by James A. Bacon
To obtain press identification cards granting regular access to the Virginia State Capitol, journalists are asked an assortment of questions such as birth date, driver’s license number — and race. Democrats now in charge of the legislature say they’ve never heard of the race requirement, and critics say it is a reminder of the state’s segregationist past, reports WAMU.
The Capitol Police say asking for the racial identifier is part of a “standard background check,” but some are drawing a link between the requirement and Virginia’s 1924 “Act to Preserve Racial Integrity” and other vestiges of the Jim Crow era.
“I think it’s another manifestation of what we need to get rid of in the state of Virginia,” said attorney Victor Glasberg, who represented three couples suing for the right to get marriage licenses without stating their race. “It’s old Jim Crow [law] that has yet to be thrown out.”
“That question is on so many things. Marriage licenses, birth certificates, driver’s license applications. It’s unnecessary, but no-one ever thought let’s change it,” said Sen. Jennifer McClellan, D-Richmond. “Why do we need to know what race a member of the press is?”
Good question. Why do we need to ask peoples’ race — not just for journalist credentials and marriage licenses, but for any purpose at all? Virginians want a color-blind society, don’t they? Well… don’t they? Continue reading
by James A. Bacon
To get a handle on how progressive (to be clear, I use “progressive” as a synonym for “leftist”) Governor Ralph Northam’s proposed two-year budget is, consider the following.
If Northam’s agenda is adopted, Virginia’s middle class will pay higher gas taxes, higher cigarette taxes, higher income taxes, and higher electric rates. That doesn’t include higher charges resulting from a new hospital tax last year, nor does it include higher college tuition, any of the proposals (such as an inheritance tax) proposed by emboldened Democrats in the legislature, higher who-knows-what-else is squirreled away in the budget, or ideas just hanging fire like the Transportation Climate Initiative.
What will the middle class get in return? Virtually nothing, unless you count expenditures on programs meant to benefit the public at large such as the environment, rural broadband, education, and workforce development. The majority of spending programs are targeted to help lower-income Virginians — and various Democratic Party constituencies who mask their self-serving agendas as benefiting the poor.
Going down the list of initiatives listed in Northam’s State of the Commonwealth address, we find: Continue reading
by James A. Bacon
In his State of the Commonwealth speech yesterday, Governor Ralph Northam outlined his proposals for hundreds of millions of dollars in new spending initiatives. Needless to say, it was impossible during such a high-altitude overview to provide a detailed explanation of the thinking behind each program. In most instances, he posited a “need,” proffered a government “solution,” and moved on. But in one intriguing instance, his $145 million program to make community college more affordable, he delved deeper.
There are two big barriers that hinder “non-traditional students” (those whose parents did not attend college) from completing their community college degrees, the Governor said. One is cost, and the other is life itself.
Here’s an example. At Reynolds Community College here in Richmond, a majority of students are people of color. The college looked at “retention rates” — who starts a degree program and then goes on to complete it. They identified students who started one academic year and didn’t come back the next. They asked why didn’t these students come back.
The answer is really important. The facts showed it was not academics that kept them from coming back. In fact, these students usually had earned a 3.1 grade point average when they left school.
These students enrolled in a degree program — trying to get a skill, so they can get a job, and provide for the people they love. They set a goal. They worked hard. They performed well, but they dropped out. Why? They left because life got in the way. The car broke down. Or the baby got sick. Or they lost their job. Just trying to get ahead. And then life hits you.
There’s a lot going on in that statement. Let’s unpack it. Continue reading
by James A. Bacon
Ralph Northam ran for governor as a don’t-rock-the-boat center-left moderate who would continue governance of Virginia in the tradition of his predecessors Terry McAuliffe and Tim Kaine. Virginians bit the bait. Then the blackface scandal happened, and Northam had to do penitence to Virginia’s progressives to survive politically. Subsequently, in what was in part a referendum on an unpopular President Trump, Virginians installed a Democratic Party majority in the General Assembly. I’m not sure Virginians knew what they were getting, but they’re now finding out.
Northam has chosen to govern as a classic tax-and-spend liberal. The Commonwealth’s budget (General Fund and Non General Fund) will have increased from $57 billion as originally submitted in Fiscal 2019 to $68.4 billion by Fiscal 2022, or 20%. That would constitute one of the biggest spending expansions in Virginia fiscal history. (If we adjust for inflation, which is much lower than in the past, it may be the biggest expansion of government in our lifetimes.) Judging from the governor’s State of the Commonwealth address yesterday, there is not a single problem facing Virginia that doesn’t warrant a government solution.
Yet, as much as Northam embraced big government yesterday, his agenda is not as radical as many of his Democratic confreres in the legislature would like. He did not advocate a rollback of the state’s Right to Work law. He believes that corporate investment is a good thing, and that Virginia needs more of it. He did call for a minimum wage increase but did not specify that it had to be $15, as many have called for. Rather than fund every special interest with its hand out, he actually proposes setting aside hundreds of millions of dollars to build the state’s financial reserves to $1.9 billion, enough to safeguard Virginia’s AAA bond rating and provide a financial buffer against a recession.
Here’s a terrifying thought: Given the impotence of General Assembly Republicans, Northam may be the only thing standing between Virginia and a really radical progressive agenda. Continue reading
by James A. Bacon
Indian ancestral lands are sacred — sacred, I tell you!
Until they’re not. As is apparently the case in Washington County, where the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, the vast majority of whom live in North Carolina, have proposed to build a casino.
The eastern Cherokee, who operate the Harrah’s Cherokee Resort Hotel and Casino on tribal land in western North Carolina, have called the proposed Washington County side part of its “beloved ancestral home,” according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch. Sure. Just the place for a casino, resort hotel, 15,000-seat outdoor concert venue, recreational facilities.
As RTD writer Michael Martz notes, the proposal complicates a policy challenge facing the General Assembly as it considers the legalization of casino gambling and other gaming ventures in the state. Last year, the state enacted a law allowing the Pamunkey Indian Tribe to build a casino in either Norfolk or Richmond, and permitted the construction of commercial casinos in Danville, Portsmouth, and Bristol on the grounds that they experienced declining population, high poverty and high unemployment rates. Needless to say, developers of a proposed casino in nearby Bristol are vehemently opposed to a Cherokee-related casino very nearby.
I haven’t delved into this deeply, but my gut reaction is that this Indian casino thing is a racket. Continue reading
by James A. Bacon
Amazon.com, Inc., is pushing for an intelligence-sharing alliance with law enforcement and emergency-management agencies around its Arlington office complex, similar to arrangement it already has with its Seattle headquarters, reports the Washington Business Journal.
On the positive side, Arlington police and other participants could gain access to Amazon’s tech, best practices, and intelligence-gathering methods. On the other hand, deeper collaboration and information sharing between one of the nation’s biggest corporations and law-enforcement sounds kind of Orwellian.
“Amazon can take a leadership role in the region and establish a new NOVA/Washington DC Regional Security Council (modeled after the Greater Seattle Security Council),” wrote Florence Chung, in charge of Amazon’s public-private partnerships, in an Aug. 1 email. It would “promote collaboration and information sharing between security leadership from both the private sector and public sector.” Continue reading
Half a loaf is worse than none. Sen. Majority Leader Richard Saslaw, D-Springfield, has introduced a bill that would represent a significant erosion of Virginia’s Right to Work law without repealing it outright. SB 426, entitled “Fair Share Fees,” would authorize an employer to charge employees within a collective bargaining unit who choose not to join the union for the union’a cost associated with collective bargaining, administrative overhead and representation of employees before public bodies. The “fair share fee” would exclude the cost of political activities, lobbying and other activities unrelated to collective bargaining and in no case would exceed 60% of dues. The justification is to eliminate the “free riding” of non-union members who benefit from a union’s collective bargaining efforts.
Tactically, this is a brilliant move by Saslaw because it undermines the most powerful argument against mandatory union membership and payment of union dues — that it forces employees to contribute to political causes with which they disagree. Politically, the bill represents a big payoff to organized labor. Republicans in the General Assembly aren’t likely to support this half-a-loaf approach, but it could persuade moderate, pro-business Democrats. If Saslaw’s gambit succeeds, it would significantly increase the economic power of unions in Virginia and undermine the state’s business climate.
Are safe zones next? HB 40, sponsored by Del. Ibrahim Samirah, D-Herndon, would require every Virginia public school to create and maintain a “mental health break” space with the public school building. Under the bill, the Board of Education would promulgate regulations for the design of the space, student usage, and staffing. The spaces would be indoors, separate from classrooms and as close as possible to the school’s medical service facilities. I can’t imagine this bill will go anywhere this year — the Democrats have bigger fish to fry with the move to bolster K-12 spending by $1.5 billion — but it provides insight into emerging priorities among Virginia progressives. In the progressive vision, the mission of public schools is morphing from educating children to ameliorating their social, economic and mental-health condition. This my friends, is a bottomless pit. There will never be enough money. (Hat tip: Carol Bova.) Continue reading
Governor Ralph Northam has just introduced his “Virginia 2020 Plan” outlining his legislative priorities for the 2020 General Assembly session. His summary of the plan says this about gun control:
Advance common-sense gun safety measures. Keep prohibited persons away from firearms. Universal background checks. “Red flag” law. Restore longstanding “1 handgun a month” law.
What? Nothing about bump stocks and assault weapons? Has Northam backed off the idea of restricting gun types in favor of keeping “prohibited” people (domestic abusers, the mentally ill) away from firearms? If so, that’s a move in the right direction. Continue reading
Gun rights advocates outside Virginia Beach administration building last night. City Council voted 6 to 4 to declare city a Second Amendment sanctuary.
by James A. Bacon
As Virginia Beach and Clarke County joined the list of 100+ Virginia localities endorsing symbolic Second Amendment sanctuary status and as gun-rights activists plan a massive rally at the state capitol, many in the media are working themselves into a frenzy of fear. No one appears to be more terrified than the scribblers at the Washington Post.
The Post is comparing the planned Richmond rally, expected to draw 50,000 or more, with the 2017 slugfest between white supremacists and leftist counter-protesters in Charlottesville. The gun-rights crowd, warns the editorial page, “would be several times larger than those that paralyzed and convulsed Charlottesville in August 2017. … There are plenty of unknowns but one thing is certain: Many or most of the protesters, including or especially those espousing hateful and unhinged ideas, will be heavily armed, including with assault-style weapons.”
But that’s nothing compared to whacko WaPo columnist Petula Dvorak, who extrapolates from fringe rants and memes appearing on social media to “gun enthusiasts” at large. Continue reading
by James A. Bacon
Northern Virginia dominated job creation in the Washington metropolitan area in 2019 and, as Amazon makes its presence increasingly felt, likely will continue to do so, reports the Washington Post.
In the first 10 months of 2019, Northern Virginia gained roughly 19,500 jobs compared to a year earlier, compared to 5,700 jobs in the District and just 200 in suburban Maryland, according to preliminary data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In other words, Northern Virginia accounted for about 71% of the metro region’s job growth. That’s an increase from about 52% in 2017.
Despite fluctuations in its fortunes due to the ups and downs of defense spending, Northern Virginia has had a more vigorous economy than D.C. and Maryland as long as I can remember. The interesting questions raised by this article are (1) why, and (2) will trends continue?
One explanation for Northern Virginia’s dynamism is the luck of the draw. Thanks to the presence of the Pentagon, NoVa developed a robust economy based on defense, intelligence, and information technology, while suburban Maryland, which enjoys the presence of the National Institutes of Health, developed a stronger biotech sector. IT is a bigger and faster growing part of the economy, so NoVa has benefited from secular economic trends over which it has no influence. Continue reading
Want more proof that Virginia is turning into New Jersey? The percentage of Virginia-born legislators in the General Assembly has declined to 49%, according to data published by the Virginia Public Access Project — with the biggest jump taking place in the last election. I don’t know how many out-of-state legislators were actually born in the Garden State, but I’ll wager that most of them come from states north of the Mason-Dixon line. As a consequence, we are now engaging in serious debates over such things as $15-per-hour minimum wages and ending the Right to Work law.
Darn those Yankees! Of course, as my Tarheel wife never ceases to remind me, I am technically a Yankee myself. I was born in New London, Conn. — in the hospital across the river from the submaine base in Groton, where my dad was stationed. Moreover, my mother’s side of the family is from New Jersey, and my dad’s side is from Delaware. But that doesn’t count. Because.
Peaceful rallies, please
by James A. Bacon
Gun rights advocates and militia members from around the country are planning to descend on Richmond later this month to protest the enactment of gun-control bills in the General Assembly. As the Washington Post reports, the Second Amendment sanctuary movement has jumped Virginia’s borders. “Far-right websites and commentators are declaring that Virginia is the place to take a stand against what they see as a national trend of weakening gun rights.”
If you think this sounds like Charlottesville redux — a replay of the violent far-right Unite the Right rally of three years ago — you’re not the only one. Law-enforcement officials say they are monitoring the situation. Even Philip Van Cleave, president of the Virginia Citizens Defense League, said he is keeping lines of communications open so all sides are prepared. “Hopefully it’ll not be another Charlottesville,” he said.
There are a couple of important differences this time. First, the Second Amendment movement in Virginia reflects a widespread popular sentiment, not the fringe views of mostly out-of-state Klansmen, neo-Nazis and white supremacists. Second, there is no indication yet that Antifa or other ultra-leftists are mobilizing to counter the gun-rights crowd. Third, there is always the possibility that law-enforcement authorities learned from their mistakes in Charlottesville and will be better prepared this time. And fourth, whether you agree with his politics or not, Van Cleave seems to have his head screwed on tight. Reports the WaPo: Continue reading
by James A. Bacon
In 2018, according to the Virginia State Police Crime in Virginia report, law enforcement authorities reported 305 juveniles and 3,931 adults arrested for “weapon law violations.” If Democrats tighten gun control laws and vigorously enforce them, we can be reasonably sure that the number of arrests will increase.
That could put Dems in an awkward place. As Cam Edwards points out on National Review, the most enthusiastic enforcement of the new laws will be in Democratic-controlled localities with high crime rates — Richmond, Petersburg, Norfolk, and Roanoke. Rural counties that have declared themselves Second Amendment sanctuaries predictably will enforce the laws with less enthusiasm. Writes Edwards:
The vast majority of charges will be for non-violent possessory offenses, the vast majority of defendants will be black and Hispanic men from Virginia’s inner cities, and the vast majority of those defendants will not have any serious criminal history, although they may be heading down that road. Instead of offering these individuals a way out, however, Ralph Northam wants to give them a crash course in criminality by putting them in prison.
Wouldn’t that be ironic? Democrats are trying to dismantle the school-to-prison pipeline and reform the criminal justice system to reduce the disproportionate percentage of minorities behind bars. Yet, if Edwards is right, their gun control laws could disproportionately impact minorities.
Of course, there is a lot of supposition in Edwards’ argument. Let’s look at the numbers. Continue reading
Be sure to vote — but in only one jurisdiction!
More Northern Virginia news you will never read in the Washington Post… Fairfax County has a registration rate of 105%, according to conservative activist group Judicial Watch. In other words, the number of voter registrations exceeds the number of citizens in the county old enough to vote.
During the last reporting period, the county removed only 5,800 voter registrations per year due to failure of registrants to respond to address-confirmation notices and failure to vote in two consecutive elections. “This is a very low number of removals for a county of this size,” said Judicial Watch in a letter to Gary D. Scott, the county registrar and director of elections. (The county population is about 1.15 million.)
Judicial Watch is not alleging that any voter fraud has occurred. Rather, the organization contends that Fairfax County is failing to comply with federal law. Continue reading
by James A. Bacon
Enforcement of the laws of Virginia may become optional in Fairfax and Arlington Counties when newly elected Commonwealth’s Attorneys — Steve Descano in Fairfax and Parisa Dehghani-Tafti in Arlington — take office. Both have promised to stop prosecuting marijuana possession, reports the Washington Post.
Descano and Dehghani-Tafti said pot possession prosecutions do little to protect public safety, disproportionately fall on people of color, saddle defendants with damaging convictions and can be better spent on more serious crimes. …
Descano said the policy brings Fairfax County’s values into the courthouse. “I traveled around Fairfax County for over a year listening to people,” Descano said. “The thing that came up time and time again was simple possession of marijuana — how it was a waste of resources and led to unjust outcomes.”
The arguments against prosecuting pot possession are not unreasonable. Indeed, Governor Ralph Northam has proposed decriminalizing the offense. What’s disturbing is that the two prosecutors aren’t willing to wait for the General Assembly to enact a law this session, which would go into effect in July. They feel compelled to take legislative matters into their own hands and nullify the state law now in effect.
First sanctuary cities. Then second amendment sanctuaries. Now pot possession. The conviction is spreading across Virginia like a mutant flu virus that local officials are free to ignore laws they don’t like. Continue reading