Category Archives: General Assembly

What Do We Owe To and Expect from a Special Ed Teacher?

Abigail Zwerner
Courtesy AP

by James C. Sherlock

On February 16, USA Today published a story by Jeanine Santucci. That is the latest in an excellent series of reports on the shooting of Newport News first grade teacher Abigail Zwerner.

Her article, “Virginia 6-year-old who shot his teacher exposes flaws in how schools treat students with disabilities.” raises questions that Virginians need to answer.

  • What, exactly, do we expect of special education teachers and what do we owe them?
  • What training and resources must we provide?
  • How do we keep them safe?
  • How do we get enough people to accept the challenges and risks?

Any school official or teacher will tell you:

  • That the best-organized parents in K-12 education are special-ed parents;
  • That federal law is very prescriptive and provides little room for error on the part of the schools;
  • That schools’ (meaning taxpayers’) liability for error is open-ended; and
  • That special-ed continues to get more challenging, especially after COVID accelerated the number of emotionally disturbed children and adolescents.

Few school divisions will claim to have any of that under control.

 JLARC in 2020 concurred with that assessment in Virginia.

Longstanding shortage of special education teachers persists, and many school divisions rely on under-prepared teachers to fill gaps.

IEPs are not consistently designed effectively.

School divisions are not consistently preparing students with disabilities for life after high school.

Continue reading

Richmond’s Skinny Budget: Low Stakes Poker, High Stakes Rhetoric

by Shaun Kenney

Virginia’s General Assembly managed to pass the Richmond equivalent of a continuing resolution to fund the government until Senate Democrats and House Republicans can hammer out a compromise on corporate tax breaks.

One will have to pardon me for not getting terribly wound up about tax breaks for corporations while small businesses and working families are struggling with back-to-back  years of 9 percent inflation from Washington.

Meanwhile, much of the damage done by the Northam administration with regard to Critical Race Theory, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) requirements, gender ideology, and the long litany of progressive efforts to remake Virginia were left both untouched and unchallenged.

Even school choice — the marquee legislation championed by Lt. Governor Winsome Sears — was left to die in committee.

Meanwhile, Senate Democrats are promising a “brick wall” against House Republicans until they get what they want — in other words, reneging on the pledge from conferees to honor a $950 million tax cut. The stopgap fixes the $200 million shortfall snafu created by the Virginia Department of Education’s spreadsheet, puts another $25 million into the Virginia Retirement System, and another $100 million towards cost overruns for existing building infrastructure. What mystifies most is that the Senate Democrats haven’t been precisely clear on what they want beyond platitudes for higher salaries for bureaucrats, public education, higher education, etc. Continue reading

SCC Oversight Restored, Don’t Expect Lower Bills

What Dominion is promoting as how to “save” you money while paying off its old fuel bills, with ten years of Tuesdays to pay. With interest.

by Steve Haner

The final version of a regulatory revision for Dominion Energy Virginia restores State Corporation Commission authority over the utility’s profit margin and rates, a major goal for Governor Glenn Youngkin (R). It was also the highest priority in a detailed energy policy put forward by the Thomas Jefferson Institute for Public Policy.

Of the aggressive goals set out in Dominion’s initial legislation, few were accomplished in the end. The General Assembly did agree to directly legislate a profit margin for the utility for two years, and it is an increase.  Come 2025 the SCC will be free to set the next profit rate without any reference to the peer group of other utilities now required by law. Continue reading

Virginia Law Enables School Violence – School Board Policies Can Correct It

Courtesy NBC 6                                                             6’7” 270 pound student assaults teaching aide

by James C. Sherlock

In 2019, the National Education Association (NEA) published Threatened and Attacked By Students: When Work Hurts, urging lawmakers to address the crisis of unsafe behaviors in schools.

Read about Chesterfield schools in that article.

Unfazed, progressives in 2020 in full control of the General Assembly, led by now-Congresswoman-elect Jennifer McClellan, looked to break what they considered a “school-to-prison pipeline.”

They changed Virginia law to eliminate the requirement for principals to report misdemeanor assault and battery in Virginia schools, on school buses or at school-sponsored events to law enforcement.

Even battery on school staff.

It would seem to me, if I worked in a school, useful to require such violence to be reported to law enforcement.

But maybe that’s just me. Continue reading

RTD Promises Lower Electric Bills? Watch and See.

From this morning’s Richmond Times-Dispatch:

 A reduction in Dominion Energy bills is on the way after a compromise on a new approach to regulate the company made it through the General Assembly on the last day of the session….

The compromise on electric bills — in legislation that passed nearly unanimously — would bring an immediate $6 to $7 cut in a benchmark 1,000 kilowatt-hour monthly bill, which now stands at $137.

Now there is a firm prediction, a promise even, that we can track.  The reductions will be immediate, right?  So, look for them on your next monthly bill?  Or should we be honest that the bill, if signed as is, doesn’t go into effect until July 1.  Will your bill immediately go down on July 2?  September 1?  The newspaper predicts it will be lower even though as the year progresses, Dominion begins to charge even more for the Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind project, the upgrades at its four nuclear reactors, and puts the tax to pay for the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative back onto your monthly bills. Oh, and the new legislation increases Dominion’s authorized profit margin, which customers will start to pay in the near future.

Pick a date in the future, maybe just before Election Day 2023, and we’ll see then what 1,000 kilowatt hours of electricity costs a Dominion customer.  The RTD is promising $131.

A deeper analysis of the final conference report substitute on Dominion’s proposed regulatory will likely appear later today.  But that ridiculous claim that your bills will actually go down “immediately” needs to be highlighted and filed away for future reference.  And once again the newspaper has to be dismissed as a serious, independent news outlet when it writes propaganda ledes to please one of its largest advertisers.

— Steve Haner

Unconstitutional Viewpoint Discrimination in Virginia K-12 Teacher Evaluation Standards

Daniel Gecker Esq., President of the Virginia Board of Education. Appointed to the Board of Education by Governor Terry McAuliffe and reappointed to a four year term by Governor Ralph Northam. Date of expiration of appointment – June 30, 2023

by James C. Sherlock

Progressives, in the fullness of their dogma, oppose the entire Bill of Rights.

The Bill of Rights is specifically structured to limit the powers of government, which progressives find not only unsuitable, but unimaginable.

In the Golden Age of Progressivism in Virginia, 2020 and 2021, they controlled the governor’s mansion, the General Assembly, the Attorney General’s Office and all of the state agencies.

With total control, they took flight.

They have always known what seldom occurs to conservatives not prone to offend the Bill of Rights.

With total control of state government, progressives can enact and have enacted laws, regulations and policies that violate both the federal and state constitutions.

They know it will take a decade or more for courts to push back. Meanwhile they can call opponents “haters.”

After which the worst that can happen is that nobody is held accountable. Except the taxpayers.

I just exposed unconstitutional viewpoint discrimination in the University of Virginia’s hiring process. that was implemented starting in 2020.

The same fertile progressive imagination is also present in the Board of Education’s new (in 2021) Standard 6. “Culturally Responsive Teaching and Equitable Practices performance indicators” (starting on page xv) in “Guidelines for Uniform Performance Standards and Evaluation Criteria for Teachers(Guidelines). Continue reading

For Your Consideration: An Intellectual Freedom Protection Act

by James C. Sherlock

I offer for your consideration the text of a draft Intellectual Freedom Protection Act proposed this morning by the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE).

FIRE is the leading American voice supporting academic freedom, free speech and due process. In doing so they defend democracy itself.

They are what the ACLU was before that organization abandoned the field as an impartial supporter of civil liberties to pick a side.

FIRE defends left and right equally.

I have below eliminated the preamble of the draft law for brevity. Lawyers can find the legal precedents referenced in the preamble here. Continue reading

General Assembly: Status of Selected Issues

by Dick Hall-Sizemore

The General Assembly is scheduled to adjourn on Saturday, February 25.  Time to check on the status of some issues that have been discussed on this blog.

Budget bill. The budget bill contains not only the usual appropriations, but also all those tax cuts proposed by the Governor. There is activity behind the scenes, but, so far, no public hint that any sort of compromise is near.

Utility bills. One major utility regulation bill has been passed, but the others are in conference. I will defer to Steve Haner to comment on these as he deems fit.

SCC judgeships. Last year, the General Assembly could not agree on a person to fill a vacant SCC judgeship. The House supported one person; the Senate favored another. In late 2020, one of the two sitting judges, Judith Jagdmann, announced her retirement with a year left on her appointment. That left two vacancies, seeming to solve the problem: Each legislative house could have its own favorite. But, there was a fly in the ointment.  ne vacancy, Jagdmann’s, was only for the year left on her term. The other vacancy was for a full six years. Who was going to get the short straw? Another impasse. Continue reading

Peak Insanity: Why Schools Shouldn’t Teach the Dangers of Communism

by James A. Bacon

HB 1816 would require the governor to annually issue a proclamation declaring November 7 each year to observe Victims of Communism Day to honor the approximately 100 million souls who died at the hands of communist regimes. The bill also would require the history and social science Standards of Learning to emphasize the dangers of communism in classroom instruction.

There may be legitimate reasons for objecting to the bill. But they are emphatically not the reasons given by the Virginia Education Association (VEA) representative shown in the clip above. Here’s a transcript of her remarks:

The VEA opposes this bill. Four out of the five current communist regimes are in countries that are in Asia. We are concerned that this bill would subject Asian-American students to anti-Asian sentiments.

Continue reading

Energy Outcome Cloudy as Adjournment Looms

Rube Goldberg is the best illustration when our General Assembly does energy policy bills.

by Steve Haner

With adjournment less than a week away, the 2023 General Assembly is a mixed bag for electricity consumers, with the Assembly seeming to release control to regulators in some areas but continuing to assert its tight control in others.

Dominion Energy Virginia’s legislation to sweeten its authorized profit margin, which will not lower customer bills despite claims in its advertising blitz, passed the Senate but remains in trouble in the Virginia House of Delegates. A key House committee voted late last week to stick with a version of the bill that leaves the return on equity formula unchanged. Continue reading

The Bill of the Year: Menstrual Search Warrants

Monty Python’s Church Police, a famous sketch we can now watch being played out in Virginia politics.

By Steve Haner

Now here’s a phrase I never expected to type, even in a blog post: menstrual data. Looks like the 2023 Virginia General Assembly will be best remembered down the road for a silly bill that sparked a very avoidable stumble and then turned into a National Thing.

Governor Glenn Youngkin (R) was even the target of well-publicized staged outrage from the Biden Administration, suddenly diverted from balloon- watching by a nationwide flood of search warrants seeking data on women’s periods. Except there don’t actually seem to be any such search warrants and there may not actually be any interest in such information. Continue reading

February: A Month of Celebrations, Awareness, and Daffodils

Daffodils, v. “February Gold”. Plant source: Brent and Becky’s Bulbs, Gloucester Va.

by Dick Hall-Sizemore

February is known for many things. Although it is the shortest month, some have claimed that, with its usually dreary weather (this year being an exception), it actually feels like the longest. To divert us from its normal dark days, in addition to cheerful early daffodils, February offers us Groundhog Day, Valentine’s Day, Presidents Day (Washington and Lincoln) and Black History Month.

All of those are worthy subjects for celebration, but only one, Presidents Day, is officially recognized. However, in its infinite wisdom, the Virginia General Assembly has chosen to officially declare February to be:

  • Financial Aid Awareness Month
  • Winter Honey Month
  • Home Education Month
  • American Heart Month
  • Children’s Dental Health Month
  • Love the Bus Month
  • Self-Care Month
  • Gum Disease Awareness Month

Continue reading

Want Info? Check Only, Please.

Del. Danica Roem (D-Prince William) Photo credit: Virginian Pilot

by Dick Hall-Sizemore

A recent article in the Richmond Times-Dispatch illustrates how governments will fight any attempt to amend the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) in a way that would make it easier for citizens to obtain information.

Del. Danica Roem (D-Prince William) has been one of the more persistent legislators seeking to amend the FOIA to make information on government activities more accessible to citizens.  With her background as a journalist, she knows more about how the FOIA functions than most legislators.

One of the chief frustrations of citizens seeking information on their governments’ activities are the fees government agencies are authorized to charge as a condition of providing requested documents. Roem has introduced legislation in the past that would have capped the fees a government agency could charge. These bills went nowhere, and it did not matter if the Democrats were in the majority (HB 2000, 2021 Session) or the Republicans (HB 599, 2022 Session). This year, she took a more modest approach. Continue reading

Petersburg Seeks State Funding for Projects Linked to Public Health and the Appomattox River

Courtesy Petersburg Virginia website

by James C. Sherlock

While all of the attention in the state press has been on Petersburg’s proposed casino, the estimable Bill Atkinson of the Petersburg Progress-Index provided insight into other Petersburg requests to the General Assembly for budget amendments.

Badly needed infrastructure projects and a tourism initiative are each tied to the health of both the Appomattox River and the citizens of Petersburg. Continue reading

Unlikely Partners On Prison Reform Legislation

Del. Don Scott, D-Portsmouth   Photo credit: AP

by Dick Hall-Sizemore

The Washington Post recently ran an article that demonstrates that there is still hope for bipartisan cooperation in a hyper-partisan environment on an important issue.

Del. Glenn Davis, R-Virginia Beach Photo credit: Newsbreak

The legislators involved were Del. Glenn Davis (R-Virginia Beach), former candidate for Lieutenant Governor, chair of the House Committee on Education, and carrier of many of the Youngkin administration education bills in the General Assembly this year, and Del. Don Scott, House minority leader and often-outspoken critic of the Youngkin administration. The issue was limiting the use of solitary confinement in Virginia’s prisons.


Solitary confinement, or isolation, is a basic tool in prison management. It is used to separate inmates from the general population for one or more of the following reasons:

  • For the protection of the inmate, sometimes at his request;
  • To prevent physical harm to other persons; or
  • As punishment for the offender’s behavior.

Continue reading