Category Archives: Elections

Virginia Ethics Enforcement So Weak It Can’t Be Rated

by Don Rippert

Your General Assembly in Action (or inaction).  The Coalition for Integrity (C4I) has rated the political ethics enforcement approaches of the 50 states.  Virginia’s ethics enforcement is so weak that it is one of seven states that cannot be rated.  This should not be surprising to anybody who regularly reads this blog. The other un-ratable states are Arizona, Idaho, North Dakota, Vermont and Wyoming. The Coalition for Integrity acknowledges that Virginia has two ethics boards (Virginia Conflict of Interest and Ethics Advisory Council and the Virginia House Advisory Panel) but finds that both have “Limited or No Power”. As the Center for Integrity states in its general recommendations, “A toothless ethics agency serves no purpose. Agencies need wide powers to investigate and sanction all government personnel. Currently, seven agencies have limited or no investigative or sanctioning power.” Of course Virginia is one of the seven. Continue reading

GOP Also Concerned About Electricity Consumers

The RGGI states, with New Jersey, which rejoined in June.

by Steve Haner

With an eye on November 5, Virginia’s Republican legislators are expressing their concern for Virginia’s electricity customers and warning that their Democratic competitors will support a new energy carbon tax if they gain the majority. The carbon tax is a key element of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI).

In media releases and, of course, Tweets, the simple message is “Higher Taxes on Energy. Democrats Say Yes.  Republicans Say No.” The key evidence provided is State Corporation Commission staff testimony (here), first made generally available on Bacon’s Rebellion, and a recent summary on the issue I wrote for the Thomas Jefferson Institute for Public Policy (here). We took a stand against joining RGGI.

That RGGI white paper has been in process all summer, and it was pure coincidence that it surfaced just as many Democrats were showing their concern for consumers by opposing a higher profit margin for Dominion Energy Virginia.  Continue reading

Tweet First, Check Your Notes Later

by Steve Haner

It doesn’t matter what you say, only what they say you said. This was demonstrated once again this morning as the State Corporation Commission’s hearing on Dominion Energy Virginia’s profit margin unfolded in Richmond courtroom.

While Dominion’s lead attorney droned on in his opening statement, Sarah Vogelsong of Virginia Mercury – doing running commentary on Twitter – posted this: “He also seems to be taking a swipe at “half the Democrats in the General Assembly” and what they think about utility rates, which seems unusually political for these hearings.”

Now your reporter was probably staring at his own phone and half-heard the comment about the letter 36 Democratic legislators put into the record on this case, discussed in an earlier Bacon’s Rebellion report. It’s not in my notes. Nor do I follow Vogelsong on Twitter. But during the first break, an advocate organizing the effort to stir public interest on this case called it to my attention. He wanted to be sure it made it into my Bacon’s Rebellion piece. Well, be careful what you ask for.  Continue reading

Just Pretending To Protect Ratepayers Won’t Cut It

by Steve Haner

If you have nothing substantive to offer, try some meaningless virtue signaling. That’s the only way to interpret a claim from 36 General Assembly Democrats that they are taking steps to oppose “Dominion raising Virginian’s energy bills by $147 million,” to quote a Blue Virginia headline today.

The story reports on a letter to the State Corporation Commission signed by three state senators and 33 delegates, asking the SCC to support a lower authorized return on equity for Dominion Energy Virginia for 2019 and 2020.  Here is the “so what” paragraph:

“Notice, by the way, how every single General Assembly member signing this letter is a Democrat? So basically, Virginia Republicans are the main part of the problem when it comes to Dominion ripping off Virginians (and polluting our environment…and delaying the transition to clean energy…and…). Just keep that in mind on November 5 when you head to the polls!”

That is absolutely false.  Here is what you need to keep in mind:  Continue reading

Dominion: Two Reports, Four Predictions

Dominion Energy Virginia bill breakdown, for 1,000 kWh of residential service. Base rates were recently reduced by the federal tax cuts, and fuel fluctuates, but rate adjustment clauses (RACs) proliferate and grow, with more to come. Source: SCC

by Steve Haner

There is no sign, nine weeks out from the big General Assembly election, that the arcane and obscure field of electricity regulation is going to change any votes or win any elections in Virginia in 2019. There is plenty to debate if anybody wanted to in two recent reports now public at the SCC and linked below.

The State Corporation Commission just issued yet another report that Dominion Energy Virginia is reaping massive excess profits, more than half a billion dollars in 2017 and 2018 combined. There is very little chance that the company’s 2.45 million customer accounts (about two thirds of Virginia customers) will see any refunds or price reductions as a result. Prediction number one: The company keeps it all come the 2021 review and base rates do not change.   Continue reading

Constitutional Officers–The Problem

Our recent discussion of the primary elections and an incidental comment by Steve Haner were the catalysts to get me to develop a posting that I had been mulling over for awhile. The system of elected administrative officers established in the Virginia Constitution for local governments needs to be abolished.

These officers, called constitutional officers for obvious reasons, and their primary responsibilities, are:

  • Circuit court clerk—responsible for the administration of the circuit courts: preparing trial transcripts, handling jury lists, preparing orders, etc.  The office is also the depository of the locality’s land records (deeds, liens, etc.) and wills.
  • Sheriff—responsible for law enforcement in many localities, administration of the jail, provision of courtroom security, and service of legal processes.
  • Commonwealth’s Attorney—chief criminal prosecutor.
  • Commissioner of the Revenue—property assessor and processor of income tax returns
  • Treasurer—collects tax and other state and local revenue and deposits funds into appropriate accounts; invests funds of local government

All officers are elected for four-year terms, except the clerk, who has an eight-year term. The Constitution requires that each city and county have these officers, although it also provides that localities can share officers and that localities can abolish the offices, if approved by referendum.   Continue reading

Brace Yourselves, Arlingtonians, for SJW Law Enforcement

Liam Bissainthe’s nightmare has come true (see his blog post here), and Arlington voters nominated Parisa Dehghani-Tafti yesterday as the Democratic Party’s nominee to run for Commonwealth Attorney. In ultra-blue Arlington County (76% Clinton, 16.7% Trump), the Democratic nomination is tantamount to election. Now Arlington will become a petri dish for progressive theories on law enforcement.

To get an idea of Deghani-Tafti’s priorities, here is a statement the George Soros-backed candidate issued last month, according to ARLNow:

I’m for impartiality. Even though rare in our community, use-of-force incidents require impartial review. I’m also a reformer and any time you run as a reformer you get pushback but pushback means we get to talk about the issues. My opponent has fought reform at every turn. Now she has decided to go negative because it distracts from her record of failing to adequately support victims, including survivors of sexual violence — a record of opposing cash bail reform, opposing voting rights for returning citizens, opposing using diversion instead of incarceration for individuals with mental illness, opposing expungement of minor infractions, opposing civil asset forfeiture reform, and opposing transparency and impartiality. I will continue to focus on these issues in the campaign and once elected because that’s what makes everyone safe.

The great thing about America is that it is still (even with an overbearing federal government) a laboratory for democracy. Continue reading

Arlington’s Dark Money Candidate

Parisa Dehgani-Tafti

by Liam Bissainthe

Virginia has primary elections coming up tomorrow. Some matter a lot, and you should vote in them if you have the chance — like the prosecutor’s race in Arlington County and Falls Church. That race pits left-wing radical Parisa Dehghani-Tafti against the moderately liberal incumbent prosecutor Theo Stamos in a race for Commonwealth’s Attorney in Arlington and Falls Church. In Virginia, you can vote in whichever primary you want — Democratic or Republican — without registering, regardless of which party you’ve voted for in the past.

The left-wing radical Dehghani-Tafti received a staggering sum of money — $583,237 — from a “dark money” group bankrolled by George Soros. So reports the mainstream liberal newspaper the Falls Church News-Press, which has endorsed Stamos. A week ago, the Washington Post reported that Soros’s group had already pumped over $1 million into just two races in Northern Virginia, seeking to replace incumbent Democrats with leftist challengers.

The leftist Dehghani-Tafti wants to lead an office of prosecutors despite never having prosecuted a single case in her life. She does not seem to understand the basic role of a prosecutor in deterring crime. Indeed, she complains about Stamos’s success as a prosecutor. Stamos has never had a single conviction overturned on appeal in her decades as a prosecutor. Stamos’ office prosecutes felonies, rather than ignoring them. That deters violent crime and theft. Continue reading

What is Going On?

Can someone from Northern Virginia please tell me what is going on when almost a million dollars is being raised in each of two primary contests for Commonwealth’s Attorney?  I can understand the money being raised, as reported by VPAP, in the primary for chairman of the Fairfax Board of Supervisors.  That is a political position and there are four candidates.  But, the money being raised for Commonwealth’s Attorney, a supposedly nonpolitical position, with only two candidates in each election, is astounding.

Corruption Allegations Mar Fairfax County Board Race

Supervisor Jeff McKay, photo credit – WAMU

I’m shocked, shocked to find that there’s gambling going on here. Long time residents of Fairfax County will hardly be shocked to hear the news of a Fairfax County Supervisor being accused of unsavory business dealings with a land developer. Jeff McKay has been Lee District supervisor since 2007. He is currently vying for the top spot in Fairfax County – chair of the board. McKay, who faces opposition from three Democrats and one Republican for the office, has been accused of trading a political favor for a personal real-estate deal. As befitting the county which is home to the CIA, those allegations were surfaced through a lengthy anonymous legal memo circulated to the county attorney and the other members of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors. American University radio station WAMU broke the story yesterday.

To be very clear, these are allegations which may be true, partly true or (as McKay represents) a wholly untrue political attack. Supervisor McKay deserves to be considered innocent until proven otherwise.

Continue reading

Barbara Favola Makes Disingenuous Statements about Dominion Funding

A clarification has been added to the end of this article.

Setup. Barbara Favola is the Democratic State Senator from Virginia’s 31st district.  That district is centered in Arlington but includes areas of Fairfax and Loudoun Counties as well.  Favola is a politician-for-life having served on the Arlington County Board from 1997 through 2012 and in the Virginia State Senate since then.  She is seeking to extend her 22 consecutive years in politics to 26 in the upcoming General Assembly election.  However, Sen Favola’s well laid plans hit a snag.  She will face a challenger named Nicole Merlene in the June 11 Democratic primary.  Ms. Merlene has astutely called Sen Favola’s ethics and independence into question based on Favola’s non-legislative position as the head of a lobbying organization representing clients in Richmond.  An article in ggwash summarized a debate between Favola and Merlene:

“In her opening statement, Merlene referred to a December 2016 proposal to build a 325-foot tall tower on Virginia Department of Transportation land in Rosslyn. Favola, the sitting state senator for the district, was an advisor for the project.

Merlene said this type of behavior was pervasive, citing her opponent’s relationship with Marymount University and Virginia Hospital Center, which are both clients of a lobbying organization that Favola leads when she is not working in Richmond.“This is an issue where our representative was using public office for private benefit,” she said.”

Favola responded by employing what has become known as “the Saslaw – Norment defense” which holds that no amount of money from any source could ever be corrupting based on the genetic honesty of long time Virginia politicians. Continue reading

2019 Assembly Had No Bark, Bite On Ethics

VPAP graphic showing a uptick in “things of value” received and reported by Virginia legislators. You can find the full report here.  Much is not reported.

It is always important to listen for the dogs that don’t bark, and the 2019 General Assembly showed neither bark nor bite on issues of money, politics and ethics.  Everything in Virginia is just fine with the legislators themselves, apparently.

So fine that the only significant bill involving the Virginia Conflict of Interests and Ethics Advisory Council eliminated its quarterly meetings and left it to meet only on call. The only significant bill dealing with campaign finances to pass involves reporting requirements for elections in Virginia towns. We head into the decisive 2019 General Assembly races with the same rules that have served so well for so long.  Continue reading

Virginia Voters Should “Clean House” this November

State of affairs / affairs of state.  Multiple scandals have rocked Virginia’s state government this week.  All three of our state’s top officials stand accused of substantial wrongdoing.  Governor Ralph Northam and Attorney General Mark Herring have admitted to dressing in blackface during their college / medical school days. Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax is being accused of sexual assault.  The stories have become national news – read the New York Post article here. Given this chaos one wonders how the good people at Amazon feel about their decision to put one-half of their new headquarters in The Commonwealth of Virginia. I’m guessing we’ll hear more about that in the near future. In the meantime, Virginians need to ask two key questions – how did we get here and what can we do about it.   Continue reading

Five Virginia Politicians Thwart the People and Democracy in Marijuana Reform Legislation

We the people elite.  A number of proposed bills to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana were put forth in the ongoing General Assembly session.  These bills were systematically killed in subcommittee by a tiny fraction of the General Assembly.  Generally speaking, five Republican Delegates decided that the proposed marijuana reform bills should not reach the full committee let alone the entirety of the General Assembly for a vote.  These five legislators know, or should have known, that the vast majority of Virginians (in poll after poll) favor the decriminalization of marijuana. Continue reading

Va 2019 General Assembly session – prefiled House of Delegates bills

Click here to see the 9 weird laws

Much ado about nothing.  As of this morning there were 83 prefiled bills for the House of Delegates and 225 prefiled bills for the State Senate.  With a few exceptions the House prefiles are pretty “ho hum”.  I will examine the Senate prefiles in a subsequent column.

One from column A and two from column B.  I use a somewhat arbitrary approach to categorizing the prefiled bills.  By my analysis … governmental process (17), education (12), crime and courts (10), election reform (8), finance and taxes (7), health care (6), nonsense (6), environment (6), transportation (4), campaign reform (4) and energy (2).

Governmental process.  These are the day to day clarifications, corrections and amplifications needed to make existing legislation more effective.  For example, HB246 clarifies the role of the code commission in preparing legislation at the direction of the General Assembly.  One of these bills will further depress Jim Bacon’s journalistic sensibilities.  HB1629 eliminates the requirement that Virginia procurement contracts be reported in newspapers.  Mixed in with the proposed routine legislation are some zingers.  For example, there are three separate bills to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment (HJ577, HJ579, HJ583).  There are also four bills proposing changes  to the Virginia Constitution.  HJ578 would add a right to vote to the state constitution, HJ582 would establish a redistricting committee, HJ584 would allow the governor to run for a second consecutive term and HJ585 has the governor and lieutenant governor running as a single ticket instead of separate offices.

Education.  The only theme in the education prefiles is an attempt to provide financial incentives for localities to rebuild the physical plant of their schools.  One of the more interesting bills would allow commercial advertising on school buses (HB809) while another would guarantee that our children’s God given right to wear unscented sun block not be abridged (HB330).

Crime and courts.  Bail bondsmen and bondswomen are forbidden from having sex with their clients (HB525) and shooting a police dog, or even showing a gun to a police dog,  becomes a more serious crime (HB1616).  Other than that, pretty mundane stuff.

Finance and taxes.  Way too many people and too many companies are paying taxes (HB966) and veterinarians really need a break from those pesky sales taxes (HB747).

Potpourri.  The remaining categories contain a few interesting ideas.  Del Rasoul wants to ban the use of fossil fuels in electricity generation (HB1635), Del Cole wants to give I95 some love (HJ580, HJ581) and he also has the radical idea that campaign contributions should not be for personal use (HB1617).  In fact, Del Cole’s proposed legislation is putting him perilously close to making my very short list of competent Virginia legislators.

Closer to home.  My delegate, Kathleen Murphy, continues to propose jaw dropping, eye popping examples of legislative uselessness.  She proposes to let her pals skirt Virginia traffic laws by displaying a special sticker on their cars (HB295) and offers some odd rules on distance learning reciprocity (HB659).  I guess issues like mass transportation don’t cross her mind these days.

— Don Rippert.