robert Good (5th District), and Rob Wittman (1st District).

The supporters of this attempt cited vague claims about election fraud and concerns about the integrity of the electoral system. Trump continued to stoke these baseless claims in the face of statements by his top Homeland Security official on the integrity of the election system and his Attorney General that there is no evidence of widespread fraud that would change the results of the election. He fired them both after they made such statements. He continued to air such claims despite being ruled against by numerous judges, many nominated by him. Continue reading

A Giant Wind Turbine, but Not for Virginia

by Dick Hall-Sizemore

The issue of wind energy is pretty much out of my field of knowledge, much less expertise. I follow the discussion on this blog with a lot of interest.

In this vein, I found a story in today’s New York Times most interesting. It is about a giant turbine that GE is developing that is much bigger and more powerful than what is now available and is apparently shaking up the industry. That is interesting enough, but what really struck me was this passage about the advantages of the new machine:

“These qualities create a powerful incentive for developers to go for the largest machine available to aid their efforts to win the auctions for offshore power supply deals that many countries have adopted. These auctions vary in format, but developers compete to provide power over a number of years for the lowest price.”

That just underscores the point that has been frequently made on this blog: Virginia has made a huge mistake in granting Dominion Energy a monopoly in building offshore wind power.

Another Major Judicial System Reform

by Dick Hall-Sizemore

Perhaps the most surprising item in the Governor’s recently-presented budget bill was the proposal to increase the size of the Virginia Court of Appeals by four judges, from 11 to 15. It is certainly one of the most controversial. The Republicans immediately decried the proposal as “court packing”.

As usual, the issue is more complicated than its opponents would have one to believe. The Governor’s proposal reflects the unanimous recommendation of a two-year study conducted by a working group appointed by the Virginia Chief Justice and the Judicial Council. (The membership of the Council consists of eight judges, two attorneys in private practice, and the chairmen of the House and Senate Courts of Justice Committees.) That recommendation is supported by both the Virginia Chamber of Commerce and the Virginia Manufacturers’ Association. Continue reading

The Use of Racial Prisms

By Dick Hall-Sizemore

The perception that progressives and the “cultural elite” view  “every public policy issue through a racial prism” has become a favorite whipping boy on this blog. Those raising this objection would prefer that race and ethnicity not be used as criteria for shaping or evaluating public policy.

I, too, am sometimes uncomfortable with the insistence that public policy be evaluated in racial terms. What I am also uncomfortable with is what seems a pretension by some that liberals and progressives have been the first to view policy and society through a “racial prism.” Continue reading

Biting the Hand

Princess Blanding
Photo credit: Joe Mahoney, Richmond Times-Dispatch

By Dick Hall-Sizemore

Earlier this week, the governor had a ceremonial signing for the Marcus David Peters bill. This is the legislation that establishes a system to alert authorities of someone in a mental health crisis in order that mental health professionals can respond rather than just police. It is named after a young Richmond man who was experiencing a mental health crisis when he was shot and killed while attacking a policeman.

At the signing ceremony was Princess Blanding, Peters’ sister. She had been the most active and vocal supporter and advocate for such legislation. If you thought she expressed her gratitude to the Governor and the legislature for enacting the far-reaching legislation, you would be wrong.

In her remarks at the ceremony, addressing the Governor and legislators associated with the bill, she said, “Please take a moment to pat yourselves on the back for doing exactly what this racist, corrupt, and broken, I also add, system expected you to do: make the Marcus Alert bill a watered down, ineffective bill that will continue to ensure that having a mental health crisis results in a death sentence.”  (The video of her remarks is here.) Continue reading

A Budget Cut for Higher Ed

By Dick Hall-Sizemore

I am used to tilting at windmills, making proposals that have little chance politically of being adopted. This is another one of those forays.

Here is a proposal for addressing higher education fiscal issues:

  1. Require all state-supported colleges and universities to reduce their tuition and fees, equivalent to a 10 percent reduction in revenue from those sources.
  2. Increase state general fund appropriations to higher education institutions by five percent.

These actions would have three advantages:

  1. Reduction in financial burden on students and parents.
  2. Nudging the level of state support back toward the level in effect before the 2008 recession.
  3. Requiring higher ed institutions to trim their overall expenses.

This proposal would result in a net five-percent reduction in high ed appropriations and they would squawk loudly. However, I have seen how agencies can absorb five percent budget cuts without significantly affecting their overall operations. Continue reading

A New Low for Virginia Republicans

By Dick Hall-Sizemore

Three Virginia Republican members of the House of Representatives joined a brief supporting the request from the state of Texas asking the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn the election in four states. Think about it. The state of Texas was objecting to how four states ran their elections and was asking the Supreme Court to set aside the results of those elections and direct the legislatures of those states to select the electors. Never mind that the Constitution delegates the administration of elections to each state.

What happened to those Representatives’ concerns about activist judges? And federalism? They wanted the federal government to overturn the elections in those states and tell those states how they were to select Presidential electors. And these Representatives call themselves conservatives?

The three Virginians who joined in this farce:

Rob Wittman (1st District)

Morgan Griffith (9th District)

Ben Cline (6th District)

 

 

 

 

 

The Supreme Court summarily dismissed the request by Texas to file the suit, thereby saying that the case was not worthy of even being heard and considered by the Court.

In Memory of Stuart Connock

Stuart Connock (left)
Photo Credit: Joe Mahoney, Richmond Times-Dispatch

by Dick Hall-Sizemore

A legend in Virginia government passed away this past Sunday.  Stuart Connock  dominated state government finance in the 1970s and 1980s.  Before that, he was the one that Governor Mills Godwin tapped to implement the new sales tax. His influence was felt long even long after he retired.

Stuart (everyone who worked with him felt they could call him by his first name) was quiet and self-effacing. He was not well-known to the general public, but he once was viewed as more influential than the governor. He was liked, respected, and trusted by all legislators, whatever the party.

Stuart’s influence and power came about in the old-fashioned way — his knowledge of the budget and state government in general and taxation and revenues in particular. His understanding of the budget was unmatched. This gave him a leg up on those, to use Jeff Shapiro’s phrase, “part-time legislators often incurious about budget arcana.”

Above all, Stuart was a nice person.  He always took time to listen to others and to patiently explain complex budget issues to neophytes, as I can personally attest.

To some on this blog, Stuart may be regarded as part of the “plantation elite.” He was courteous, knowledgeable, nonpartisan, cared about good government, and cared about Virginia. The Commonwealth could do a lot worse if it had more Stuart Connocks around.

Jeff Shapiro’s column on Stuart Connock’s legacy is here.

Vaccine Priorities — A Contrarian View

by Dick Hall-Sizemore

The Commonwealth is going to follow CDC guidelines and make health care workers and residents of long-term care facilities first in line for the COVID-19 vaccines. I have a different proposal.

Health care workers certainly should be first, no argument there. But, I would put teachers next in line. With teachers being vaccinated, schools could open, which would be great news for everyone.

Residents of long-term care facilities are certainly vulnerable. However, with the folks working in those facilities, i.e. health care workers, getting vaccinated, the risks for the residents are decreased significantly. Furthermore, long-term care facilities can protect these folks by continuing to isolate them and not letting anyone into the facilities except their employees who have been vaccinated. Continue reading

Hell Has Frozen Over!

by Dick Hall-Sizemore

I just can’t help myself — the Washington Post editorial page and Bacon’s Rebellion conservative contributors and commenters (that is to say, the bulk of the blog) are in agreement on an issue!

In an editorial in today’s issue, the Post opposes the wholesale forgiveness of student loans. Now the two groups disagree on the reasons for their opposition. Folks on BR fulminate that it would be unfair to those people who have worked and paid off their loans and also that it would send the wrong message about having to be responsible about borrowing. (I happen to agree with both arguments.) The Post’s main objection is that it would be the opposite of progressive policy; it would, in fact, benefit high income folks the most. (To be fair, some BR commenters made this same point, as well.)

The Post’s recommendation:  making sure that everyone who qualifies enrolls in an existing plan that links debt repayment to a borrower’s income.

Gotta love it when two opposites come to the same conclusion, even if by different routes.