by James A. Bacon
Among economic special interest groups in Virginia, organized labor is consistently one of the top contributors to political campaigns. According to the Virginia Public Access Project, Big Labor has contributed $46 million to candidates since 1996-97, almost all of it to Democrats. The construction unions, which are the biggest donors of all, have been rewarded this year by a raft of bills that would give them a huge leg up in projects involving government, independent authorities, and even private developers seeking zoning approvals.
Only one bill, sponsored by Senate Majority Richard Saslaw, D-Springfield, has made it past the committee stage so far. But the bills seen collectively provide a road map of the construction unions’ legislative agenda and what the anti-business wing of the Democratic Party is prepared to support. Here are the bills:
SB 182: This bill, sponsored by Saslaw and co-patron Sen. Jennifer Boysko, D-Herndon, would repeal a provision in state law enacted in 2012 forbidding state agencies from either requiring or prohibiting bidders on public works projects to require a Project Labor Agreement (PLA). The 2012 legislation arose after a controversy surrounding bidding on construction of the Washington Metro Silver Line project, in which the manager of that project, the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA) initially required in its term sheet that bidders enter into a PLA. Before the MWAA reversed itself, the terms effectively eliminated non-union contractors from consideration. The 2012 legislation required government entities to remain neutral regarding bidders’ union status. By repealing that law, the Saslaw-Boysko bill would make it possible for government entities once again to require PLAs. That bill has made it out of committee for consideration by the full Senate. Continue reading
Source: Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association
by James A. Bacon
A new Mason-Dixon poll of 625 registered voters commissioned by the Virginia Hospital & Healthcare Association (VHHA) finds that Virginians prefer to keep the Certificate of Public Need program by a three-to-one margin.
“Overall, nearly two-thirds of Virginians (62 percent) express support for the current health care delivery system with COPN in place,” states a press release accompanying the poll. “These findings are consistent with results from a June 2019 statewide poll in which 55 percent of Virginians said they support preserving COPN, compared to just 13 percent in opposition to the program.”
Critics of COPN say that Virginia’s major hospital systems have gamed the regulations to stifle competition with one another, shut down competition with physician-backed ambulatory care centers, and carve out geographic monopolies. Thanks to the regulations, Virginia’s “nonprofit” hospitals enjoy hundreds of millions of dollars in additional profits. Hospitals defend the regulations on the grounds that interlopers would “skim the cream,” providing care to the most profitable patients and dumping less profitable patients on hospitals.
The poll results are a dubious measure of public opinion, however. Continue reading
First the wild… The Virginia state Senate passed a bill, SB 657, earlier this week that would allow a person who changed his or her sex to have a new birth certificate issued, reports the Associated Press. Sen. Jennifer Boysko, D-Fairfax, who sponsored the bill, says transgendered constituents have reported issues when leasing apartments, applying for jobs, and opening bank accounts. Permitting people to amend their birth certificates would help eliminate confusion when the a person’s legal identification doesn’t match his/her newly adopted sex. I confess that I can’t keep up with the evolving sex/gender controversies. How many sexes can people pick from these days? Wikipedia lists five sexes: male, female, hermaphrodite, female pseudohermaphrodite, and male pseudohermaphrodite. Will someone be able to pick between the five? Another question: Does the freedom to select one’s sex include one’s “gender”? In 2014 ABC news identified 58 genders — starting with agender, androgyne, androgynous, bigender, cis, cisgender, and on down the list. What logic prevents people from listing their gender (how they self identify) instead of their sex (what their sex organs look like)? By what logic does this bill not simply perpetuate the gisgendered patriarchy?
Now the crazy… A pair of bills under consideration in the House and Senate would amend current law and prohibit motorists from using smart phones while they drive. Unlike previous attempts to tighten the law, reports WTOP, this version would take steps to ensure that “people of color” aren’t disproportionately targeted. Language added by Del. Jeff Bourne, D-Richmond, requires authorities to collect data “to make sure these laws are not disparately impacting communities of color and certain people.” What? I can’t find that language in the bill, HB 874. But assuming I’m overlooking something, I have a few questions: (1) Does Bourne have any evidence to suspect that the law banning smart phone use would be enforced more rigorously against “people of color” than whites? (2) Does “people of color” include Asians and white Hispanics, and does he have grounds to think that they might be targeted on the basis of race? (3) Let’s say for purposes of argument, that statistics show that African-Americans are ticketed more frequently than whites — is racism presumed? What would Bourne do about a ticketing disparity? Cap the number of African-Americans who can be ticketed?
And now the curious… It turns out that there are laws on the books that prohibit “transporting an alien” and “conspiring to harbor an alien” — “alien” referring of course to illegal immigrants. We don’t read about those laws very often; I have no idea how often they are applied. But they sure proved useful when federal prosecutors were throwing the book at the three white supremacists who were accused of plotting to attack the Richmond gun-rights rally in the hope of triggering a race war. Continue reading
Note to readers: I accidentally published a post, “How Lawmakers Coddle Hospital Monopolies,” by guest contributor Jim Sherlock who was still in the process of editing and fact-checking. I have pulled it from the blog, and will re-publish when it meets our editorial standards. My apologies for the confusion.
by James A. Bacon
In General Assembly action yesterday, Democrats spiked a slew of Republican bills to relax gun laws and debated a so-called “red flag” law that would allow authorities to remove firearms from persons deemed “a substantial risk of injury to himself or others.”
The operating supposition behind Democratic gun-control initiatives is that gun violence is a huge problem in Virginia. Given the mass shooting at the Virginia Beach municipal center last year, plus ongoing chronic violence in inner-city jurisdictions such as Richmond, Petersburg, and Portsmouth, it is understandable that people would harbor that perception.
But the reality is that Virginia is one of the least violent states in the country. To be specific, according to data published in USA Today, the violent crime rate in Virginia is 4th lowest of the 50 states. Only in three small, predominantly rural states in New England is the crime rate lower. Compared to other states with comparable demographics — racial/ethnic mix, concentrations of urban poverty, Southern culture, and the like — Virginia’s violent crime rate is startlingly low. Continue reading
by James A. Bacon
As legislators ponder the next two-year budget, which incorporates a $2.2 billion-per-year increase in spending (14%) in FY 2022 compared to the current fiscal year, they would do well to take into account a new Medicaid scam.
Medicaid covers expenses categorized as “mental health skill building.” These mental-health services are particularly valuable to the homeless, drug and alcohol addicts, and people coming out of incarceration. Since the enactment of Medicaid expansion, the number of agencies providing such services has increased significantly. And so have the fraudsters who have learned how to game the system.
‘We have seen mental health skill builders drive their clients to our Community Center, sit in the waiting room sometimes for two to three hours while waiting for us to deliver services; meanwhile they are billing Medicaid,” says Sarah Scarbrough, director of REAL LIFE, a nonprofit that serves marginalized populations. Continue reading
by James A. Bacon
Twenty-two thousand armed citizens packed the streets of downtown Richmond yesterday, and not one shot was fired. No one was killed. No one was injured. There was only one arrest — of a 21-year-old woman who refused, in violation of a prohibition against masks, to remove a bandana from her face. And she, most likely, was of the leftist persuasion. As the Virginia Mercury quotes her male companion, “Way to keep our city safe, guys, while there’s fuckin’ Nazis and terrorists around here.”
After hyping fears that far-right extremists might create mayhem, the mainstream media heaved a collective sigh of relief. Some headlines:
Richmond Times-Dispatch: “Gun-Rights Rally Draws 22,000 to Capitol; No Violence.”
Richmond Times-Dispatch: “No Violence as Thousands with Firearms Gathered
Washington Post: Weapons, Flags, No Violence: Massive Pro-Gun Rally in Virginia Capitol.”
Associated Press: “Pro-Gun Rally by Thousands in Richmond Ends Peacefully.”
Urban journalists and other progressives never cease to be amazed when law-abiding rural rustics with guns are, well… law-abiding. The media — especially the Washington Post — had fanned fears that the event would be disrupted by armed militias, Neo-Nazis and white supremacists. Continue reading
The Heights, a $100 million school in Arlington County, co-locates a “democratic alternative magnet” program and a program for students with severe intellectual disabilities, according to School Construction News. It comes equipped with a lobby/gathering space, a theater, a gymnasium, rooftop terraces, and smart panel screens. Wildly extravagant, yes. But, in all fairness, no one else in Virginia is building schools like this.
by James A. Bacon
Some public schools in Virginia, especially in inner cities and rural areas, are in disgraceful condition. Rainwater leaks into classrooms, ceiling tiles are falling, mold is growing, and rats are scurrying. We can all agree that something needs to be done. But what? How widespread are these problems? Are they so ubiquitous that the state should step in?
Sen. Bill Stanley, R-Franklin County, thinks so. “We have a constitutional obligation to provide high-quality education to every child, regardless of their ZIP code or financial situation in life,” he says. Sen. Jennifer McClellan, D-Richmond seems to agree. “We ought to be able to figure out a way to do better for our children and teachers.” So reports the Roanoke Times.
To lawmakers, finding a better way almost always translates into providing mo’ money. Schools crumbling? Give localities more money to pay for repairs, renovations and new construction. And maybe mo ‘money is what’s needed. But maybe not. Given legislators’ Pavlovian response to any problem — spend more money — citizens should insist that legislators examine the possibility that maybe, just maybe, there are other ways to deal with the phenomenon of crumbling schools. Continue reading
In the Virginia political world, everyone’s attention is riveted today upon the gun-rights rally in Richmond. We are all hoping that everyone behaves himself and the event remains peaceful. But other things of interest are happening around the Commonwealth.
Washington Metro ridership back up. The years-long downward slide in Washington Metro ridership reversed itself in 2019, increasing 4% over the previous year — about 20,000 trips per weekday on average, according to the Washington Post. One possible explanation for the turn-around: People now can use their cell phones as fare cards. Also, Metro now offers a money-back guarantee that credits riders whenever a rush-hour trip is delayed more than 10 minutes. The greatest growth occurred in Saturdays and Sundays. Metrobus ridership continues its steep fall, down 2.5% last year. But it’s encouraging to see that the Metro, after years of effort to improve safety and on-time performance, may be pulling out of its slump.
Cherokees will have skin in the game. With the surge in proposals by Indian tribes to build casinos in Virginia, a central question I have been asking is what value the tribes are providing. Do they contribute anything beyond bartering their privileged status as a federally designated tribe? Are outside investors doing all the work and taking all the risk? Or do the tribes actually have skin in the game? Well, in the case of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, which is proposing a resort and hotel in Bristol, it appears that the tribe is willing to invest $200 million of its own money. The Bristol Herald-Courier quotes tribe chief Richard Sneed: “Looking at the potential customer base and what the market would support, we’re estimating about a $200 million investment. The Eastern Band could come in covering the full cost of the investment as an owner operator.”
Well, there’s always home school. The culture wars in Loudoun County public schools are roiling around the appropriateness of LGBTQ literature in elementary school libraries and classrooms. Should public schools being legitimizing gay relationships and trans-sexual identity as early as elementary school (or at all)? Many parents, especially those of a fundamentalist Christian persuasion, object to books they consider “leftist propaganda” and “moral corruption”? Said one parent, according to the Washington Post: “They’ve removed everything with a Christian influence … and replaced it with smut and porn.” In a nation with irreconcilable value systems, this kind of conflict seems inevitable in public schools. Perhaps the best way to deal with the conflict is to let the majority’s values prevail (in this case, those who promote the LGBTQ agenda) while making it easier for those with minority views to opt out of the system, either through private school or home schooling.
Sen. Amanda Chase
by James A. Bacon
The gears are moving for the Second Amendment rally at the state Capitol scheduled for tomorrow. Buses are loading up with protesters. Law enforcement authorities are planning their crowd-control measures. Despite professions of everyone in charge that they want the event to take place peacefully, there are many disquieting signs. The most disturbing indicator, of course, was the arrest of three far-right extremists Thursday on allegations that they were planning to instigate violence.
But gun-rights sympathizers are arguing that Governor Ralph Northam is going to excessive lengths to maintain security. Not only has he prohibited protesters from carrying weapons on the Capitol grounds, they say security forces have erected heavy fencing around the Capitol and plan to limit admission to the area through a single entrance.
The gun-rights crowd is not responding well. State Sen. Amanda Chase, R-Chesterfield, has suggested on her Facebook page that protesters are “being set up.” With the assistance of the media, she said, Northam has laid the groundwork “to make the entire movement look like insurrection.” Continue reading
by James A. Bacon
The Internet, pundits long predicted, would emancipate people from the necessity of living near where they worked. The connectivity provided by cell phones, laptops and broadband would allow people to plug in at home…. or even while lounging by the pool or on the beach. It was a nice fantasy, but telecommuting never lived up to its potential. Far from freeing people to live in the bucolic countryside, the logic of the Knowledge Economy impelled more people to the city. A new theory emerged: that the clustering of knowledge workers led to such huge gains in productivity and innovation that it outweighed any lifestyle benefits to telecommuting long distances. The bigger the labor market, the greater the pull.
Now Hamilton Lombard, a demographer at the University of Virginia’s Demographics Research Group, has been so bold as to suggest the dynamic might be shifting again. New Census Bureau data, he writes in the StatChat blog, suggest that over the past three years “the places Americans chose to live are becoming less connected to where their employer is based.”
What’s different all of a sudden? Perhaps the tighter labor market. Lombard suggests. As certain sectors of the economy experience labor shortages, employees have more bargaining power. He doesn’t say this, but I’ll throw it out there for consideration: Instead of pushing for higher wages, perhaps more people are using that bargaining power for more control over their work-life balance.
Whatever the reason, the impact of the increasing work-from-home phenomenon is potentially profound. Outside of Virginia’s major metro areas themselves, the regions that seem particularly effected are the Shenandoah Valley and the Chesapeake Bay. Continue reading
by James A. Bacon
No question: The Holocaust was one of the defining events of modern history. An estimated six million Jews and five million others (Poles and Roma, mostly) died under the Nazi regime’s genocidal programs. No question: Ignorance of the Holocaust among American youth is startling and dismaying. A 2018 survey of Millennials found that 66% could not identify the Auschwitz death camp. No question: Virginia schools need to incorporate teaching of the Holocaust and other genocides into their history curricula.
But does Virginia really need a Holocaust and Genocide Advisory Committee?
Does Virginia really need to develop, as called for in HB 916, a “robust model curriculum and teacher training module” to provide instruction on the Holocaust and other historical genocides for the purpose of providing “anti-bias education for public school students in the Commonwealth?”
Under the bill introduced by Del. Mark Sickles, D-Alexandria, the Advisory Committee would go beyond just teaching about the Holocaust. He envisions a broader initiative in which case studies and instructional lessons in public schools would explore the Holocaust and other genocides “in the context of how lower levels of hate, ridicule, and dehumanization” led to wider acts of violence. Anti-bias education also would provide “tools for responding to different forms of racism, bigotry and discrimination,” and explore “slavery and other forms of historical dehumanizing injustice.”
Wow. I guess Virginia’s public schools aren’t politically correct enough. Now we need a formal program of indoctrination in which legislators not only dictate which subjects to teach but how to teach them. Continue reading
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
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
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.