by James A. Bacon
To get a handle on how progressive (to be clear, I use “progressive” as a synonym for “leftist”) Governor Ralph Northam’s proposed two-year budget is, consider the following.
If Northam’s agenda is adopted, Virginia’s middle class will pay higher gas taxes, higher cigarette taxes, higher income taxes, and higher electric rates. That doesn’t include higher charges resulting from a new hospital tax last year, nor does it include higher college tuition, any of the proposals (such as an inheritance tax) proposed by emboldened Democrats in the legislature, higher who-knows-what-else is squirreled away in the budget, or ideas just hanging fire like the Transportation Climate Initiative.
What will the middle class get in return? Virtually nothing, unless you count expenditures on programs meant to benefit the public at large such as the environment, rural broadband, education, and workforce development. The majority of spending programs are targeted to help lower-income Virginians — and various Democratic Party constituencies who mask their self-serving agendas as benefiting the poor.
Going down the list of initiatives listed in Northam’s State of the Commonwealth address, we find: Continue reading
by James A. Bacon
In his State of the Commonwealth speech yesterday, Governor Ralph Northam outlined his proposals for hundreds of millions of dollars in new spending initiatives. Needless to say, it was impossible during such a high-altitude overview to provide a detailed explanation of the thinking behind each program. In most instances, he posited a “need,” proffered a government “solution,” and moved on. But in one intriguing instance, his $145 million program to make community college more affordable, he delved deeper.
There are two big barriers that hinder “non-traditional students” (those whose parents did not attend college) from completing their community college degrees, the Governor said. One is cost, and the other is life itself.
Here’s an example. At Reynolds Community College here in Richmond, a majority of students are people of color. The college looked at “retention rates” — who starts a degree program and then goes on to complete it. They identified students who started one academic year and didn’t come back the next. They asked why didn’t these students come back.
The answer is really important. The facts showed it was not academics that kept them from coming back. In fact, these students usually had earned a 3.1 grade point average when they left school.
These students enrolled in a degree program — trying to get a skill, so they can get a job, and provide for the people they love. They set a goal. They worked hard. They performed well, but they dropped out. Why? They left because life got in the way. The car broke down. Or the baby got sick. Or they lost their job. Just trying to get ahead. And then life hits you.
There’s a lot going on in that statement. Let’s unpack it. Continue reading
by James A. Bacon
Ralph Northam ran for governor as a don’t-rock-the-boat center-left moderate who would continue governance of Virginia in the tradition of his predecessors Terry McAuliffe and Tim Kaine. Virginians bit the bait. Then the blackface scandal happened, and Northam had to do penitence to Virginia’s progressives to survive politically. Subsequently, in what was in part a referendum on an unpopular President Trump, Virginians installed a Democratic Party majority in the General Assembly. I’m not sure Virginians knew what they were getting, but they’re now finding out.
Northam has chosen to govern as a classic tax-and-spend liberal. The Commonwealth’s budget (General Fund and Non General Fund) will have increased from $57 billion as originally submitted in Fiscal 2019 to $68.4 billion by Fiscal 2022, or 20%. That would constitute one of the biggest spending expansions in Virginia fiscal history. (If we adjust for inflation, which is much lower than in the past, it may be the biggest expansion of government in our lifetimes.) Judging from the governor’s State of the Commonwealth address yesterday, there is not a single problem facing Virginia that doesn’t warrant a government solution.
Yet, as much as Northam embraced big government yesterday, his agenda is not as radical as many of his Democratic confreres in the legislature would like. He did not advocate a rollback of the state’s Right to Work law. He believes that corporate investment is a good thing, and that Virginia needs more of it. He did call for a minimum wage increase but did not specify that it had to be $15, as many have called for. Rather than fund every special interest with its hand out, he actually proposes setting aside hundreds of millions of dollars to build the state’s financial reserves to $1.9 billion, enough to safeguard Virginia’s AAA bond rating and provide a financial buffer against a recession.
Here’s a terrifying thought: Given the impotence of General Assembly Republicans, Northam may be the only thing standing between Virginia and a really radical progressive agenda. Continue reading
by James A. Bacon
This morning I found an email in my inbox, a fund-raising message from U.S. Senator Mark Warner calling for the resignation of U.S. Attorney General Bill Barr. It saddens me to say what I’m about to say because, other than breaking his promise not to raise taxes, I thought Warner did a commendable job as Virginia’s governor. I got to know him in his run-up to the governorship and came to like him personally. He was one of the good guys. But 10 years of operating in the Washington, D.C., political/media bubble, I fear, has severely distorted his perspective.
Here’s how the fund-raising missive starts:
Last week, the Department of Justice released a long-awaited report into the origins of the Russia investigation. Contrary to what President Trump and his allies have been claiming for three years, the report found no evidence that the investigation — which exposed criminal activity by the President’s campaign manager, national security adviser, and other top aides — was influenced by political bias.
Warner’s letter — I’m sure he didn’t write it, but if it went out under his name, he bears responsibility for the contents — is not a remotely complete summary of the Office of Inspector General‘s conclusions regarding the FISA application to survey Carter Page. Here is a main finding that the Senator cherry picks: Continue reading
By Don Rippert
Cannabis certitude. The seemingly inexorable march toward legalized marijuana in the United States continues unabated. A poll of 9,900 American adults conducted by the Pew Research Center from September 3 – 15, 2019 found that 67% of the respondents thought cannabis should be legalized. That’s five percentage points higher than Pew’s last poll on the subject conducted in 2018. Many state legislatures are acting on behalf of their constituents. Legal weed sales began last Sunday in Michigan and will commence on New Year’s Day in Illinois. At the federal level the House Judiciary Committee approved a bill legalizing marijuana at the federal level. As of today 33 states have legalized medical marijuana and 11 states have approved the sale of recreational marijuana to adults. Six more states seem very likely to make decisions on legalizing recreational marijuana in 2020 – Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Missouri, New Jersey and South Dakota. As legal marijuana becomes big business pundits are predicting the future of legal weed. Arcview Market Research and BDS Analytics believe that medical marijuana will be legalized in every state by 2024 and recreational marijuana will be legal in 20 states by that date. Virginia is not among the 20.
Weed in the
Old Ancient Pre-historic Dominion. Virginia is one of 15 states where marijuana is fully illegal. (Note: I do not count CBD oil sales as partial legalization). The first step on the long road to legalization is usually decriminalization. In 2018 Virginia’s General Assembly considered a bill to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana. It was killed along a purely party line vote in the Senate Courts of Justice Committee. In 2019 another decriminalization bill was considered. Virginia’s Republican leadership in the General Assembly couldn’t muster the minimal courage to take the 2019 bill to the full committee and killed it in sub-committee. Later that year the Republicans got their heads handed to them in the General Assembly election. What a surprise. Now Democrats hold a trifecta in Virginia with control of the House, Senate and Governorship. Once again, Sen. Adam Ebbin (D-Alexandria) is the patron for proposed legislation to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana. However, this year unlike the past, Ebbin’s party is in control.
by James A. Bacon
More blue on blue: Hedge-fund manager Michael Bills, the money meister behind Clean Virginia, worked behind the scenes to oppose the elevation of Del. Eileen Filler-Corn, D-Fairfax Station, to Speaker of the House. So alleged Senate Majority Leader Richard Saslaw, D-Fairfax, in an interview on the John Fredericks radio show last week.
“I had heard that they or they representatives had made phone calls to get people to vote against Eileen,” Saslaw said. “You know, quite frankly, you’re getting awfully close to that quid pro quo line when you’re doing stuff like that. I don’t take, nor does our caucus… we don’t take any contributions that come with any conditions. To me, you’re getting into dangerous territory when you accept a deal like that.”
Bills and wife Sonjia Smith spent nearly $2 million in donations that came from them personally or funneled through Clean Virginia to candidates who pledged not to take contributions from Dominion Energy.
The story, if true, suggests that a schism exists between the establishment wing of Virginia’s Democratic Party and the militant environmentalist wing of the party. Militant environmentalists deem Dominion Energy to be a fount of political corruption and, due to the utility’s continued advocacy of natural gas, an impediment to the goal of achieving a 100% renewable electric grid. However, as long as Dominion can patch together a coalition of Republican and pragmatic Democratic lawmakers, it will likely continue to prevail in the General Assembly. Continue reading
By Peter Galuszka
It helps to have an influential father, especially if you are Peter Farrell.
The 36 year-old former Republican delegate and financial investor has been named to the Board of Visitors of Virginia Commonwealth University by Gov. Ralph Northam.
Northam, a Democrat, has accepted thousands of dollars in political donations from Thomas Farrell, Peter’s father, who heads Dominion Energy, which has also contributed to Northam.
There’s nothing especially wrong with young Farrell’s appointment although his age and relative inexperience might raise eyebrows. He served in the House of Delegates from Henrico County from 2012 to 2018 when he said he wanted to “retire” to spend more time with his family and investment business.
But there’s always been a whiff of inside baseball with him. According to a 2016 book by Richmond author Jeff Thomas, the way was cleared for Farrell’s ascendance into politics literally behind closed doors. Continue reading
Speaker-designate Eileen Filler-Corn, Fairfax. Photo credit: CNN
by Dick Hall-Sizemore
Both the RTD and Washington Post today reported on the new Speaker-to-be’s first committee chair appointments. (This is one of the real powers of the Speaker of the House of Delegates. He/she gets to make all committee appointments, including the chair of each committee.) The Post was a little more muted, but from the RTD’s headline, “3 members of Va. black caucus to lead House panels”, one would have thought the appointments were a surprise and part of a Democratic plan to give special perks to the black caucus. The chairman of the black caucus even weighed in by praising the “historic appointments.”
What would have been surprising would have been not appointing those members to the chairmanships. Each one is the Democratic delegate with the most seniority currently on the committee. So far, the new Speaker-to-be (herself certainly far from what a traditional Speaker has been) is going with tradition.
Where the National Popular Vote Compact stands: Passed in 16 states, passed one chamber in seven more. Source: National Popular Vote
By Steve Haner
Add this to the pile of really bad ideas that now have a chance to pass in New Blue Virginia: Allowing California and New York to decide how to cast Virginia’s electoral votes.
Since millions who slept through government class were stunned to learn in 2016 that the popular vote doesn’t pick a president, efforts have been growing to bypass the Electoral College process. According to the folks at National Popular Vote, sixteen states with 196 electoral votes have voted to dis-enfranchise their people, and in several others at least one legislative chamber has agreed.
The Virginia General Assembly simply ignored House Bill 2422 during the 2019 Session. Its three sponsors, Northern Virginia Democrats Mark Levine, Kay Kory and Marcus Simon, will surely be back with a longer list of sponsors for 2020, and a House Privileges and Elections Committee with a Democratic majority. Continue reading
This says it all – from J. Miles Coleman, at Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball. I saw it this morning on The Bull Elephant, which focuses on Loudoun. Would Virginia Beach and Henrico look the same? If you have any doubts the Trump era has produced a true realignment, dispel them. SDH
From Blue Virginia at the end. Without dispute, he is best Democratic turnout generator in history.
By Steve Haner
You know Virginia has changed when being labeled a socialist by your opponent is less damaging than being labeled a Republican.
That’s the opening line for my short essay on what happened November 5, which as far as I can tell has already been analyzed 345 other times in various publications, including several times here on Bacon’s Rebellion. Most of the authors have never written or executed a campaign plan. But I said I’d share my thoughts.
The bottom line is Democrats had a message about what their election would mean for Virginia. Republicans then ran against that message, amplifying it substantially, and thereby assured a huge turnout of the most liberal Democrats. At the same time, Republicans offered no message to turn out their own less-motivated supporters or excite their potential donors, state or national. They certainly offered no vision to woo swing voters. Continue reading
By Steve Haner
“Do you actively support efforts to reduce corruption in government?”
Of course, any candidate presented with that question will reply yes. What do you expect? “No, I’m quite passive about corruption in government. Live and let live.”
That was one of the softball questions on the Clean Virginia candidate survey form, which will be taking on added significance given the number of Clean Virginia-funded and endorsed candidates who were successful Tuesday. You can read the full questionnaire here, and potential 2021 candidates are advised to print it out and start a file on coming roll call votes. Continue reading
By Don Rippert
Massacre. The Republicans in Virginia have once again been shellacked at the voting booth. Republicans went from controlling both the Virginia Senate and House of Delegates to controlling neither. It appears that Democrats will be the majority in the senate by a 21 to 19 count and will control the house with a 55 to 45 margin. There is still some uncertainty with a few races but nobody thinks the Republicans will emerge from that uncertainty with control of either chamber. The Democrats will control all aspects of the state government – Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Attorney General, state Senate and House of Delegates. The fact that this rout occurred while the Democrats’ top leaders were mired in blackface scandals and forcible rape allegations only adds to the enormity of the Republican failure.
Blame game. The blame game has already begun. It was Trump’s fault. Or the Yankees in Northern Virginia. Or George Soros. Or the so-called RINOs who have infected the party. In short, blame is being placed on everybody and everything except where it belongs … on the leadership and policies of the Republican Party in Virginia.
Trump. Republicans have been losing ground across the state for far longer than Donald Trump has been president. In one state wide election after another the Republicans have lost. The last Republican to be elected governor won the election 10 years ago Virginia has only had one Republican governor in the last 20 years. Given that governors can’t stand for immediate reelection that record is truly dismal. Continue reading
Orsted’s Hornsea 1 wind farm off the coast of England. Source: Orsted
By Steve Haner
The company that will partner with Dominion Energy Virginia to build a massive offshore wind farm off our coast has just cut the energy production forecasts for its own facilities, sufficient to lower its profit margins and drop its stock values.
“Our models weren’t sophisticated enough,” Orsted’s chief financial officer is quoted in one energy industry outlet. Bloomberg’s article, one of many based on the company’s open discussion of the issue yesterday, described the problem this way:
The tests show that the company’s current production forecasts underestimate the negative impact from the so-called blockage effect, which arises when the wind slows down as it approaches turbines. It also underestimated the negative effect of the so-called wake effect, in which wind speeds drop between wind parks, it said.
The change will drop what’s called the lifetime load factor to 48%, down from a range of 48%-50%. That figure represents an estimate of how much electricity the machines produce divided by the potential capacity of the turbines. Since the wind doesn’t always blow strongly enough to turn the wind turbine blades, the load factor is always lower than capacity.
The number seems small, but for a giant windfarm like Orsted’s Hornsea One off the east coast of England, a change could shift income by 10s of millions of dollars every year, according to an analysis by BloombergNEF.
“2% is a big deal,” said Tom Edwards, an analyst at Cornwall Insight. “Over the lifetime that’s a lot of energy.”
Money (And Hypocrisy) In Politics
By Steve Haner
The following is one of my “revise and extend” follow-up posts, this one adding detail to an exploration of the raging attacks on Republican efforts to offer alternative health insurance plans. You can read the original post on the Jefferson Policy Journal.
Not many months ago, it was a safe bet that by late October the campaign attack ads would focus on utility contributions. There is still time for that to appear. Dominion Energy clearly expected that, as evidenced by a full page, very defensive advertisement in Wednesday’s Richmond Times-Dispatch. Then there is its most cloying television ad yet.
You’ve seen it, of course – the lovely young lady whose Daddy is a deployed Dominion employee. Instead of wearing a U.S. Army or Blue Star cap, she sleeps and poses for school pictures in his Dominion Energy hat. Now, how could a company engendering that kind of love and loyalty be misbehaving?