Category Archives: Politics

Hands Off My Donations!

Sen. Chap Petersen (D-Fairfax) Photo credit: Virginia Mercury

by Dick Hall-Sizemore

Virginia Senators wasted little time killing off an attempt to limit campaign contributions. On its first day of meetings, the Privileges and Elections Committee took up Senator Chap Petersen’s bill to place a $2o,000 cap on campaign contributions (SB 44). Voting to report the bill were five Democrats: Deeds (Bath), Ebbin (Alexandria), Mason (Williamsburg), McClellan (Richmond), and Boysko (Fairfax). The ten Senators voting to kill the bill included all seven Republicans on the committee: Vogel (Fauquier), Reeves (Spotsylvania), Ruff (Mecklenburg), Peake (Lynchburg), McDougle (Hanover), Bell (Loudoun), and Hackworth (Tazewell). Joining them were three Democrats: Howell (Fairfax), Spruill (Chesapeake), and Surovell (Fairfax).

This does not bode well for Petersen’s headliner campaign bill that would ban campaign contributions from public utilities (SB 45). The legislation is obviously aimed at Dominion Energy. Petersen has called on the Governor to support the bill. It will be instructive to see if (1) Youngkin comes out publicly in support of the bill and (2) if he does, whether that will be enough to sway enough senators, Democrats and Republicans, to vote for the bill.

Day One

Photo Credit: WTVR

by Dick Hall-Sizemore

Comments and ruminations on “Day One” actions:

Executive Order 1—”Inherently divisive” concepts. The headlines will have gotten this one wrong. The Governor has not prohibited the teaching of critical race theory in public schools, not that anyone was actually doing that. He has directed the Superintendent of Public Instruction to purge the Dept. of Education’s policies, directives, guidelines, etc. of any items that advance “inherently divisive” concepts or practices. As long as they stick to the fairly narrow definition of “inherently divisive” concepts laid out in the Executive Order, I don’t have any problem with this. Those definitions do not conflict with the traditional definition of critical race theory, anyway. If the administration goes after teachers who may be pointing out Virginia’s segregationist and racist past and the lasting effects of those past policies and practices, that would be going too far.

DOE overdid it with its Diversity, Inclusiveness and Equity campaign. It was just a little too much of beating people over the head. However, that message and approach has resonated and probably sunk in with a lot of areas and institutions and, much to the consternation of some commenters on this blog, likely will be difficult to turn back. Continue reading

Northam Exits — the End of an Error

by Scott Dreyer

Unlike the other 49 states in the Union, only Virginia has a constitution that prohibits a governor from serving two consecutive terms. That is why former Governor Terry McAuliffe tried to make a comeback last November but current Governor Ralph Northam–blessedly–must exit the Governor’s Mansion on January 15, 2022.

Early on, Northam seemed to harbor a nasty streak. In November 2013, while running for Lieutenant Governor, Northam publicly snubbed his black opponent, E.W. Jackson by pointedly refusing to shake his hand after a debate. If a white Republican refused to shake the hand of a black man, the media would have a field day till the offender’s career was toast. But for Northam, a Democrat? He got a pass from the friendly media. He won that election.

Northam, a pediatrician from the Eastern Shore, then ran for governor in 2017 against Republican Ed Gillespie. Much like Joe Biden in 2020, Northam marketed himself not as a “scary radical” but as a reasonable “uncle figure.” Continue reading

Early Fireworks

Todd Gilbert, Speaker of the House of Delegates

by Dick Hall-Sizemore

The 2022 General Assembly has gotten off to an inauspicious start.

It started off quietly enough. On Wednesday, the first day, Delegate Todd Gilbert, R-Shenandoah, was elected Speaker on vote of 97-0. It is not usual for the person selected by the majority party caucus to be Speaker to be formally elected by unanimous vote.

On Wednesday night, Governor Northam addressed the Joint Session in the annual State of the Commonwealth speech. Speaker Gilbert, sitting in the Speaker’s chair behind and above the Governor standing at the podium, either got bored or irked, or both, because he started Tweeting during the speech. As reported by the Richmond Times-Dispatch, this was one message:

Ralph Northam is leaving office as his own lost cause, condescendingly lecturing us all from some assumed moral high ground because he read the book ‘Roots’ and then went on a non-stop reconciliation tour. Saturday can’t come fast enough.

Needless to say, Democrats were outraged. Delegate Eileen Filler-Corn, D-Fairfax, the former Speaker, was on her feet in a speech on the House floor on Thursday morning calling the current Speaker’s conduct “reprehensible” and that his oath of office was to be the Speaker for the whole House, not just the majority party.

Anyone who has watched Gilbert over the years should not be surprised at his remarks and their tone. He has seldom minced words in expressing his disdain for Democrats. It was evident two years ago when Filler-Corn became Speaker that there was bad blood between them.

Unless Gilbert tones down his partisan rhetoric, it could be a rocky session.

A Peek Behind the Veil

by Dick Hall-Sizemore

Background

During my research for the articles on state financial assistance for public education, I ran across a curious provision and, subsequently, tracked the history of that provision. That history provides a small peek at the budget development and legislative processes that illustrate:

  1. Why I find them so fascinating, and
  2. Why many people find them exasperating, if not downright outrageous.

For those readers who did not read the first post on the SOQ financing, and for those who did, but need a reminder, you need to understand the importance of “cost-of-competing” adjustments (CCA). A major component of the costs of implementing the Standards of Quality (SOQ) is the “prevailing” salary for teachers, administrators, and other support activities. The Appropriation Act has long provided that the prevailing salaries are to be increased by “cost-of-competing” adjustments for school divisions in Northern Virginia.

In the introduced budget bill, the language related to the CCA includes Accomack and Northampton counties. These two jurisdictions are not included in that language in the current Appropriation Act. I pointed out this anomaly in my article. One commenter, Don Rippert, picked up on this new provision and raised questions about it, for which I had no answer. (I was not surprised that he was the one to focus on it.) I now have the answer. Continue reading

Redistricting Now Final

Final Congressional District Map
Source: Virginia Supreme Court

By Dick Hall-Sizemore

The redistricting for General Assembly seats and those in the U.S. House of Representatives is complete. The Virginia Supreme Court issued its final order and approved maps on December 28, 2021.

There are some significant changes from the earlier proposed maps. For a discussion of the first maps released by the Supreme Court’s special masters, see my earlier post here.

The report of the special masters is a good example of civic education. They explain, in plain language, why “redistricting is a complex task, one that requires the balancing of multiple competing factors.” It is not a simple matter of dividing the state into X number of evenly populated pieces. One example of this balancing act can be seen in their treatment of the Shenandoah Valley. They made a policy decision at the beginning to treat the Valley as “an important community of interest worth preserving.” Thus, they avoided drawing districts that crossed the mountains. However, they point out “that comes at the expense of drawing compact districts, particularly at the congressional level.” Succinctly  put, “Tradeoffs are simply inevitable.” Continue reading

What’s the Matter with Charlottesville?

Charlottesville City Council. Photo credit: The Daily Progress

by James A. Bacon

In his bestselling book of 2007, Thomas Franks asked the question, What’s the Matter with Kansas? Why do blue-collar inhabitants of the Sunflower State, he wondered, so consistently vote for Republican politicians who pursue policies supposedly antithetical to their material self-interest? Perhaps the answer is that level-headed Kansans could see where the progressive policies of the Democratic Party would take them.

In Washington, D.C., progressive policies are diluted by our republic’s system of checks and balances. But there are places where the end game of progressivism has been revealed in all its unadulterated glory. One such place is San Francisco,  with its homeless encampments, open-air drug use, fecal-strewn streets, people lying passed out on sidewalks, flash-mob shoplifting, and shuttered stores.

Fortunately, Virginia has no analogue to San Francisco. That’s not for a lack of emulation. Progressives here just haven’t held the levers of power as long. But Virginians can get a close-up look of progressive political culture at work in Charlottesville. The home-town newspaper, The Daily Progress, has just published an analysis — “Charlottesville faces major challenges following mass departure of city leaders” — that might aptly have been headlined, “What’s the Matter with Charlottesville?” Continue reading

Del. Jay Jones Quits Before He Starts

Sorry, Delegate, I don’t buy it.

I’m delighted that you and your wife are expecting your first baby. And your determination to be a good dad is admirable. Every child should be so lucky.

But you’re quitting your job because a child is on the way? You’re gone in two weeks? You’re not even going to finish your current term, let alone begin your next one?

Huh?

None of this makes sense. Continue reading

Virginia State and Local Agencies Must Spend Federal Coronavirus Relief Funds by December 31

by James C. Sherlock

State and local governments are awash in billions of dollars of federal funding with various federal expiration dates if not spent.

The General Assembly set its own deadline.

Recipients have to spend federal money allocated by the General Assembly by Dec. 31 or lose it back to the Governor for repurposing. That is not as easy as it sounds. It represents in many cases far more money that any of them have ever handled.

The budget bill from 2021 gave the outgoing Governor two weeks before the end of his term to shift unspent federal funds from the purpose for which they were allocated by the General Assembly to “other qualifying expenses.”

Thus, a Democratic majority General Assembly ensured that a Democratic governor could make the political decisions of re-allocation. Fair enough. Hard to blame them. They had already seen Terry McAuliffe. Risky bet.

We don’t know how much of the billions of dollars from multiple federal relief acts will be unspent by Jan. 1.

But we can be reasonably assured there is a scramble going on to get it spent before it has to be turned over for reclassification by the Governor. Continue reading

Finally, There Are Redistricting Maps Up for Final Consideration

Congressional district map proposed by Va. Supreme Court special masters (The bubbles represent comments made by members of the public on Supreme Court interactive map)

by Dick Hall-Sizemore

The two special masters appointed by the Virginia Supreme Court to assist in redistricting have accomplished in about a month what the Virginia Redistricting Commission (“the Commission”) was unable to do in about nine months:  produce single draft maps for the Congressional districts, the Senate districts, and the House of Delegates districts.

The draft maps and a long memo from the special masters explaining the process they used and the reasons for their recommendations can be found here.

An objective examination of the maps will lead to the conclusion that they are significantly more logical and sensible than the current maps or ones considered by the Commission.  The districts are compact to the extent practicable and follow lines that make sense from a communities-of-interest perspective. There are no odd-shaped districts that really stand out. Any bulges or sudden incursions into adjoining districts are the result of the population equality requirement. Splitting of counties and cities is kept to a minimum. Continue reading

Budget Maneuvering

by Dick Hall-Sizemore

One of the quirks about Virginia’s governing system is that an outgoing governor gets to submit a budget proposal for the upcoming biennium, when he will not be around to execute it.

It would be difficult for any new governor trying to deal with a budget that he had no part in developing. When the new governor is not of the same party as the outgoing governor, it gets even trickier because the new governor’s priorities will almost certainly be different.

The situation becomes even more interesting when the majority of at least one of the legislative chambers switches as well. The new party in power will have less than two months to try and unravel the outgoing governor’s budget and substitute its own priorities.

That scenario is beginning to play out in Virginia, of course. The Republican Glenn Youngkin will be replacing the outgoing Democrat Ralph Northam and the Republicans will replace the Democrats as the majority party in the House of Delegates.

Meanwhile, Governor Northam is doing his best to tie up the large projected additional budget revenue in ways that would make it politically difficult for the Republicans to undo. Continue reading

Redistricting: Partisan Fighting Continues

Virginia Supreme Court Building

by Dick Hall-Sizemore

The diabolical person who came up with the framework for the state constitutional amendment establishing a redistricting commission was not content with designing it so that it would fail due to partisan wrangling. He also injected partisan politics into the phase in which the state Supreme Court must come up with the plans.

If the commission cannot agree to plans to be submitted, the task falls to the Supreme Court. State law requires the Court to choose two special masters to assist it in developing the plans, one each from lists of three submitted by the leaders of each of the two political parties in the General Assembly. Among other requirements, the persons appointed by the Court shall have the “requisite qualifications and experience to serve as a special master and shall have no conflicts of interest.” The Republican list includes the following: Continue reading

What Is Going on in Portsmouth?

by Kerry Dougherty

Are there cities that are more dysfunctional than Portsmouth, Virginia?

Yes, of course there are.

There’s always San Francisco where you can get an app for your phone called “SnapCrap” to allow you to report piles of human feces to city sanitation workers.

There’s Chicago. The Windy City was recently designated the “rattiest” in America by Orkin. Lots of rodents there.

And there’s Seattle, which actually ceded city blocks to anarchists in the summer of 2020.

But you’ve got to hand it to Virginia’s “Old Port City,” which was once a bustling hub of commerce and charm. Now it’s competing for most boneheaded city in the U.S. where city and state officials trade lawsuits and accuse each other of vile motives. Continue reading

Infrastructure Vote? Oh No, That’s Their Bill

Photo credit Verizon

by Dick Hall-Sizemore

There has long been a consensus that America needs to pay more attention to its infrastructure. Last week, the House of Representatives passed President Biden’s $1.2 trillion infrastructure package and sent it to the President for his signature. Of the total amount, $550 billion was new money; the remainder was funding normally allocated each year for highways and other infrastructure projects.

The bill had passed the Senate earlier in the year on a bipartisan vote, 69-30. Even Mitch McConnell voted for it. However, in the House, only 13 Republicans voted for the bill. The rest of the House Republicans were angry over the support given the bill by some of their fellow Republicans. Probably the most galling aspect was that the 13 Republican votes were needed to pass the bill after six far-left Democrats, who refuse to, and do not understand the need for, compromise, voted against the legislation. Continue reading

Indians and McAuliffe’s Last Stand

SR Sidarth, George Allen’s “macaca” nemesis, today. A partner in Troutman Pepper’s Washington, D.C., office, he practices multifamily-housing-finance law.

by James A. Bacon

A certain KP Nayar offers an interesting perspective on Virginia’s gubernatorial election from his vantage point as the Washington columnist for Moneycontrol.com, an English-language publication serving the business market in India.

“Indian Americans constitute only one percent of the U.S. electorate, but Virginia is a state where they have influenced state politics far in excess of their numerical strength or fund-raising clout,” Nayar writes in a column entitled, “How Indian Americans in Virginia may have derailed a second term for US President Joe Biden.”

The column reminds me of a refugee from Castro’s Cuba I knew in the 1970s who contended passionately that Cuba stood at the center of the geo-political universe. His Cuba-centrism was a stretch, but it contained kernels of truth. I can’t think of a single American commentator who has remarked upon the role of Indian Americans in the 2021 elections. Still, Nayar’s ethnocentrist perspective might provide insights that American commentators have overlooked. Continue reading