Category Archives: General Assembly

What’s the Governor Waiting For?

by Dick Hall-Sizemore

At the reconvened session on April 27, Governor Youngkin returned 116 bills to the General Assembly with recommended amendments. Legislators accepted the Governor’s recommendations on 91 of those bills. The remaining 25 bills were returned to him as originally passed.

The Governor has three options for each of these remaining bills: sign it, veto it, or let it become law without his signature. The deadline for him to take action is midnight, May 27.

What is the Governor waiting for? Yes, he still has 11 days before the deadline, but it was only 25 bills and he has had 19 days to consider them. He already had a folder with notes on each bill. Actually, the batch sent back included several sets of duplicate bills; therefore he has fewer than 25 legislative proposals to act on. Furthermore, he probably knew before he returned the bills which ones he was not going to approve if his recommendations were not accepted. Continue reading

De Facto Secretary?

Andrew Wheeler, Senior Advisor to the Governor

On April 15, Governor Youngkin issued a press release announcing “additional key administration appointments”.  Several of those appointments were duly noted by various newspapers and other media outlets. Others were not, although they are interesting in their own right, raising some issues and shedding light on the administration.  Because different issues are raised with different appointments, I will discuss them in separate articles.

One of the most controversial early actions of Youngkin was the appointment of Andrew Wheeler as Secretary of Natural and Historic Resources.  Wheeler had been the director of the Environmental Protection Agency during the Trump administration.  Democrats in the General Assembly were incensed, and the Senate refused to confirm Wheeler’s appointment.  Wheeler stayed on as Acting Secretary until the legislative session ended, when state law prohibited his continuing in that position.  Youngkin then announced that Wheeler would remain in the administration as a senior advisor to the governor.  Travis Voyles, who had  earlier been appointed Deputy Secretary, was designated as Acting secretary. Continue reading

Miyares Challenges Secrecy in Dominion Wind Case

The Luxembourg-flagged Vole Au Vent is seen here installing one of Dominion Energy’s two experimental wind turbines 27 miles off the Virginia coast.

by Steve Haner

Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares (R) has moved to open to public inspection much of the secret data and analysis about Dominion Energy Virginia’s proposed Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind project. His petition filed with the State Corporation Commission April 29 comes about two weeks before formal hearings on the application begin in mid-May.

Dominion is seeking SCC approval to build the 176-turbine project off Virginia Beach, and to begin billing customers for it with a new monthly charge. Authorized and all-but-mandated by the Virginia Clean Economy Act of 2020, the current estimated capital cost is $9.8 billion, including the required transmission upgrades but not including financing costs and utility profits.

The liberal use in the initial application of claims that data were confidential or extraordinarily sensitive obscured much of the cost and risk the project imposes on the company’s customers. Once designated as secret, only parties who have signed non-disclosure agreements can see the data or be in the room when the data is discussed in a hearing. Continue reading

Virginia is the Queen Mother of Bellwethers

Delegate Eileen Filler-Corn

by Chris Saxman

Honestly, where does one start in trying to explain Virginia politics?

Wednesday’s leadership change by House Democrats should not be considered shocking. Democrats had very close contests for caucus control after they won the majority, so losing that majority would naturally jeopardize their leaders.

Suffice it to say, Delegate Eileen Filler-Corn has never had a firm grip on her caucus having won close leadership elections and she barely lost the vote Wednesday.

Just one vote.

Was Wednesday about the younger, more aggressive progressives making a move? Like most things in politics, it’s complicated, but Democrats nationally are losing the enthusiasm of younger progressive voters.

See my 2024 Electoral College Preview on the Democrats problem with younger voters. (AH – yes – the possible move by Joe Biden to forgive student loan debt.)

There’s more to the leadership change than age demographics. This likely came down to the simple fact that Democrats lost control of the House in November and had no clear plan to win it back. In fact, they could possibly lose even more seats this year. Continue reading

Virginia Democrats in Disarray

Delegate Eileen Filler-Corn

by Kerry Dougherty

Whoa. That was quick. Unprecedented in recent years, too.

Del. Eileen Filler-Corn, the much ballyhooed first female Speaker of Virginia’s House of Delegates, as well as the commonwealth’s first Jewish speaker, was tossed overboard Wednesday from her leadership role in the Democratic caucus by fellow party members.

Five months after Republicans regained the majority in the House of Delegates and swept the top three jobs in the commonwealth, Democratic delegates gave an unceremonious boot to the woman who had headed the party for the past two years.

Filler-Corn is expected to be replaced by a man.

Of course.

The mutiny was reportedly orchestrated by two-term Delegate Don Scott Jr., D-Portsmouth. He gained notoriety two weeks into the 2022 session by attacking Gov. Glenn Youngkin, saying, “So far what I’ve seen from his Day 1 activities he is not someone who is a man of faith, not a Christian.” Continue reading

A Different Tone

by Dick Hall-Sizemore

There have been some complaints lately about how the Richmond newspaper should be called the Richmond Times-Dominion, due to its biased coverage in favor of the utility. While I agree with a lot of the criticism about taking a Dominion news release, rewriting it and then publishing it as news, a sentence in a story in today’s RTD struck me because it is definitely not in the line of that narrative:

“Dominion has a history of being a top donor to Virginia politicians, who in turn write laws that help the utility earn extra profit at the expense of its customers.”

Of course, the reporter writing the story is Patrick Wilson, one of the newspaper’s best reporters.

General Assembly to Governor: Not So Fast

Virginia Senate Chambers. Photo credit:AP

by Dick Hall-Sizemore

The page 1 lead story of Saturday’s Richmond Times-Dispatch announced what anybody who had been paying attention already knew: the General Assembly will not be taking up the biennial budget bill when it convenes on Wednesday. However, that does not mean the legislators will be able to leave early. They have a full docket to consider: 26 gubernatorial vetoes and over 100 bills returned with amendments recommended by the Governor.

I haven’t taken the time to go over all the bills sent back with recommendations, but there are at least a couple that should be of interest to Bacon’s Rebellion readers.

HB 158 (Byron, R-Lynchburg). This bill addressed an area of much complaint in Bacon’s Rebellion over the past two years: the Governor’s almost unlimited emergency powers. As finally enacted with bipartisan votes in both houses, the bill provides that no rule or order issued by the Governor during a declared state of emergency shall be effective beyond 45 days of its issuance, unless the General Assembly takes action. Continue reading

Unionize Virginia’s Worst Nursing Home Chains

by James C. Sherlock

If you go back to the series of articles I published here in October of 2021, you can refresh your memory on the dangers represented by Virginia’s worst nursing home chains.

If you look at the complete spreadsheet of every Virginia nursing home from that data sorted by ownership, the bad actors jump off the page. Their business models treat understaffing as a feature, not a problem. The fact that it endangers their employees and kills their patients seems not to matter.

The Commonwealth’s executive and legislative branches have for a very long time absolutely ignored their responsibilities as the state legislature and as the state executive regulator, federal and state inspector and state licensor of nursing homes, respectively. There is as yet no sign that will improve. I have hopes the new administration will step up to those responsibilities, but we’ll have to wait and see.

For now, the only fix that appears viable is unionization of the work forces of the bad actors. I encourage their employees to do it for themselves and their patients. Continue reading

Fix the Virginia Department of Health

Credit: PBS Healthcare Management

by James C. Sherlock

Governor Youngkin and his new administration have an opportunity to fix crucial problems in the Department of Health that have been festering for decades.

The issues:

  • How can Virginia regulate effectively its state-created healthcare monopolies?
  • In a directly related matter, how can we fix the failures, famously demonstrated during COVID, of the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) in its other missions ?

The power of Virginia’s Certificate of Public Need (COPN) to control the business of healthcare in Virginia was the original sin.  Giving that power to the Department of Health made it worse.

From that point VDH was the agent of its own corruption. Never charged by the General Assembly to create regional monopolies in its administration of Virginia’s Certificate of Public Need (COPN) law, VDH did so anyway.

Actions have consequences.

Now those regional healthcare monopolies are each the largest private business in their regions, have achieved political dominance in Richmond, and effectively control VDH. Continue reading

Lies, Damn Lies and Statistics in the Virginia Department of Education – Average Teacher Salaries Edition

by James C. Sherlock

I was in the early stages of researching a column on school salaries in Virginia when I came upon yet another bad report.

In 2021 Special Session I, the General Assembly directed the Superintendent of Public Instruction to provide a report on the status of staff salaries, by local school division, to the Governor and the Chairmen of the Senate Finance and Appropriations and House Appropriations Committees.

The appropriations committees wanted to know how much teachers and others were getting paid so they could raise the state contribution. It would seem to be a report that VDOE would like to get correct.

As with many other reports I have documented, the January salary report on its face cannot possibly be correct. VDOE and thus the Governor and General Assembly have no idea how much teachers and other instructional staff are paid in Virginia.

This report was a parting gift from the Northam administration.

The question itself — average salaries — may prove not to provide information useful for legislation and appropriations however accurately it is answered. Continue reading

Paying for Miscarriages of Justice

by Dick Hall-Sizemore

The 2022 General Assembly appropriated $6.5 million to compensate seven individuals who had been wrongly incarcerated.

The men had been convicted of crimes which it was later determined they did not commit.  They were:

Eugene Stevens--$1.7 million. (HB 394)  Stevens was convicted of murder in 1986 in Lancaster County and sentenced to 99 years in prison. The only physical evidence against him was a hair. The FBI now states that the tests used to compare that hair with Stevens’ hair is scientifically unreliable. Also, several prosecution witnesses lied and the Commonwealth presented false testimony.  Stevens was paroled after serving 32 years in prison. Based on work by the University of Virginia Innocence Project and the published opinion of a federal Court of Appeals judge that, in light of the facts newly discovered in the case, no jury would have reasonably found Stevens guilty, Governor Northam granted him an absolute pardon in 2021, noting that it “reflects Mr. Stevens’ innocence”.  For a fuller discussion of this case on this blog, see here. Continue reading

Building Systems to Use Methane Not From Wells

Methane escaping from a well being burned off.

by Steve Haner

Methane (CH4) is money. It is also known as natural gas, one of the most efficient fossil fuels we use, and allowing it to leak into the atmosphere when it could be used wastes energy and money.

Methane is also a greenhouse gas (GHG). But the story gets more interesting here, because when CH4 leaks into the atmosphere it mixes with oxygen and begins to break down into carbon dioxide (CO2) and water vapor (H2O), also both greenhouse gases. Burn it in your home furnace and the same byproducts result, carbon dioxide and water (and valuable heat, of course).

Methane is better at absorbing radiation and thus a more potent GHG than CO2, but it also breaks down far faster than the CO2 it eventually becomes. It all becomes CO2, whether captured and burned or released. So it is debatable whether there are huge environmental benefits behind 2022 legislation to encourage Virginia’s gas utilities to capture and sell methane from sources other than traditional gas wells. Continue reading

Virginia Slides Lower in ALEC Economic Rankings

American Legislative Exchange Council rated Virginia 30th out of 50 states using these three measures of economic performance over ten years. Click for larger view.

by Steve Haner

First published earlier today by the Thomas Jefferson Institute for Public Policy.

As measured by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), Virginia’s economic outlook has continued its precipitous drop and now barely ranks in the top half among the American states, 24th out of 50. A decade ago it was in the top five, ranking third in 2011 and 2012 and fifth in 2013.

Using three direct measures of actual economic performance, gross domestic product and job growth and population out migration, ALEC placed Virginia 30th among the 50 states over the past decade. Neighboring North Carolina, on the other hand, ranked 12th in recent economic performance and second in economic outlook.

Virginia’s number 24 ranking in the annual “Rich States, Poor States” outlook comparison will be dismissed by some as less important than other indicators of competitiveness, including the ultimate bragging point of being number one in the last CNBC ranking of best states for business. But the downward trend is dramatic, Virginia having ranked 17th last year and dropping seven places in this survey. Continue reading

More on Vetoes

by Dick Hall-Sizemore

At least one reader has requested that I post a list of all the bills that Governor Youngkin vetoed, along with summaries of the bills and the Governor’s explanation for his veto.  Such a list is at the end of this post.

I agree with some of the Governor’s vetoes, particularly of those bills directing a study or the convening of a task force.  Some of the bills seem somewhat trivial, such as the regulation of swimming pools by the Department of Health (HB 669) or requesting a federal waiver (HB 1270).  Sometimes, it is best to study an issue before proposing legislation to carry out a certain policy.  The oversight of the Department of Juvenile Justice (HB 1197) would be such an example. In those cases, the General Assembly could have accomplished its purpose by passing a joint resolution requesting agencies to conduct such studies. Agencies invariably conduct such studies, if requested, and joint resolutions cannot be vetoed. Continue reading

SCC Asked for Hearing on Secret Renewables Costs

by Steve Haner

Appalachian Power Company has asked the State Corporation Commission to schedule a separate hearing on Attorney General Jason Miyares’ motion to break the seal on exhibits in its application for new renewable energy sources.

Miyares’ April 6 motion was first reported by Bacon’s Rebellion, in a story on Appalachian’s pending application for approval of the projects and of its overall plan for complying with the Virginia Clean Economy Act (VCEA). Appalachian’s response motion was filed April 13, claiming irreparable harm to its stockholders if the actual line-by-line project cost projections were revealed to its customers.

Although some of these discrete items may appear innocuous on their own, collectively they would enable a savvy party to discern the price paid for the facility, which is competitively sensitive.

What do they say in swanky restaurants? If you have to ask the price, you cannot afford it. Revelations could be politically sensitive, as well, given the partisan divide on the VCEA itself. Continue reading