Category Archives: General Assembly

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

Ralph Rescues Reefer

By Don Rippert

Warm up the bongs. Adults in Virginia will be able to legally possess up to an ounce of marijuana for recreational use starting July 1. The bill originally passed by the General Assembly would have delayed that date until July 1, 2024. However, Governor Ralph Northam amended the bill and, after some haggling, the General Assembly accepted the amended bill. Unsurprisingly, the bill that ultimately passed got more than a little frayed in the back and forth between the General Assembly and the Governor. Continue reading

VDOE Transgender Policies Dangerous to Both Children and School Personnel

by James C. Sherlock

Virginia’s Model Policies for the Treatment of Transgender Students in Virginia’s Public Schools is a bigger mess the more I study it.

It is as far as I can tell unprecedented in scope. I checked parallel California, D.C. and Arlington County policies. None of them comes close to the dangerous nonsense in Virginia’s new Model Policies.

Even if we ignore the legal, medical, ethical and parental rights issues, which we won’t, Model Policies will prove untenable in any school that tries to comply.

We absolutely need to make transgender students feel safe at school and not discriminate against them in any way.  Arlington County has done it well in my view. But the Virginia Department of Education’s (VDOE) (Department) new regulation fails every test of professionalism and common sense with its attempt to address those needs.

Be assured however that Model Policies meets key tests of radical progressivism.

  • Its prescriptions challenge the tenets of every major religion and the ethics of people who care about ethics;
  • It is unsupported by evidence or common sense, uncaring of consequences, unachievable by sentient adults; and
  • It is mandatory.

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

Virginia Board of Education – In Loco Parentis and Headed to Court

Mark Herring

by James C. Sherlock

Is your child yours or does he or she belong body and soul to the state in the person of the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE)?   

That is a question that is not only reasonable, but absolutely necessary after reading its new transgender student regulation. That regulation represents a straight-up, in-your-face denial of parental rights.

The quasi-religious fervor with which the radical left now pushes children to “find” their transgender selves and the state to offer “support” in that decision to very young children is as disturbing as anything in American life. They consider that gender identity is an innate characteristic that most children “declare” by age five to six. They further believe the state should take it from there to protect them from their parents.

VDOE just released what will prove a fiercely controversial Model Policies for the Treatment of Transgender Students in Public Elementary and Secondary Schools pursuant to House Bill 145 and Senate Bill 161 enacted by the 2020 Virginia General Assembly. Under that 2020 law, the “policies” just released are mandatory for school boards, thus granted the status of a regulation.  

The whole conceit that the government – read the radical progressive left who wrote this regulation for VDOE – knows best what is right for your children is on full display in the document. It presumes to enforce government decisions on the sexuality of very young children both hidden from and against the wishes of the parents.   Continue reading

One of the Good Guys

by Dick Hall-Sizemore

Former Del. A.R. “Pete” Giesen died last Friday. He was one of the good ones.

He served in the House of Delegates from 1934-1974 and 1975-1996, representing the Staunton-Waynesboro area. He was a moderate Valley Republican.

I have somewhat of a bias. He chaired the first legislative committee I staffed when I joined the Division of Legislative Services. Back in the those days, the major study committees ran through something called the Virginia Advisory Legislative Council, comprised of the leadership of the General Assembly. It was the Study Committee on the Needs of Young Children that he chaired that year.

Pete was smart and a savvy politician. But, most of all, he was a nice person who had a kind word for everyone he came into contact with, including staff. He also had a great sense of humor and a great sense of perspective.

After he retired from the legislature, he lobbied some for Harrisonburg and Rockingham County and taught political science part-time at James Madison University.

The General Assembly could use a lot more Pete Giesens.

COPN Monopolies Depress Income for Virginia Healthcare Professionals Without Lowering Costs

The Business of Healthcare

by James C. Sherlock

Virginia is among the richest states in the country.  

We are ranked ninth among states with the highest median household income in the 2019 (latest) Census Bureau American Community Survey. Virginia median household income was $74,222 and the U.S. as a whole was $62,843.

But Virginia has a Certificate of Public Need (COPN) law among the most stifling of competition in the nation. The law itself and the regional monopolies created combine to suppress both opportunity and income for healthcare professionals.  

The monopolies don’t just control the healthcare delivery market, they also control the labor market.  

This essay will illustrate the effects of COPN and COPN-generated monopolies in depressing wages, and thus on the willingness of medical professionals to practice here. And then show you those lower wages don’t save consumers a dime. 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

Virginia Democrats Govern in the Service of Dogma and Power

by James C. Sherlock

Karl Marx

Socialism and communism are so 19th and 20th centuries.  

Under socialism, individuals would still own property. But industrial production, which was the chief means of generating wealth, was to be communally owned and managed by a democratically elected government.

Socialists sought change and reform, but sought to make those changes through democratic processes within the existing social and political structure, not to overthrow that structure.  Socialism was to be based on the consent of the governed. Communism sought the elimination of personal property and the violent overthrow of existing social and political structures.

So what has changed for today’s progressives who have taken over the Democratic party, especially in Virginia? 

A lot. Continue reading

Democrats Expand Worker Protections

Photo credit: Richmond Times-Dispatch

By Dick Hall-Sizemore

Many commenters on this blog seem to view Virginia Democrats as elitists (the “Plantation Elite”) who either ignore or look down on the needs of most Virginians or elitists who are absorbed in advancing critical race theory and other woke ideas. While battles against these perceived threats have been raging on Bacon’s Rebellion, Democrats in the General Assembly have passed, over stiff Republican opposition, a raft of legislation during the past two sessions that benefit ordinary working stiffs.

Some of this legislation has been high profile and has drawn fire on these pages, but most have gone largely unnoticed here and in the press. The best-known bills are those that increase the minimum wage and that authorize localities to engage in collective bargaining with their employees. These have been debated extensively on BR and I have no interest in resuming those debates here. (For the record, I support the minimum wage increase, but have strong reservations about public employee collective bargaining.) 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

In 2019, 49% of Virginia’s Black 4th graders Could Not Read – Mississippi Offers Hope


by James C. Sherlock

Since 2013, Mississippi has made unprecedented, best-in-the-nation improvement in the academic achievements of its children starting as measured in nationwide testing. The improvements were especially pronounced in 4th graders who benefited directly from its 2013 literacy law.

I have done a deep dive into those results and traced them back to public policy.  There are actionable lessons for Virginia school districts seeking improvements in the literacy of their students. Mississippi has far better school literacy laws, and a markedly better Board of Education and education strategic plan than Virginia.  

Fundamentally, Virginia is going in a different direction than Mississippi in terms of child academic achievement because the Governor, the General Assembly and Board of Education want it that way. It is simultaneously going in a different direction in measures of child academic achievement. 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

Relaxing Restrictions on Pharmacists

by James A. Bacon

Under a bill signed by Governor Ralph Northam today, pharmacists will be able to provide a wider array of services to adults such as writing prescriptions for the flu, administering COVID vaccines, and prescribing controlled substances for HIV. A separate bill signed into law will expand the scope of practice for physician assistants.

“It’s long past due for us to eliminate barriers for people to get basic care,” said Del. Sam Rasoul, D-Roanoke, who submitted the bills. “Pharmacists and physicians assistants are health care professionals who can and should be able to provide basic services. For people who don’t have a primary care provider, this will make a huge difference when it comes to treating basic illnesses.” Continue reading