Will Middle-Aged Killers Get Early Release?

John Reginald Christie, an English serial killer and necrophiliac who killed into his 50s.

by Hans Bader

A Virginia bill, SB 624, would make middle-aged murderers and rapists eligible for “geriatric release.” It would do so even though “geriatric” is precisely about being old. It is defined in the dictionary as “old, elderly,” or “relating to, or appropriate for elderly people.”

Under SB 624, a prison inmate would be eligible for geriatric release if he is 50 years old, or 55 years old, depending on how long he has been in prison. Such inmates are not old, but middle-aged. As the Merriam Webster dictionary notes, “middle-aged people” are “people between the age of about 40 and the age of about 60.” Wikipedia describes middle age as extending to 65 — far above age 50.  I am 50 years old, and have never been treated as old for any purpose.

The bill would let inmates seek release at age 50 if they have served 20 years, or age 55 if they’ve served 15. That’s lower than the age at which famous serial killers were still active. These inmates are younger than serial murderer Albert Fish, who killed starting at age 54, and Dorothea Puente, who killed from age 53 to 59. Many other serial killers continued killing into their 50s, such as Peter Tobin (up to age 60), John Reginald Christie (up to age 53), and Ted Kaczynski (into his 50s). The murder rate is much lower for people in their 60s than in their 50s, but there are people who commit murder even in their 70s. Continue reading

Electoral College Vote, Carbon Tax, Labor’s Wants

By Steve Haner

The End of the Electoral College Looms

The legislature’s new ruling Democrats, having celebrated their adoption of the national Equal Rights Amendment, may continue their Constitutional aspirations next week and try to kill the federal Electoral College. Some believe the will of Virginia voters in choosing presidential electors should be overridden by the popular vote total in all fifty states plus the District of Columbia combined.

This idea is known at the National Popular Vote. Objections to the Electoral College process have a long history but were reignited when former Senator Hillary Clinton became the fifth presidential candidate who won the popular vote but lost the Electoral College. As predicted by Bacon’s Rebellion, the proposal to grant Virginia’s votes to the national front runner is back in three bills, with far longer lists of patrons and co-patrons. The two House bills are here and here, and the Senate version here. All now rest with firmly Democratic Privileges and Elections committees.  Continue reading

Be Careful What You Wish For

Judge John Dillon (look familiar to regular readers of this blog?)

by Dick Hall-Sizemore

For the participants on this blog who have longed for the lifting of the yoke of the Dillon Rule from the necks of local governments, major relief is in sight. However, you may not like the area in which it is being contemplated: taxation.

Generally, Virginia counties have less authority than cities and towns to levy certain taxes. Cities and towns have general authority in the Code to levy the following taxes: admissions, transient occupancy, cigarette, and meals. As far as counties are concerned, the General Assembly over the years has given individual counties, as specified in the statutes, authority to levy some of these taxes. In some cases, that authority carries limits and, in the case of the meals tax, it must be approved by local referendum to be effective.

As reported in today’s Richmond Times-Dispatch, legislation has been introduced in both houses of the General Assembly to provide counties the same taxing authority as cities and towns. Furthermore, it seems that these bills have widespread support. Particularly striking is HB 785, introduced  by Del. Vivian Watts, D-Fairfax, chairman of the House Finance Committee, the committee that has jurisdiction over tax bills. Co-patron of the bill is Del. Terry Kilgore, a senior Republican from Scott County. The bill would provide counties general authority to levy these taxes, without any caps or referendum requirement.

If any of these proposals are enacted and your county subsequently adopts a new tax or increases an existing one, you can’t blame those Democrats in Richmond; you need to blame your board of supervisors. And, of course, these measures would not eliminate the application of the Dillon Rule in the Commonwealth. What the General Assembly giveth, the General Assembly can take away.

And One More Thing…

Can this thing be weaponized?

Since posting my previous post, I’ve been thinking about Governor Ralph Northam’s decision to declare a state of emergency to keep a lid on the upcoming gun-rights rally. I’m sure it was not a decision lightly taken. The Governor is in a damned-if-you-do-damned-if-you-don’t situation — criticized by one side for clamping down on the rights of law-abiding citizens, but subject to even worse criticism, if gun violence breaks out, had he failed to act. I get it.

Here’s the thing. There’s a lot of hysteria surrounding this issue. The media has played up crazy, unsubstantiated rumors and worrisome threats circulating in extreme right-wing social media. But deranged right-wingers are not the only people who are capable of over-reacting. What, exactly, is the menace that Northam sees? Were the worrisome words trash talk designed to impress other right-wing nut jobs, or is there legitimate reason to think the people intend to act upon them? Obviously, it is better to err on the side of caution on such things. But do the threats rise to the level of a state of emergency?

Northam could help himself if he held a press conference featuring a Virginia law enforcement officer in charge of evaluating the threats. Who, specifically, are we worried about? Name organizations! What are we afraid people might do? And perhaps most importantly, how are the measures associated with the state of emergency tailored to deal with those threats? For example, Northam has mentioned worries about an attack by drone. How does squatting on gun rights protect people from drone attacks? Continue reading

Cool Your Jets, Dudes

by James A. Bacon

So, Governor Ralph Northam yesterday declared a state of emergency that bans the bearing of firearms on stat property from Jan. 17 through Jan. 21. In justification, he cited plans by tens of thousands of gun-rights advocates to gather in Richmond in protest of gun-control legislation under consideration by the General Assembly.

Stated Northam in a prepared statement: “Available information suggests that a substantial number of these demonstrators are expected to come from outside the Commonwealth, may be armed, and have as their purpose not peaceful assembly but violence, rioting, and insurrection.”

Rioting and insurrection? Really. Them’s strong words. The Washington Post has written of out-of-state groups coming to Virginia to form posses and militias, as well as reckless and unsubstantiated rumors spreading on social media. The newspaper also referred vaguely to “threats” made against Northam. According to Virginia Public Media, Northam has said officials have heard reports of “out-of-state militia groups and hate groups planning to travel from across the country to disrupt our democratic process with acts of violence.” He said they “are coming to intimidate and cause harm.”

Question: If specific hate groups have been identified, why aren’t they being targeted by law enforcement? Also, wouldn’t it be helpful to notify the public who they are? Why the need to deprive everyone, including law-abiding citizens, of the right to carry arms onto state property?

Update: According to the Richmond Times-Dispatch, Northam claimed that “armed militia groups” plan on “storming our Capitol” and “weaponizing drones.” That’s a lot more specific — and alarming — than the intelligence I cited in other media reports.

Meanwhile, Jerry Falwell Jr. president of Liberty University, needs to dial down his rhetoric. Speaking on a Lynchburg radio show, he predicted a backlash of local law enforcement authorities against gun-control legislation from the General Assembly, reports the News & Advance. Presumably referring to legislators, he said, “I think they’re going to be faced with civil disobedience, not just by citizens but by police officers. And I think it’s what they deserve.” Continue reading

No $220 Rebate Checks for Military Families?

By Steve Haner

More than 400,000 Virginians failed to receive their $110 “Windfall Income Tax Rebate” in 2019 because, for perfectly valid and acceptable reasons, they didn’t file their returns by July 1.  That allowed the Commonwealth of Virginia to hold onto $46 million more of the un-legislated state tax increase created by conforming to new federal tax rules.

Some undetermined number of those were military families with a Virginia “tax home” who routinely get extra time to file. It could include servicemen and women deployed in combat zones.

Del. Jason Miyares, R-Virginia Beach, had his House Bill 607 all teed up to fix that today in the House Finance Committee. It would have allowed those late filers to get the rebate this year, instead. But the bill was not up for quick action today in order to pass, but in order to die. The Northam Administration was prepared to oppose the bill and seek its defeat, given it blows a hole in the revenue estimates for the new budget. Continue reading

How the General Assembly Works

To hear podcast click here.

Peter Galuszka, Virginia journalist and contributor to Bacon’s Rebellion, appears in this WTJU podcast on how the General Assembly works. Peter talks about the role of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) in submitting boilerplate conservative legislation to the legislature. His remarks begin around the 8:00 mark.

How Medicaid Expansion Underwrites Hospital Expansion

Roanoke Memorial Hospital: $300 million expansion thanks to Medicaid

by James A. Bacon

A year after Virginia enacted Medicaid expansion, it’s still too early to tell what impact the initiative will have on public health, medical economists tell Virginia Business magazine. But one thing seems clear enough. The program is injecting enough money into the healthcare sector that major health systems say they have the confidence to embark upon major expansion projects.

Roanoke-based Carilion Clinic is moving ahead with a $300 million expansion to Roanoke Memorial Hospital. Fairfax-based Inova Health System is spending a similar amount, $300 million, to upgrade its Loudoun County hospital. Bon Secours Virginia Health System has announced plans for $119 million in improvements to its Chesterfield County medical center. And community health centers are either opening or expanding in Southern and Southwest Virginia.

One big question I had about Medicaid expansion is the impact it would have on hospital profitability — and what the hospitals would do with the money. The Virginia Business article provides some clues. Continue reading

Yet Another Tax Increase Proposal

Del. Delores McQuinn. Photo credit: Richmond.com.

Del. Delores McQuinn, D-Richmond, has submitted a bill, HB 1541, that would raise taxes in Central Virginia by 2.1% on wholesale fuels (about 7.6 cents per gallon of gasoline) and 0.7% on the sales and use tax to fund regional transportation projects.

The taxes would raise an estimated $168 million a year. Fifty percent would be returned to the localities for projects that would “improve local mobility,” including roads, sidewalks, trails, mobility services, or transit; 35% would go to a Central Virginia Transportation Authority; and 15% would be dedicated to mass transit in Planning District 15.

McQuinn said the dedicated funding is critical to improving access to public transportation, especially for low-income residents who have no other way to get to jobs or amenities in the region, reports the Richmond Times-Dispatch. Said she in a meeting with leaders from four localities in the region: “Transportation has become to me almost a civil rights issue.”

A civil rights issue? Wow! I always thought of “civil rights” as ensuring that all Americans enjoyed the same constitutional and legal protections. Now, it seems, the concept of civil rights has expanded to the idea of redistributing income from motorists and consumers, many of them low-income themselves, to trendy priorities favored by urban white elites under the guise of helping minorities and the poor. Continue reading

Two Hundred Pamunkeys, $200 Million Project

Artist’s rendering of Pamunkey casino in downtown Norfolk.

by James A. Bacon

The population of the Pamunkey Indian tribe, which traces its lineage to Powhatan and Pocahontas, numbers about 200. Most members live on or near their 1,200-acre reservation north of the James River. Among other ways of making a living, they operate a shad hatchery, produce traditional pottery, and cater to visitors in their museum. For the most part, from what I can gather, they enjoy a working/middle-class standard of living. I have come across no evidence of any wealthy Pamunkeys. But if the General Assembly legalizes casino gambling this year, the tribe would strike it rich.

In 2016 the Pamunkeys won federal recognition as an Indian tribe, a status that entitles them to all manner of benefits not available to other Americans. A veritable industry has grown up around these entitlements, the most visible of which is the development and operation of casinos. Running casinos is not a skill set that Pamunkeys have acquired on their reservation. Nevertheless, the tribe is pursuing development of a casino on Norfolk’s waterfront in a project originally pegged at $700 million. Although the project has since been scaled back to $200 million, that still averages out to an investment of $1 million per Pamunkey.

News reports provide few details on how the little tribe proposes to finance the casino. But going to go out on a limb and suggest that the Pamunkeys are not putting up the equity for the project themselves. Just as the Eastern Band of Cherokee are backed by a major developer in their proposal to build a casino near Bristol, so, too, do the Pamunkeys have sugar daddy. According to news reports, that backer is Franklin, Tenn.-based billionaire Jon Yarbrough. Continue reading

Virtue Signal With Somebody Else’s Morning

Yesterday it was nice. This morning brings a downpour. Being in this line today will be less fun. Making everybody with legislative staff, state employee or registered lobbyist badges get screened and scanned before entering the Pocahontas Building to do (or watch) the people’s business will get us all soaked. (Even U.S. Senator Tim Kaine got caught in it …for a while.)

Hey I get it, being “tough on guns” is vital, a virtue, and what good is virtue if you do not signal it? In 36 years of almost daily attendance to General Assembly sessions, the occasions when something stupid was done with a gun inside the General Assembly buildings usually involved legislators themselves. No legislator stood in this line yesterday — they sailed past us.  Continue reading

Virginia Death Tax Would Be Fairly Narrow

by Hans Bader

A few days ago, I wrote about legislation to reinstate Virginia’s estate tax. The Tax Foundation has informed me that the tax contained in the bill would affect fewer households than in most of the states that still have an estate tax. (Most states no longer have an estate tax at all).

This matters, because I incorrectly wrote that the tax would “affect the inheritances of many middle-class people.” Well, it turns out it’s not that many. That’s because the bill indirectly incorporates by reference a $10 million exclusion — even though that is not mentioned anywhere in the language of the bill itself.

As the Tax Foundation told me, after I emailed them my blog post, the bill’s language “could be clearer” about that, and “probably should be,” but it apparently does have the effect of incorporating a $10 million exclusion. So unless you have a relative with $10 million, it probably won’t affect you.

(Because the bill itself did not mention such an exclusion, many commenters at Richmond Sunlight and elsewhere had assumed that it would affect many Virginia households, especially in northern Virginia, where homes are quite expensive, and a typical home in many neighborhoods costs over a million dollars) Continue reading

Loudoun’s $6 Million Equity Initiative

Eric Williams, superintendent of Loudoun County public schools, has proposed a 10.8% increase in the school system’s local funding. The sum includes a $6 million “investment effort” to address equity concerns, reports Loudoun Now.

The initiative would create a “supervisor of equity” position to report to the recently created “director of equity,” and create a team of a supervisor and three instructional facilitators to “focus on equity and culturally responsive instruction.” Two teachers will be hired to bring more diversity to gifted education programs. Five positions will  be empowered to reduce discipline proportionately (by race) and decrease use of hateful speech and racial slurs.

Here’s a prediction: That $6 million will be a total waste, as measured by educational outcomes.

Note: This chart corrects an error that appeared in the e-mailed version of this post.

The English Standards of Learning (SOL) pass rates for major racial/ethnic groups in Loudoun County and for the state as a whole appear above. Continue reading

Dems Da Rules

Majority Leader Charniele Herring and Speaker Eileen Filler-Corn. Photo credit: Washington Times

As the late Sen. Edward Willey of Richmond used to say, “The rules are written by those with the votes.” Leading up to the convening of the new GA session, there was some speculation that the House Democrats, newly in the majority, might make significant changes in the House Rules. In the end, they largely stuck with tradition.

The rules of a legislative body are important. They establish the framework within which the legislature process is conducted. For example, they establish the standing committees of each house, along with the number of members of each committee and how those members are selected. They set out the procedures for handling legislation on the floor. They are esoteric and a great sleep-inducer, but the legislators who master the rules have a great advantage over their colleagues. Continue reading

Where’s the Voice of Business?

The mouse that roared squeaked

by James A. Bacon

As the General Assembly considers a host of issues that could have devastating consequences for Virginia’s business climate — tax increases, $15 minimum wage, repeal of the right-to-work law, a death tax, trial lawyer-friendly anti-discrimination legislation, and the list goes on — the business community has been remarkably quiet.

Once upon a time, when business spoke — like in the old E.F. Hutton commercial — Virginia listened. Now, it seems, business isn’t speaking, and nobody’s listening.

The silence of Virginia’s business community struck me when reading a Roanoke Times op-ed today in which Terry Durkin, vice president of public policy for the Roanoke Regional Chamber of Commerce, expressed muted reservations about the minimum-wage and right-to-work bills. Whoah! Where did he come from? When’s the last time I heard from anyone in the business community who wasn’t bleating about safe, non-controversial topics?
Continue reading