Still Acting Like a Rookie

by Dick Hall-Sizemore

Governor Glenn Youngkin does not seem to be a fast learner. He seems to think he is still at the Carlyle Group where the top brass announced deals and the rest of the organization fell in line. That’s not how it works with a bicameral legislature, especially when your party is in the minority in both houses.

About a month ago, the governor announced, with much fanfare, a plan to bring the Washington Wizards and Washington Capitals to Potomac Yard in Alexandria. It would be a $1.5 billion deal involving the construction of a sports arena and supporting facilities. A new sport and entertainment authority would oversee the project, including issuing bonds to fund it. The General Assembly would need to approve the legislation creating the authority.

The General Assembly has convened and the members have questions about this deal. However, as reported by the Washington Post, the administration has few answers. It does not have the bill language ready for the members to review. Even more basic, at the end of last week, it did not have a patron for the legislation lined up. Delegate Luke Torian (D-Prince William), chairman of the House Appropriations Committee said that the administration had asked him to carry the bill in the House, but he was still waiting to see the bill. “I hope to have an opportunity to see it over the course of the weekend,” he said.

The governor has not even talked to the legislative leaders of his own party about the legislation. “I don’t know enough about it to tell you what I think,” said Del. Todd Gilbert (R-Shenandoah), the House minority leader, in response to a reporter’s question.

Over in the other chamber, Senator Scott Surovell (D-Fairfax), the Senate majority leader, complained, “To the extent we’ve received anything, it’s in the form of PowerPoints. So the fine details and the fine print are very important on this.”

Part of the deal involves the state providing $150-200 million in upfront transportation funding. In a meeting Thursday of the Senate Transportation Committee, Senator Danica Roem (D-Prince William) asked Shep Miller, the Secretary of Transportation, “I need to know, where is the money coming from? What are the sources going to be? And what things are either going to be delayed or denied funding because we are redirecting that funding to this project?” Miller did not have an answer, but said he expected to have one in about 10 days. In response to a similar question from Senator David Suetterlein (R-Roanoke), Miller said, “I’m not in a position to give you every detail, senator, at this point.”

What have these people been doing the past month? They knew, or should have known, they were going to get these questions from legislators.

And the Democrats are licking their chops. They know this is something that Youngkin really wants as part of his legacy and they are prepared to make him pay to get it. Proposals ranging from eliminating tolls in Hampton Roads to setting up a legal marijuana market to additional funding for Metro in Northern Virginia are being bandied about. As one Democratic lawmaker commented, somewhat jokingly and off the record, ““We don’t just want a pound of flesh, we want a ton.”