Category Archives: General Assembly

Confusing “Workplace Harassment” Bill is Back

by Hans Bader

“Old bills never die, they just wait for votes,” notes the East Bay Times. A bad bill can die in one legislative session, only to come back with a vengeance in the next session, and get passed due to more intense lobbying, or the death or retirement of opposing lawmakers.

That may happen this year in Virginia. One example is the resurrection of a complicated and confusing workplace harassment bill I discussed last year. It died in March 2020 on a 23-to-17 vote, apparently after legislators became concerned about the strange way it defined “workplace harassment.” That bill, HB 1418, banned both “sexual harassment” and “workplace harassment” at workplaces with five or more workers. It also redefined what “harassment” means.

That bill has now come back from the dead. It has been re-introduced in the House of Delegates as HB 2155. And a more extreme version of the bill was introduced in the state senate as SB 1360.

These bills say “conduct may be workplace harassment regardless of whether” the “conduct occurred outside of the workplace.” And they omit the requirement that conduct be “unwelcome” before it can constitute harassment. That requirement is found in federal sexual harassment laws and court rulings. Continue reading

Taxing the Money That Saved Virginia Jobs

By Steve Haner

Concern that Virginia is seeking to tax federal pandemic relief grants to Virginia businesses – grants which kept Virginians employed — is putting a normally routine tax administration bill in jeopardy.

The House Finance Committee on Monday approved the annual bill to bring Virginia tax law into conformity with the Internal Revenue Code effective December 31, 2020. But eight of 22 committee members voted no, and a similar division in the full House would kill the bill. The bill needs to go into effect immediately to be reflected on tax returns now being prepared, but that requires an 80% super majority.

The Thomas Jefferson Institute for Public Policy, joined by the National Federation of Independent Business and the Virginia Society of Certified Public Accounts, opposed one section of the bill in committee testimony (watch with the link). While Congress told businesses with PPP loans that they can deduct the wages and salaries they maintained to earn forgiveness of the loans, Virginia wants to disallow those costs as a deduction.

That effectively taxes the forgiven loan. Consider the following simple example. Continue reading

Virginia’s State Health System Will Continue to Kill its Citizens If We Let It

by James C. Sherlock

Dr. Northam

Virginians of every political stripe have grown very tired of watching the Northam administration obfuscate repeated, very public failures to carry out its role in protecting the health of its citizens since the onset of COVID.

But that is an effect, not a cause, of the massive and continuing failures at the state level to protect the public health.

A parade of failures

The bigger problems — incompetence in the Virginia Department of Health (VDH), lack of management oversight by the Governor and his appointees and political indifference driven in part by political corruption — go back as far as I can remember.

The very latest is COVID vaccinations. VDH has known for 9 months that it would have to lead the internal distribution within the state of vaccines and oversee a program to make sure they get into peoples arms. That is going so well that we are 48th in efficiency of vaccinations.

Before that it was the state’s failure to read much less practice the state emergency pandemic plan that was written at federal expense by federal contractors more than a decade ago; failure to maintain the state emergency stockpile that it called for; failure to effectively inspect for hospital and nursing home pandemic readiness prior to COVID; failure to appropriately manage COVID personal protection equipment distribution; delays and corruption in the program for COVID testing in nursing homes; failure to even acknowledge the attempted hostile takeover of EVMS; failure to support Health Enterprise Zones to improve access by the poor to primary care; VDH’s use of its role in COPN to create regional hospital monopolies and restrict the number of beds; severe and very costly restriction of the establishment ambulatory surgical centers under COPN; the list goes on. Continue reading

COVID Vaccine Distribution: What Can Virginia Learn from Florida?

Image used with permission of Coastal Cloud

Fiasco. From the start, Florida prioritized anybody 65 or older into its top tier for receiving the COVID vaccine. Virginia initially limited early access to the vaccine to those 75 and over. Last Thursday Gov Northam announced that Virginia would include people 65 and over in the current distribution of vaccines. That adds 9.5% of Virginia’s population, or 810,920 Virginians, to the “eligible now” list. What can Virginia learn from Florida about distributing the vaccines to a larger percentage of the population?

Florida’s initial efforts to distribute the COVID vaccine were widely described as a fiasco. Newspapers featured pictures of senior citizens in long lines waiting to get vaccinated. Just registering for a vaccination appointment was chaotic. Registration call centers were overwhelmed. CNN described the registration process as haphazard. If Florida is a benchmark … Virginia will soon enter the “chaos zone.” However, there is good news from Florida that could help Virginia. A Florida based technology company, Coastal Cloud, has started managing vaccine appointments using an application built on Salesforce.Com. I interviewed the husband-and-wife team that founded Coastal Cloud yesterday and they explained how their company is helping four counties in Florida get a handle on the scheduling of COVID vaccinations. Continue reading

Virginia Pay Bill Will Be a Nightmare for Some Small Employers

by Hans Bader

Pay regulations that are a manageable hassle for the biggest employers can be a nightmare for small employers. One example is SB 1228, a bill pending in the Virginia legislature. If enacted, it would keep employers from setting employee pay based on employees’ past wages, even though wages are usually a sign of what an employee is worth, and often reveal more about an employee’s role in a company than the employee’s mere job title reveals. It would forbid any employer in Virginia, regardless of size, to “rely on the wage history of a prospective employee” in determining the employee’s wage. It would also forbid them from seeking “the wage history of a prospective employee.”

Since federal law permits such wage-setting, and small businesses often don’t have lawyers, some small businesses will likely get sued for violating it, before they even learn about the existence of this law.

SB 1228 also defines certain pay differences as discrimination even when they are unlikely to be due to bias — especially when they occur at small employers, where such pay differences affect only an isolated number of employees, and thus are statistically insignificant. SB 1228 requires pay equity for businesses of all sizes, for all protected classifications — not just sex, but also marital status, religion, race, disability, etc. Continue reading

Northam Again Targets Virginia Business Taxpayers

Finance Secretary Aubrey Layne. Photo credit: Daily News.

By Steve Haner

Washington giveth and Richmond taketh away. Once again, the Northam Administration wants Virginia to ignore business income tax changes made at the federal level because they would lower state revenue.

Governor Ralph Northam’s finance secretary was in front of the House Appropriations Committee Friday explaining the reasoning and complaining that new federal rules represent a double tax benefit for the affected businesses. “Not only is it expensive, it’s bad tax policy and it’s bad public policy,” Aubrey Layne, a certified public accountant, said at one point in the meeting.  Continue reading

Democrats Propose Expanded Virginia Government Personal Information Collection, Integration and Dissemination

George Orwell

by James C. Sherlock

There are few things the Left desires more than government access to personal data on every citizen and everything he or she does. Virginia continues down that path.

Government Data Collection & Dissemination Practices Act Chapter 38 of Title 2.2 of the Code of Virginia (§ 2.2-3800 et seq.) reads in part:

B. The General Assembly finds that:

1. An individual’s privacy is directly affected by the extensive collection, maintenance, use and dissemination of personal information;

2. The increasing use of computers and sophisticated information technology has greatly magnified the harm that can occur from these practices;

3. An individual’s opportunities to secure employment, insurance, credit, and his right to due process, and other legal protections are endangered by the misuse of certain of these personal information systems; and

4. In order to preserve the rights guaranteed a citizen in a free society, legislation is necessary to establish procedures to govern information systems containing records on individuals.

Democrats in the General Assembly consider those principles trumped by their desires for control of every aspect of citizens lives from birth until death. Thus they are leading an effort to expand government collection, dissemination and integration of citizens’ personal information.  Continue reading

Northam Proposes Legal Marijuana in Va Within Two Years

by DJ Rippert

Ralph Reefer. On Wednesday the Northam Administration unveiled legislation to legalize recreational use of marijuana in Virginia. The legislation will be introduced by House Majority Leader Charniele Herring, D-Alexandria, and Senate President Pro Tempore Louise Lucas, D-Portsmouth. Sen. Adam Ebbin, D-Alexandria, and Del. Don Scott Jr., D-Portsmouth. Northam took up the cause of legalizing marijuana last November citing both racial equity and financial issues. Sale of legal marijuana would start by Jan 1, 2023, under the Northam plan. Continue reading

Is Abolition of Life Without Parole Next?

by Hans Bader

Governor Ralph Northam and other Democratic Party leaders are backing legislation to abolish the death penalty. But that’s not all. A newly submitted bill would abolish life sentences without parole, even for serial killers and those who once would have been sentenced to death.

The powerful head of the state senate’s Courts of Justice Committee, Sen. John Edwards, D-Roanoke, has just introduced a bill, SB 1370, to bring back parole and retroactively make people eligible for parole even if they were sentenced at a time at which there was no parole. Parole will be made available even to people who commit “a Class 1 felony,” which includes the worst murders, such as serial killers who commit the “willful, deliberate, and premeditated killing of more than one person” in a single crime spree. If the death penalty is abolished, this legislation would mean that even the worst murderers could be paroled. Continue reading

Breath-Taking Hypocrisy

Northam’s opening words in his state-of-the-commonwealth address: “The chamber looks pretty good from up here, doesn’t it? You know, it’s a proud moment to look out and see a General Assembly that reflects more than ever the Virginia that we see every day.” The 200,000 citizens of Southwest Virginia’s 38th senatorial district whom Northam deprived of representation might beg to differ.

by James A. Bacon

When Governor Ralph Northam delivered his state-of-the-commonwealth speech two days ago, he gave a special nod to Sen. Ben Chafin, R-Russell County, who had died several days previously from complications relating to COVID-19. “He was my friend, and I miss him,” Northam said. “Whether on the Senate floor or in my office, his presence always brightened my day.”

“I hope that fond memories of Ben will help his family through these difficult times,” he added. “I ask you to join me in a moment of silence to honor Ben, and everyone who has lost their lives to COVID-19.” Then he briefly waxed philosophical. The epidemic, he said, has made everyone stop and ask some basic questions. “What’s really important? What do I believe in? Am I taking actions that reflect my values?”

One of the actions the Governor should be questioning is whether he honored Chafin’s memory by delaying the election of his successor until March 23 — after the General Assembly, effectively depriving the residents of Chafin’s district of representation during the 2021 session.

Equity was a big theme of Northam’s speech. Virginia needs to take steps to ensure more equity in public health, in education, in criminal justice, and in voting rights, he said. Indeed, one of his signature initiatives this session is changing the state constitution to provide automatic restoration of voting rights to felons. The concern for equity apparently does not extend, however, to the members of Chafin’s Republican-leaning district in impoverished Appalachia. Continue reading

The Speaker Rules

Speaker Eileen Filler-Corn

By Dick Hall-Sizemore

The Speaker of the House of Delegates is the most powerful position in the legislature. One of her most potent tools is the power to assign members to committees. Eileen Filler-Corn has again wielded that power.

Members usually retain their committee assignments during the two years of their terms. However, circumstances leading up to this session led to an unusual mid-term shuffling of committee assignments.

The first circumstance was the election of three new Delegates to fill the seats vacated by Joseph Lindsey, D-Norfolk, Jennifer Carrol Foy, D-Prince William, and Chris Collins, R-Frederick. Newly-elected members do not automatically inherit the committee assignments of their predecessors.

The second circumstance was Filler-Corn’s stripping Republican delegates Mark Cole (Spotsylvania), Ronnie Campbell (Rockbridge), and Dave LaRock (Loudoun) of one of their committee assignments in response to their urging Vice President Mike Pence to nullify Virginia’s electoral votes. Continue reading

More Loss of Press Coverage

by Dick Hall-Sizemore

In the past two years that I have been posting on BR, I have relied heavily on the coverage of the General Assembly by the Daily Press of Newport News, particularly the reporting by David Ress. It seems that he is now off the Virginia state government beat and now mostly covers news related to the military. That is a shame. For the top story from yesterday related to the legislature, Sen. Amanda Chase’s reaction to the effort to censure her, the Daily Press reprinted a story from the Petersburg Progress Index. With the further decline in coverage by the Daily Press and the Virginian Pilot, the residents of the second most populous section of the state will learn less and less about what their state government is doing.

Dems Seek to Abolish Virginia Death Penalty

Slippery slope: Abolish the death penalty…. eliminate life sentences… empty the prisons.

by Hans Bader

Virginia’s governor and the head of a key legislative subcommittee are backing legislation to abolish the death penalty in Virginia and overturn existing death sentences.

In theory, the death penalty could save lives by deterring people from committing murder. Several studies found that it deters killings of innocent people. As the Associated Press noted in 2007, “Each execution deters an average of 18 murders, according to a 2003 nationwide study by professors at Emory University. (Other studies have estimated the deterred murders per execution at three, five, and 14).”

The death penalty also can prevent additional murders by prisoners serving life sentences. Being executed is the only thing that stops some murderers from killing again. Consider the case of Robert Gleason. He had been sentenced to life in prison without parole for murder. He beat his cellmate to death while in Wallens Ridge State Prison. Afterwards, while awaiting trial on that charge at Red Onion State Prison, he murdered another inmate. He then declared that he would continue killing until the state executed him. He was sentenced to death and moved to Sussex I State Prison, home of death row. Continue reading

Virginia’s General Assembly Is Back

by Kerry Dougherty

They’re saving the good stuff. They have to be.

No way is Virginia’s General assembly going to spend the next 30 days passing happy resolutions designating November 12 as Uyghur-American Friendship Day or dedicating September as Gospel Music Heritage Month.

Sure, the Democratic majority is going to legalize marijuana and outlaw the death penalty. They’re probably going to pass a Virginia version of the Green New Deal, too.

But where are the major gun control bills? Heck, where are the crazy measures?

I miss the old days when the opening of the General Assembly session was eagerly awaited by late-night comics looking for fodder. Seems both Democrats and Republicans in the General Assembly have lost their sense of fun. Continue reading

Legislative Persistence and Character

Del. Frank Hargrove, Sr.

by Dick Hall-Sizemore

Twenty years ago, a senior member of the House of Delegates introduced a bill to abolish the death penalty. The introduction of such legislation was unusual in itself; even more unusual was the patron: Frank Hargrove, a Republican delegate from Hanover County.

Hargrove, who had been in the General Assembly for 18 years by that time, seemed an unlikely candidate to introduce a bill to abolish the death penalty. He was a staunch conservative and had even introduced a bill years earlier to bring back public hangings. However, regarding his prior beliefs about the death penalty, he told a reporter, “My stand was one of significant uncertainty. My own logic told me it wasn’t right, but it seemed to be what the general public wanted in terms of dealing with these criminals. But [my stand] was very shaky.” He explained that his bill on public hangings was motivated by his feeling that the public had become too comfortable with executions.  Continue reading