Category Archives: Governance

How Youngkin Can Avoid Lame Duck Status

by Scott Lingamfelter

Elections produce clarity. One thing is noticeably clear after Republicans failed to achieve majorities in both chambers of the Virginia General Assembly. For the next two years, the prospects for Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin‘s legislative agenda are bleak.

That’s the bad news.

Here is the good news: it doesn’t have to be that way.

The inclination of those defeated in elections is to engage in “blamestorming,” seeking to find fault with this or that election strategy. We’re seeing that now as some Republican legislators grouse about the governor’s decision to emphasize abortion restrictions that played badly in some swing districts. That messaging debate should occur. But it’s imperative that the governor and the GOP in Virginia do some serious brainstorming on how to win back the hearts and minds of voters. Serious-minded governance can do that. Continue reading

Charlottesville, Its Public Schools and UVa – Part One – Bad things Happen

Charlottesville neighborhoods.  Courtesy Charlottesville Low-Income Housing Coalition

by James C. Sherlock

In the relationship between Charlottesville and the University of Virginia, very bad things have happened to Charlottesville and continue to do so.

I have developed a working thesis on that relationship.

The city is at the mercy of the University by virtue of the latter’s wealth, influence, and power in Charlottesville elections.

It is, driven by University community voters, the bluest voting district in the Commonwealth.

Unfailingly progressive Charlottesville city council, school board and Commonwealth’s Attorney candidates are elected by the dominant votes of the University, its employees and its students.

Charlottesville City Schools (CCS) are to a large degree creatures of the University.

Many CCS teachers have their bachelors and/or advanced degrees from UVa’s School of Education and Human Development. Many University ed school students do their student teaching in Charlottesville.

Every progressive educational policy and virtually every experiment the University’s ed school can dream up are visited on those students.  The University’s ed school Research Centers and Labs find the proximity convenient and a pliant school board welcoming.

The University can’t bear to leave anything in CCS alone.

As Charlottesville High School faces the aftermath of rising rates of violence at the school and three canceled days of school due to alack of personnel, teachers at the University and other community groups have assisted in the school’s response. Faculty from the University’s School of Education and Human Development were present at development sessions with Charlottesville High School teachers aiming to address underlying issues….

“Dr. Stephanie Rowley, dean of the University’s Education School, said faculty from Education’s counselor education and educational psychology programs were particularly involved with the efforts because of the relevance of their expertise.”

There is no record of their being invited.

“Lack of personnel”.  The teachers walked out because of runaway violence.

The University “lent a hand”.

“In light of the University’s recent push to bolster its impact in Charlottesville, some members of the University who specialize in education attended the teacher work day meetings at Charlottesville High School.”

Seriously.  To “bolster (the University’s) impact in Charlottesville”.

For Black children in CCS schools, that influence, long-running and well-meaning though it has been, has turned out to have been a disaster unparalleled in the Commonwealth.

Continue reading

William and Mary and the Chinese Communist Party – Dangerous Allies – Part 3

by James C. Sherlock

Chinese fighter and U.S. jet over South China Sea.  Courtesy CNN and YouTube.

William and Mary’s superb AidData program makes major contributions to America’s understanding of the Peoples Republic of China (PRC). The school is justly proud of it.

AidData published in December of 2021 a study Corridors of Power – How Beijing uses economic, social and network ties to exert influence along the Silk Road.

Chapter 3 is “Social ties: How does Beijing leverage education, culture, and
exchange to amplify its foreign influence strategy?”

I recommend it to the President and the Board of the College.

I promised in this Part to look at:

  • the William and Mary/Chinese Foreign Ministry Chinese Students and Scholars Association (CSSA);
  • Chinese student recruiting and admissions;
  • the courses they take, and their internships and the applicability of their skills to the People’s Revolutionary Army and Navy;
  • what happens when those “students and scholars” return home; and
  • the money.

We’ll do that, and we’ll look at the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) to see if it possibly applies. Continue reading

“Good old TikTok: Chinese spy engine and purveyor of virulent antisemitic lies.” Sen. Josh Hawley

San Francisco High School students enflamed by false report from the NYT (which later offered “nuance”) broadcast worldwide on TikTok #freepalestine that Israel bombed that hospital in Gaza.

by James C. Sherlock

Taylor Lorenz, the estimable young Tech and Online Culture columnist for The Washington Post, has been the author of some of the most important reports on the Hamas-Israel war.

Today, she published with Drew Harwell, a Post reporter covering artificial intelligence and the algorithms changing our lives, “Israel-Gaza war sparks debate over TikTok’s role in setting public opinion.

A pro-Palestinian hashtag, #freepalestine, had … 770 million views over the last 30 days in the United States, TikTok data show.

To longtime TikTok critics like Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), that assertion offered further proof that the app, owned by the China-based tech firm ByteDance, is a secretive propaganda engine built to manipulate American teens for Chinese geopolitical goals — in this case, Rubio said, to “downplay … Hamas terrorism.”

The same Post article, attempting balance, reports both the Sen. Hawley quote in the title of this piece and that:

TikTok creators and social media experts say the reality (of reporting on the war) is more nuanced (than critics have asserted).

“Nuanced.” What would we do without “TikTok creators and social media experts”? Continue reading

Governor Youngkin Steps to Curb Anti-Semitic Activities – How about Law Enforcement?

by James C. Sherlock

Governor Glenn Youngkin took action today with an Executive Directive to “Combat Antisemitism and Anti-Religious Bigotry in the Commonwealth and on Campuses.”

It is excellent, and we look forward to immediate steps by other actors in the Commonwealth. Continue reading

List of Wrongly Purged Voter Registrations Gets Larger

Susan Beals, Commissioner,
Va. Dept. of Elections

by Dick Hall-Sizemore

Remember my earlier report on the Youngkin administration cancelling the registrations of voters eligible to vote? These were felons whose voting rights had been restored who had committed a parole violation, which shows up as a felony in the State Police’s official crime database.

In mid-October, the state Department of Elections reported that there are only about 275 individuals affected. Now, it is up to 3,400.

When VPM, Richmond’s public radio station, first reported the errors, the administration was dismissive of the reports. Later, it minimized the extent of the problem. Now, it is trying to shift the blame. Jeff Goettman, the Governor’s chief of staff, says the administration suspects the errors “are the result of antiquated data systems and insufficient processes maintained over the last 20 plus years.” Anyone who has worked with data knows that, when one grabs a bunch of data that was compiled for one purpose and uses it for an entirely different purpose, one needs to be especially careful and needs to be thoroughly familiar with the dataset that is being relied upon. Anyone except, apparently, the folks at the Department of Elections.

To cover himself, the Governor has ordered the Office of the Inspector General to investigate the “circumstances, data systems, and practices” surrounding this event and, as a counter measure, to prepare a separate report examining whether thousands of residents had been left on the registration rolls despite having been convicted of a new felony.

The Impact of Virginia’s Certificate of Public Need Laws on Nursing Home and Home Health Care Availability and Expenditures

by James C. Sherlock

I have come across a major study in the National Institute of Health’s National Library of Medicine that made a point that I have not explored sufficiently to this point.

It discusses the intersection of nursing homes, home health care, CON laws like Virginia’s Certificate of Public Need (COPN) law, and Medicaid expenditures.

I have shown over time in a series of columns how bad many of Virginia’s nursing homes are.

Antitrust authorities at the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and at the US Department of Justice (DOJ) have long taken the position that CON laws are anticompetitive.

This study, conducted prior to COVID, indicates that COPN administration will ensure that nursing facilities not only have little competition from other facilities, which it was designed to do, but also will limit home health care expansion, which the COPN law does not mention.

That is very good for the Virginia nursing home industry.

It is bad for every other Virginian, every one of whom may need at least post-operative recovery and rehabilitation if not long term care.

Some will need it in a dedicated facility, others can be better served at home.

The study indicated that COPN will tend to make home health care less available and potentially raise total Medicaid spending. It also showed that market forces unconstrained by CON laws like COPN will tend to reverse those trends.

So this article is dedicated to our politicians and their constituents.

You. Continue reading

National Academy of Sciences Offers Superb Recommendations for Fixing Virginia’s Nursing Home Crisis

by James C. Sherlock

Sometimes, we need to listen.

I just finished the 806-page 2022 report The National Imperative to Improve Nursing Home Quality: Honoring Our Commitment to Residents, Families, and Staff by the National Academy of Sciences (NAS). It is downloadable at the link.

That study and report were utterly professional and thorough, as scientific as you expect, remarkably staffed and bipartisan in recommendations.

I have compiled from Appendix D of that report those remedies recommended for execution by states and nursing homes. They deserve to be the centerpiece of Virginia law and regulation going forward.

All of them. Continue reading

Youngkin’s “Bromance” with Petersburg’s Mayor

by Kerry Dougherty

They tried. Lord knows they did their best to find fault.

But even the leftie Washington Post was forced to hold its nose and admit that Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s commitment to his signature program — “Partnership for Petersburg” — is genuine and getting results.

For more than a year, Youngkin has been working with local and state officials, the private and public sectors and especially with Petersburg Mayor Sam Parham to turn that city’s fortunes around.

Petersburg is a city in distress. It’s riddled with crime, grinding poverty and the worst-performing schools in the commonwealth.

A hopeless example of urban decay, some would say, and on the decline.

In a lengthy story this week, The Post wrote about the friendship that has blossomed between Youngkin and the African-American mayor of that troubled city. Continue reading

University Boards’ Primary Duty is to the Commonwealth, AG Says

Jason Miyares

by James A. Bacon

The primary duty of board members of Virginia’s public colleges and universities is to the commonwealth, not to the individual institutions, Attorney General Jason Miyares wrote Monday in response to an advisory opinion requested by Governor Glenn Younkin.

According to Miyares’ missive, Youngkin asked whether Virginia law imposes upon boards of visitors “a duty to serve the interests of the university or college only, or the Commonwealth more broadly.”

“Although they extend services to non-residents, Virginia’s institutions of higher education exist to fulfill the commonwealth’s commitment to provide education to the students of Virginia,” the AG answered. “It is clear that the boards of visitors serving them, as public officers of the state, have a duty to the Commonwealth as a whole.”

The letter does not elucidate the particular circumstances that led to the request for clarification, but the issue of board members’ primary duty did arise during the September 2023 meeting of the University of Virginia Board of Visitors meeting. Rector Robert Hardie had invited Clayton Rose, former president of Bowdoin College and currently a Harvard University professor, to lead a discussion of “best practices in board governance.” (See our coverage here.) Continue reading

Questions and Doubts (About the Nature of Some Politicians)

Logo of the Harrisonburg City Public Schools

by Joe Fitzgerald

When I had a meeting set up with (JMU President) Ron Carrier soon after I was elected to (Harrisonburg) City Council in 2000, someone warned me that he would change the time at the last minute just to show he was more important than me. He did, and maybe he was. But it was good to be warned.

Some years later, those of us who had to use a new software for our jobs found that a prerequisite for the technical training was an orientation session with a JMU communication official. Not only did he change the time at the last minute, disrupting the schedules of a few dozen people, but he began the unnecessary meeting when it eventually happened by talking about how many Grateful Dead concerts he’d been to.

The session was about the philosophy and vision of the new software. The JMU official fulfilled the academic administrative definition of a visionary as someone who knows exactly how things should be done if he knew how to do them. (Using “he” in this instance is not a generic pronoun, but a bow to the statistics of who fits this description.)

I was reminded of those earlier occasions recently while watching Councilman Chris Jones interrupt and disrupt his way through a liaison meeting between City Council and School Board members. I had to wonder if his attempts to dominate the meeting with irrelevant or borderline false information were obvious to the casual observer. Not that a casual observer is going to be watching a governmental liaison meeting on a Wednesday afternoon. I may be a nerd.

Continue reading

Integrity Should Go Both Ways

Susan Beals, Commissioner,
Va. Dept. of Elections

by Dick Hall-Sizemore

Governor Youngkin talks a lot about election integrity.  By that, he obviously means keeping people ineligible to vote from voting.  However, integrity cuts another way, as well.  It means allowing people who are eligible to vote the opportunity to vote.

The governor’s Department of Elections (Elections) seems not to worry too much about that second aspect of election integrity.  Last fall, due to a computer glitch, the agency discovered that it had not processed thousands of new voter registrations completed by the Department of Motor Vehicles and had to scramble to notify local registrars of the eligibility of those folks as early voting was underway.  This year, it is another group of registered voters who have been disenfranchised. Continue reading

Virginia Deserves a Parole Board that Puts Public Safety First

Patricia West

by Kerry Dougherty

When Terry McAuliffe was governor he found a loyal Democrat lawyer to appoint to head Virginia’s parole board.

That was Adrianne Bennett, a failed candidate for the House of Delegates in 2011 and undoubtedly the most controversial parole board chair in Virginia history. She was a success if you believe, as McAuliffe apparently did, that the job of that board is to spring murderers and make Virginians less safe. Continue reading

The Virginia State Budget and the Rising Costs of Registered Nurses

by James C. Sherlock

I was asked yesterday by a reader about the relationship between nursing homes, rising registered nurse salaries and the new Virginia budget agreement.

Good questions. Virginia’s workforce includes nearly 70,000 registered nurses.

The state pays its workers, but it also pays its Medicaid share for private sector nurses. Pay for private sector workers is based upon market conditions. The market wage for registered nurses nationwide increased dramatically during COVID.

Perhaps the only good thing to come out of that mess was that registered nurses, of whom Virginia has 11% fewer than demand calculated by the federal Health Resources and Services Administration, got very large pay and bonus raises, and the new wage points appear to have stuck.

If the laws of economics work here, that will over time increase the number of nurses if we can educate and train them in the required numbers.

The latest figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics for all states show that the median wage for an RN in Virginia was $79,700 a year. In Northern Virginia portion of the D.C. metro area, the median was $92,800.  The underlying data are a couple of years old.

Wages and bonuses can vary a lot among Virginia hospitals, nursing homes, home health agencies, nursing school staff and government employees, and are higher or lower depending on specialty. The private sector offers $10,000 to  $20,000 signing bonuses paid out after the first year.

Employers of course must pay payroll taxes and other expenses related to employees, and thus their costs will generally exceed $100,000 per RN.

Virginia RNs are still underpaid compared to national figures. The mean annual wage for America’s 3 million registered nurses in May was $89,010 compared to Virginia’s $79,900.

The federal Centers for Medicare/Medicaid Services, aware of some of the questionable business models of bad actors in the nursing home industry, published last week a proposed rule to both increase the minimum number of RNs in nursing facilities and to require all nursing facilities to reveal every year how much of the Medicare and Medicaid payouts go to salaries and related expenses.

So, Medicare and Medicaid costs will go up yet again. Continue reading

An Overdue New Federal Rule to Improve Nursing Home Staffing

By James C. Sherlock

What would happen if the federal government were to propose for the first time specific nursing home staffing minimums?

We are about to find out.

A new rule.  A new federal proposed rule introduced yesterday has already survived fierce opposition from the industry, which tried to kill it in the womb.  They are not done opposing, but the administration seems to have its course set.

And the new rule is clearly within the letter and spirit of the Social Security Act that requires safe, quality care.

The new proposed federal rule consists of three core staffing proposals:

  1. minimum nurse staffing standards of 0.55 hours per resident day (HPRD) for Registered Nurses (RNs) and 2.45 HPRD for Nurse Aides (NAs);
  2. a requirement to have an RN onsite 24 hours a day, seven days a week (currently 8 hours a day); and
  3. enhanced facility assessment requirements.

While the final rule minimums will be phased in over a three-year period, five for rural facilities, they would, if in force today, render non-compliant 245 of the 281 Virginia nursing homes that are rated for staffing by CMS.

There are also groundbreaking provisions for transparency on the percentage of Medicare and Medicaid payments spent on direct care staff, not just for nursing homes but also for community and home care.

The new proposed rule is potentially a great improvement for prospective patients coming out of the hospital to recuperate and rehabilitate or entering long term care.

Which includes a lot of very vulnerable Virginians.

Continue reading