Author Archives: Steve Haner

GOP and Virginia Election Laws, Part II

Sunday “Souls to Polls” voting is legal in Virginia now? Impossible to predict which political party will benefit more from that.

by Steve Haner

With the 2021 General Assembly receding in the rear view mirror, the voting rules for this year’s Virginia elections are set. Republicans who are whining that the deck has been stacked are against them are making a mistake. Every change the Democrats see as a benefit to them is of equal benefit to Republicans.

If your locality is one of those that agrees to open the in-person early voting process on a Sunday, who is to say which churches will load up the buses and fill the line? Every conservative evangelical pastor can now set up a “Souls to Polls” drive, right after the sermon in which a candidate was carefully not endorsed. Why not?

One of the largest mistakes former President Donald Trump made a year ago was his clear message to discourage his own voters from using the no-excuse absentee or other early voting process in their states. He was seeking to manipulate a larger lead in the Election Day overnight counts, which we all knew would shrink or reverse once absentees were counted in the days that followed.

But standing in long lines in the pre-dawn cold is not fun. Add in a pandemic, and quite a few people intending to vote Republican would have greatly preferred the early- or absentee-voting method. Some who feared infection may have skipped voting because of Trump’s bad advice. Maybe many.  Continue reading

GOP and Virginia Election Laws, Part I

by Steve Haner

Let us elevate a discussion from the comment string to the main page:  Having examined Richard Hall-Sizemore’s offered examples of Virginia Republicans seeking to discourage voting in Virginia, I reject his assertion (part of a coordinated national campaign) that those bills “would result in fewer people voting.”

The broadest Republican bill he pointed to, Senate Bill 1459 offered by Senate Minority Leader Thomas Norment, R-James City, basically returned voting rules to the situation in 2019.  It restored the requirement for photo identification, with the option of a provisional ballot.  With a provisional ballot allowed, how would that “result in fewer people voting?”

It also ended the practice of absentee ballot drop boxes, initially provided as an “emergency” response to the “temporary” issue of the pandemic.  Virtually every emergency, temporary adjustment blamed on the pandemic has now been enshrined as the only possible fair way to ever conduct an election and seeking to return to 2019 rules is branded as “Jim Crow.”

Jim Crow was, is and will always be a Democrat.  But that’s another story.  Jim Crow laws when instituted were supported (or ignored) by some of the same breed of craven corporate executives who are kowtowing to The Power today. Again, another story. Back to Hall-Sizemore’s examples. Continue reading

TCI Model Rule Ready for Study, Comment

by Steve Haner
First published this morning by the Thomas Jefferson Institute for Public Policy.  (Happy birthday, Mr. President.)

Read the governing document for the Transportation and Climate Initiative and it becomes clear there is more going on than just an effort to reduce motor fuel use with a combination of taxes and shrinking caps. That may really be a secondary goal.

How would TCI regulate and change the motor fuel business in Virginia, should the state decide to join in 2022? What are the initial carbon taxes likely to be? Some details can be found in a draft model rule published March 1 and now subject to an open comment period through May 7.

You can find the 153-page model rule here. There is an open portal for any public comments you wish to provide, and you can also find summaries of the comments filed to date. Certainly, all fuel wholesalers and retailers and businesses dependent on transportation need to study this document and the regulatory structure it creates.

The Rhode Island and Connecticut legislatures are currently considering legislation on TCI. Massachusetts intends to join with its governor claiming he already has authority to sign the interstate compact.  If Virginia joins in 2022, that is still in time for it to be in on the first carbon dioxide emissions allowance auction in 2023.  Continue reading

Selling Virginia Pot? Expect A Union Label

by Steve Haner

When Virginians begin to buy marijuana from state-licensed providers, if Governor Ralph Northam has his way, along with his smiling visage on every baggie of grass you may also find a union label.

I’m kidding about getting high with the governor’s image on the package but using the legalization bill to promote union political goals through a back door is no joke. Future state marijuana licensees may be in danger of losing their ability to sell pot if they fail to live up to various union-driven labor law requirements, set out below.

Does it matter? If the General Assembly can do this to one class of state licensee, expect it to move on to every other form of state licensee, from hairdressers and auto dealers to brain surgeons and wine wholesalers. This is a test and the legislature may have its brain so fogged by THC it fails.  Continue reading

May Day Brings Virginia’s Labor Revolution

“Liberty Leading the People,” Eugene Delacroix.

by Steve Haner

Four major changes in Virginia’s labor laws delayed at the beginning of the COVID-19 recession will all take effect May 1. All were approved by the 2020 General Assembly once Democrats controlled both legislative chambers and then delayed at the 2020 Veto Session. May Day 2021 is almost here.

Minimum Wage. The 31% increase in the state’s minimum wage, from $7.25 to $9.50 per hour, will have the broadest impact. House Bill 395 and Senate Bill 7 also raised the hourly minimum wage to $11 eight months later, on January 1, 2022, and to $12 a year later on January 1, 2023.

The bills outline two further increases, which go into effect only if the Assembly votes for them again: To $13.50 per hour in 2025 and then the often-touted $15 per hour in 2026 (by which time that will be considered inadequate.) From there the rate will automatically adjust upward annually for inflation, a consideration never offered to taxpayers when inflation raises their taxes. Continue reading

Virginia Will Mandate and Hold Retirement Savings

Click here for more information on the California state-run retirement fund that inspired the Virginia legislation. Source:  Georgetown Center for Retirement Incentives.

by Steve Haner

Next week’s reconvened General Assembly session will decide whether only full time employees of Virginia’s small businesses will be pushed into a new state-sponsored retirement savings plan, or part-time workers will join them there.

The big question is whether this is something the state should be doing at all, but on that the Assembly has spoken. People who are not covered by an employer-sponsored retirement plan will be forced to send money to a state “Virginia Saves” account unless they take explicit steps to opt out.

Governor Ralph Northam’s amendment to expand House Bill 2174 will be voted on by legislators at the reconvened session April 7 and must be approved by both chambers. If rejected, he could then veto the bill, but that seems unlikely. More likely is that efforts to expand the program will continue in future sessions, as the sapling grows into a mighty oak.

The bill as introduced in the House of Delegates covered all workers but passed the Senate limited to employees with 30 or more hours per week. Increasing coverage to part-time employees greatly expands the pool of covered workers. It also greatly expands the pool of covered businesses, since to be drawn into the state-managed retirement mandate they need 25 eligible employees.  Continue reading

Roving Bands of Whites Steal COVID Shots?

Shocking News: People afraid of death will drive to get vaccines!

by Steve Haner

Call out the militia!  Roving bands of white people are rushing to Danville to steal COVID vaccines from more deserving blacks and Latinos!  That’s the big news according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch, although it lacks the courage to write that headline directly.

The story dominates the print front page and the on-line paper, complete with a map (above) showing the distances these despicable Privilege Recipients are willing to drive to avoid hospitalization or death from a disease which everybody who reads the paper knows is only truly dangerous for People of Color.  Continue reading

Congress to Kill Right To Work, Since GA Didn’t?

U.S. Senator Mark Warner, savior of Virginia’s Right To Work Law?

by Steve Haner

First published this morning by the Thomas Jefferson Institute for Public Policy.

One key goal for many of Virginia’s new progressive Democrats has been repeal of Virginia’s venerable Right To Work Law, and in 2020 they crossed one milestone by passing repeal in a key committee. But the Democratic leadership, perhaps wary of losing the bill in the Senate or angering too many moderate voters, ended the effort there and snuffed that bill. Continue reading

We Pay For All the COVID Funerals, Too?

by Steve Haner

Per the Centers for Disease Control’s tracking, more than 4 million death certificates have been recorded in the U.S. during the COVID-19 pandemic. Only 520,000 of them (those recorded so far) listed COVID as primary or contributing cause of death.  The survivors of those individuals are eligible for 100% compensation for funeral expenses under the new round of federal COVID spending.  Continue reading

Progress! GOP Replaces FUBAR With Confusion

by Steve Haner

Virginia Republicans are finally beginning their nomination process for statewide candidates, graduating from the FUBAR phase of this exercise to a state of mere confusion.

It is not a primary, nor is it a traditional “under one roof” convention, nor even the proposed “everyone in one parking lot” convention. The process most closely resembles a party canvass or firehouse primary, with the added requirement that to vote in the canvass you must pre-register as a delegate.  Continue reading

Surprise! State Underestimated Carbon Tax Cost

by Steve Haner

Virginia has collected its first wave of carbon taxes from the state’s electricity generators, costs which will eventually show up on future bills. The $43.6 million take just about doubles the revenue estimates used when participation in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative was being approved by the Virginia General Assembly last year. Surprise!   Continue reading

Centuries of Energy Already Sitting in Cans

“Slightly Used” Nuclear Fuel Storage Casks.

by Steve Haner

First published this morning by the Thomas Jefferson Institute for Public Policy.

If you are serious about making electricity without carbon emissions and also serious about making enough electricity to run a real economy 24-7-365, the discussion keeps coming back to nuclear energy. It is the obvious choice if you believe we must eliminate natural gas soon.  Continue reading

Virginia’s Progressive Assembly Turns to Taxes

by Steve Haner

First published this morning by the Thomas Jefferson Institute for Public Policy. 

The COVID-19 recession barely dented Virginia’s state budget. The massive spending growth adopted in the pre-COVID budget a year ago is largely back on track. Yet some legislators think the time is ripe to hunt for more revenue by re-writing the state’s tax code.

The two-year $48.2 billion General Fund revenue estimate endorsed by the General Assembly Saturday is less than $200 million lower than the comparable figure a year ago, a rounding error in a $143 billion overall budget. There is every reason to believe the current tax estimates will prove too low as another round of federal stimulus revs the economy in coming months.  Continue reading

Dominion EV School Bus Crash #3 Ends Session

Photo Credit: The Washington Post

by Steve Haner

Dominion Energy Virginia’s effort to force its ratepayers to finance a fleet of electric school buses has finally crashed, defeated by the House of Delegates for a third time in the final roll call of the 2021 General Assembly Saturday night.  Continue reading

The Virginia War On Fossil Fuels

by Steve Haner

First published in the Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star Feb. 26 then distributed by the Thomas Jefferson Institute for Public Policy.  

The lesson of the Texas grid collapse is not just about electricity. Imagine the week Texans would have had if once the power went out and stayed out, they had no gasoline, diesel, propane, or natural gas to fall back on. How much worse would their plight have been without natural gas heating homes and businesses, propane space heaters and grills, and gasoline or diesel-powered cars and trucks to get where they needed to go?  Continue reading