Tag Archives: Liberty Unyielding blog

Virginia Budget Amendment Could Lead to Lawsuits Seeking Many Inmates’ Release

from Liberty Unyielding

On February 22, Virginia’s progressive House of Delegates removed language from the state’s proposed budget that limited early releases of inmates who committed both violent and non-violent offenses. It removed that language in a 53-to-44 vote, then passed the House’s version of the state budget by a 75-to-24 vote.

If the final state budget also lacks this language, it will be argued that the affected inmates are entitled to be released earlier, including at least 500 of them this year, and thousands more in the years to come. In 2023, the Virginia Mercury reported that 8,000 offenders in Virginia prisons are there for a combination of violent and non-violent offenses, and thus would be effected by this sort of provision.

This provision would allow the affected inmates to benefit from a 2020 law passed by Democrats that released many non-violent inmates earlier by dramatically expanding time off inmates’ sentences for avoiding major prison infractions and participating in prison programs. This time off is known as “earned sentence credits.” Affected inmates who previously received 4.5 days off their sentence for every 30 days they largely complied with prison rules instead got 15 days off . Effectively, this shrank their period of incarceration by nearly a quarter from what they otherwise would have served. Prisons have been emptied as a result: Virginia recently announced plans to close four state prisons in 2024.

Continue reading

Progressive Legislators Declare “Profound Solidarity” with Criminals

from the Liberty Unyielding blog

Killings and violence have risen in the U.S. over the last decade, as some government officials have come to sympathize more with criminals than their victims. The Virginia Legislative Black Caucus recently said it is “in profound solidarity” with Virginia’s prison population, and that its members “work to dismantle the unjust criminal system.” They said the criminal-justice system has the “role of dehumanizing, abusing and punishing Black America.”

Thirty-two of Virginia’s 140 state legislators belong to the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus, including the speaker of Virginia’s House of Delegates, Don Scott; the president pro tempore of the state Senate, Louise Lucas; the head of the House Appropriations Committee; and the head of the Senate Rules Committee.

On February 14, the VLBC issued a statement that began:

The Virginia Legislative Black Caucus (VLBC) remains in profound solidarity with the 122,500 Virginians who are actively trapped in our state’s criminal justice system, nearly half of whom are Black. When slavery was abolished by the 13th Amendment, it was qualified with “except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted.” With that, mass incarceration was born and the criminal justice system absorbed the role of dehumanizing, abusing and punishing Black America. Continue reading

General Assembly Committees Approve Bill That Would Allow Even Serial Killers to Seek Release

from Liberty Unyielding

When Virginia abolished the death penalty in 2021, Virginians were assured it wasn’t needed, because the worst killers could be given life sentences without the possibility of parole.

But now, even the worst killers could eventually be released. Committees in Virginia’s Democratic-controlled legislature have approved bills to allow all inmates serving long sentences to seek release after specified periods — even serial killers and others who committed aggravated murders who once would have been eligible for the death penalty. HB 834 and SB 427, known as the “second look” bills, have been amended to create three tiers for release. Most inmates could seek release after 15 years, while those who commit the most serious offenses would have to wait 20 years or 25 years, depending on their offense.

For Virginia inmates whose prison sentences are shorter than 15 years, this legislation would change nothing. Most rapists who are first-time offenders, and many second-degree murderers, receive sentences of less than 15 years to begin with.

But for serial killers and others who commit aggravated murders who are serving a sentence of life without parole, the passage of this “second look” legislation would be a big change. It could give them even more than parole. Inmates released on parole are subject to the supervision of a parole officer, and if they misbehave or evade oversight, they can be sent back to prison for a long time. By contrast, an inmate who has been released under the “second look” legislation lacks these guardrails, and is not accountable to a parole officer, because his release marks the end of his sentence. Continue reading

Virginia Legislation Would Define Raising Rent to Keep Pace with Inflation as ‘Rent Gouging’

from the Liberty Unyielding blog

Raising rent to keep up with inflation isn’t what most people would consider “rent gouging,” even when the landlord has to increase rent by more than 7%. For example, Washington, DC’s rent control board allowed landlords to raise rents on most tenants 8.9% in 2023, to compensate for the 6.9% inflation in Washington, DC that occurred in the previous year. But pending bills in Virginia’s legislature would allow local governments to adopt “anti-rent gouging” ordinances, that would define raising rent by more than the lesser of 7%, or inflation, as illegal “rent gouging.”

The legislation states that once a local government has adopted “anti-rent gouging provisions,” it “shall prohibit any rent increase … of more than the locality’s annual anti-rent gouging allowance,” defined as the “percentage increase in the Consumer Price Index...or seven percent, whichever is less.” So if inflation is 8% — as it was nationally in 2022 — the landlord can only raise rent by 7%, at most. And the landlord might not be allowed any inflation adjustment at all, because under the legislation, a local government “may” — not must — “allow rent increases” to compensate for inflation.

So landlords will become poorer and poorer due to inflation under the ordinances authorized by the legislation.

This seems unfair. Why shouldn’t landlords be able to raise rent to keep pace with inflation? Most tenants get pay raises or cost-of-living increases to compensate for inflation. American workers’ wages grew faster than inflation in most of the past decade, and over the cumulative ten-year period. Federal workers commonly get pay raises to offset inflation. Retirees get annual increases in their social security payments based on cost-of-living adjustments. With their increased wages, tenants should be able to pay rent that rises with inflation. But under the legislation, they could avoid doing so, and pay less than the market rate.

Effectively, this legislation would allow local governments to adopt very harsh rent control. Currently, Virginia does not have any rent control laws, either at the local government level, or at the state level. Like most states, Virginia has viewed rent control as a bad idea. Thirty-three states preempt local governments from adopting rent regulation laws.

But this legislation — which is pending in both houses of Virginia’s legislature as HB 721 and SB 366 — would for the first time give local governments in Virginia the power to impose rent control. Continue reading

Virginia Bill Would Redefine Revenge Porn to Include Non-Porn, Making It Easier to Prosecute Politicians’ Critics

Susanna Gibson

by Hans Bader

Virginia’s revenge-porn law may soon be expanded to punish people for posting embarrassing, revealing images of public figures, such as politicians, if Virginia’s legislature approves HB 926. Doing so would violate the First Amendment, and invite lawsuits by civil-liberties groups like the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression or the Institute for Justice.

In 2023, the media and blogs covered the fact that a Democratic legislative candidate performed live sex acts on the pornographic web site Chaturbate. That information was leaked to the media, including The Washington Post. Blogs posted images of the candidate showing that she was undressed, but not showing her private parts or anything pornographic. The candidate, Susanna Gibson, lost a close race for the Virginia House of Delegates, but not before arguing that the leak of her porn to the general public was a “sex crime” for which people should be prosecuted under Virginia’s revenge porn statute. “Daniel P. Watkins, a lawyer for Gibson, said disseminating the videos constitutes a violation of the state’s revenge porn law, which makes it a Class 1 misdemeanor to ‘maliciously’ distribute nude or sexual images of another person with ‘intent to coerce, harass, or intimidate.’” But no prosecution was ever brought, perhaps because doing so would violate the First Amendment, and because it might be hard to prove the leak was done with the “intent to coerce, harass, or intimidate,” as opposed to educating voters about a candidate’s past.

Now, Delegate Irene Shin (D-Herndon) wants to rewrite the revenge porn statute so broadly that prosecutors will be able to prosecute not just the leaker, but also bloggers or journalists who posted publicly available images of Gibson showing that she was in a state of undress during her performances at Chaturbate. Continue reading

Democrats, Judges, and Higher Taxes

from Liberty Unyielding 

For generations, Washington State had no state income tax, because of anti-income tax provisions in its state constitution. But the Washington state supreme court recently upheld a classic example of an income tax — a state tax on income from capital gains — by making the absurd argument that a capital gains tax is an “excise tax,” not an income tax. That was nonsense. The IRS and all other states deem capital-gains taxes to be income taxes, because they are levied on the amount of income you make from selling an asset, such as shares of stock or the sale of your home. The state supreme court could not deny this, and seems to have been motivated by racial, rather than legal, considerations, in reaching its ruling. It claimed that Washington’s traditional tax system “perpetuates systemic racism by placing a disproportionate tax burden on BIPOC residents,” who pay a higher fraction of sales taxes than of income or capital gains taxes.

As broadcaster Jason Rantz notes, the state supreme court’s opinion “doesn’t read like a Court decision, but a press release from a pro-tax, anti-capitalist Seattle activist group. But that’s what the Washington State Supreme Court has become.” The state supreme court’s 7-to-2 ruling is in tension with the fact that, as the tax consulting firm RSM notes, “the IRS defines capital gains as income and the Washington capital gains tax relies on federal income tax reporting.”

If other state supreme courts similarly redefine income taxes as excise taxes, that could weaken tax limits contained in other states’ laws, such as Virginia law’s ban on income taxes levied by cities and counties. This Tuesday, Virginia is holding legislative elections. Virginia’s legislature picks the state’s judges, and Democrats are slightly favored to take control of the state legislature. When they last controlled the Virginia legislature, the Democrats expanded and packed the Virginia Court of Appeals. But the Virginia supreme court currently is split 4-to-3 in favor of Republicans. Residents of northern Virginia pay 3.2% less of their income in taxes than residents of neighboring counties in Maryland, because Maryland permits county income taxes, and Virginia doesn’t.

If Democrats win the Virginia elections Tuesday, they could pick judges who uphold taxes at odds with the state constitution. Continue reading

Democratic General Assembly Would Be Much Softer on Crime

from Liberty Unyielding 

Democrats are slightly favored to win control of Virginia’s legislature in this year’s election, although the election will be very close. If they take over, the legislature will become much softer on crime than it is now, because incoming Democratic leaders are more left-wing than their mainstream liberal predecessors. For example, if Democrats win control of the House of Delegates, the speaker of the House will be Democratic leader Don Scott, a convicted felon, not his mainstream liberal predecessor, Eileen Filler-Corn.

Back in 2020, Don Scott proposed radical legislation that would release dangerous criminals from prison, even if prison and parole officials had proof of their continuing danger to society. It failed to pass back then, because Scott was a junior legislator, and Democrats were more mainstream liberal, and less left-wing, than they are now. The only moderate Democrats in the Virginia legislature are either retiring — such as state Senator Lynwood Lewis — or were defeated in the Spring 2023 Democratic primary. Some mainstream liberals are also leaving the legislature. George Barker was defeated in a primary by a candidate to his left, and Senate Majority Leader Richard Saslaw is retiring.

Scott’s legislation in 2020 was very bad, and at odds with public safety. If he becomes House Speaker, he might be able to use his power to get his fellow Democrats to pass it. Then, he could hold Republican Governor Youngkin’s priorities hostage unless Youngkin allows such legislation to become law. For example, Scott could get Democrats to block the governor’s appointments. The Virginia Senate only approved Governor Youngkin’s appointment of Bert Ellis to the University of Virginia Board of Visitors because the Senate’s two moderate Democrats voted along with Republicans to confirm him. Both of those Democrats are leaving the legislature after this year. The House of Delegates can also block appointments to many posts in Virginia. Continue reading

The High Stakes in Virginia’s Very Close Nov. 7 Election

from Liberty Unyielding

Virginia is holding a very close election. The last day to vote is on Tuesday, November 7. If you live in Virginia, you can also vote early, at specified locations, on Monday through Friday, from September 22 to November 3, or on Saturday, October 28 or November 4.

Voters are almost evenly split between Republicans and Democrats. A recent Washington Post poll shows that 47% of likely voters prefer the Democrats, while 45% of likely voters prefer the Republicans.

Republicans and Democrats are tied on the generic ballot, according to recent polls for Cygnal and Yahoo News.

A Founder’s Insight poll shows 45% of Virginia voters plan to vote for the Democrats, and 44% plan to vote for Republicans. A poll by Coefficient shows 41% Virginians plan to vote for the Democrats, while 40% plan to vote for the Republicans.

Control of Virginia’s legislature could be decided by a single vote, like yours if you live in Virginia. In 2017, the pivotal legislative race in Virginia was decided by a coin toss to break a tie, after two candidates got the same number of votes in Virginia’s 94th district. The Republican candidate won that coin toss. His win in that race gave Republicans control of the House of Delegates by a narrow 51-to-49 margin.

The election results may determine whether Virginia cuts taxes or instead raises government spending at a rapid clip. Virginia has a Republican governor, Glenn Youngkin, but the legislature is split between a Democratic-controlled state Senate and a Republican-controlled House of Delegates. The Democratic-controlled Senate has blocked most of the governor’s proposed tax cuts, but it did grudgingly agree to repeal most of the state sales tax on groceries, reducing it from 2.5% to 1%.  Governor Youngkin and Republicans would like to fully eliminatethe grocery tax, while Democrats want to keep the tax so they can spend more taxpayer money. Continue reading

The Benefits of School Choice and the Risks in the November Elections

from Liberty Unyielding

The debate over school choice has tended to focus on whether students learn more as a result. But learning improvements from school choice are probably smaller than improvements in other dimensions, such as civic participation, law abidingness, and family stability later in life. Jason Bedrick of The Heritage Foundation notes that “School-choice policies even appear to foster law-abidingness and self-governance. A study by @P_Diddy Wolf & @Corey_DeAngelis found that students participating in Milwaukee’s school choice program saw significant reductions in criminal convictions & paternity suits.” Perhaps private schools have the ability to instill values in ways that the public schools do not.

“When it comes to civic knowledge and skills, 10 studies find a private-school advantage, six find no difference, and none find a government-school advantage,” Bedrick points out. “Some claim government schools are where people of all different backgrounds learn to live and work together. Yet, in the research on political tolerance—a virtue our nation needs direly today—show a 13-1 advantage for school choice over government schooling.”

In the public schools, “Teaching students a historically accurate understanding of our nation’s founding and the role of government is not a priority. Instead, instructional content too often centers on social justice, ethnic studies, and Marxist-inspired Critical Race Theory,” Bedrick says.

Since private schools spend less per student on average than the public schools, school choice also has the potential to save taxpayers a lot of money over the long run. Continue reading

A Progressive Dirty Trick: Tell Republican Voters that the Democrat is a Republican

by the staff of Liberty Unyielding

Voting is underway in Virginia’s legislative elections, where early voting started on September 22. To try to win a very close race, progressives are telling Republican voters that the Republican candidate is a Democrat, and the Democratic candidate is a Republican. This is occurring in House District 97, which the Virginia Public Access Project rates as one of Virginia’s most “competitive” legislative districts.

The progressive Policy Information Center sent mail to Republican voters in the district telling them that the Republican incumbent, Karen Greenhalgh, is a Democrat, and that Michael Feggans, the Democratic candidate, is a Republican. Here is an image of the mail that was sent:

The Policy Information Center is a facade for Forward Majority, a progressive PAC that claims that “Our democracy is in crisis” because of a “systematic assault” by the “GOP.”

Pundits such as Chaz Nuttycombe say the race in House District 97 is too close to call. Nuttycombe says the Virginia Beach seat is one of three House seats that is a “toss-up.” Continue reading

Sex, Lies and Virginia Law: The Susanna Gibson Case

Susanna Gibson, Democratic nominee for the 57th District seat in the Virginia House of Delegates.

Republished with permission from the Liberty Unyielding blog.

“Susanna Gibson, a House candidate in Virginia, had sex with her husband in live videos posted online and asked viewers to pay them money in return,” notes USA Today. A recent video shows the Democratic candidate for Virginia’s House of Delegates doing sex acts. She allegedly also had sex with other people, not just her husband. Continue reading