Author Archives: Dick Hall-Sizemore

Affordable Housing For Some

Henrico County library at Libby Mill

by Dick Hall-Sizemore

In the discussion over the shortage of “affordable” housing, one could point to one company that could be considered the cause of the disappearance of a lot of the affordable housing stock in the Richmond area:  Gumenick Properties.

The company has redeveloped an 80-acre tract it owned near Broad St. on the Henrico/Richmond boundary to include apartment buildings; commercial space, including restaurants and fitness centers; and a large, state-of-the-art public library (Henrico County).  As reported in today’s Richmond Times-Dispatch, the company is ready to construct its third large apartment complex on the property.  It will consist of 398 units, ranging from studios to three bedroom apartments.  The rents for its current complexes, which have a maximum of two bedrooms, range from $1,400 to $2,700.  It is reasonable to expect the three-bedroom units to exceed this maximum. Continue reading

Halifax Rebel

Those who are nostalgic for Confederate statues will be pleased to know that a Confederate still stands proudly on the courthouse square in Halifax County.

Supposedly this is not the first Civil War statue the county had. The story I always heard was that someone noticed the buttons on the statue that had been there for many years were inscribed “USA”. That Yankee soldier was banished to a local pasture and a true Confederate was installed in his place.

— Dick Hall-Sizemore

Psst! Where Is The Library?

by Dick Hall-Sizemore

I have been wondering about the possible effectiveness of Del. Tim Anderson’s bill trying to give parents control over their kids’ access to material in the school library that contain graphic sexual material (HB 1379).  Therefore, this weekend I asked my 16-year-old grandson, who is attending public school for the first him Johnny) restricted Johnny’s access to a book in the library. His answers surprised me:

1. Not many kids in his school use the school library.

2.  The security in the library is so lax that Johnny could walk out of the library with the book in his backpack without school officials knowing it.

What I had expected him to say, and what I expect would commonly be the case, would be that Johnny would ask one of his friends, including possibly my grandson, whose parents had not put any restrictions on their access to books, to check the book out for him.  Lacking that option, Johnny could go to the library during a study period and look at, or read, the book without checking it out.

This is not a bill offering a solution to a problem.  It is a bill designed to score political points while giving false comfort to those parents who do not feel they know and can trust their kids.

Is It One Hour Back or One Hour Forward?

Sen. Richard Stuart, R-King George. Photo credit: Richmond Times-Dispatch

by Dick Hall-Sizemore

The Virginia General Assembly debates a lot of important bills. Nevertheless, most residents of the Commonwealth probably do not feel most of these bills affect them personally and do not have an opinion one way or the other.

However, occasionally, the legislators will take up a bill that is simple, affects everyone, and about which nearly everyone has an opinion. On Tuesday, the Virginia Senate considered such a bill. It dealt with that foolish requirement to change our clocks by one hour twice a year.

Sen. Richard Stuart (R-King George) had SB 1017, which would have made daylight saving time in effect all year in the Commonwealth. It was contingent upon Congress authorizing states to do so. In explaining his motivation for introducing the bill, he said that, quite frankly, he is tired of having to change his clocks twice a year. He realized that there is a division among folks as to whether it should be standard time or daylight saving time. He said that he likes to have an extra hour of daylight when he gets home from work, so he chose that approach. He went on to point out that there is a consensus in the medical profession that changing the times twice a year has significant medical consequences. Continue reading

Lab School Process Underway; Youngkin Oblivious to Overfunding

Stephen Cummings, Va. Secretary of Finance

by Dick Hall-Sizemore

Governor Youngkin’s Lab School initiative is off to a fairly good start, although it is probably not progressing as quickly as he thought or hoped it would.

According to the Department of Education (DOE), the department has received two applications for the establishment of a lab school— from James Madison University and Southside Community College. In addition, it has received applications from 12 institutions for planning grants for lab schools.  They are:

  • University of Mary Washington
  • Mountain Gateway Community College
  • Old Dominion University
  • George Mason University
  • Virginia Commonwealth University
  • University of Lynchburg
  • Eastern Shore Community College
  • New College Institute
  • University of Virginia
  • Germanna Community College
  • Emory and Henry College
  • Virginia State University

Continue reading

Now, What is That Number?

A recent article in The Washington Post described how the U.S Secretary of State has ordered that all documents sent to the Secretary’s office must use the Calibri font and be in 14 point. It reminded me of the period in which staff in the Virginia Department of Planning and Budget were directed to use 14 point font for any budget documents being sent to the Governor to review. The reason we were given was that the Governor (I won’t say which one) did not like to admit that he needed to wear glasses in order to read anything in a smaller font.

Pass Me the Napkin, Please. I Need to Write an Appeal.

Carrie Roth, VEC Commissioner. Photo credit: Richmond Times-Dispatch

by Dick Hall-Sizemore

The Youngkin administration has come up with a new way to deal with the backlog of appeals filed with the Virginia Employment Commission (VEC): reduce the amount of time claimants and employers have to file an appeal to the agency’s decision.

As reported by the Richmond Times-Dispatch, a House subcommittee has acted favorably on HB 1639, introduced by Del. Wendell Walker, R-Lynchburg, at the request of the administration. The bill would give claimants and employers 15 days instead of 30 to appeal decisions on claims for unemployment insurances, as well as to ask for a review of an initial appeal ruling.

The administration and the bill’s proponents contend that the bill would make the process more efficient. “The impetus behind this is to make sure we give them a very timely final decision in an expedited fashion,” VEC Commissioner Carrie Roth told the subcommittee.

In reply to Democrats’ concerns that people who might want to appeal could be “disenfranchised,” Roth replied that filing an appeal is not difficult. Apparently inspired by Arthur Laffer, she said, ““You can write it on a napkin and we will accept that appeal.”

Appeals filed on napkins would certainly enable the VEC to speed up the process of reviewing appeals.

Right Help, Right Now

Gov. Youngkin announces his mental health budget proposals. Photo credit: Richmond Times-Dispatch

by Dick Hall-Sizemore

Probably the most important set of budget proposals made by Governor Youngkin for the upcoming General Assembly has been in the area of mental health. It has already been discussed generally on this blog. (See here and here.)  It might be helpful to examine the details of the proposal.

The Governor, and others, have called his proposals “transformational.” That borders on the hyperbolic, but every governor engages in hyperbole in describing his proposals. His proposal actually accelerates a transformation begun several years ago, while placing additional emphasis on one aspect of government’s reaction to mental health needs—crisis management. Therefore, his description of his proposal as moving “from slow evolution to accelerated revolution” is entirely appropriate.

There is another aspect of the Governor’s proposal that is unusual and admirable—a three-year plan. Most Virginia governors wait until their second year in office and their first biennial budget bill before advancing any major initiatives. As a result, they actually have only a year and a half to implement it before leaving office. In contrast, Youngkin has proposed funding for the second year of the current biennium, to be followed up with additional funding in the 2024-2026 biennial budget bill. Therefore, his administration will be in a position to get the major components of his proposal well established during his term. Continue reading

No Comment Needed

A Subsidy and Benefit for the Few

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

by Dick Hall-Sizemore

With the advent of another General Assembly session comes the annual school voucher bill. This version is HB 1508, introduced by Delegate Glenn Davis (R-Virginia Beach).

Touted as a way to enhance “the right of parents to decide the educational opportunity for their child,” the legislation has a tweak that makes it a little better than similar bills in past years. Nevertheless, in the end, the bill would benefit two groups: first, upper-and upper-middle-class parents who wish, and can afford, to send their children to private school; and, second, parents who home school their children.

The legislation would allow parents to establish an educational savings account into which the state would deposit the equivalent of “all applicable then-current annual Standards of Quality per pupil state funds, including the per pupil share of state sales tax funding in basic aid.” (The legislation is not clear whether this amount is the statewide per-pupil amount or the per-pupil amount for the jurisdiction in which the student lives, although it is implied that the per-pupil amount for the jurisdiction is the relevant amount.) Ninety-five percent of that deposit would be available to the parent to use for educational expenses, with the balance being available to pay the costs of administering the system. Continue reading

All In The Family

Del. Wren Williams, R-Patrick.  Photo Credit: Roanoke Times

by Dick Hall-Sizemore

It is not just national Republicans that appear ready to tear into each other. A couple of Virginia Republicans have also been at it.

Del. Marie March, R-Floyd.   Photo credit: Newsbreak

Wren Williams is a first-term Republican Delegate from Patrick County.  Marie March, also in her first term, is a Republican delegate from next-door Floyd County. The redistricting has placed them in the same district.

Last September, after a Republican meeting in Wytheville, March was standing with a group of people when Williams, according to her, “slammed into me.” She was able to brace herself to keep from falling. Moments later, she said, “I heard him mutter, ‘oh, sorry,’ from a distance.”

March felt that the collision was intentional on Williams’ part and filed a criminal complaint of misdemeanor assault against him.

At the trial earlier this month, Williams’ attorney admitted to “a touching,” but contended it was accidental. The Commonwealth’s Attorney, based on witness testimony, argued, “The bottom line is it was an unwanted touching that was purposeful. We have met our burden to prove it was assault and battery.” The judge ruled that there was not enough evidence to prove that contact between Williams and March in a crowd of people was intentional.

Speaking to reporters after the trial was over, Williams called the accusation against him “a political hit job.”

All this should make for interesting dynamics in the Republican House caucus meetings in the upcoming session.

Note: I am indebted to The Roanoke Times for this story.

Governor’s Plan to Bolster Law Enforcement Is Meek Rather Than Bold

by Dick Hall-Sizemore

In October, amidst much fanfare, Governor Youngkin announced Operation Bold Blue Line.  In the words of the Governor’s press release, this initiative is “a series of concrete actions to reduce homicides, shootings, and violent crime.”

I had some questions and wanted some details on the proposal.  I posed these questions to the Governor’s press office.  Crickets.  I then posed them to the office of the Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security.  I got an acknowledgement and a pledge to provide the information I had requested.  Time marched on and no answers, just requests for more time to prepare the response.  Finally, I was told that my inquiry was being bumped to the Governor’s press office.  Fortunately, someone in that office did respond and answer my questions.

After doing some research and reading the responses to my questions, I have to say that I am underwhelmed by this initiative. Continue reading

Police Common Sense in Richmond

Rick Edwards, acting police chief of Richmond.   Photo credit: NBC 12

by Dick Hall-Sizemore

A recent article in the Richmond Times-Dispatch brings news that contravenes two themes prevalent in Bacon’s Rebellion: the rising violent crime rate and the ineffectiveness of the Richmond city government.

Despite having a police force with a vacancy rate of 20%, Richmond has seen a 35% drop in homicides and nearly a 20% drop in armed robberies in 2022. The Richmond police department’s strategy for helping to achieve these reductions was simple and commonsensical: put the cops where there is likely to be trouble.

Rick Edwards, now the interim police chief, instituted a gun violence reduction program last summer. He first asked analysts in the department to identify gun violence “hot spots.” Those were defined as one to three-block areas in which there were a lot of murders, non-fatal shootings, robberies, shooting into occupied dwellings, and shootings into occupied cars.  He contends that those last two items are “indicators of future murders.” Continue reading

A Conservative Fiscal Proposal

by Dick Hall-Sizemore

Governor Youngkin has proposed tax reductions that would reduce state revenue by about $1 billion in this biennium.

I have an alternative proposal on how to use that billion dollars, one that should appeal to the instincts of conservatives on this blog—reduce the Commonwealth’s outstanding debt balance.

The Debt Capacity Advisory Committee has reported that, as of June 30, 2022, the Commonwealth had a balance of $4.0 billion in authorized but unissued tax-supported debt. Using the $1 billion in general fund revenue that Youngkin proposes to forego in the form of tax reductions to supplant bond authorizations for capital projects instead would save the Commonwealth a significant amount in interest payments over the course of the term for which those bonds are now authorized. I do not have all the data needed to project the savings, but it could easily be several hundred million dollars over the course of 20 years.

Financial advisors often urge individuals to pay down debt balances whenever possible. It seems that would be a prudent move for the state as well.

Reparations for the Violators

by Dick Hall-Sizemore

Governor Youngkin has proposed reparations for people who violated legal orders.

Included in his budget proposal is a directive to reimburse all fines, fees, and interest imposed on individuals “due to violations of COVID-19 related practices, guidelines, rules or operating procedures”  and to waive all such fines imposed. The budget language earmarks a million dollars from the general fund to reimburse any such fines and fees that were paid into the general fund and directs that any fines and fees paid into nongeneral fund accounts be reimbursed from those accounts. (See language beginning on line 51 of page 579 of the .pdf version of the budget bill.)

I get it. Youngkin ran on a platform opposed to the COVID-19 restrictions imposed by Governor Northam, promising to remove them. In announcing his intention to propose reimbursement of any fines collected, he called them “unjust” and many in his base consider the COVID restrictions imposed by Northam unconstitutional.

Nevertheless, the Virginia Supreme Court refused to block any of the restrictions contained in the Northam executive orders. Therefore, the restrictions and orders were legal. That makes the individuals and businesses involved lawbreakers and the fines and fees levied were their penalty.

If we are going to get into the business of reparations for lawbreakers, why stop with COVID violators? In 2020, the General Assembly decriminalized possession of marijuana and made possession a civil offense, punishable by a fine of up to $25. The next year the legislature repealed altogether the prohibition on possession of marijuana. It follows that, if the legislature were to agree now with the governor that folks who violated legal restrictions that are no longer considered warranted should have their fines waived or reimbursed, folks who were convicted in the past of a law no longer considered warranted (possession of marijuana) should have their fines and court costs reimbursed or waived if still outstanding.