Category Archives: General Assembly

Small Steps toward an Innovation-Driven Health System

Tertium Quids, a conservative advocacy organization, has been pushing three bills in the General Assembly designed to bring more “choice and accessibility” to Virginia’s healthcare system.

The goal of the “Virginia Healthcare Basket” Initiative, the group explains, is “to support the growth of innovative business models, insurance options, and technology with an eye toward creating an exciting new healthcare track which runs parallel to the overburdened and cost-prohibitive traditional health and insurance model.”

Conceptually, Democrats don’t have much to offer healthcare than more government involvement and more redistribution of wealth. Virginia Republicans have criticized the march to government-controlled medicine but they have not provided much of an alternative. The proposals touted by Tertium Quids won’t transform Virginia healthcare markets, but they would nudge the state in the direction of more innovative, entrepreneurial, market-driven healthcare. Continue reading

Assisted Conception Option For The New Realities

Rick Olson, Jay Timmons and children at their McLean home.

A major revision of Virginia’s assisted conception laws has fought its way through to a final vote in the State Senate Monday, pushed by a former Virginia official who has gone public with his unconventional and very 21st century family.

Jay Timmons and his husband Rick Olson faced a major legal battle in Wisconsin a few years back over the surrogacy agreement they had with the mother of their third child.  The child was conceived using a frozen embryo from a couple that had used a similar method to build a family of four, didn’t want to use the remaining embryos themselves, but also didn’t want them destroyed.   Continue reading

What? You Want Us to Be Consistent?

The rule maker, Senate Majority Leader Tommy Norment, gets to decide the exceptions to the rule.

by Richard Hall-Sizemore

In 2014, Sen. Philip Puckett, a Democrat from far Southwest Virginia, was in a quandary. His daughter was vying for a juvenile and domestic relations court judgeship, to which she had already been appointed as a substitute judge. However, Republicans in the Senate, led by Sen. Tommy Norment, R-James City, were holding up her election, not based on any objection to her qualifications, but because of a tradition of not supporting family members of sitting Senators for judgeships.

Fast forward to 2019. Until yesterday there was a vacancy pending on the Virginia Supreme Court. A Republican senator from far Southwest Virginia is, according to newspaper reports, lobbied his fellow senators to elect his sister, currently a member of the Virginia Court of Appeals, to the higher post.  Norment said that situation was different because the senator’s sister had already been elected to a judgeship before her brother had been elected to the Senate. Continue reading

Revised Again, Tax Bill Envisions Future Reforms

The possibility of additional future state tax reform or tax cuts improved Monday under a new version of the pending bill that puts Virginia into conformity with the federal Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.  The resulting tax revenue not returned by the modest policy changes in this bill are to be held in reserve for future action.

The language in the bill now better matches the earlier rhetoric about preventing a huge inflow of new income tax revenue.

The legal reality is no General Assembly can bind a future one, so the 2020 session could disband this new fund and just spend the money.  But it is a stronger statement of policy and intent, and perhaps will add focus to the debate over tax policy which is inevitable in the 2019 legislative elections.  Continue reading

Befuddled, Confused and Conflicted: A Glimpse into the Inner Workings of State Government

by Richard Hall-Sizemore

“The Director, Department of Corrections, shall procure and implement an electronic health records system for use in the Department’s secure correctional facilities using the platform provided through Contract Number VA-121107-SMU managed by the Virginia Information Technologies Agency on the behalf of the Commonwealth.”

The dry language of that amendment in the House of Delegates version of the budget bill, proposed by a subcommittee comprised of eight delegates, and similar language proposed by a six-member subcommittee of the Senate Finance Committee, adopted by both houses, respectively, would give a private company a monopoly worth tens of millions of dollars in state funds.

It is an example of how special interests can use the period between the introduction of the budget bill and the reporting of amendments by the various budget subcommittees to slip in provisions that will go largely unnoticed. A little history and context will make the language’s implications clearer. Continue reading

You May Pay A North Carolinian’s Coal Ash Costs

An illustration of the coal ash de-watering and treatment process at Bremo Bluff power station, which is now out of favor. Source: DEQ website.

The cost to Dominion Energy Virginia customers for recycling coal ash or moving it into more secure landfills is growing, because the proposed bill now recognizes that Dominion’s North Carolina electricity customers cannot be forced to pay by the Virginia General Assembly or the State Corporation Commission.

This phrase has been added to the current substitutes for House Bill 2786 and Senate Bill 1355: (v) any such costs that are allocated to the utility’s system customers outside of the Commonwealth that are not actually recovered from such customers shall be included for cost recovery from jurisdictional customers in the Commonwealth through the rate adjustment clause.  

Dominion Energy North Carolina’s customers in the northeastern part of that state depend on Virginia-based generation, including those coal plants, but the General Assembly so far seems fine with billing us for their share of these costs.  Why?  Absent that the company’s shareholders might have to pay it.   Continue reading

State Cap on Deductions Added To Tax Bill

The compromise income tax bill hailed for preventing a tax policy train wreck in Virginia includes one new provision not included in earlier bills, not mentioned in any of the Republican press releases and not yet included in any fiscal impact statements.  Democrats wanted it.

It is yet another departure from the new federal Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.  The bill maintains a formula to reduce or cap itemized deductions known as the Pease limit.  TCJA removed the Pease limit at the federal level but the substitute tax bill voted on in committee Friday restores it at the state level.   Continue reading

Senator Confesses to Post: 72 Years of Blackface

The media gauntlet outside the Virginia State Senate Friday morning.

To: Nomination committee, 2019 Pulitzer Prizes. I know somebody will be winning your prestigious award for the deep and insightful reporting we’ve all seen in Virginia over the past week. To finish out the most amazing week in my 35 General Assembly sessions, I have enjoyed the following example of the fine trade of journalism, which I once practiced myself.

I am in possession of a copy of the following email string and would be pleased to share it. Keep reading until you see the Virginia State Senator’s response. I’m sure the prize is now won. The following initial email apparently went to all 140 members of the Virginia General Assembly (and perhaps uncounted local officials statewide).

Subject: Blackface/The Washington Post   Continue reading

Virginia’s Two-Faced Democrats

A very bad week. One can only assume that Virginia’s Democratic Party is very happy to see this week draw to a close. The Democratic Governor, Lieutenant Governor and Attorney General are facing deep scrutiny over revelations that came to light this week. While the specifics of each scandal remain hazy the sudden evaporation of moral outrage from fellow Democrats is crystal clear.

Northam: the expendable man. Govenor Ralph Northam was the first to fall under a thick cloud of disrepute as pictures from his personal page in his med school yearbook surfaced with people dressed in blackface and Klan outfits.  Democrats moved quickly to condemn Northam and call for his resignation.  Senators Tim Kaine and Mark Warner were joined by the Virginia Black Caucus, former Governor McAuliffe, national Democrats and (most interestingly) Attorney General Mark Herring in calling for Northam’s resignation. Appearing in blackface is intolerable they all wailed in unison. Blue Virginia touted the calls for Northam’s resignation as proof of the ” … VAST moral difference between Virginia Democrats and Republicans …” Continue reading

Tommy Norment’s Turn in the Yearbook Whipsaw

Da Bomb. The Virginia Pilot is reporting that Tommy Norment, R-Williamsburg, Republican majority leader of Virginia’s State Senate, was an editor for a VMI yearbook called The Bomb that printed “racist photos and slurs, including blackface”.  The yearbook in question was published in 1968.  African Americans were allowed to enroll at VMI in the Fall of 1968, presumably just after the “Norment yearbook” was published.

Full disclosure. The VMI 1968 yearbook included a statement authored by Norment in his position as an editor. His missive included the somewhat ironic line, “Work on the Bomb has permitted me to release four years of inhibitions.”  Hmmm …  Maybe sometimes remaining inhibited isn’t such a bad thing.

Judgement lapses. While it’s fair to debate whether including pictures of white people in blackface in a 1968 yearbook was a lapse in judgement or a sad practice of the day, Mr Norment has been no stranger to continuing controversy.  He was charged with DUIattempted to chase reporters off the senate floor (where they had worked for a century), exposed as a customer of the adultery website Ashley Madison, and had an inappropriate “relationship” with a lobbyist. Norment hasn’t faced a competitive election in three senate campaigns but still receives large campaign contributions from “the usual gang of suspects”.

— Don Rippert

Virginia Voters Should “Clean House” this November

State of affairs / affairs of state.  Multiple scandals have rocked Virginia’s state government this week.  All three of our state’s top officials stand accused of substantial wrongdoing.  Governor Ralph Northam and Attorney General Mark Herring have admitted to dressing in blackface during their college / medical school days. Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax is being accused of sexual assault.  The stories have become national news – read the New York Post article here. Given this chaos one wonders how the good people at Amazon feel about their decision to put one-half of their new headquarters in The Commonwealth of Virginia. I’m guessing we’ll hear more about that in the near future. In the meantime, Virginians need to ask two key questions – how did we get here and what can we do about it.   Continue reading

ACP Cost Bill Passes House With Bipartisan Vote

Five House Democrats joined 35 House Republicans in voting against the legislation reinforcing the State Corporation Commission’s authority to decide just how much captive electricity customers must pay once the Atlantic Coast Pipeline is supplying Dominion Energy Virginia generators.

Delegate Lee Ware’s House Bill 1718 passed Tuesday with 57 positive votes, 42 from Democrats and 15 from Republicans, including Ware. The bill now moves to the Senate Commerce and Labor Committee, which has proven a challenging environment for bills Dominion does not want.  Continue reading

TCJA Remains A Big Revenue Gain for State

Neither the House nor Senate Republican tax plan returns more than half of the TCJA windfall.  The House GOP does propose to set aside another $517 million in the first year for some form of added tax relief, to be determined later this year.

The tax relief proposals advancing in both the Virginia House of Delegates and Virginia Senate return at most half of the estimated additional state revenue created by the federal Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) over six years.

As Virginia leaders have debated what to do about the situation, all have been working off an estimate of the additional revenue provided by an outside economic consultant last year.  It projected $1.2 billion in the first two years and more than $4.5 billion in the first six years as the addition revenue Virginia would collect from conforming to the TCJA, absent changes in Virginia tax policy.  Continue reading

Updates: ACP Customer Charge, M&T, Competition

The following updates three pieces of legislation previous featured on Bacon’s Rebellion. Each headline links to the previous posts for background.

SCC Review of Customer Pipeline Costs

Two legislators flipped their votes from subcommittee and voted no in the full House Commerce and Labor Committee, but legislation to reinforce State Corporation Commission authority to review the costs of natural gas pipelines survived on an 11-8 vote.

Delegate Israel O’Quinn, R-Bristol, and Margaret Ransone, R-Northern Neck, had supported House Bill 1718 but reversed themselves in the full committee vote Thursday afternoon.  Ransone complained that she was now confused about the impact of the bill.  Even more curious, new House Minority Leader Eileen Filler-Corn, D-Springfield, abstained, which normally indicates a financial conflict of interest.   Continue reading

SCC: RGGI To Cost Dominion Customers Billions

Virginia’s participation in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), which would require the state’s utilities to pay a carbon tax on their fossil fuel power plants and to reduce operation of those plants, might cost the ratepayers of Dominion Energy Virginia $3.3 to $5.9 billion over the first decade, according to a State Corporation Commission staff estimate.

During a House of Delegates subcommittee hearing a week ago, a member of the SCC staff told legislators that joining RGGI would add $7 to $12 to the monthly bill of residential customers. He provided no details that day and a request to the SCC’s communications staff didn’t produce clarity.   Continue reading