Category Archives: General Assembly

Higher Ed to General Assembly: More, More, More

Rendering of new Va. Tech. Data and Digital Sciences Building, (authorized 2020) Photo credit: Va Tech

by Dick Hall-Sizemore

The 2022-2024 biennial state budget that became effective on July 1 included more than $1 billion in general fund appropriation for capital projects for institutions of higher education. This was in addition to at least $1 billion in general fund-supported appropriations in the previous biennial budget.

One would think that more than $2 billion in the last two biennial budgets would be enough to satisfy the capital needs of higher ed, at least for a while. But, as my colleagues in the Department of Planning and Budget were prone to say, “There is no satisfying higher ed.”

The ink was hardly dry on the governor’s signature on the new budget bill when higher ed institutions submitted capital budget requests totaling $3.2 billion for the amended budget to be submitted to the 2023 General Assembly, of which $2.6 billion would come from the general fund or be supported by general fund-backed bonds. Continue reading

Zombie Legislation

by Jim McCarthy

Zombies, having become popular in filmdom and TV, are finding resonance in the nation’s legislative sausage making. Generally, the term zombie legislation applies to statutes negated or consigned to death, often by federal or state court decisions, that remain on the books due to legislative lethargy. Currently, the phenomenon has become more apparent and pertinent following the U.S. Supreme Court (SCOTUS) decision in Dobbs v Jackson, reviving concern about related privacy precedents.

As a matter of fact, however, zombie statutes have an even older presence than 2022.

The post-Civil War amendments intended to emancipate slaves and affirm the principle that all are created equal. The Thirteenth (in precatory language) declared that “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude … shall exist within the United States,” and the Fifteenth guaranteed that the right to vote shall not be denied. Declaring slavery shall not exist as a precatory statement is not the equivalent of outlawing the practice. Just over three decades later, at the opening of the 1900s, Virginia convened a constitutional convention. One of its prominent leaders, Carter Glass (later U.S. Senator), in responding to questions about some provisions in the document as discriminatory, proclaimed:

Discrimination! What that is exactly what we propose. To remove every negro voter who can be gotten rid of, legally, without materially impairing the numerical strength of the white electorate.

Continue reading

Wind: SCC Rejects Deal Signed By Its Staff

Click for larger view. Source: Dominion

by Steve Haner

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

Rejecting an agreement that its own staff reached with Dominion Energy Virginia, the State Corporation Commission has imposed at least some level of financial risk on the utility’s shareholders should its $10 billion offshore wind project fail to match the company’s promised performance.

Lest you think that means the ratepayers can relax, the long final order issued August 5 once again highlights all the things that could go wrong with the Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind (CVOW) project, scheduled to be fully operational by 2027. The regulators also wash their hands of any responsibility and record for posterity that the Virginia General Assembly made them approve this. Continue reading

Bill to Bury Fauquier Powerline Comes to You

Various proposed power line routes from Warrenton’s Blackwell Road substation. Dominion illustration. Click to expand.

by Steve Haner

One of the key skills in politics is to make your constituents happy with money provided from those far, far away. It is happening again as Fauquier County’s leaders want the General Assembly to force all Dominion Energy Virginia’s ratepayers to pay to bury a 230-kv power line out of sight from their voters.  Continue reading

Five Reasons to Reject Offshore Wind

Snippet from UVA video showing how winds can destroy a large wind turbine.  Click for larger view.

by Steve Haner

Researchers at the University of Virginia are part of an ongoing effort to redesign wind turbines to be both more efficient and better protected from storm-scale winds, as described in this video you can find on a university website.

What is the problem to be addressed? Says one of the engineers:

As you get these larger wind turbines, your blades end up becoming more flexible and if you’re upwind then when the wind comes in and hits those blades, they can curve backwards and then it can hit that tower and destroy the entire turbine.

 You can see an example of that happening on the video. It is not just theory. Continue reading

Hospitals Continue to Cut Labor and Delivery and NICU Services

Credit Kylie Johnson Photography

by James C. Sherlock

Virginia and the nation continue to see the results of the baby bust.

I wrote yesterday of the baby cliff, the 15% decline in live births that started in the great recession of 2007-09. It continues. And it continues to drive change, much of it not good.

I have written here about such important hospital changes as:

  • the closing of labor and delivery services at Virginia Beach General Hospital and elsewhere in the state; and
  • the consolidation of Neo-natal ICU (NICU) services with the integration of two hospital systems into Ballad Health in Southwestern Virginia and Northeastern Tennessee.

That too is a continuing national trend.

Today’s young people of child-bearing age will find not only fewer places to deliver a child than their parents did, but also to provide specialized care if the baby needs it. Continue reading

Gender Dysphoria Treatment for Children Needs Some Rules in Virginia

by James C. Sherlock

Virginia needs, for the protection of children, parents, and physicians, a law to specify minimum age requirements and require court orders for voluntary medical intervention in child sexual development.

When there are physical abnormalities involved, the court can order those treatments as well.

On the other hand, I propose a ban on voluntary sex reassignment surgery in minors.

A court order is already required in Virginia for non-therapeutic sterilization of children. Virginia law makes no reference to the treatment of gender dysphoria in children.

Some will try to parse the differences, but it seems almost axiomatic that consent to puberty blocking and hormone replacement therapy (HRT) for minors should be treated the same as consent to sterilization. Continue reading

Portsmouth: Chaos + Casino = Chaos

Louise Lucas

by James C. Sherlock

Portsmouth has a lot of problems. Look for them to get worse in February when its new casino is scheduled to open.

A key thing you need to know about the casino is that it is the realization of Louise Lucas’ vision. Senator Lucas has spent 22 years promoting a casino in Portsmouth. As if that was just the thing Portsmouth needed to become a successful city.

Her vision was clarified by nearly $50,000 in campaign donations from casino interests.

Introduced in January 2019 by Lucas, Virginia Senate Bill 1126 earmarked commercial casinos for the towns of Bristol, Danville, and Portsmouth. The legislation also permitted the Pamunkey Indian Tribe to build Native American casinos in Richmond and Norfolk.

Rivers Casino Portsmouth is scheduled to open in February, just across the water or through the tunnels here in South Hampton Roads from the new casino in Norfolk that will open in 2024.

Both were teed up by a Joint Legislative Audit Review Committee (JLARC) study required by that legislation prior to the votes of the citizens of those five locations.

The site-specific study done for JLARC by the Innovation Group projects the casino in Norfolk will generate only slightly more revenue than the one in Portsmouth. It forecasts that in 2025, the Norfolk casino would produce about $150 million in total revenue and the Portsmouth site $130 million. Continue reading

A Letter to an Old Friend

by James C. Sherlock

This article is rendered as a letter responding to an old friend and mentor, the University of Virginia, my alma mater.

I can imagine the University’s response to my last article on its culture:

The changes we have experienced in the culture of the University, its pervasive progressivism, which some may see as toxic to a public university, are not unique to the University of Virginia, have been decades in the making and will be very difficult to change from within.

I note the pessimism, but do not share the conclusion. Change it must, and we must not shelter in place and hope it blows over.

I firmly believe that the University will not survive as a public institution, and will not deserve to survive, with a leadership structure monitored by a political Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) commissariat that tolerates no dissent from progressive orthodoxy.

I don’t believe it will survive hiring practices that render the faculty politically single-minded.

I don’t believe it will survive a student experience that has driven large majorities of students to respond to surveys that they feel afraid to engage in debate on topics related to progressive dogma.

How can we honestly say we promote diversity, but not diversity of thought?
Continue reading

The Abortion Hypocrisy of Glenn Youngkin

by Dick Hall-Sizemore

Governor Youngkin recently told a forum organized by The Family Foundation that life begins at conception. I agree with that statement.

He went on to say that he wanted to “protect life.” However, he said that he would be willing to settle for a bill that prohibits abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy.

According to the CDC, there were 15,582 abortions in Virginia in 2019, the latest year for which there is data. (If the abortion data is included on the Virginia Department of Health website, it is well hidden.) Of that number, only 90 (less than one percent) were performed after the 20th week of pregnancy. If life begins at conception, as the Governor says he believes, why aren’t those almost 15,500 lives that were aborted (killed) before the 21st week of pregnancy as valuable as the 90 lives that would have been spared under the Governor’s policy? Continue reading

Virtual Education in K-12 Public Schools – A False and Corrupt Narrative in Virginia

by James C. Sherlock

Public employee interests with personal stakes in the outcome are lying by omission in public discussions of virtual schooling in Virginia.

Their message was published in Suzanne Munson’s column in the Richmond Times Dispatch on Jun 25th.

The VDOE has made a commendable start with online learning through its Virtual Virginia classes. But these are available in only a handful of school districts, serving less than 2% of the commonwealth’s students. This system could become a major player, with serious funding from the General Assembly. (emphasis added)

A free, accredited online curriculum, featuring the finest instructors in every subject, would level the playing field for students from diverse backgrounds. Rich and poor students alike across the commonwealth could receive the same good instruction, addressing uneven education in affluent, low-income and rural areas. Students confined at home due to illnesses or physical disabilities would be able to keep up with their studies and not fall behind.

Additionally, for those choosing remote learning individually or in small-group settings, this need not be an isolated experience. There could be opportunities for discussion, exercise, social interaction and creative expression, with adult supervision.

Ms. Munson failed to mention that exactly the public school educations she describes have been offered successfully for more than a decade free to parents by VDOE-certified private providers offering SOL-compliant instruction here in the Commonwealth.  Ms. Munson may even be ignorant of the existence of the privately run program.  

Somehow they have been doing it for those years to the great satisfaction of parents without “serious funding from the General Assembly.” They exist on the state share of school funding for each pupil that attends. The state money follows the child. No special state appropriations. Parents pay nothing. The local school districts pay nothing.

The problem the state employees have with that program is that the participating organizations are privately run. VDOE under the previous administration made a coordinated attempt to drive the MOP (Multi-division Online Provider) program out of business.

Now the state employees, using communications like Ms. Munson’s column, are lobbying for vast increases in dedicated state appropriations for their own virtual program. Promotions undoubtedly to follow for everyone currently in the program.

That constitutes public corruption. Continue reading

A Mean-Spirited Amendment

by Dick Hall-Sizemore

The 2021 General Assembly passed legislation that made students who fall into the “DACA” category (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals), sometimes called the “Dreamers,” eligible for in-state tuition at Virginia institutions of higher education.

To be eligible for in-state tuition regardless of citizenship or immigration status, an applying student must have:

  1. Attended high school in Virginia for at least two years;
  2. Graduated from high school on or after July 1, 2008; and
  3. Filed Virginia income tax returns ( by the student or parents) for at least two years prior to the college application date.

Out of the funding provided for financial aid to students in higher education institutions in the budget bill it adopted, the General Assembly earmarked $5 million each year for DACA students.

Governor Youngkin submitted a budget amendment that “redirected” that funding to financial assistance for students attending Virginia’s Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). Those institutions would be Virginia State in Petersburg and Norfolk State in Norfolk. Continue reading

Virginia Strategic Imperatives: Train and Retain More Teachers and Nurses

A Major Opportunity

by James C. Sherlock

Governor Glenn Youngkin wants to make a lasting difference in Virginia. He wants to leave it better than he found it.

In the years I have been writing about healthcare and education in Virginia, there is a recurring theme in both fields: not enough practitioners; specifically, registered nurses and teachers.

I will not in this article try to dissect the specifics of each shortfall, other than to say each is growing and reaching crisis proportions simultaneously in both professions.

This is, rather, a plea to the Youngkin administration and the General Assembly to turn their focus to dealing with those shortfalls. If they do not, a lot of the things  they are doing will be lost in the carnage of the failures of the healthcare and education systems.

Without education, there is no economic future. Without competent healthcare, there will be no future at all for many.

In both cases, the approaches must raise incentives and reduce disincentives. Continue reading

Can Dominion Be Made To Stand Behind Promises?

Perhaps the biggest weather risk to the performance of Dominion’s planned offshore wind project. In all the briefs about mitigating risk, the word hurricane appears once.

by Steve Haner

First published this morning by the Thomas Jefferson Institute for Public Policy. Second of two articles.

In promoting its proposed Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind (CVOW) project, Dominion Energy Virginia has made many specific projections about its costs and performance. The State Corporation Commission is now being advised to convert one or more of them into binding promises, with financial consequences for the utility and its shareholders if the 176 turbines fail to meet expectations.

As noted in previous discussions, including part one yesterday, Dominion’s 2.6 million Virginia customers are fully exposed to any additional costs created if the construction schedule falters, if material costs explode, tax credits disappear, or if the amount of energy provided over the next 25-30 years fails to meet targets. As also previously reported, no other similar project on the U.S. East Coast is structured to put full risk on customers. Continue reading

Offshore Wind Risks Stressed in SCC Briefs

The footprint for Dominion’s Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind project, 27 miles off Virginia Beach.

by Steve Haner

First published this morning by the Thomas Jefferson Institute for Public Policy. First of two articles, with the second coming tomorrow.  

Virginia’s State Corporation Commission has now received a series of legal briefs offering opinions on what steps, under the law, it can take to protect Dominion Energy Virginia consumers from the massive risks facing its proposed offshore wind facility. Those risks range from cost overruns to poor energy output to failure.

All the parties asked responded that the SCC did have some authority to act and somewhat shift the risk. The utility had a more limited view. But the legal question is truly secondary, and the real question is whether two judges will take actions to protect consumers when their elected representatives openly and knowingly left them so exposed. Continue reading