Category Archives: General Assembly

COVID Workers Comp On House Democrat Bill List

By Steve Haner

The coming Special Session of the General Assembly will be narrowly focused but filled with controversy, based on the legislative wish list just released by House of Delegates Democrats.  Only two bills listed fall outside of the major categories of “COVID-19 Relief” or “Criminal Justice and Police Reform.”

Under the heading “COVID Relief,” the Democrats wish to reopen their drive for employee paid leave, and as predicted want to designate COVID-19 as a workplace disease.

The Senate Democrats have their own list, released in June and reiterated in a more recent news release.  The release claims that one of the bills is ready for public viewing, but provides no link and the bill mentioned is not yet available through Legislative Information Services.  Neither caucus has yet revealed any thoughts on how to amend the state budget, a task where Governor Ralph Northam naturally takes the lead.

Here is the list from the House Democratic Caucus, with some thoughts following:

COVID-19 Relief:

  • Requiring businesses to grant paid sick leave for Virginia workers.
  • Prohibiting garnishments of stimulus relief checks. (Office of Attorney General bill)
  • Establishing a presumption of workers’ compensation for first responders, teachers, and other high-risk essential workers.
  • Providing immunity from civil claims related to COVID-19 for complying with health guidance.
  • Combating price gouging for Personal Protective Equipment. (Office of Attorney General bill)
  • Protecting Virginians from eviction during a public health emergency.
  • Creating a Commonwealth Marketplace for PPE Acquisition.
  • Mandating transparency requirements for congregate-care facilities during a public health emergency.

Continue reading

Renters Didn’t Make the Governor’s List

by James C. Sherlock

I just completed a survey of the 50 states to see how many of their legislatures were in regular session or special sessions called to deal with COVID issues between April 1 and August 15, 2020.

That 4.5-month period started when enough was known about COVID to start taking legislative action to back up Governors’ emergency decrees. It ends just before Virginia’s General Assembly will convene in special session to deal with COVID-related measures and other issues.

Thirty-eight of the 50 state legislatures have been either in regular session during that period or in special sessions called to deal with the COVID emergency.

Virginia is one of the 12 whose legislatures have not been in session. The others are Florida, Idaho, Indiana, Maine, Maryland, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Texas, Washington and West Virginia. Continue reading

How To Lessen the November 3 Polling Train Wreck

By Steve Haner

If the state and the major political parties do not spend substantial time educating voters about how voting rules have changed, and what has not changed, the lines and delays on November 3 will be incredible.  This voter education must start now. The Northam Administration is not known for effective communication, sadly.

The Virginia Public Access Project has posted a useful illustrated “how to” on voting absentee by mail, pointing to some things which have changed. But even it glosses over something key that has not changed: To apply on-line for an absentee ballot by mail, you still need to provide formal identification.

The first request in the on-line application is for your Virginia driver’s license number. Lacking that, it seeks some other numbered state-issued identification. You must also provide your Social Security number. Requesting and actually checking the voter’s data provides some assurance ballots will be mailed to real persons at their actual addresses.

The additional safety procedure of requiring the signature of a witness to that ballot, however, is under assault in the courts again. It was waived in June and the pandemic is still with us. Waiving it again simply feeds the claims that the process cannot be trusted.  Continue reading

Taxaginia Reappears As Special Session Looms

Another try at imposing a Virginia estate tax this month?

By Steve Haner

It must be a reflex. Waken or startle a Democrat and they shout, “raise taxes!” Our friends at the Commonwealth Institute for Fiscal Analysis came out Monday with a new list of (mostly old) tax proposals for the August 18 General Assembly special session. It drew the attention of Virginia’s Public Radio in a report this morning.

Keep in mind, it is still unknown (to us anyway) how much (or little) cash the state accumulated to carry forward into the new budget cycle that stated July 1. And nobody outside of state government has seen the new Fiscal Year 2021 and 2022 revenue forecasts, showing the impact of the economic-shutdown-induced recession. We see those August 18. Why wait for actual data before proposing new tax hikes?

For that matter, nobody can be sure yet just how much money the tax increases already approved by the 2020 regular session will extract from Virginia businesses and individuals. That might also be clearer come August 18. The tobacco and motor fuel tax increases landed hardest on those low income taxpayers the Commonwealth Institute seems most concerned about.  Continue reading

Hospitals Made Their Bed, but They Don’t Like Laying in It

by James A. Bacon

The Virginia Hospital & Healthcare Association has joined the Virginia College of Emergency physicians in suing the state Medicaid program over emergency budget cuts that they claim will cost them $55 million in reduced Medicaid payments, reports the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

The cuts will create hardship for hospitals already struggling with increased costs and decreased revenue relating to the COVID-19 epidemic, the VHHA says. Virginia hospitals claim to have suffered a net loss of $1 billion from March through June, even after federal aid from the Provider Relief Fund is taken into account. Losses for the year could exceed $3 billion.

I’m almost tempted to sympathize with the hospitals over a plight not of their making…. until I remember that Virginia’s hospitals led the charge for Medicaid expansion in 2018. And that, before the epidemic, Virginia’s biggest tax-exempt “nonprofit” healthcare systems earned profit margins far in excess of the 3.0% considered adequate for financially healthy hospitals, some of which they devoted to buying up doctors’ practices, starting their own insurance companies, and otherwise shoring up their vertically integrated monopolies.

The hospitals forgot a critical lesson: Politicians have no loyalty but to themselves. What the General Assembly giveth, the General Assembly can taketh away — and usually will in times of financial stress. Virginia’s hospitals fought for a bigger government role in healthcare, and they got it… good and hard. Continue reading

Big Problems with Dems’ No-Harm-No-Foul Assault Law

Richmond mob. Photo credit: Richmond Times-Dispatch

by James A. Bacon

Sen. Scott Surovell, D-Fairfax, has a point: Virginia needs to reform its law declaring that any “assault” on a law enforcement officer be treated as a felony. It is absurd that people are charged with felonies, as has happened in Virginia, for throwing onion rings and brownies, spilling water on shoes, or bumping a school resource officer while trying to get to class. Clearly, the law has been applied too broadly. Surovell and other Senate Democrats propose making it a felony to assault a law enforcement officer only if the victim experiences a visible injury.

Just one problem: The proposal does not take into account the tactics of protesters who have perfected the art of “non-violent” violence.

How would Surovell’s proposal treat the intentional aiming of  lasers for the purpose of blinding police officers?

How about throwing bags of urine and feces?

How about attempting but failing to injure a police officer by throwing rocks? Continue reading

Public Employee Collective Bargaining – Questions for Attorney General Herring

by James C. Sherlock

As a consequence of the successful teacher revolt in Fairfax County, there are major legal questions which must be answered concerning the initiation of public employee collective bargaining in Virginia next spring.

In accordance with Virginia Code § 2.2-505, members of the General Assembly can request official opinions of the Attorney General. Private citizens cannot. I urge General Assembly members of both parties to submit the questions posed below.

Teachers associations in Fairfax County Virginia successfully employed threats not to return to work that resulted in a change to Fairfax County Schools policy.

From the Washington Post, “Teachers in Fairfax revolt against fall plans, refusing to teach in-person,” June 26, 2020:

“A day after one of the nation’s largest school systems announced its proposal for fall learning, teachers within Fairfax County Public Schools rose in revolt and refused to teach in-person, as the (previously announced by the school board) plan demands, until officials revise their strategy.”

Those actions force Virginians to confront the consequences under Virginia law of collective bargaining with public employees that will be legal starting in May of 2021. Some but not all of the possible issues are addressed here.

Continue reading

Limit On Emergency Powers is First Bill

Aaaaaaand, they’re off. The first five bills have been filed for consideration by the August 18 Special Session, all introduced by Senate Republicans. As the list of proposals fills in rapidly, you can track it here.

First on the list, surprising no one, is a bill from Senator Steve Newman of the Lynchburg region limiting a governor’s emergency powers by executive order to 30 days, then outlining how the General Assembly may intervene if it chooses (and it may choose not to).  This bill may or may not be ruled germane to the session’s purpose, but I’m glad it is bill number one. (Well, five thousand and one.)

SB 5001 Emergency Services and Disaster Law; limitation on duration of executive orders.

Next up, from Senate Minority Leader Thomas Norment of Williamsburg, is bill prohibiting police use of choke holds, a practice that has led to far too many injuries and deaths among arrested individuals, including but in no way limited to the notorious case in Minneapolis. This is very much germane to the session’s official call.

SB 5002 Law-enforcement officers; prohibition on the use of neck restraints.

So is Senator Richard Stuart’s proposal for a Commission on Civil Rights and Policing, for a formal dive into these issues. With the House Democrats already holding three public hearings on their ideas, and with the Crime Commission now thoroughly stacked against debate and dissent, this one’s a long shot.

SB 5003 Civil Rights and Policing, Commission on; established, report, sunset provision. Continue reading

VEC: 1.5 Million Unemployment Claims In 2020

Virginia and US employment fluctuations since 2004, showing the dip in 2009-10 and plummet in the last four months. Source VEC. Click for larger view.

By Steve Haner

By the end of this amazing year, almost 1.5 million Virginians may have filed claims for unemployment insurance payments, leaving the state’s once-record unemployment trust fund balance of $1.5 billion reduced to $750 million in the red, legislators were told this morning.

That $2.25 billion swing is due to $2.6 billion spent out of the state fund, to cover basic unemployment benefits. To date, the federal government has supplemented that with another $6.3 billion paid to Virginian under special COVID-19 related benefits, which do not come out of the state trust account.  Continue reading

Virginia’s Special Session: Act in Haste, Repent at Leisure

by Kerry Dougherty

Get ready, Virginia. Bad things are brewing in Richmond.

On Friday, Gov. Ralph Northam announced that he was bringing the General Assembly back for a special session on August 18.

Lucky us.

The mischief that the far-left majority — bankrolled by Michael Bloomberg — could get into should alarm every moderate Virginian.

There are only two topics that should be on the table for this extraordinary session:

1) How to plug the massive hole in the budget that occurred when Northam’s shutdowns wrecked the economy and 2) How to rein in a governor who used his emergency powers to take almost total control of the commonwealth in March and who seems determined to govern indefinitely by edict without legislative oversight. Continue reading

A List of the Police Reform Proposals So Far

By Dick Hall-Sizemore

As we have discussed on this blog over the past few days, the Democrats in the General Assembly  have put together extensive and far-reaching packages on police reform. Steve Haner was considerate enough to provide a list of the Senate Democrats’ proposals, as well as a link to the package released by the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus.

Several of the proposals of the Black Caucus are what I have called broad, “aspirational” goals. They describe the ultimate goal, but do not provide the details on how to reach the goal. On the other hand, the Senate Democratic Caucus put forth more specific proposals

For your ease in following the action, I have consolidated them into a side-by-side comparison. (It can be found here.) I took the liberty of organizing them a little bit differently than the two organizations did and of providing some comments of my own on some of the proposals. Continue reading

Housing Grants Just a COVID Relief Rounding Error

By Steve Haner

Will $50 million be enough? Will that get all the Virginians who have fallen behind due to COVID-19 square on their rent or mortgage payments? Or is that amount, in a relief program now fleshed out by the Northam Administration, merely a start?

There is a hint on the program’s web page, now available. “Financial assistance is a one-time payment with opportunity for renewal based on availability of funding and the household’s need for additional assistance and continued eligibility.” A Senate committee was told last week that Governor Ralph Northam is considering spending hundreds of millions more for the same purpose.

This first $50 million is just the latest way that the billions of federal dollars flowing into Virginia as COVID-19 relief will be used. Within that operation, it is a  rounding error. On June 23, primary day, the Senate Finance and Appropriations Committee met virtually to be briefed, among other things, on how the four waves of federal assistance have been or will be spent.

The usual suspects of the Capitol Hill press corps may not have been there (or to be exact, may not have been monitoring the Zoom conference.) The primary results and the Phase 3 announcement held their attention. A week later the unreported reports are still worth reviewing and links to them follow below.

Secretary of Finance Aubrey Layne, in his presentation, estimated that Virginia has received more than $28 billion in direct aid – $6.5 billion direct to the state and local governments, $14.4 billion to state businesses in the Payroll Protection Program and $7.3 billion pledged to municipal liquidity facility loans to cover revenue losses.  Continue reading

Senate Democrat Promises on Police Reform

By Steve Haner

What follows, without edits, is the full list of legislative proposals now endorsed by the Virginia Senate Democratic Caucus. With 21 members, if they all show up and vote aye on all of these, they pass in the upcoming special session. Bills would then have to also pass the House of Delegates and be signed by the Governor. This follows up an earlier post by Dick Hall-Sizemore.

  1.  Bringing Equity to Virginia Policing
    ● Prohibit No Knock Warrants (Breonna Taylor)
    ● Ban Sex With Individuals Arrested by Law Enforcement
    ● Prohibit Hiring of Officers Fired or Resigned During Use of Force Investigations
    ● Create a Decertification Procedure for Law Enforcement Officers
    ● Ban chokeholds and strangleholds (George Floyd)
    ● Require Attempts at De-escalation Prior to Use of Force
    ● Require Warnings Before Shots Fired
    ● Require Law Enforcement to Exhaust All Other Means Prior to Shooting
    ● Create Duty to Intervene by Fellow Law Enforcement Officers
    ● Prohibit Shooting at Moving Motor Vehicles
    ● Require Departments to Create a Use of Force Continuum
    ● Require Comprehensive Reporting by All Law Enforcement Agencies Including Use of Force Data
    ● Defelonize Assault on Law Enforcement Officer (Return to Misdemeanor Offense)
    ● Cancel HB599 Funding (Virginia supplemental funding for local police departments) After Local Police Have Disproportionate Use of Force Incidents In their Jurisdiction
  2. Expand Local Authority to Respond to Mental Health and Regulate Law Enforcement
    ● Create Local Authority for a Marcus Alert System – System to Report Acute Mental Health Crises
    ● Create Local Option for Citizen Review Board Empowered to Investigate, Fire and/or Discipline Officers
  3. Restore Courts’ and Prosecutors’ Flexibility to Effect Mercy
    ● Confirm Prosecutors’ Authority to Drop Charges
    ● Enhance Courts’ Ability to Expunge Charges for Dismissed Charges, Substance Convictions and Pardoned Offenses
  4. Reduce Racial Profiling Opportunities for Law Enforcement
    ● Prohibit Searches of Person or Vehicle Based on Odor of Marijuana Without Probable Cause for Other Offenses
    ● Prohibit Stops for Equipment Violations Not Covered by State Vehicle Inspection
    ● Secondary Offense For Dangling Objects, Extinguished Tag Light, Tinted Windows or Loud Exhaust
  5. Restore Equity to the Sentencing Process
    ● Jury Sentencing Only at Option of the Accused
    ● Eliminate Commonwealth’s Right to Demand Jury Trial When Jury Trials Suspended for State of Emergency
    ● Require Agencies to Determine Cost Savings for Introduced Criminal Justice Legislation
  6. Restore Equity to the Virginia Prison System
    ● Allow Earned Sentence Credit for Good Behavior During Prison
    ● Create Discretion for Compassionate Release for Terminally Ill or Permanently Disabled Prisoners

Continue reading

Virginia Democrats Gearing Up for Police Reforms

By Dick Hall-Sizemore

The upcoming special session of the General Assembly will be about budget cuts and police reform.   Speaker Eileen Filler-Corn announced last week that actions on police reform would be allowed to be taken up at the special session to be held on a to-be-announced date.

Whenever it is held, it apparently will not be soon enough for the Democrats. “There is an urgency to provide relief from what many have seen as a racist criminal justice system and its application,“ said Charniele Herring, the majority leader.

None of the proposals being talked about are radical and none will constitute an immediate fix. Some of the proposals will cost money. Furthermore, one limitation that seems to have been overlooked is that most policing is under the jurisdiction of localities, which means that there is just so much that the state can do. Finally, the General Assembly has grappled with some of these issues in the past and has not resolved some of their complexities, making it improbable that it will be able to do in a short special session. Continue reading

Racism, COVID19 and Marijuana Legalization in Virginia

By DJ Rippert

Unintended consequences.  Newspapers, websites and Bacon’s Rebellion have been full of articles describing and debating the COVID-19 pandemic and the police killing of George Floyd with the attendant protests. First-order consequences of these events have been widely discussed. However, as we enter into the “new normal” a number of secondary and tertiary questions arise. One such question pertains to the legalization of recreational marijuana in Virginia. My opinion is that both the COVID-19 pandemic’s economic fallout and the new sense of urgency around racial justice should compel our state government to accelerate the legalization of adult use marijuana.

The COVID19 lockdown recession. The sudden stop to Virginia’s economy has resulted in predictable fiscal turmoil. While one can debate whether the lockdown was too restrictive, not sufficiently restrictive, too long or too short there can be no debate that closing large parts of the economy has caused deep financial issues. The US economy is in recession. Some will say that Virginia will be insulated from the worst of that recession by the flow of federal dollars through the state. To that I’d reply – “don’t be naive, Nancy” … stories of the impact on small businesses are being reported across the state. It should be obvious to everybody that Virginia faces a fiscal winter even if there is no second wave of Coronavirus this actual winter. Continue reading