Grading Virginia at Crossover? Give them an A! 

by Chris Saxman

We are now on Day 38 of the General Assembly and only have 22 more days to go before Sine Die (adjournment) on March 10th. Tuesday of this week marked Crossover when each legislative chamber must have acted on its respective legislation, which is then sent over to the other chamber. House bills go to the Senate and the Senate bills go the House — the legislation “crosses over” to the other side of the Capitol.

If you are a follower of Virginia politics, you probably heard your inner monologue say, “Yes, I know. We do this every year.”

In November of 2014, leaders of Virginia FREE gathered at the University of Virginia’s Miller Center of Public Affairs to examine the “Virginia Way” of governing. We were joined by former governors George Allen and Gerald Baliles who offered us their perspectives on how Virginia should govern itself following the trial and conviction earlier that year of former Governor Bob McDonnell. Baliles was then the Director and CEO of the Miller Center and had flown back the night before from the Clinton Presidential Library in order to participate.

Baliles offered that in order to restore broken trust, we must take the time to identify the real problems while intellectually agreeing on solutions through mutual respect and consensus. We also must work together to help our political leaders govern by example; however, it will take time. While that is not a direct quote, Baliles did quote 19th century British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli asking us to “remember the context.”

So let’s “remember the context” of our political reality in this year’s General Assembly and gubernatorial inauguration of Governor Ralph Northam.

The election results of 2017 here in Virginia were, to say the very least, unexpected. Those results followed the unexpected results of the 2016 election. In fact, today marks the 32nd month since Donald Trump announced his campaign for President of the United States on June 16, 2015.

What’s the context then of the 2018 Virginia General Assembly? Consider the timeline first.

2014 – McDonnell conviction
2015 – Trump
2016 – Presidential nominations and elections
2017 – Virginia Governor and House of Delegates elections

Previously, I have shared the Napoleon quote “There is no destiny, only politics.” Now, allow me to insert into your consideration a quote from journalist Andrew Breitbart “Politics is downstream from culture.”

So what’s the context? Disruption. Massive disruption. Not simply change. Disruption.

Disruption – noun. disturbance or problems that interrupt an event, activity, or process.

Our culture and economy have been disrupted. Naturally our political disruption then follows since we are a republican democracy in which we elect people to represent us. Elected officials reflect us.

Enter the 2018 General Assembly and newly inaugurated Governor Ralph Northam. New delegates (a lot of them – 19), a new executive branch, and a not so new building in which to work.

Chaos, right?

NO! Not at all. In fact, there is relative calm and a high level of productivity.

Amid all the disruption and potential for chaos, the ship of state is, so far, weathering the storm.

But why?

Well, it just doesn’t happen.

Speaker Vance Wilkins and I were walking across the varsity baseball field of Riverheads High School in the spring of 2002 following an event he had initiated for the nearby elementary school. It was a thrilling event for this old history and government teacher as scores of students and teachers were learning about American government. I said, “Mr. Speaker, that was awesome!” Wilkins never broke stride as we walked replying, “Thanks. You know, nothing happens without leadership.”

So what’s happening so far in Richmond? 

In a word? Leadership.

We have seen outstanding leadership from our new governor and the leaders in the General Assembly. They are not simply running the trains on time, they are identifying “the real problems while intellectually agreeing on solutions through mutual respect and consensus.”

Our leaders – and their staff – have come together and worked out solutions on significant issues like electric utility regulation, regulatory reform, and criminal justice reform.

We are even seeing headlines about *gasp* bipartisanship!

But let’s not forget Governor Baliles’ charge to us all – we must work together to help our leaders govern by example. We must help them.

The first step in that work is to thank them. That means calling, emailing, texting, and posting on social media or writing your local newspapers with support for the good work of our elected leaders. And their staff!

Would that be disruption? Or maybe the Virginia Way – Forward? Maybe both.

22 days remain on the calendar.

So far, so good – right?

If you “remember the context” – Virginia could be moving from good to great.

Governor Ralph Northam “They did not send us here to be Democrats or Republicans. They sent us here to get things done. And they want us to do it the Virginia Way.”

Virginia’s Crossover Grade? A. Solid A.

Chris Saxman is executive director of the Virginia Foundation for Research and Economic Education. This commentary was originally published as an email missive.

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7 responses to “Grading Virginia at Crossover? Give them an A! ”

  1. Missed the mark.

  2. IMHO: As a pep talk, it’s nice to hear. As a description of progress on some big issues scuttled gracelessly by past partisanship, it’s hopeful. As a reflection of bipartisanship in the current Session, to date, it’s giddy.

  3. LarrytheG Avatar

    perhaps a short list of “accomplishments” so we all can laud congrats!

    We always hear all this stuff about “bad” regulations.. how many “bad” regulations has the GA axed?

    how about unemployment in rural Virginia?

    how about health care for the 400,000 working Virginians who do not have it and rely on taxpayer funded hospital ERs?

    how about rural hospitals going bankrupt?

    The opioid “crisis”?

    Congestion in NoVa?

    “illegal” immigrants getting “free stuff”…??


  4. djrippert Avatar

    I can only assume that Mr Saxman sent his e-mail missive from a state where recreational marijuana has been legalized because whatever he’s smoking it sure must be good!

    I will give one shout out to our new governor, Ralph Northam. He’s making yet another attempt to force Virginia to join the other East Coast states and operate under menhaden fishing limits set by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission.

    Let’s face it – there’s one reason and one reason only that the General Assembly regulates a single species of fish while allowing the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission to regulate all the others. The Imperial Clown Show in Richmond regulates menhaden so it can allow select out-of-state companies to butcher the species in Virginia waters. In return, of course, the butchers write big fat checks to the legislators. Yes, Mr. Saxman, that is the Virginia Way.

    I actually hope the legislation fails and the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission shuts down menhaden fishing in Virginia entirely.

  5. LarrytheG Avatar

    I strongly suspect Va Free would advocate dissolving the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission all together.. and getting rid of all regulation of fisheries.. “free”… get it?

    1. djrippert Avatar

      Fortunately for the rest of the East Coast there is only one reprobate state in the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission … Virginia.

      Here’s the bio of Maryland’s representative to the ASMFC, David Blazer:

      “A graduate of Towson University, Blazer worked at DNR from 1990 to 1998, first as a biologist and later a manager in the fisheries division. He was the executive director of the nonprofit Maryland Coastal Bays program. He also worked for the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, the Chesapeake Bay Commission and Bluewater Wind, a Delaware-based company that was seeking the rights to develop offshore wind projects along the Atlantic coast from Delaware to North Carolina. He joined the port administration five years ago, where he managed the handling of material dredged from shipping channels and the harbor.”

      And Virginia’s representative, John M.R. Bull:

      John has been with the Virginia Marine Resources Commission since June 2007. He was designated Acting Commissioner on Jan. 13, 2014 and was officially appointed as the Commissioner on Feb. 28, 2014. In his career at the agency, he has been Director of Public Relations and Legislative Liaison and has worked closely with the agency’s constituent groups, the news media, the Virginia General Assembly and has been involved in all aspects of agency business.

      Before joining the Virginia Marine Resources Commission, he was an award-winning newspaper reporter at eight different newspapers over the span of 23 years, most recently as an investigative reporter and Virginia General Assembly reporter for the Newport News Daily Press.

      He is a journalism graduate from Penn State University.”

      Just for good measure, here is North Carolina’s representative, Steve Murphey:

      “Murphey began his career with the Division of Marine Fisheries in 1987 as a biologist, with interim service from 1999 to 2010 in the Division of Environmental Health, returning to Marine Fisheries in 2010.

      His most recent position with DMF was as the section chief for Habitat and Enhancement. In that position, Murphey managed and coordinated large-scale marine and estuarine habitat restoration, management and enhancement programs that included shellfish aquaculture and oyster enhancement and management of the Coastal Habitat Protection Plan.”

      From what you see Larry – who takes this seriously and who is handing out political favors? Biologists vs Journalist/Lobbyist?

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