Category Archives: General Assembly

Will Democrats Revisit Virginia Net Zero Laws?

Senator David Marsden, D-Fairfax, sees “serious problems” in Virginia’s net zero laws.

By Steve Haner

For the third year in a row, Democrats in the Virginia Senate have shot down an effort to divorce Virginia’s auto dealers from California’s impending mandates on electric vehicle sales. But before the predetermined vote went down, the new chair of the committee made a surprise announcement that he and his colleagues are open to revisiting Virginia’s legal rush to end fossil fuels.

Senator David Marsden, D-Fairfax, said he and Senator Creigh Deeds, D-Charlottesville, have discussed using the period between the 2024 and 2025 General Assembly sessions to convene a conference on the 2020 Virginia Clean Economy Act (VCEA) and the many other statues they passed to suppress coal, oil and natural gas use.  Republicans later shared his musings on X.

What serious problems, Mr. Chairman? Tell us more.

Marsden is the new chair of the Senate Agriculture, Conservation and Natural Resources Committee and Deeds now chairs the Commerce and Labor Committee. The Virginia Mercury noted Marsden’s comments at the tail end of its report on the meeting, but it was the only actual news to break out that afternoon. The Richmond Times-Dispatch failed to mention Marsden’s announcement but had a nice photo of a half-empty Tesla charging lot in California.

Truth would have been better served by a photo of the stranded EV’s waiting for crowded, failing chargers in frigid climes this week. There is a reason consumers have not been rushing to buy EV’s at the expected rates.  Despite the happy talk from mandate proponents, the targets are pie-in-the-sky. The only winner in this whole process is Tesla, getting rich selling carbon credits under the cap-and-trade element of the California regime. Continue reading

It’s a Different House Courts

Del. Vivian Watts (D-Fairfax), chair, Subcommittee on Criminal Laws

by Dick Hall-Sizemore

Long-time observers can attest to the significant changes that have occurred in the legislature over the decades. Perhaps nowhere are these changes more evident than with the House Courts of Justice Committee and its Subcommittee on Criminal Law.

This committee and its criminal law subcommittee had a reputation as being tough, and many legislators, especially non-lawyers, dreaded appearing before them. Its members were some of the most senior members of the House and most were experienced trial lawyers. It was a rowdy and colorful group. The committee handled more legislation than any other committee.

For many years, the legendary A.L. Philpott (D-Henry), widely acknowledged as having the deepest knowledge of criminal law of any legislator, reigned over the committee and subcommittee. During most of the current century, Rob Bell (R-Albemarle), another delegate with extensive experience with criminal law, chaired the subcommittee and then the full committee.

The committee and subcommittee had the reputation of being hard-nosed about criminal law. However, being experienced trial lawyers, most members were cognizant of the possibility of proposed legislation having unintended consequences if not worded precisely. Therefore, they would often go over bills line by line to ensure that the meaning of the proposed language was clear. Continue reading

Still Acting Like a Rookie

by Dick Hall-Sizemore

Governor Glenn Youngkin does not seem to be a fast learner. He seems to think he is still at the Carlyle Group where the top brass announced deals and the rest of the organization fell in line. That’s not how it works with a bicameral legislature, especially when your party is in the minority in both houses.

About a month ago, the governor announced, with much fanfare, a plan to bring the Washington Wizards and Washington Capitals to Potomac Yard in Alexandria. It would be a $1.5 billion deal involving the construction of a sports arena and supporting facilities. A new sport and entertainment authority would oversee the project, including issuing bonds to fund it. The General Assembly would need to approve the legislation creating the authority.

The General Assembly has convened and the members have questions about this deal. However, as reported by the Washington Post, the administration has few answers. It does not have the bill language ready for the members to review. Even more basic, at the end of last week, it did not have a patron for the legislation lined up. Delegate Luke Torian (D-Prince William), chairman of the House Appropriations Committee said that the administration had asked him to carry the bill in the House, but he was still waiting to see the bill. “I hope to have an opportunity to see it over the course of the weekend,” he said. Continue reading

Virginia Bill Would Redefine Revenge Porn to Include Non-Porn, Making It Easier to Prosecute Politicians’ Critics

Susanna Gibson

by Hans Bader

Virginia’s revenge-porn law may soon be expanded to punish people for posting embarrassing, revealing images of public figures, such as politicians, if Virginia’s legislature approves HB 926. Doing so would violate the First Amendment, and invite lawsuits by civil-liberties groups like the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression or the Institute for Justice.

In 2023, the media and blogs covered the fact that a Democratic legislative candidate performed live sex acts on the pornographic web site Chaturbate. That information was leaked to the media, including The Washington Post. Blogs posted images of the candidate showing that she was undressed, but not showing her private parts or anything pornographic. The candidate, Susanna Gibson, lost a close race for the Virginia House of Delegates, but not before arguing that the leak of her porn to the general public was a “sex crime” for which people should be prosecuted under Virginia’s revenge porn statute. “Daniel P. Watkins, a lawyer for Gibson, said disseminating the videos constitutes a violation of the state’s revenge porn law, which makes it a Class 1 misdemeanor to ‘maliciously’ distribute nude or sexual images of another person with ‘intent to coerce, harass, or intimidate.’” But no prosecution was ever brought, perhaps because doing so would violate the First Amendment, and because it might be hard to prove the leak was done with the “intent to coerce, harass, or intimidate,” as opposed to educating voters about a candidate’s past.

Now, Delegate Irene Shin (D-Herndon) wants to rewrite the revenge porn statute so broadly that prosecutors will be able to prosecute not just the leaker, but also bloggers or journalists who posted publicly available images of Gibson showing that she was in a state of undress during her performances at Chaturbate. Continue reading

There’s Gold in Them Thar Hills!

by Dick Hall-Sizemore

As staff members of the General Assembly start looking to “find” money in Gov. Youngkin’s proposed budget bill that can be used to fund priorities of their committee members (and they will be looking—that is a major part of their jobs during the Session), a good place to look would be capital maintenance reserve. There is at least $200 million in that budget item that could be taken without adversely affecting any of the agencies involved.

As defined by the Dept. of Planning and Budget (DPB) in its reporting instructions to agencies, a maintenance reserve (MR) project is “a major repair or replacement to plant, property, or equipment that is intended to extend its useful life.” A typical MR project would be repair or replacement of built-in equipment such as in HVAC systems; repair or replacement of building or plant components such as roofs or windows; and repair of existing utility systems such as steam lines or water systems.

The cost for an MR project must exceed $25,000 but be no more than $2.0 million for a non-roof replacement project and no more than $4.0 million for a roof replacement. DPB may grant exceptions to these dollar amounts and agencies must submit annual reports to DPB on MR expenditures. Continue reading

As Dominion and APCO $oar, NOVEC Drops Rates

Northern Virginia Electric Cooperative’s territory within the greater Northern Virginia region.

By Steve Haner

The major “rural” electric cooperative serving very urban Northern Virginia is drastically lowering its rates as of this month, because the cost it is paying for bulk power purchases has dropped. The contrast with what is happening with Virginia’s two major investor-owned electric companies may be telling Virginia something if anybody wants to listen.

NOVEC, or Northern Virginia Electric Cooperative, will be charging its residential users just under $114 for each 1,000 kilowatt hours of usage, down more than $26. The commercial and industrial users among its 175,000 customers are seeing comparable reductions. Continue reading

How Not To Do Tax Reform. Again.

By Steve Haner

According to the Richmond Times-Dispatch, Governor Glenn Youngkin’s administration had its first formal discussion with Virginia’s local governments about eliminating their car tax collections two days after he announced it publicly.

The General Assembly convenes Wednesday and if there is a plan to replace the $2.8 billion in local government revenue raised by that tax source, it has not surfaced. Voters truly detest the local levy, mainly because it is one of the few taxes everybody pays by check or with a credit card, but at this point it is safe to assume the idea is dead in the water. Continue reading

Rent Control Bill Introduced in Virginia

by Hans Bader

A just-introduced Virginia bill, HB 192, would limit rent increases to “one percent over the Consumer Price Index” in places where the rental vacancy rate is “less than 10 percent,” if the “Consumer Price Index … is greater than five percent.” Virginia has a rental vacancy rate of about 4%, well below 10%, so effectively, this would be a statewide rent control law.

The bill does not allow larger rent increases even to pay for things like major capital improvements.

The bill, introduced by Democratic Del. Marty Martinez, is called the “Landlord and Tenant Fairness Act.”  It contains this rent-control provision:

C. If the rental vacancy rate for a locality is less than 10 percent during the previous calendar year and the Consumer Price Index as reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics of the U.S. Department of Labor is greater than five percent, any rent increase imposed by a landlord shall be no greater than one percent over the Consumer Price Index.

Continue reading

Not Every Teacher’s Salary Can Be Above Average

by Hans Bader

In the mythical Lake Wobegon, all the children are above average. But in real life, half of all people have to be below average, by definition. Half of all people are paid below average, especially in counties with very low living costs, where the vast majority of people are paid below the national average.

Still, no teachers union likes its members to be paid below average, even when they live in areas where the cost of living is below the national average, like Richmond, Amherst, Lynchburg, Roanoke, Harrisonburg, Staunton, or Waynesboro.

Nadarius Clark, a Democratic Virginia delegate, has introduced House Bill 187, which would require Virginia teachers to be paid at or above the national average for teachers. The bill “requires that public school teachers be compensated at a rate that is at or above the national average teacher salary…. ” The bill also requires that public school instructional and non-instructional support staff be compensated at a rate that is “at or above the national average salary for such staff.”

It is a bad idea for states to pass such laws. If every state passed such a law, teacher pay would be higher than for any other profession, and increase toward infinity, because states would be constantly increasing their teachers’ pay relative to other states so as not to be below the national average, and yet, many states would never reach the national average, due to other states increasing teacher pay first. (By definition, half of all states are going to be below average.) Continue reading

Let’s Make a Deal

Sen. Louis Lucas (D-Portsmouth)

by Dick Hall-Sizemore

Gov. Glenn Youngkin earned his spurs (and his money) making deals in the private sector. He came into the governorship with no political experience. During his first two years in office, he showed little inclination to compromise or make deals. He bet big this fall on coming out of the November elections with Republican majorities in both houses of the General Assembly. He lost, big time.

Now there is something that he wants; something that would be a feather in his cap: engineering the move of two major-league sports teams, the NBA Washington Wizards and the NHL Washington Caps, to Virginia.

His major obstacle is a General Assembly controlled by Democrats, whom he spent all fall trying to defeat. To get what he wants, he is going to have to be willing to make deals. How good a deal maker will he be in the political realm?

At least one legislator has signaled her willingness to deal. Sen. Louise Lucas (D-Portsmouth), the incoming chair of the Senate Finance and Appropriations Committee recently observed, “While some people want sports stadiums … I want tolls to disappear from Hampton Roads and I want recreational sale of marijuana. Guess we will have to find compromises this session.” Want to make a deal, Governor?

Teacher Vacancies in Virginia Cities with a Majority of Black Students Continue to be Very High

by James C. Sherlock

The statewide performance of Black kids on Virginia’s SOLs was horrible. Chronic absenteeism is a primary reason.

But I continue to look for underlying reasons and solutions for both.

This morning I checked the Staffing and Vacancy Dashboard.

The teacher vacancy rate for Region 2, Tidewater and the Eastern Shore, is currently the highest in the state at 7.62%. That statistic combines teachers and special education teachers aides and paraprofessionals. There are 3,115 unfilled positions in Region 2.

That region has been the worst in the state for a long time.

The next highest is Central Virginia at 4.9%. Southwest Virginia is lowest at 2.28%.

Region 2 vacancies both in actual numbers and in percentages are always high because school staff vacancies in Hampton Roads’ majority Black urban cities, and their proportion of the region’s public-school population, drive them up.

The data reveal that in divisions with majorities of Black students in the rest of the state, some are very high and some not.

Petersburg, as such things happen, is off the charts.

But there are a major differences in teacher vacancies, and in student performance, between Black kids in Black majority urban cities (Suffolk is a officially a city but not urban) with the honorable exception of Hampton’s Black student SOL scores, and those in Black majority rural counties.

We should perhaps look at what vacancies can tell us.

And another time at what the City of Hampton Public Schools has been doing right for so long. Continue reading

A Brief Case for Giving Virginia Legislators a Raise

by Gordon C. Morse

I thought it would be worthwhile to pursue further the subject of legislative compensation in Virginia. A report I’ve  referenced before is dated December 1998 – 25 years ago – and offers the following rationale for increasing the amount paid to Virginia lawmakers holding these posts, attending the annual legislative sessions and all that pertains thereto: 

The significant increase in the time required for members of the General Assembly to carry out their responsibilities, to our way of thinking, requires an increase in compensation and in per diem allowances. In addition to the 90 days required of a legislator for the two sessions of the General Assembly, the time a legislator has to devote to attending meetings of committees, subcommittees and study commissions has increased sharply. Those members of the General Assembly who responded to our questionnaire indicated that they spent from between 30 and 60 days on legislative duties between the sessions of the General Assembly. 

Moreover, a legislator is expected to keep in touch with his constituents and to answer inquiries from them. While the performance of this duty is time-consuming, nevertheless it is necessary for a legislator to keep in touch with the views of those he represents, and to maintain a relationship with them which will reveal their desires and concerns.

There are any number of metrics and tables and summaries and all that in the report. Things sometimes get stashed away casually in the Commonwealth, but I am working on the optimistic belief that other people and/or institutions retained a copy. Legislative demands have increased in the intervening years, along with the willingness of elected lawmakers to make this their primary work in life. The implications of that, undoubtedly, will cause some of the newer members to wonder why the General Assembly is organized the way it is, as well as seed an interest in reform. Others will resist this impulse and I would be inclined to agree with them, that a full-time legislature would be unlikely to produce an improvement in representative democracy.  Continue reading

Deja Vu, All Over Again

by Dick Hall-Sizemore

Virginia is trying again to land a sports facility for a national professional sports team, The Washington Post reports. This time it is an arena for the Wizards of the National Basketball Association and the Capitals of the National Hockey League. Both teams have the same owner and are currently located in Washington, D.C.

The facility would be located in Potomac Yards in Alexandria. (If that name sounds familiar, that is where then-Gov. L. Douglas Wilder tried to lure the Washington Redskins football team 30 years ago.) According to the Post, the arena would anchor a “massive mixed-use development.” A stadium authority would own the facility and lease it to the company that owns the sports teams. There are no public details on potential costs yet. The owner of the Wizards and the Capitals would be expected to put up “hundreds of millions of dollars of its own money,” with the remainder being provided by the authority. The authority would sell bonds to raise the cash and use revenue from ticket sales, concessions, and parking to repay the bonds (theoretically).  Continue reading

Virginia’s Final (Maybe) RGGI Tax Grab: $97M

Virginia’s final (maybe) sale of allowances for power plant carbon emissions produced a record $97.4 million. The price for each permit to emit one ton of carbon dioxide, which is passed to customers, has about doubled in four years.

by Steve Haner

Virginia has participated in its final (for a while anyway) Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative auction and the proceeds on the carbon tax set a new record, with Virginia collecting more than $97 million in one swoop. The total carbon tax take for the state is just under $828 million in three years.

The clearing price on December 6 reached $14.88 per ton. It would have been higher but the demand for allowances was so high the RGGI organization released some of its “cost containment reserve” or CCR allowances to tamp down the price increase. The news release on the auction is here. A chart showing Virginia’s proceeds over the three years is attached.

Why the record price? Here’s a solid suggestion: Power producers fear another major winter stressing their systems and know full well that wind and solar are unpredictable and unreliable. They are stocking up on allowances to keep our lights on with fossil fuels.

Just four years ago when the Thomas Jefferson Institute of Public Policy produced this explainer on what RGGI was, the “carbon price” was $5.27 a ton and the prediction was Virginia would collect $150 million a year from electricity producers and eventually their customers. “There is no guarantee the price won’t rise,” we noted, and indeed a steadily rising price for carbon emissions is entirely the point of RGGI.

Pushed by Governor Glenn Youngkin (R) the Air Pollution Control Board voted earlier this year to rescind the state regulation that forces Virginia’s larger electric power plants to purchase allowances from RGGI for every ton of coal, natural gas or oil they burn. So far, efforts to reverse that decision in the courts have failed. Continue reading

Proposed Reproductive Freedom Amendment Could Eliminate Limits

by Emilio Jaksetic

House Joint Resolution 1 (HJ 1) and Senate Joint Resolution 1 (SJ 1) have been prefiled for consideration of the Virginia General Assembly to propose an amendment to the Virginia Constitution captioned “Article I, Bill of Rights, Section 11-A. Fundamental right to reproductive freedom.” A copy of HJ 1 is available at here and a copy of SJ 1 is available here.

Virginians need to (1) carefully consider the danger that vague and undefined terms in the proposed constitutional amendment could be exploited to advance an agenda that extends far beyond just abortion rights; and (2) consider the need for an alternative proposed amendment that is compatible with compromises likely to be acceptable to a majority of Virginians. Continue reading