Author Archives: Dick Hall-Sizemore

Correction on Departure of Balow

Jillian Balow, ex-Superintendent of Public Instruction

by Dick Hall-Sizemore

In comments to the post about the resignation of Jillian Balow as Superintendent of Public Instruction and her severance pay, I asserted that her appointment was subject to the pleasure of the Governor.  I was wrong.

The heads of almost all agencies, by law, serve at the pleasure of the Governor.  (There is one exception, but more on that later.) However, the position of Superintendent of Public Instruction is established in the Virginia Constitution, which provides that the appointment shall be “for a term coincident with that of the Governor making the appointment.”  The constitution does authorize the General Assembly to modify the term of office.  However, the Virginia Code section mirrors the language in the constitution.  Accordingly, as The Washington Post noted, Balow may have had grounds to sue if she had been fired.

The agency head who is not appointed by the Governor and does not serve at his pleasure is the Director of the Department of Wildlife Resources (formerly Game and Inland Fisheries).  That person is appointed by the Board of Wildlife Resources.  The story on that goes back into the mists of time (early 1970s).  Suffice it to say that hunters and fishermen in Virginia were a strong lobby.

You’re Fired!

Jillian Balow, ex-Superintendent of Public Instruction

by Dick Hall-Sizemore

So, what almost everyone suspected is now confirmed: Governor Youngkin fired his Superintendent of Public Instruction, Jillian Balow.

However, to avoid embarrassment over having to fire his own hand-picked state leader of public education, the governor asked her to resign, instead. She agreed to do so in exchange for a payout of almost $300,000, as reported by the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

So, state government is acting more and more like a business, as many conservatives say it should. Top executives screw up and, instead of being sacked, they are given a golden parachute.

Another Virginia National Champion

Because I have been highlighting Virginia collegiate teams that have been in the national spotlight lately, here is another one to add to the list:

The UVa women’s swimming and diving team won its third consecutive national Division I championship over the weekend.

Senior Kate Douglass won three individual events in NCAA, American, and U.S. Open record times.  She can add those medals to the bronze she won at the Tokyo Summer Olympics.

I am aware of how much time in practice and daily workouts college swimmers have to put in, which is true for all sports.  Anyone who has the discipline and perseverance to do that, while carrying a full class load, and graduate from a college or university, has a lot going for her.

CNU Wins National Championship!

The Christopher Newport University basketball team is the national Division III champion!

It was an exciting finish.  With the game tied and 4.3 seconds left, Trey Barber of CNU drove about 60 feet into the lane and put up a shot.  The game-ending buzzer sounded just after the ball left his hand on its way to banking into the net.  The winning shot can be seen here.

Not to be outdone, the CNU women’s basketball team won its semi-final game and will be in the championship game to be held April 1.

A Virginia Team in the Championship Game

CNU guard Jahn Hines.  Photo credit: CNU Athletics

by  Dick Hall-Sizemore

During this time of year, the sports world is fixated on the NCAA Division I basketball tournament. Richmond fans give the VCU Rams a big sendoff.  Hokie fans cheer their top-seeded women’s team. UVa. alumni die a little bit inside when the Cavaliers lose to Furman in the last seconds. Despite being assured in 2019 by the administration that, upon the firing of long-time basketball coach Tony Shaver, it was time for a “new chapter” in  Tribe basketball to include participation in the NCAA tournament; William and Mary alumni and fans are still waiting.

However, there is another basketball venue in which two Virginia schools are powerhouses: Division III. Last year, Randolph-Macon College in Ashland won the national championship. Before its defeat in the Sweet Sixteen earlier this month, it had compiled a record 64-home-game winning streak. Talk about giving the fan base some excitement!

The other Virginia college in top of the Division III tournament is Christopher Newport University in Newport News. Both the men’s and women’s basketball teams made the Final Four. This was the fourth time in the programs’ history that the men’s and women’s team have made the Final Four (although not in the same year until now). The men’s team made it to the Elite Eight last year. The women’s team was undefeated this year. Yesterday, the men’s team won its semi-final game to make it to the championship game for the first time. Continue reading

On to Richmond!

by Dick Hall-Sizemore

For all those Northern Virginia critics of Richmond on this blog, e.g. Don Rippert, the Richmond Times-Dispatch reported yesterday that the Richmond metro area has grown faster than Northern Virginia for two years in a row.  In fact, the growth rate of the Richmond metropolitan area is at least triple that of each of the rest of Virginia’s five largest metro areas.

Furthermore, a lot of that growth is coming from Northern Virginians moving to Richmond, drawn by the lower cost of living and aided by the growth of remote working.

Personally, I would not mind the area not growing so much, but it is nice to know that not all Virginians view the Richmond area as a provincial outpost.

Election Musical Chairs

Del. Lamont Bagby (D-Henrico)

by Dick Hall-Sizemore

Redistricting and the death of U.S. Representative Donald McEachin have voters in the Richmond area feeling as if they are in a combination of musical chairs and “Who’s on first?” We need a program to keep track of who is running for what.

For those readers of Bacon’s Rebellion who don’t read the Richmond Times-Dispatch regularly or who have not bothered to keep up, but who enjoy political shenanigans and maneuvering, what follows is a summary of the events so far.

There is one factor that simplifies this narrative somewhat. The election districts involved are heavily Democratic; therefore, whatever the Republicans do does not matter much. Consequently, I will restrict the narration to the Democrats.

McEachin’s unexpected death a few weeks after the November general election in which he had been elected to his fourth term in Congress led to a cascade of special elections. Quickly declaring themselves candidates for the Democratic nomination for the Congressional seat were Sen. Jennifer McClellan (Richmond) and Del. Lamont Bagby (Henrico). Both were strong candidates. McClellan had represented the area, first in the House and then in the Senate, for many years, had been a candidate for the Democratic nomination for governor, and was well respected. Bagby had been in the General Assembly for several terms and had a large public profile as chairman of the Legislative Black Caucus. Continue reading

A New 800-Pound Gorilla in Virginia Politics

by Dick Hall-Sizemore

Ivy Main, in a recent commentary in the Virginia Mercury, identified a change in the power dynamic of Virginia politics that is taking place: “Amazon is the new Dominion.”

Amazon’s presence in the Commonwealth has grown significantly over the past decade. It has taken place in three areas— distribution facilities, the second headquarters, and data centers.

When most Virginians think of Amazon, they think of the boxes or white plastic bags with the swoosh that get left on their front porch. Many, however, also think of Amazon as the source of their pay check. Surprisingly, there does not seem to be a definitive list of Amazon facilities in the state. From press releases and other material, I have pieced together the following list of localities in which Amazon has built a facility. The list includes sortation centers, distribution centers, delivery stations, and fulfillment centers. They serve different purposes, but it is not necessary to go into more detail here. Continue reading

School Discipline: Inflexible Rule or Common Sense?

by Dick Hall-Sizemore

During the height of the war on drugs, schools adopted “zero-tolerance” policies. No student was allowed to possess any drug of any kind, even an aspirin or a prescription medication for which he had a prescription. Any such products had to be deposited with the school nurse and taken in the presence of the school nurse. This meant that a female student could not keep aspirin or Advil, for example, in her backpack to use to ease the pain of menstrual cramps.  When the cramps became particularly bad, she had to go to the infirmary and retrieve her over-the-counter medications that she had left with the nurse.

Presumably, these policies were meant to show that the schools meant business when it came to drugs. I always thought it was a sign of cowardice. Schools and principals were not willing to use a little common sense and discretion. Rather than having to exercise some thought and judgment, they took the easy way—ban everything.

This still might the approach used. I don’t know. Continue reading

General Assembly: Status of Selected Issues

by Dick Hall-Sizemore

The General Assembly is scheduled to adjourn on Saturday, February 25.  Time to check on the status of some issues that have been discussed on this blog.

Budget bill. The budget bill contains not only the usual appropriations, but also all those tax cuts proposed by the Governor. There is activity behind the scenes, but, so far, no public hint that any sort of compromise is near.

Utility bills. One major utility regulation bill has been passed, but the others are in conference. I will defer to Steve Haner to comment on these as he deems fit.

SCC judgeships. Last year, the General Assembly could not agree on a person to fill a vacant SCC judgeship. The House supported one person; the Senate favored another. In late 2020, one of the two sitting judges, Judith Jagdmann, announced her retirement with a year left on her appointment. That left two vacancies, seeming to solve the problem: Each legislative house could have its own favorite. But, there was a fly in the ointment.  ne vacancy, Jagdmann’s, was only for the year left on her term. The other vacancy was for a full six years. Who was going to get the short straw? Another impasse. Continue reading

The Future Is Here

EV charging station, Henrico WalMart

February: A Month of Celebrations, Awareness, and Daffodils

Daffodils, v. “February Gold”. Plant source: Brent and Becky’s Bulbs, Gloucester Va.

by Dick Hall-Sizemore

February is known for many things. Although it is the shortest month, some have claimed that, with its usually dreary weather (this year being an exception), it actually feels like the longest. To divert us from its normal dark days, in addition to cheerful early daffodils, February offers us Groundhog Day, Valentine’s Day, Presidents Day (Washington and Lincoln) and Black History Month.

All of those are worthy subjects for celebration, but only one, Presidents Day, is officially recognized. However, in its infinite wisdom, the Virginia General Assembly has chosen to officially declare February to be:

  • Financial Aid Awareness Month
  • Winter Honey Month
  • Home Education Month
  • American Heart Month
  • Children’s Dental Health Month
  • Love the Bus Month
  • Self-Care Month
  • Gum Disease Awareness Month

Continue reading

Want Info? Check Only, Please.

Del. Danica Roem (D-Prince William) Photo credit: Virginian Pilot

by Dick Hall-Sizemore

A recent article in the Richmond Times-Dispatch illustrates how governments will fight any attempt to amend the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) in a way that would make it easier for citizens to obtain information.

Del. Danica Roem (D-Prince William) has been one of the more persistent legislators seeking to amend the FOIA to make information on government activities more accessible to citizens.  With her background as a journalist, she knows more about how the FOIA functions than most legislators.

One of the chief frustrations of citizens seeking information on their governments’ activities are the fees government agencies are authorized to charge as a condition of providing requested documents. Roem has introduced legislation in the past that would have capped the fees a government agency could charge. These bills went nowhere, and it did not matter if the Democrats were in the majority (HB 2000, 2021 Session) or the Republicans (HB 599, 2022 Session). This year, she took a more modest approach. Continue reading

Unlikely Partners On Prison Reform Legislation

Del. Don Scott, D-Portsmouth   Photo credit: AP

by Dick Hall-Sizemore

The Washington Post recently ran an article that demonstrates that there is still hope for bipartisan cooperation in a hyper-partisan environment on an important issue.

Del. Glenn Davis, R-Virginia Beach Photo credit: Newsbreak

The legislators involved were Del. Glenn Davis (R-Virginia Beach), former candidate for Lieutenant Governor, chair of the House Committee on Education, and carrier of many of the Youngkin administration education bills in the General Assembly this year, and Del. Don Scott, House minority leader and often-outspoken critic of the Youngkin administration. The issue was limiting the use of solitary confinement in Virginia’s prisons.


Solitary confinement, or isolation, is a basic tool in prison management. It is used to separate inmates from the general population for one or more of the following reasons:

  • For the protection of the inmate, sometimes at his request;
  • To prevent physical harm to other persons; or
  • As punishment for the offender’s behavior.

Continue reading

They’re Political; We’re Not

by Dick Hall-Sizemore

The Governor is pretty upset about a toolkit sent to its members by the Virginia Education Association.

The toolkit includes sample lesson plans that include teachings on racial identity and the Black Lives Matter movement.

“The Administration will not support a teachers union’s attempts to prop up a politically driven curriculum toolkit which contains tenets that go beyond teaching history, lesson plans, and operates as a political manual for the next generation of Virginia’s students,” Youngkin press secretary Macaulay Porter said in an email. “Virginia’s schools will continue to teach all history — the good and the bad.”

What is the Governor going to do?  Forbid teachers to use the material in the toolkit and use only lesson plans prepared by his Department of Education?  The Richmond Times-Dispatch reports that Ms. Porter “did not respond to questions about which aspects of the toolkit the administration opposes.”