Does the RPV have the guts to scuttle the GA?

Sink the Bismark.  Folklore and decades of accepted history hold that the German battleship Bismark was sunk by the Royal Navy.  However, recent underwater archeological research tells a slightly different story.  At first the Bismark seemed invincible.  She engaged HMS Hood, the pride of the British fleet, and sank her.  The Bismark also damaged the HMS Prince of Wales which withdrew from the battle using a smokescreen for cover.  But then the commanders of The Bismark began to make the mistakes that would doom the great warship.  The ship set sail for a port in France instead of returning to Norway and broke radio silence along the way.  The British fleet found the German ship and engaged her with the full force of the Royal Navy.  However, they didn’t sink The Bismark.  The Bismark was scuttled by its crew to prevent it from falling into enemy hands.  Putting aside the horrific cause for which the Bismark’s crew fought one has to recognize the heroism of their actions in a desperate situation.  The RPV can learn a lot from the crew of the Bismark.

Failure is not only an option, it’s inevitable.  In a column published yesterday I described the inevitable “Marylandization” of Virginia.  Like the Bismark the destruction of the Republican / conservative hold on Virginia was probably inevitable.  Also like the Bismark that demise was hastened by a series of ill advised moves by leadership.  The question now is whether the RPV has the courage to scuttle the weaponized state legislature it has so long commanded.  There is little time left.  The Republicans either scuttle the over-powered legislature or it falls into the hands of liberals in the Democratic Party.

Scuttling instructions, process.  The US Navy leaves little to chance.  For example, during World War II there were clear instructions on how to scuttle the USS Enterprise (CV-6).  The instructions for scuttling Virginia’s overpowered legislature are found in Article XII of the Virginia State Constitution, entitled Future Changes.  The article has two sections – one for making amendments to the state constitution and the other for calling a constitutional convention.  Calling a convention requires a two thirds vote of the members of both houses and the Republicans have no chance of reaching that threshold.  However, the processing of amendments requires a simple majority in both houses and Virginia’s Republicans presently (barely) have that level of power.  Unfortunately for the RPV the vote on amendments has to be taken twice, in two different GA sessions, with an election happening between the two session.  In this case a vote in the 2019 session followed by the elections of 2019 with another vote in the 2020 session would get the amendments on the voters’ ballot for the 2020 elections.  At least, that’s how I think it would have to work.

Scuttling instructions, amendments.  The fearsome liberty-killing capabilities of the Virginia General Assembly flow from the absurd lack of checks and balances on the GA.  The amendments required to scuttle the General Assembly’s Politboro-style powers implement those checks and balances, especially with regard to local government.  The following amendments are needed:

  • Join the other 49 states by allowing the governor to sit for a second consecutive term.  The two most popular governors in America right now are the Republican governors of Maryland and Massachusetts, two obviously liberal states.
  • Direct election of judges.  Judges need to know that they are accountable to the law and the people not the 140 tyrants in the General Assembly.
  • Cities incorporate inside counties.  Fracturing localities weakens localities.  Joining the other 49 states by using a city / county structure strengthens the localities and weakens the General Assembly.
  • Implement home rule through strong city / county charters.  Cities and counties should have the right to raise taxes on personal income, they should have responsibility for funding, building and maintaining all surface roads and making all land use decisions with no interference from the GA.

It’s now or never.  Republicans will lose control of the General Assembly in the 2019 elections.  If these amendments are passed in the 2019 session there is some hope that momentum with Virginia’s voters will compel enough Democrats to support these common sense democracy enhancers in the 2020 session.  After that, it’s hard to imagine Virginians failing to endorse the long overdue scuttling of the General Assembly.

— Don Rippert

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8 responses to “Does the RPV have the guts to scuttle the GA?

  1. With my tiny connection to the world of aircraft carriers, I must protest that air attacks from the Ark Royal left the Bismarck with no choice but to scuttle, and the Royal Navy deserves 100 percent of the credit for sending the Nazi bastards to a watery grave. It matters not that they opened the hull themselves, the ship was doomed. Billy Mitchell must have smiled at the news when he heard it in Valhalla.

    And having seen your vision for Virginia’s future, I have snapped back from my moment of weakness and will continue to defend Dillon’s Rule. The direct election of judges? Insanity. The closest I would come to that is a recall process, and a strong letter with evidence to the Judicial Inquiry and Review Commission can already start a removal process.

    • The Germans were forced to scuttle because they were going to lose the ship. At the time of scuttling there was no material damage below the waterline. This has been seen by submersibles which found and observed the wreak. Just like the RPV the German Navy was doomed by living in the past (producing battleships instead of aircraft carriers). Just like the RPV the German Navy hastened its demise by making one poor decision after another (e.g. breaking radio silence). Unlike the RPV the crew of the Bismark recognized that the fight was over. The only question is how much of the weaponry is allowed to fall into enemy hands.

      Dillon’s Rule is a disgrace. The same Republicans who believe in state’s rights somehow draw a blank when it comes to local autonomy. The Federal government is tyrannical to the states but the state government is a benevolent Politburo to the localities. The concept that the government that governs closest to the people governs best is just more faux conservative bullshit used to argue for states’ rights but then ignored when it comes to home rule. The self-described conservatives in Virginia are practiced liars and con artists.

      Dillon’s Rule, as practiced in Virginia, is no more than the philosophy of the ruling class in Richmond who profits from the consolidation of power in Richmond through the selling out of Virginians to Richmond’s vested interests (e.g. Dominion, Altria).

      The latest Virginia Supreme Court decision where the puppets of the General Assembly (who are themselves the puppets of Richmond-based special interests) proved the depth of corruption in Virginia. Extreme gerrymandering is fine despite being prohibited by the state constitution because the judicial puppets couldn’t decide on a definition of “compact”. Really? The US Constitution is full of words that need to be interpreted too. And the US Supreme Court does just that. Why? Because the US Supreme Court justices are nominated by the executive branch and confirmed by the legislative branch. They serve for life or until voluntary retirement. In Virginia the Supreme Court justices are put in place by The Imperial Clown Show in Richmond and then subject to re-appointment by that same body. What a surprise that the empty suited blowhards on our state supreme court can’t manage a definition of “compact”. Interpreting that word would prevent the clown show from violating the state constitution in order to keep themselves as politicians for life through gerrymandering.

      We don’t have a legislature we have a Politburo or perhaps a Reichstag.

    • Steve or Don- Why do you say Chamber of Commerce/businesses like the Dillon Rule?

  2. Totally agree about the two terms but I still don’t understand the home rule for cities as well as I might. Virginia DOES allow towns to incorporate within a county.. I know that, for instance, the town of Colonial Beach is incorporated inside of Westmoreland County.. and people who live there pays taxes to both entities.

    Even so-called Home-rule states do restrict localities at some level and State Laws apply everywhere including in the home-rule localities.

    It’s a complicated issue that I suspect few of us really understand well. Perhaps Steve Haner can offer some knowledge?

    Here’s what I would like to know. What specific things are Virginia cities prohibited from doing that cities in Home rule states are allowed to do and how would those things benefit a place like NoVA?

    • Towns can incorporate in counties but cities cannot. Only state in the nation with that philosophy. There are three other cities that, as exceptions, are independent cities – Baltimore, St Louis and Carson City. I’d say the first two are hardly shining examples of success – except perhaps for funeral home owners.

      No state grants total home rule. If they did, there’d be no reason for the state government to exist. No state has zero home rule. Otherwise, there’d be no reason for local government to exist. However, many states grant considerably more autonomy to localities than Virginia does.

      “What specific things are Virginia cities prohibited from doing that cities in Home rule states are allowed to do and how would those things benefit a place like NoVA?”

      The question should be localities, not cities. Counties, cities and towns should all have more autonomy. Here are a few examples:

      1. Annexation and de-annexation. Successful cities like Louisville and Nashville have benefitted from annexation and the growth potential it afforded. In my opinion, Detroit would benefit from de-annexation. Annexations in Virginia will always be extremely hard because cities are not within counties so it becomes a 100% win – lose game. They’re also hard because they have been banned by the General Assembly for the past 30 years for no particular reason.

      2. Locality based income taxes. Maryland has a county based income tax that allows counties to raise taxes via personal income. Of course, the people in the county have to approve. Again, since cities are in counties (except Baltimore) the county income tax is used to fund things both in incorporated areas and in unincorporated areas.

      3. Surface road financing, construction and maintenance. Two counties and all cities in Virginia manage their own local roads. Again, cities not being inside counties just makes coordination all the harder. There are really good reasons why no other state practices this absurdity. The cities in Virginia are all but useless. They are either counties masquerading as cities (Virginia Beach), towns masquerading as cities (Buena Vista), specks of land with too little area to afford the overhead of road maintenance (Covington). Giving cities autonomy in Virginia is like giving somebody the sleeves off your vest.

      4. Cigarette taxes. Like surface roads, this is a mish-mash. Virginia has the second lowest state cigarette tax in the US. However, it allows cities to add to that tax. Again, only a very small percentage of Virginians live in “cities” so this is the sleeves off the vest concession. The GA also allows a few NoVa counties to add a limited amount to the tax. Yet counties in SouthWest Virginia don’t see why they can’t raise the taxes on cigarettes –

      The answer, of course, is obvious. Cigarette companies help drive the Richmond – area economy and they like low taxes on cigarettes. So what if a whole bunch of people die and poor counties can’t use sin taxes to bolster their revenue? The important thing is that the state of Virginia be run to prop up the puppeteers in the Richmond Area.

    • The general rule is that a subordinate governmental unit cannot contradict the edicts of the central/national government but CAN add-on additional or more-restrictive requirements, taxes, etc. unless directly forbidden by the central government to do so. The Dillon Rule reverses this presumption; the subordinate unit CANNOT add-on additional requirements unless directly authorized by the central government (the State of Virginia) affirmatively to do so.

      The practical effect is this: Spotsylvania County cannot pass an ordinance forbidding, say, pit bulls to be kept as pets in the county, unless the GA has authorized all Virginia counties to regulate pets in this manner. Spotsylvania cannot tax restaurant meals unless the GA has authorized a county-level meals tax; in fact the GA has, but subject to a local referendum on the tax first.

      And here’s where it gets complicated: an incorporated city, such as Fredericksburg, is not subject to the Dillon Rule but to the original terms of its incorporation, which usually confers broad powers on the municipal authority, interpreted expansively, to regulate, have its own police force, raise taxes, etc. This is one way cities are more powerful than counties in Virginia.

      A town is a hybrid; it can do a few things more than a county, but only as specified in the GA’s specific list of additional powers conferred on towns. It is not separate from its county and remains part of the county for many purposes.

      The list of things counties ARE authorized to do in Virginia is long, but there are notable exceptions. Best to ask around and look it up.

  3. Wow. Sink The Bismarck was one of my favorite childhood movies (~1959?) and for a time thereafter I was glued to the C S Forester book it was based on.

    I agree with you, the RPV is going down. Your basic message, reduce the centralized authority of the GA now in order to speed an RPV comeback from near-certain Democrat control in the short run, requires: (a) a long view of the political process (this ship is going down and we need to salvage what we can at this time); (b) a willingness to admit to voters why you feel it’s necessary to take the long view at this time (because your ship is sinking); (c) trust that loosening regional differences and antagonisms will not destroy the fundamental interregional bargains achieved at great cost over many years that make our State work; and (d) trust, more fundamentally, that the wheels of government will continue to turn without the grease of the GA’s political patronage and leverage over just about everything. I don’t see any of these themes being discussed in the RPV today. And I don’t see the kind of leadership in the GA necessary to give up all that control over so many things voluntarily, even if there were the wide perception that it would help in the long run.

    I’d love to see Virginia’s cities reduced to municipalities within their respective counties; but that is going nowhere without a substantial financial bribe, like the counties taking over existing municipal debt. Some deep thought about how to handle school system realignments would also be required.

    There are, of course, many forces that might support a re-writing of the Dillon rule to get this ball rolling. But you need a broad popular cause to mobilize support for fixing what on its face is an arcane legal concept; I don’t see one.

    As for direct election of judges: I can see injecting others more into the judicial selection process with a Bar nominating/Gov. appointing/GA confirming balance of power like so many other States; but spare me judges campaigning on a political platform for periodic direct election and relection! This is not Alabama, or Wyoming. If you want more direct popular input, explore the citizen-initiated referendum and citizen-initiated recall — but not direct election of judges!

  4. DJR – I think you overestimate the willingness of NoVA Democrats to raise taxes. Of the ones from Fairfax County that I know, they are all very cognizant of the royal screwing we take financially from Richmond. I think they’d rather work to fix the LCI to account for the higher costs of living in NoVA, along with the number of poor students we educate than raise a state tax and see more money keep Larry’s, Peter’s, Jim’s and Steve’s real estate taxes ridiculously low.

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