Category Archives: Governance

VDOE’s Plan to Impose Social Reconstructionist Dogma on School Children

OK, kids, raise your hand if you can spell  i-n-d-o-c-t-r-i-n-a-t-i-o-n.

by James C. Sherlock

The 2020 General Assembly required the Virginia Department of Education to develop and publish standards for Social Emotional Learning (SEL) that start in Kindergarten and go through 12th grade.

VDOE has done so, disregarding entirely hundreds of comments on Virginia Town Hall on the draft of those standards that had a 10-to-one negative-to-positive ratio.

Town Hall in theory allows citizens to influence regulations. VDOE changed not one word from the draft.

Good news:  Virginia school divisions are not required to adopt the standards — yet. Bad news: Some will. Continue reading

No PAC for Disaster Preparedness and Response

Why is this man smiling?

by James C. Sherlock

Virginia’s responses to COVID were a continuing national embarrassment. 

  • Individual Virginia department and agencies had no operational pandemic response plans. They ignored specific and prescient directions to build and exercise such plans in the dormant Virginia Pandemic Emergency Plan. VDEM then attempted a coverup.
  • No PPE stockpiles. Last in testing. Last in vaccinations. Hospitals first, physicians last in every decision by the VDH. 
  • Last in distribution of unemployment checks. 
  • The General Assembly was given and took no role in pandemic response for 15 months.
  • The Canterbury nursing home scandal. State nursing home inspections that failed to report staffing shortages. The directly related shortages in staffing of state inspectors.
  • The failure to sanction teachers unions for strike threats in Northern Virginia during COVID. The officially sanctioned lapse in school accountability.
  • Poorly prepared official press conferences that often added confusion rather than clarity.

This was in its totality the biggest government scandal in Virginia history.

Continue reading

What? No Amendments Permitted to a $4.3 Billion Budget Bill?

Delegate Luke Torian, D-Woodbridge

by James C. Sherlock

Del. Luke Torian, D-Woodbridge, the Chair of the Appropriations Committee in the House of Delegates, has announced that there will be no member amendments allowed for the budget that the governor sends down during the upcoming special session.

Three things about that:

  1.  Torian is the king of budget amendments. Look at all of the amendments that he permitted/authored on education and healthcare policy in the past two sessions on what were supposed to be a budget bill. He was also the one that orchestrated the tabling in his committee of the Health Enterprise Zone bill that passed overwhelmingly in the policy committee among other examples;
  2. It is not clear that his ruling is either Constitutional or practical; and
  3. The budget bill will spend $4.3 billion.

Article VI of the Constitution of Virginia grants legislative power to the General Assembly. Torian’s ruling subordinates the General Assembly to the Governor for this session.

It also seems to make no sense. Continue reading

Is DOJ’s Focus on Healthcare Monopolies Coming to Virginia?

by James C. Sherlock

The Acting head of the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division, Richard A. Powers, yesterday delivered a speech that described the Justice Department’s new goals, strategies and resources for criminal antitrust enforcement.

The clouds have darkened over Virginia’s healthcare monopolies.

The Commonwealth. Virginia has failed in its duty to oversee its healthcare industry.  The full extent of that failure has been detailed in previous columns.

It has failed in two major ways:

  1. The Virginia Department of Health (VDH) has been captured by the healthcare provider industry that it regulates. Indeed VDH has been actively complicit in industry evasion of antitrust statutes through its administration of Certificate of Public Need (COPN) law.
  2. The Commonwealth’s regulatory structure has a strategic vulnerability. Neither the VDH that regulates providers nor the State Corporation Commission that regulates insurers can adequately oversee integrated health care delivery and insurance companies to prevent or detect what amount to internal conspiracies in restraint of trade. In the wrong hands, integrated provider monopolies and regionally powerful insurers can serve as weapons against competitors to both.

Continue reading

Where Is a Parents’ Bill of Rights for Virginia?

by James C. Sherlock

Sometimes, the simplest and certainly one of the best ways for a public official to serve the public is to inform them about things they care about.

The Attorney General of Indiana, perhaps the best governed state in America, has just published a roadmap for parents and caregivers to “exercise their legal right to have a voice in their children’s education.”

It is called the Parents Bill of Rights and is exactly the kind of initiative attorneys general should take to inform citizens of their rights on issues of public importance.

Good luck seeing such an assessment from Virginia’s AG. Continue reading

Virginia Governance in the Finest of Hands: Robert Jeffrey

Roanoke City Councilman Robert Jeffrey. Photo credit: Roanoke Times

Roanoke City Councilman Robert Jeffrey, 52, has been indicted by a grand jury on two charges of felony embezzlement. The case arose from a complaint from the Northwest Neighborhood Environmental Organization, an affordable housing organizations, reports The Roanoke Times. The charges did not specify the amount of money or value of property involved, but noted that the sum is “substantially above” the $1,000 threshold for felony charges. Jeffrey called the charges meritless, and the Roanoke Circuit Court did not judge him a flight risk. He took office in Roanoke City Council Jan. 1.

— JAB

Will Clement Leave His Mark as UVa Rector?

Whittington W. “Whitt” Clement

by James A. Bacon

The University of Virginia Board of Visitors will have some fresh blood tomorrow. Whittington W. Clement will assume leadership as rector July 1, and he will be joined by three new members appointed by Governor Ralph Northam earlier this month on the 19-person board.

The question is this: Will anything change? Will the Board reassert its control over an institution that is run by a self-aggrandizing senior staff with no regard to the interests of students and parents who pay most of the bills? Will it act to protect Thomas Jefferson’s legacy and UVa’s proud tradition of intellectual diversity and free inquiry? Or will the Board acquiesce to President Jim Ryan’s ambition to create a monochromatically leftist faculty while tolerating a student culture of dreary ideological conformity?

I don’t know Clement well, but I can say confidently that he is a dedicated public servant who will do his honest best to balance the many conflicting demands confronting the Board of Visitors. Continue reading

How 15 Days to Slow the Spread Became 475

by Kerry Dougherty

At last!

Four hundred and seventy five days after Gov. Ralph Northam first declared a coronavirus state of emergency, his latest order is set to expire today.

God willing.

I can’t be the only one holding my breath, wondering if the hysteria that Team Apocalypse is ginning up over the Delta variant will cause Northam to reinstitute emergency measures or suddenly extend them.

It can’t be easy to relinquish such broad powers.

Yet, as of yesterday, 89% of Virginians over the age of 65 had received one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine and 81% were fully vaccinated. In Virginia’s largest city — Virginia Beach — there were exactly 9 positive tests. And statewide, only 202 people confirmed for COVID were hospitalized, down from 2,820 on January 14, 2021. Continue reading

Virginia Ratifies!

by Dick Hall-Sizemore

On this date, 233 years ago, June 25, 1788, Virginia ratified the United States Constitution.

The stakes could not have been higher. Ratification by nine states was required for the Constitution to go into effect. When the delegates to the ratifying convention began their deliberations on June 2, they knew that eight states had ratified the Constitution. Being the largest state, the actions of Virginia would likely influence the remaining holdouts: New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina, and Rhode Island. As it turned out, New Hampshire ratified the Constitution four days before Virginia on June 21, thus making it the state that provided the ninth, decisive vote. However, the delegates in Richmond could not have known that. And, without Virginia’s ratification, the new nation would have likely been doomed. Continue reading

Some Thoughts on Local Government Finance

by Dick Hall-Sizemore

The recent posts and comments concerning the reversion of the city of Martinsville to town status (see here, here, and here) provide a good opportunity to discuss the complexity of local government finance and the limitations of using simplistic measures to compare governments.

Jim Sherlock referred to the “wreckage” of Martinsville, which he attributed to “decades of Democratic control.” When asked to define “wreckage,” he referred to the city government overspending to a “negative ROI” and declared that “the first job of any government in Virginia is to live within its means.” The obvious implication is that Martinsville spent more than it took in.

The only specific evidence offered to support the Martinsville “wreckage” charge was the higher spending per person by Martinsville and the higher tax rate in the city.

Local government finances is a fairly complex subject, but there is a good amount of data online for anyone who wants to dig. The website of the Virginia Auditor of Public Accounts serves as the base for most of this data. Its annual Comparative Report of Local Government Revenue and Expenditures is the basic document. It contains a great deal of data, but it has its limitations, as will become clear later in this discussion. The website also has the annual financial report of each local jurisdiction, which can provide even more insight for those experienced at reading and understanding financial reports (which I am not). Continue reading

The COVID Restrictions Have Been Lifted!

by Dick Hall-Sizemore

We now have been a week without state-imposed COVID restrictions. No social distancing. No restrictions on venues opening. I can go to my grandson’s graduation tonight. Kerry can go to the beach without a mask on. We all can go to Flying Squirrels’ games.

As of May 28, the Governor lifted all social distancing and venue restrictions, two weeks sooner than last promised. But, you would not know that from Bacon’s Rebellion, on which folks have been quick to criticize the Governor. What about all those predictions that “King Ralph” would find some pretense to continue with the restrictions?

By the way, after a rocky start, Virginia is among the top states in the country in the COVID vaccination rate.

Getting Electricity from Government

By Dick Hall-Sizemore

More than 300,000 Virginia residents and numerous commercial enterprises are not subject to the monopolistic electric rates of Dominion, APCO, or the electric cooperatives. They get their electric service from their local governments.

There are 16 municipalities in which electric service is provided by a governmental entity. Primarily, they are small towns (some surprisingly so) and small cities. They include the towns of Bedford, Blackstone, Culpeper, Elkton, Front Royal, Richlands, and Wakefield and the cities of Bristol, Danville, Franklin, Harrisonburg, Manassas, Martinsville, Radford, and Salem. Most intriguing of all is the Virginia Tech Electric Service, established by the university to provide electric service to the campus and the residents and businesses of Blacksburg.

These municipalities purchase most of their electricity from private companies such as American Electric Power Company. Several, such as Martinsville and Bedford, also use hydroelectric power for a portion of their needs. Continue reading

The One-Sided Decision in the Reversion of Martinsville – the Start of a Trend?

by James C. Sherlock

The Martinsville Bulletin, perhaps the best remaining newspaper in the state for local coverage, published a must-read article on the reversion of Martinsville from city to town and joining Henry County.

Overview

Martinsville’s current city logo, above, was perhaps prescient. Martinsville has been hemorrhaging population, losing more than 18% in the past 10 years, and was financially stressed before that loss.

Reversion in Virginia is a one-handed game. The small cities hold all of the cards.

Henry County is vocally opposed but feels helpless to stop it. The Henry County Supervisors voted to skip the legal process to avoid the costs. They called the reversion MOU “the best we could hope for and voted for it to avoid years of court battles”.

They are right  What they avoided was the special court that would have overseen the reversion under Virginia law had they not come to an agreement. The county would have been a defendant in a trial.

The rules for that court specified in that law give the small cities every advantage in a trial. That same special court would have overseen the transition for a decade. Every decision.

The changes reversion portends for city and county residents are massive. Now that his has happened, does anyone think this will be the last reversion? Continue reading

Should Northern Virginia Join D.C. in the 51st State?

State flag of New Columbia (including NoVa)?

By Don Rippert

Taxation without representation. The Democratic Party’s control of Congress and the White House has reopened the question of statehood for Washington, DC. This is not a new issue. The question of statehood for D.C. has been actively debated since 1980. Since the 98th Congress, more than a dozen statehood bills have been introduced. Two made it out of committee. The closest any bill came to success was a 1993 effort that was defeated 277 to 193 in the US House of Representatives. Support for D.C. statehood lies almost entirely along party lines with Democrats favoring statehood since it would yield two U.S. Senators and one Representative — all of whom would almost certainly be liberal Democrats. Republican opposition has been insurmountable over the years. Maybe a major repackaging of the idea of statehood for D.C. could break the logjam. Continue reading

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