Category Archives: Governance

The Proper Role of Virginia’s Attorney General

by Jack White

By now, Virginia voters have heard from many candidates running for Attorney General making sweeping promises about policy changes they will implement as AG or talking about being the chief prosecutor for Virginia. With due respect to the other candidates in the race, I feel compelled to reiterate what is and what is not the role of the Virginia Attorney General.

The Office of the Attorney General is established in the Virginia Constitution with a clearly defined role. That is to defend the state in criminal appeals and suits against the state, provide legal advice and representations in court for the state and the Governor, provide legal counsel and official opinions to the General Assembly, and defend the constitutionality of state laws. This Attorney General is intended to be the Chief Advocate for the state of Virginia.

This is not a policy-making role. I have heard my fellow candidates talk about everything from their vision for health care to policing reform – all of which are functions of the legislature, not the Office of the Attorney General. One candidate also seems to be under the impression the Attorney General is a prosecutorial role, when in reality it is not. Continue reading

Virginia’s Updated “Regulations Governing Educational Services for Gifted Students” Has Temporarily Disappeared

James Lane, Secretary of Public Obfuscation and Obstruction Education

by James C. Sherlock

Sometimes you just need to go to the documents to see what the Virginia Department of Education is up to. This example will tell you everything you want to know.

Each agency proposing a new or revised regulation is required by Virginia law to post a “Proposed Agency Background Document” on the “Virginia Regulatory Town Hall” website.

Turns out that those postings are occasionally fabulous. This is one of those times. One can see the wheels turning, including when the wheels go off the rails.

I have dissected one of particular interest to parents – Regulations Governing Educational Services for Gifted Students [8 VAC 20 ‑ 40]. 

Continue reading

Fall Elections Threaten Northam’s Radical Education Team

Qarni

by James C. Sherlock

Politics is a contact sport, and the two people in the Northam administration most likely to be blindsided are Secretary of Education Atif Qarni and Superintendent of Public Instruction James Lane.

I say blindsided — they won’t see it coming — because the hits will come from their own team. This isn’t about whether a reader thinks they have earned it or not. It is about politics.

Lane

I think it likely that Glenn Youngkin will be the Republican nominee for Governor and Jason Miyares the Republican pick for Attorney General.

If so, three things are likely to happen. First, both races will be competitive. Second, voters will turn out in droves in protest of the education policies of the Northam administration. Finally, If Terry McAuliffe, the presumptive Democratic nominee, feels threatened, he will flush Qarni and Lane one way or the other.

They should freshen up their resumes. Continue reading

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

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

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

The Real Nursing Home Scandal in Virginia

Canterbury Rehabilitation and Healthcare Richmond

by James C. Sherlock

Mike Martz has written three excellent columns that have appeared in the Richmond Times Dispatch starting March 19.  Headline of one: “Virginia tries to move ahead of national ‘reform agenda’ for nursing homes.”

The gist of it was that a couple of national nursing home industry organizations have taken advantage of the public consciousness of the COVID tragedies to produce a “reform agenda” centered around significantly higher Medicaid payments.

Unreported so far is that they also want weaker inspections. More about that below.

We all applaud any attempt to “improve operating standards for nursing homes, initiatives to boost the facilities’ workforce, and efforts to give residents more privacy and protect them from poor-performing nursing homes” as Martz wrote. Who could oppose that?

The financials of nursing homes lead me to agree that higher Medicaid payments will be required to accomplish those goals. But the higher payments need to be accompanied by better oversight to make sure that the money brings the desired outcomes.  Continue reading

Rich Jurisdictions Vote with Their Feet on the Virginia Department of Health

by James C. Sherlock

M. Norman Oliver M.D., Virginia Health Commissioner

A couple of days ago Antonio Olivo broke a story  in The Washington Post that told of a law permitting Loudoun and Prince William counties to form independent health departments. It awaits Governor Northam’s signature.

Having seen the performance of the Department of Health during COVID, they have decided they cannot depend on their state-run health districts. They are not breaking new ground, as Fairfax and Arlington Counties already made the change in 1995 and 1998 respectively.

We have written much in this space about the dangerous shortcomings of the Virginia Department of Health exposed by COVID, including its planning, exercise, nursing home inspection, testing and vaccination programs.

Now it appears that an increasing number of our wealthier local governments get it and want to take health district matters into their own hands. Continue reading

An Important Challenge to Employees of the Commonwealth

by James C. Sherlock

I ask the employees of the Commonwealth of Virginia to be agents for its positive change. I will address you directly.

The issue is state readiness, or rather lack of it, for the COVID epidemic. You are in the best position to know that your agency was surprised and overwhelmed when COVID struck.

It did not need to be that way.

I have written here extensively of the failure of state departments to prepare for a pandemic flu emergency as they were directed to do by the state emergency operations plan published in 2012. Those directed preparations included planning, training and exercises that involved you, the professional staff of state agencies.

Many of you know that none of that happened in your organizations.

I filed complaints with the Office of the State Inspector General who is employed specifically to investigate such issues. But I think the complaints of an outsider will go nowhere.

The fault for lack of preparation lies with so broad a swath of the executive department of the state that only a high volume of inside complaints will drive the investigation and thus the changes that are necessary.

I am going to ask you as employees to engage to fix the system from within. Continue reading

Confessions of a Virginia Whistleblower

by James C. Sherlock

State Inspector General Mike Westfall

I decided last week in a paroxysm of good citizenship to contact the Virginia Inspector General (IG) to report wrongdoing by state officials.

I have a considerable list centered around the failure of many state officials to carry out their longstanding, formally-assigned duties pre-COVID to plan for a pandemic emergency and exercise those plans to mitigate the effects of such an occurrence.  

My complaints are based on Virginia Executive Order No. 42  Promulgation of the Commonwealth of Virginia Emergency Operations Plan and Delegation of Authority. It was issued by Governor McDonnell and reissued by Governor Northam.

An actionable component of that Order is Hazard-Specific Annex #4 Pandemic Influenza Response (Non-Clinical) was published in August of 2012 (the Annex).  It contained prescient predictions about the course of a pandemic and directed specific agencies to prepare and exercise specific plans. Despite the clear language of the Annex, the plans were not written, personnel were not trained, exercises could not be conducted and systems were not tested under simulated stresses of a pandemic.

Those failures cost unnecessarily severe losses of life, suffering and economic distress among the citizens.  

Continue reading

Fire State Officials Who Failed Us in COVID

by James C. Sherlock

If senior members of the state bureaucracies escape accountability for their failures before and during COVID, the agency cultures won’t change and it will happen again.  

I am going to review below the extent of their written responsibilities for pandemic planning and the high quality planning support they were given before COVID struck.  

It is clear that the planning framework, guidance and assumptions from 2012 proved prescient in COVID.  

Those responsibilities were widely ignored within the government of Virginia in the nearly eight years between when the directive was published and COVID struck. Readers can judge for themselves how much it mattered that the required planning was not carried out.

Post-COVID “lessons learned” written by the state bureaucracies will be utterly insufficient if left to stand alone. There is only one overarching lesson learned. Some did not do their jobs and people died as a direct result. Continue reading

Virginia’s Covid Vaccination Plan – Nothing to Exercise

by James C. Sherlock

I have read a lot of speculation here on who is responsible for the mess that has been the distribution and administration of COVID vaccines.

I will try offer some clarification.

On a day-to-day basis, people get flu shots or shingles shots or whatever from a lot of different providers. The normal pharmaceutical distribution system handles the supply chain.

Emergency planning guidance for pandemic emergency distribution and administration of vaccines is contained in Virginia’s famously shy Emergency Operations Plan – HAZARD-SPECIFIC ANNEX #4 PANDEMIC INFLUENZA RESPONSE of 2012.

Planning assumptions included:

– Pre-event planning is critical to ensure a prompt and effective response to a pandemic influenza, as its spread will be rapid, recurring (in multiple waves), and difficult to stop once it begins. …
– Vaccines will not be available for approximately six months following identification of the virus and will be in limited quantities when made available, necessitating the need to develop and implement a distribution plan.

Policies: Continue reading

Virginia Pandemic Emergency Plan Was Never Exercised


by James C. Sherlock

As we suspected, Virginia did not exercise its Pandemic Emergency Plan from the time it was published in 2012 until COVID-19 struck.

I received the following response today to a FOIA request I sent to the Commonwealth of Virginia Department of Emergency Management:

The Virginia Department of Emergency Management (VDEM) received your February 13, 2021, email regarding a document request. In that request, you seek:

“Existing VDEM records of Virginia state, regional, and local participation in the National Exercise Program since 2012 at every level of training and exercises that addressed Infectious Disease and Biological Incidents.”

VDEM does not have any documentation that meets the requirements of your request. As a result, pursuant to Va. Code § 2.2-3704.B.3, VDEM notes that no records or data exists in response to your request.

Is “oops” a good enough response for the Governor? It appears so.

The Democratic Coalition’s Conflicts of Interest Cause Much Political Scrambling

by James C. Sherlock

It is tough to be a Democratic politician in Richmond or Washington. Now that they govern, they find it one big game of coalition whack-a-mole.

I have written today of the conflicts between the interests of teachers unions and those of parents playing out in the Virginia General Assembly. That vital Democratic suburban women demo is in play.

That is the tip of the iceberg for Democrats. They have assembled a coalition whose interests are fundamentally opposed. Those fissures are only fully exposed when they have unfettered governance, which they have now both in Richmond and Washington.

The only things they seem to agree on are big government, free money and government regulation and control of nearly everything except their own interests.

After that, it gets dicey. Continue reading

Union-Written Bill Fundamentally Redefines Public Schools

by James C. Sherlock

Becky Pringle, NEA President

Democrats are attempting to rush through a bill to provide political cover from a backlash by parents against the continuing closure of Virginia schools.

Never ones to let a crisis go to waste, they have put union-written provisions in the bill that will permanently change the nature of the public schools for the worse.

So let’s look at Virginia SENATE BILL NO. 1303 AMENDMENT IN THE NATURE OF A SUBSTITUTE Local school divisions; availability of virtual and in-person learning to all students

There are four provisions in the bill that will change Virginia public schools, some forever. Continue reading