Category Archives: Regulation

Local Unions Are Recognized Before Workers Vote?

by F. Vincent Vernuccio

Local government leaders are negotiating with union executives who have not been officially recognized by public employees they claim to represent.

Counties in northern Virginia are taking steps to allow public sector collective bargaining. But they are doing it with the support of union executives – not a groundswell of voter or public employee support.

On July 16 the Arlington County Board of Supervisors gave government unions the ability to have a monopoly on representing public employees by passing an ordinance allowing for collective bargaining. Similarly, Loudoun County on July 20 voted to have county staff draft an ordinance doing the same thing.

Staff and elected officials admitted they are working closely with unions. Arlington’s model ordinance discussion draft stated “the county manager, the county attorney and senior staff have continued to meet with representatives of employee associations to resolve as many issues as possible.” Continue reading

SCC Hikes Electricity Bills For New PIPP Subsidy

By Steve Haner

All customers of Dominion Energy Virginia and Appalachian Power in Virginia will begin soon to pay an extra monthly charge related to the coming Percentage of Income Payment Program, the General Assembly’s new electricity cost subsidy for low-income residential customers.

The PIPP was initially created in the 2020 Virginia Clean Economy Act and then revised with a bill in 2021, but just when then bill subsidies begin is still to be determined. The Department of Social Services, which will determine eligibility, still needs to devise the program. No start date is specified in the law.

The bill charges we will be paying in advance are just to raise the $3 million per year that is being allocated to cover that administrative task. The General Assembly has ordered customers to pay that, too, perhaps not being aware that it would soon be sitting on a $2.6 billion surplus.

Here are the July 29 State Corporation Commission orders establishing the charge for Dominion and APCo customers. Dominion customers will provide $2.4 million and APCo customers $600,000 per year. Far larger amounts will be collected when the benefits begin to flow in the future. Continue reading

Dominion Takes $206M From You Off the Top

by Steve Haner

As of late 2020, Dominion Energy Virginia had forgiven $206 million in unpaid electric bills for customers financially stressed by last year’s COVID-19 pandemic and recession. Those unpaid bills are not being covered by any of the billions in federal COVID emergency funding, nor are stockholders eating a loss.

We, the other Dominion customers, will pay them. As reported last year, this was decided by the Virginia General Assembly. How it happens is about to unfold.

The $206 million figure is prominently featured in Dominion’s initial filing in its pending triennial financial review by the State Corporation Commission, which actually covers a four-year period ending with 2020. The amount of bill relief is directly deducted from any calculation of excess profits, dollars which otherwise might justify rebates or even a rate cut.

This will be the first official review of the company’s cost of service and earnings since 2015, the hiatus being another little gift to the Dominion stockholders from legislators. It is a long and sordid tale how we got here, too often told. Thanks to a bipartisan fondness among legislators for accounting rules that favor Dominion, there may no way the SCC can order the company to pay rebates to us or cut our rates, excess profits notwithstanding. Continue reading

SCC Starts Review of Dominion Wind Proposal

by Steve Haner

Acting on its own initiative, the State Corporation Commission has established a docket to consider the coming application from Dominion Energy Virginia for its massive offshore wind proposal, the centerpiece of Virginia Democrats’ plan to save us all from catastrophic climate change.

Earlier this month, the utility started the federal review process with a notice of intent to prepare an environmental impact statement for the project. The clock on the first round of comments to the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management runs out August 2.

If Dominion builds all future planned phases, a full 5,200 megawatts, the sticker price is more than $17 billion, which with profit and financing costs will ding customers in total $37 billion over a few decades.

In its July 26 order establishing the case, the SCC outlined a series of questions the utility will need to answer in its application when it comes. The questions provide just a glimpse into the issues that will develop in what may soon be recognized as the Second Battle of the Virginia Capes.

Cost is front and center:

What is the total cost and the lifetime revenue requirement of the transmission necessary to bring the energy generated by the OSW Project to shore? Of this total lifetime revenue requirement, how much is investment, and how much is the Company’s projected return on equity? Identify the rate recovery mechanism(s) Dominion proposes or will propose to use to recover such costs from eligible customers…. Continue reading

The Governor, General Assembly, VDOE and the Lenin Doctrine

by James C. Sherlock

“J. Out of this appropriation, $120,000 the second year from the general fund is provided for the Department of Education to develop and implement a pilot program to more comprehensively supervise school division compliance with a subset of key standards by requiring (i) the submission of more comprehensive compliance information, (ii) selective independent verification of compliance, (iii) monitoring of corrective action implementation, and (iv) analysis of compliance trends and issues.”

Those words, “selective independent verification of compliance” and “monitoring of corrective action implementation”, from the Governor and the General Assembly of Virginia, 2021 Appropriations Act.

I am reminded of words attributed to V. I. Lenin, the author of State Planning Commission (1922) and How We Should Reorganize the Workers’ and Peasants’ Inspection (1923).

State control makes it possible to check systematically on the execution of the decrees of the central power, to strengthen state discipline and legality, and to study the validity of motives and feasibility of resolutions made by the central state bodies and help improve the practice of devising and adopting them.”

“Workers and peasants inspection” indeed. Continue reading

Freedom From Union Dues Hangs on Warner

Washington Post photo of a cake delivered to Virginia Senator Mark Warner in May, encouraging his support for the pending PRO Act. So far he is not supporting it.

By Vincent Vernuccio 

First published by the Thomas Jefferson Institute for Public Policy.

A bill under active consideration in Congress would allow unions to get Virginia workers fired for not paying union fees. The Protecting the Right to Organize Act, among many other things would end right-to-work laws in Virginia and in 26 other states.

According to a recent report by the Institute for the American Worker, 89,000 Virginia workers are unionized and currently protected if they change their minds by our state’s right-to-work law.  Those who have chosen not to join a union would be forced to pay union fees if the PRO Act passes. Those who are already members would lose the ability to choose to opt-out and stop paying union fees if they feel they are not getting good representation.

Another 2,971,327 Virginians could be forced to pay union fees if unions organize their workplace and the PRO Act kills right-to-work.  Continue reading

Same Politicians Who Legalized Weed and Casino Gambling Killed Skill Games

by Kerry Dougherty

For more than 30 years Virginia’s been breathlessly legalizing vices.

It began when voters approved a state-run numbers racket – the lottery – in 1987. Since then, all manner of wagering has been approved for our gambling pleasure.

Virginia now has horse racing, off-track betting, sports betting and soon, casinos.

But in their wisdom, members of the General Assembly – the same ones who battled tirelessly to bring slot machines and blackjack to the Old Dominion – decided to 86 electronic skill games that reside mostly in truck stops, convenience stores and restaurants.

Make no mistake, they’re doing the bidding of the greedy big boys of gambling by cracking down on the little guys.

The casinos don’t want competition for those Virginia betting dollars. Continue reading

Stay-In-Place COVID Policies Lead to More Excess Deaths

This graph shows a correlation between the number of weeks that Stay-in-Place measures were implemented in a state (horizontal axis) and the number of excess deaths (vertical axis). Overall, more SIP equals more deaths, although the correlation is weak and there are plenty of exceptions, including Virginia (highlighted in red.)

by James A. Bacon

A new study comparing “excess deaths” across 44 countries and the 50 U.S. states finds that Stay In Place (SIP) policies enacted to control the COVID-19 epidemic were counterproductive. Overall, the added number of lives lost to non-COVID more than offset the number of lives saved from slowing the spread of the virus.

What’s more, the Stay In Place policies enacted in the U.S. had the most negative impact on African Americans.

“We fail to find that SIP policies saved lives. To the contrary, we find a positive association between SIP policies and excess deaths,” write Virat Agrawal with the University of Southern California and three co-authors in “The Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic and Policy Responses On Excess Mortality.” Continue reading

With Defeat in Connecticut, Will Virginia Drop TCI?

By Steve Haner

First published this morning by the Thomas Jefferson Institute for Public Policy.

Why do Virginia’s leaders run away from the Transportation and Climate Initiative? Could it be because the first state legislature to consider it, in reliably Democratic Connecticut, just adjourned without even taking a vote on the proposed carbon tax compact, despite strong support from Democratic Governor Ned Lamont?

The Virginia Department of Environmental Quality has called a June 24 public meeting to discuss efforts to ramp down carbon dioxide emissions from transportation sources, but it made no mention of the pending TCI interstate compact. Instead it focused on the General Assembly’s approved 2045 goal of “net zero” emissions in all sectors of the economy, including transportation. Continue reading

VA Employers Stuck in COVID Time Warp

By Steve Haner

First published this morning by the Thomas Jefferson Institute for Public Policy.

Despite the stunning and rapid success of the vaccines in arresting the spread of COVID-19, if you enter a Virginia workplace you go back in time to the pre-vaccine era of doubt and fear.

Virginia acted in haste in adopting permanent workplace rules related to COVID 19. Now that the Centers for Disease Control has relaxed many of its requirements and conceded that others were not backed up by evidence, the state’s employers are in limbo. The workplace regulations are now badly out of step.

There was no allowance for vaccinations in the regulations, which became permanent in January just as the population was starting to get shots.

Governor Ralph Northam was warned this would happen if the temporary COVID-19 rules were made permanent but barreled ahead to the applause of organized labor. The regulations carry the weight of law and can be enforced with severe sanctions, whether or not they are in direct conflict with the latest CDC guidance. Continue reading

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

Tech Prof Corrected WHO, CDC on COVID Spread

Linsey C. Marr, PhD.

by Steve Haner

Wired has chronicled a one-year struggle by a Virginia Tech teacher and researcher, working mainly with other non-physicians, to convince the Centers for Disease Control and World Health Organization they were dead wrong on COVID. The kind of dead wrong that made more people dead.

The battle was quietly won when on April 30 of this year the WHO changed its published stance and admitted that the virus causing COVID-19 was readily spreading airborne far beyond the three or six foot social distancing guidance. A few days later the CDC also changed its public stance, creating a minor media ripple rather than the wave it deserved.

One of those we can thank is Linsey Marr, the Charles P. Lunsford Professor in Virginia Tech’s department of civil and environmental engineering. Megan Molteni’s article, “The 60-year-old Scientific Screw-Up that Helped COVID Kill,” opens with Marr participating in an April 2020 virtual conference with COVID science poohbahs around the world.  They uniformly blew off what they heard from Marr and other experts on aerosols. WHO had stated as fact that the SARS-2 bug was not spreading aerosol. Continue reading

This One Easy Trick Makes Gas Lines Grow Expontentially

Photo credit: Richmond Times-Dispatch

by James A. Bacon

As panic buying sends Virginians to the gas pumps to top off their tanks, Attorney General Mark Herring is encouraging citizens to report instances of price gouging.

“This ransomewear (sic) attack on the Colonial Pipeline could create disruptions in the gasoline supply across the Commonwealth, and unfortunately, bad actors could take advantage of this just to line their own pockets,” said Attorney General Mark Herring in a press release. “Virginians should not have to worry about paying exorbitant prices for gas and other necessary goods during this time.”

Herring encouraged Virginians to file complaints with the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

This is the absolute worst possible thing the state can do. Economics 101: During times like this, prices should rise. Continue reading

Virginia Needs a Constitutional Amendment to Elect the Board of Education

by James C. Sherlock

The Virginia Board of Education (VBOE) is by far the most powerful and consequential public board in Virginia. It is the only one whose Powers and Duties are defined in the Virginia Constitution.

It was a mistake not to make the members of the Board with such vast and unconstrained powers constitutional officers who stand for election.

We are now seeing what the Board, once appointed and confirmed, can do. It has transformed Virginia’s educational system into a Marxist indoctrination system.  Board members know what they are doing is not only radically transformational, but intensely political and fiercely opposed.

Their work is not only dogmatic, but sloppy. Their use of the English language has been demonstrated here to be severely challenged. Not exactly a trait most look for in a Board of Education.

And they do not care. There is no constitutional reason they should.

The current Board has demonstrated like no other before it that it needs to face the electorate. Virginia will need a constitutional amendment to make the VBOE, who are together more constitutionally powerful than any elected official but the governor, constitutional officials elected by the people.

It is time. Continue reading

The Ballad Merger III: Reshuffling, Reconstruction and Repurposing

Norton Community Hospital

by  Carol J. Bova

When Mountain States Health Alliance and Wellmont Health System merged to create Ballad Health in 2018, the healthcare companies justified the consolidation with the argument that the ability to cut costs and rationalize delivery of health services would yield tangible benefits to patients in Southwest Virginia and Northeastern Tennessee.

The previous article in this series, “Cuts and Consolidations,” detailed how  Ballad Health bolstered finances through shared value-based payment savings, bond refinancing, staff reductions and closures of off-site facilities. This article, Part III, shows how the company acted to lower costs and enhance revenue by consolidating medical services, repurposing hospitals, introducing telemedicine, and implementing a new IT system.

The Virginia Cooperative Agreement, which outlined the requirements of Virginia regulators, allowed repurposing as long as certain “essential services” were retained. Deploying telemedicine and rotating specialty clinics in rural hospitals would help it meet the requirement. Continue reading