Since we have been discussing manufacturing in Virginia, I want to take the opportunity to recommend this wonderful book. It is the story of how one man fought to maintain his manufacturing operation in Virginia. While the main focus of the story is the problem of Chinese subsidization of companies that were competing with Virginia furniture manufacturers, the story does illuminate many of the other problems facing manufacturers in rural Virginia. In addition, for long-time observers and students of Virginia politics and history, the story of the interlocking family operations- Bassetts, Stanleys, Vaughans, and Lanes–that comprised furniture making in Southside Virginia in the 20th century, is fascinating. (I just discovered to my chagrin that Jim Bacon had a long post several years ago about this book. Regardless of my neglecting to check BR history, it does rate a second recommendation.)
The subject of Macy’s book, John Bassett, III, has published his own book on how manufacturers can continue to succeed in America. I have not read this one, but, based on his success, he needs to be taken seriously.
In 2016, Keith Harward was released from Virginia’s prisons after serving 33 years for a crime he did not commit.
Harward was convicted of a 1982 rape and murder largely on the basis of the testimony of forensic dentists that bite marks on the victim matched his teeth. Many years later, following improvements in DNA testing methods, analysis of evidence left at the crime scene excluded Harward as the perpetrator.
The use of bite marks and other traditional evidence such as hair analysis has been largely discredited as being unreliable and having little scientific basis by both the National Academy of Sciences (here) and by the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (here). In addition, the current guidelines of the professional governing body for forensic dentists recommends the use of bite mark evidence only for exculpatory purposes (here).
Virginia rules for the introduction of new evidence after a person has been found guilty of a crime are among the strictest in the nation. Generally, a convicted person has only 21 days following the entry of a final order by the court to bring forward new evidence supporting his or her innocence. There are two exceptions. If there is new evidence that was unknown or unavailable at the trial, the convicted person may petition the Court of Appeals to consider that evidence and set aside the finding of guilty. However, the bar is high for anyone to use this avenue. The other exception relates to previously unknown or untested “human biological evidence”, i.e. DNA testing. Upon learning the results of such testing, the convicted person may petition the Virginia Supreme Court for a writ of actual innocence. Again, the conditions under which such a writ can be granted are strict. Failing to succeed with, or qualify for, these methods, the convicted person may petition the Governor for a pardon. Continue reading
I am pleased to announce that Richard W. “Dick” Hall-Sizemore has joined the stable of semi-regular contributors to Bacon’s Rebellion. Dick has haunted the halls of Capitol Square for some 40 years, first as a legislative aide, then as a local government lobbyist, and in the past 25 years as a policy analyst with the Department of Planning and Budget. His knowledge of Virginia’s public policy issues has few parallels. He knows where the bodies — bodies of data, that is — are buried within the Labyrinth of Virginia’s state bureaucracy, and he has keen analytical abilities, which were on display in guest columns on this blog.
Dick shares Bacon’s Rebellion’s passion for probing deeper than the sound bites that dominate our political discourse and for engaging in a civil dialogue. Although his views are more centrist than other prominent voices on this blog (well, mine anyway), we welcome reasoned perspectives different from ours, and we look forward to hearing what he has to say. Continue reading
The rule maker, Senate Majority Leader Tommy Norment, gets to decide the exceptions to the rule.
by Richard Hall-Sizemore
In 2014, Sen. Philip Puckett, a Democrat from far Southwest Virginia, was in a quandary. His daughter was vying for a juvenile and domestic relations court judgeship, to which she had already been appointed as a substitute judge. However, Republicans in the Senate, led by Sen. Tommy Norment, R-James City, were holding up her election, not based on any objection to her qualifications, but because of a tradition of not supporting family members of sitting Senators for judgeships.
Fast forward to 2019. Until yesterday there was a vacancy pending on the Virginia Supreme Court. A Republican senator from far Southwest Virginia is, according to newspaper reports, lobbied his fellow senators to elect his sister, currently a member of the Virginia Court of Appeals, to the higher post. Norment said that situation was different because the senator’s sister had already been elected to a judgeship before her brother had been elected to the Senate. Continue reading
by Richard Hall-Sizemore
Virginia has made another “top-10 in the nation” list. But this one is not one to be celebrated. Last spring, using national eviction data, researchers at Princeton University released eviction rate rankings of large cities in the United States. Cities in Virginia comprised five of the ten cities with the highest eviction rates. Those were Richmond (2), Hampton (3), Newport News (4), Norfolk (6), and Chesapeake (10). By going down a little further on the list to no. 15, one would find a sixth Virginia city, Virginia Beach.
These findings sparked a flurry of activity and commentary in the Richmond area, including Bacon’s Rebellion. The Center for Urban and Regional Analysis of VCU’s Wilder School set up a program, RVA Eviction Lab, similar to the Princeton program that produced the national report, to examine issues related to eviction in Richmond and has recently released a series of reports.
Perhaps most significantly, the General Assembly and the Governor have swung into action. Shortly after the Princeton report was issued, the Virginia Housing Commission took up the issue. The Housing Commission is one of those permanent legislative bodies established by the Code of Virginia for examination of specific areas. Its membership is drawn from both houses of the General Assembly. The commission recommended legislation dealing with about six primary issues. Those bills were introduced in both houses with a bipartisan set of chief patrons. So far, most of the bills have encountered no opposition, having been passed unanimously by the original houses in either their original or amended forms. Continue reading
by Richard W. Hall-Sizemore
The recent news that the General Assembly may not confirm Governor Ralph Northam’s appointment for director of the Department of Professional and Occupational Regulation (DPOR) triggered one of my longstanding complaints. It is not about Jay DeBoer, the beleaguered appointee; I know nothing about his record as director of this agency. My beef is with the agency itself and its role.
The legislative battles over occupational licensing are carried out largely out of view of the public; they do not generate headlines. Furthermore, after the legislative battles are over, the battles over the details, i.e. the regulations, are carried out even further removed from public scrutiny, although they are open to anyone in the public who is willing to put in the time to participate. As arcane as these activities are, they can affect the public greatly. Continue reading