By Peter Galuszka

The Mother of Presidents is back at it again.

Through some legal quirk — typical for the Old Dominion — only Mitt Romney and Ron Paul will be on the ballot for the March 6 Republican primary. Newt Gingrich and Rick Perry did not meet the state’s onerous requirement for 10,000 petition signatures including 400 from each of the state’s 11 congressional districts to get on the ballot.

Readers know that I am not generally sympathetic to Republican causes, but what’s happened to Gingrich and Perry is downright idiotic. Virginia is the only state that has such tough primary qualification rules. Indiana is the next strictest, which requires only 4,500 signatures.

Consider some of Virginia’s other strange laws and requirements. We are the only state in the nation that limits its governor to one term, meaning that Virginia only gets maybe three years max work out of a governor’s four-year term. By Year Three, the politician’s mind is already focused on what’s next.

During the Jim Crow era, Virginia was a legislative leader in racism. That wasn’t unusual for the South but the racism seemed to linger very long. Until it was struck down in the late 1960s, a state law made it a felony for a white person to marry an African-American so as to preserve racial purity.

Other bad ideas abound. Luckily, some don’t get to law. One absurd proposal a few years ago would have regulated how low someone could wear his or her pants and how much underwear could be displayed. Legislator Terry Kilgore is the master of strange-O laws. He’s proposed, for instance, tax breaks for people who have their cremated remains blasted into outer space from a commercial spaceport on Wallops Island.

The political nonsense continues with another oddity. Voters participating in the Republican primary are supposed to sign a “loyalty oath” that they will vote for whomever ends up running as the Republican presidential candidate. Wasn’t Virginia supposed to have been the Mother of the Bill of Rights? Besides being unconstitutional, the idea is also downright dumb. How can they enforce it?

Atty. Gen Kenneth Cuccinelli, who is running for governor in 2013 against the plans of the ruling state Republican Politburo, at first said he would try emergency legislative proposals to untie the mess. Then, however, he went along with the GOP Establishment and said that changing laws midstream would somehow be unfair to Romney and Paul. Go figure.

Legislative idiocy has been part of the state’s make-up for far too long. They make Virginians seem like Cooter of the Dukes of Hazzard. With all the state has going for it, one wonders why this nonsense just doesn’t go away.

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20 responses to “Virginia: Mother of Bad Ideas”

  1. Canny Voter Avatar
    Canny Voter

    This “legal quirk” is no small deal! It is designed to keep non establishment candidates of the ballot. In this case underfunded and under organized mainstream candidates got caught in it. Tough @^!$ !! I do not support these ballot restrictions, but this eagerness to push for waiving them for establishment candidates while keeping them in place to keep out others is nothing short of shameful.

  2. Never could figure out why Gingrich and Perry went through RPV to certify their signatures. Couldn’t they have just turned them in to to the State Board of Elections and let them worry about it?

  3. I have heard from both Democratic and Republican friends that much of the primary and convention foolishness that occurs in the state stems from the lack of party registration and the open primary. Why not amend the election laws and permit party registration? Then the Democratic primary can be for registered Democrats and the GOP primary can be for registered Republicans. It makes no sense that we the people need suffer through this foolishness year after year.

  4. Darrell Avatar

    I’ve pretty much decided to sit this one out. I can’t name one candidate worth voting for.

  5. Peter and Groveton pretty much have Virginia pegged. The original founders of Va never did trust ordinary people to make good decisions and that included running counties and cities and the vestiges of that mindset still reek.

    Va remains one of the most onerous Dillon Rule states – so restrictive that Dillon Rule Maryland is often considered “home rule” in comparison to how Md counties can operate verses Va counties.

    This extends to letting people initiate referenda and recall of elected.

    so it’s not surprising at all that in a state where no number of signatures can kick off a referenda that a mere 10,000 is required to let “outsiders” run for election.

    The gentry in Va still rule.

    in terms of sitting out this Presidential election – I’m sure Obama would love that! 🙂

    The Republican Party has been hijacked by the right and the resulting process of finding a nominee via a “how wacko can you be litmus test” is bearing fruit out the wazoo.

    If Richmond is a Clown Show then the RPV and national is the Mother of all Clown shows.

  6. Groveton Avatar

    It just keeps going …

    39 of the 42 independent cities in the country

    state elections which are offset from national elections by one year

    a law giving counties with under 100 sq mi vastly more in per lane mile road maintenance funds than counties with an area over 100 sq mi (when they maintain their own roads)

    the use of lane miles to allocate road maintenance funds

    an education funding formula which is understood only by those who abuse it

    a personhood bill which is proposed by a rabid anti-abortionist but which has “nothing to do with abortion”

  7. Vince Callahan once told me that the constitutional convention (late 1960s) had proposed to abolish or, at least, weaken substantially the Dillon Rule, but most counties, including Fairfax, did not want to get rid of the rule. The Dillon Rule is a great excuse for local officials to screw their constituents and blame Richmond. Moreover, counties generally have greater authority than they are willing to exercise. Supervisors often claim they cannot do X because of the Dillon Rule when state law allows them to do X.
    The biggest political problem with the education funding formula is that it benefits some local jurisdictions, e.g., Prince William County, so that it is impossible to form a coalition strong enough to pass changes. Finally, NoVA elects too many liberals who will gladly vote for higher taxes at the state level irrespective of the impacts on their local constituents. NoVA causes most of its own problems.

  8. Groveton Avatar

    The late 1960s? Seriously TMT? You are going back to the late 1960s to defend Virginia’s draconian Dillon’s Rule? The late 1960s – that would be about the same time that the Clown Show was supporting “dual attendance zones” in Richmond public schools in an effort to prolong massive resistance under a new name. And why was the 1970 constitutional convention called? An open-minded effort at reform by the Clown Show? No. Virginia was dragged kicking and screaming by the federal government to abolish the overtly racist 1902 constitution with its poll taxes, etc.

    These are your heroes in Richmond, TMT.

    The biggest problem with the education funding formula is that it is a product of the corrupt Clown Show in Richmond. And like every other creation of that circus act, it is designed to opaquely move money from one place to another with no accountability or overall logic.

    Richmond is as bad for the citizens of Virginia as Washington, DC is for the citizens of America. In fact, given such abortions of common sense as Dillon’s Rule and unlimited campaign contributions – I’d say worse.

  9. Groveton, my point is there was a legitmate opportunity to get rid of the strong Dillion Rule that was rejected. Had counties taken a different position, presumably we would have a different Virginia today, good, bad or indifferent. Let’s now move to today.
    Here’s is Fairfax County’s current position on the Dillion Rule. “Each level of government has unique strengths. However, as a Dillon Rule state, local
    governments in Virginia are significantly restricted in their authority, which impedes the ability of localities to react quickly and efficiently to emerging problems. In many instances, an overemphasis on statewide uniformity does not adequately consider the particular issues experienced in growing and urbanizing localities in Northern Virginia. At a minimum, the state
    should empower localities to solve their own problems, by providing increased authority or discretion for services that have no compelling priority or impact for the Commonwealth, thus eliminating the need to seek permission for ministerial matters from the General Assembly each
    year. (New position; incorporates previous positions on retention of taxation and land use authority.)”
    I just searched the GA’s legislative data base. There are no bills introduced that have any reference to Dillon Rule or home rule. Where are the legislators from Fairfax County? If the County cannot persuade any local legislators to carry the County’s water, what does that say? Is the BoS out of touch? Is the legislative position for show? I do think that one of the biggest reasons why home rule legislation goes no where is business opposes most every increase in local power. Here’s what the Fairfax Chamber says about the Dillon Rule.
    “ISSUE: DILLON RULE Position: The Fairfax County Chamber of Commerce fully supports the Commonwealth’s present system wherein localities cannot increase their powers without specific authority from the General Assembly. Further, we encourage the General Assembly to acknowledge the unique landscape of Northern Virginia by providing Virginia’s urban communities the tools necessary to operate efficiently.
    “Rationale: The vibrant business community of Northern Virginia directly affects the Commonwealth of Virginia’s future economic vitality. Therefore, keeping businesses in Northern Virginia – specifically government contractors – competitive is critical to Virginia’s economy.
    “As Northern Virginia continues to grow and demographics change, new strategies for managing that growth must be implemented. The Chamber has historically played a leadership role in shaping those policies and will continue to support Transit-Oriented-Development (TOD) as a primary growth strategy for sustaining economic vitality, protecting neighborhoods, and preserving green space in Fairfax County.
    “Land use policies that support the intelligent development of Tysons Corner and Central Springfield as vibrant and livable urban communities are clearly in the best interests of the greater Fairfax County community. Density and mixed-use development are vital to managing the growth in Fairfax County and maximizing the benefits of mass transit. Administration of land use reviews must reflect these new policies and timely reviews are critical to realizing the development the County requires.”
    Indeed, the Chamber even opposes any local government approval for tolls on the Dulles Toll Road. Jim Corcoran has become a whore for the Tysons landowners and Bechtel.

  10. I would like to point out / ask, in fairness what would happen to education in Virginia without the SOQ as well as the “Chapter” money from the Feds for at risk kids?

    It’s one thing to rail against the “formula” but it’s quite another to be opposed to the concept of state-level SOQs.

    this is not a trivial thing as K-12 education costs are a huge part of locally-generated tax revenues as well as state tax revenues.

    What we hear from some is that we should do away with State and Federal involvement in Education and let parents decide how to educate their kids.

    or.. the cynical but hypocritical idea that we take tax money from people to give to parents to then spend the way they see fit on their kids education.

    this is in my mind AS significant an issue as Dillon and Transportation.

    I agree with TMT on Transportation. Land use decisions have transportation infrastructure consequences and when you’ve separated the land-use decision from how the transportation infrastructure is impacted – you’ve set up a system that in not accountable and it’s even less so when the way the funding works is as transparent as a cow pie.

  11. Groveton Avatar


    Searching the legislative data base for “Dillon’s Rule” is as futile as searching for “wealth gap”. Legislation affecting Dillon’s Rule would be unlikely to be explicitly labeled as the “anti – Dillon’s Rule law”.

    As far as Vince Callahan, I became interested in Virginia politics after hearing him whine like a little girl about the way Dillon’s Rule tied his hands and prevented him from actually representing his constituents. The man was a walking excuse factory. No wonder he has an excuse as to why he didn’t represent his constituents back in the late 1960s as the latest Virginia constitution was being written. Callahan acts like all these “other people” were involved. He ran for Lieutenant Governor in 1965. He was right there. However, he was another lifetime politician blaming Richmond in NoVa and NoVa in Richmond.

    As far as the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, I think their position is well articulated ….

    “However, as a Dillon Rule state, local governments in Virginia are significantly restricted in their authority, which impedes the ability of localities to react quickly and efficiently to emerging problems. In many instances, an overemphasis on statewide uniformity does not adequately consider the particular issues experienced in growing and urbanizing localities in Northern Virginia.”.

    As far as the Farifax County Chamber of Commerce – who cares? You might as well quote the John Birch Society.

    The best hope for Northern Virginians is to embrace the Democratic Party at the state level. Paint the Republicans for what they are – throw backs with no useful ideas about anything. Push Bob Marshall and George Allen to the front of any discussion of politics. Replay the “Mecaca” video over and over again. Remind people that he he was staring at a running video camera when he made those remarks. Keep the light shining on the personhood bill, the plan to grant tax exemptions for space ashes and all the other idiotic things these people dream up. The message needs to be simple – the Republicans are just too stupid to be trusted with any meaningful decisions. And … thank goodness that Bob McDonnell can only serve one term. He appears to be the only Republican in state politics with two brain cells to rub together. If he could stay in office for a prolonged period the anti-Republican backlash would be in trouble.

  12. TMT got it right. Local politicians cry like babies that the Dillon Rule limits what they can do.. at the same time they are blaming Richmond for not funding their self-created transportation kerfuffles…

    Local officials want more money but they want Richmond to do the deed OR they want Richmond to give them the ability to do it but not be held accountable for it.

    Fairfax was granted the right to impose an income tax tied to transportation improvements when no other county got that deal but it had one string attached – it had to be approved in a local referenda.

    you know what Fairfax did? They ignored that and complained that Richmond was ripping them off on schools and transportation.

    In other words, they’re not really interested in taking responsibility – just getting money out of Richmond and blaming them to keep the voters from realizing where the real problem is.

  13. Groveton Avatar

    If a referendum was put to the ballot today asking the citizens of Fairfax County whether they wanted more local control, it would pass with an overwhelming margin.

    The residents of core NoVa aren’t operating under Richmond’s Dillon Rule because it’s what we want. We are operating under Richmond’s Dillon Rule because the Clown Show likes it that way.

    All this “he said – she said” BS from 85 year old former state legislators is just that – BS. Would the Clown Show allow the residents of Northern Virginia, Tidewater, Richmond and Charlottesville the right to a voter referendum to determine if home rule should be implemented for any (or all) of those areas?

    Hell no, they wouldn’t allow that! In NoVa, the General Assembly members would see the referendum as a way to lose clout as they had to share more power with local officials. Downstate, the Clown Show members would see their gravy train leaving the station.

    So, there you have it. Millions of people forced to live under the draconian rule of a government they don’t like, trust or respect.

    I am quite serious – what do you really think the Clown Show would say about a ballot referendum for or against home rule in NoVa? If it passes, we keep almost all our tax money and we solve our own problems. If it fails, then we cut the power and budget of the counties and supervisors in half and send that money to Richmond for intelligent allocation out to the state.

    Do you think there is even a single member of the Clown Show who would support letting the residents of Northern Virginia vote on how they want to be governed?

  14. well.. it’s an argument that lacks clarity since most states, including Maryland operate in a Dillon Rule environment and yet it’s very diverse as to how it is actually implemented in various states.

    For instance, a hypothetical question.

    Would NoVa be satisfied with a Maryland version of Dillon Rule?

    what would you want that Md has and you do not?

    Virtually no state allocates all power to localities. I think in that regard South Carolina is considered to have the least restrictions on localities.

    and hardly any states that I know of do not collect income taxes and sales taxes statewide and use them for what they consider to be state prerogatives to include law enforcement, education, environmental protection, industry regulation…. health and auto insurance, license plates, etc, etc, etc.

    so just saying you want “home rule” is not specific enough but I have heard that succession if what you’d really want, eh?


  15. Groveton Avatar

    It’s a question of extent. I would support a referendum with the following basic tenets:

    1. Non-federal activities are divided between central-state and local. The guiding principle is that anything which could be either central-state or local will be determined to be local.

    2. The cost of central-state activities will be divided by the number of people living in each locality and the locality will contribute to the central-state costs in proportion to its population. How taxes are raised for this contribution are entirely for the locality to determine.

    3. A measure of relative wealth (including cost of living differences) will be determined. This would be a more straightforward and transparent calculation than the educational funding formulae but along the same path.

    4. Localities above the relative wealth average will make a re-distribution contribution for use in paying the local costs for other localities. However, this transfer will be capped at 10% of the total taxes raised in the locality for non-federal purposes. The redistribution will be mechanical and the use of the redistributed funds will be entirely at the discretion of the locality receiving the funds.

    5. Localities will be responsible for the raising of all taxes, all land use decisions, all transportation decisions.

    6. Localities may over-ride any law passed by the state legislature if 60% of the localities (by population) vote to over-ride. Each locality will vote all of its votes either “yes” or “no” to over-ride. Any method involving either direct voting or voting by officials elected no less than once every four years will be acceptable.

    7. Localities in Virginia will be divided into regions. These regions will be revisited every 10 years along with the census. The localities in any given region may compel all localities in the region to action through a 60% vote (by population) of the localities in the region.

    Any locality which decides not to seek independence from the central-state government may remain part of the current Commonwealth configuration. However, localities which do adopt independence from the central-state governance will not be compelled in any way other than those listed above to support the central-state government.

    Assuming that sufficient interest exists among certain localities for inclusion in the central-state, then the central-state will be bifurcated into two separate organizations with no governance, managerial or financial overlap. The first group will be the Locality Common Governance Group. This group will administer the localities which have decided to remain in the central-state. Its officials will be elected only by those citizens residing in the localities which have chosen to remain in the common governance group. The second group will be more like traditional state government and will be elected by all citizens of the state.

    In my opinion, every locality in Northern Virginia would opt out of central-state management under these terms.

    If legitimate government exists only through the consent of the governed then why shouldn’t those of us living in Northern Virginia has the right to be governed by our neighbors rather than the Clown Show in Richmond.

    Richmond does not govern me by my consent nor (I suspect) does it govern a majority of my neighbors by their consent.

    Sic Semper Tyrannis indeed.

  16. It’s a well thought out approach but I think you are thoroughly into Constitutional amendment territory and I’m not convinced that a solid majority of citizens would support this scope and scale of separation.

    the Composite Index, by the way, is not that complicated IMHO… and the state does already require localities to provide matching money to get the state money.

    From the Virginia Department of Education website:

    The Local Composite Index determines a school division’s ability to pay education costs fundamental to the commonwealth’s Standards of Quality (SOQ). The Composite Index is calculated using three indicators of a locality’s ability-to-pay:

    True value of real property (weighted 50 percent)
    Adjusted gross income (weighted 40 percent)
    Taxable retail sales (weighted 10 percent)
    Each locality’s index is adjusted to maintain an overall statewide local share of 45 percent and an overall state share of 55 percent.

    finally – what exactly are the specific things that NoVa is limited in doing right now as a result of Dillon?

    isn’t this ultimately all about the ability of Fairfax/NoVa to decide what they can tax or not and little else?

  17. Groveton Avatar

    “..I’m not convinced that a solid majority of citizens would support this scope and scale of separation.”.

    A solid majority of what citizens? Virginia overall? NoVa? Core NoVa? Fairfax County?

    The education funding formula is vastly more complex than you indicate with your “dumbed down” version of the ability-to-pay calculation. However, even after the dumbing down, the flaws are apparent. For one, adjusted gross income is never adjusted for the cost of living in one areas versus another. Therefore, the “ability to pay” for a person making $75,000 AGI in Arlington is the same as a person making $75,000 AGI in Big Stone Gap.

    There are many aspects of the Clown Show that would be vaporized if the decisions were made locally. The method by which transportation funds are allocated for example. The police departments in Northern Virginia are very good at what they do. Perhaps we’d opt out of the state police system. I also doubt we’d be processing a lot of tax credits for orbiting urns or phoney baloney regulations designed to overturn Roe v. Wade.

    The big question, LarryG, is why anybody would refuse to allow people in localities to vote as to whether they are better represented locally or at the state level. My theory is that the resistance is the result of those taking the money not wanting to let their cash cows slip away. All the pseudo-phony conservative BS is just that – BS. Virginia is a socialist as Massachusetts and it’s the Republican Party of Virginia that is the chief sponsor of that socialism.

  18. here’s the more comprehensive version on Senator Albo’s site:

    I agree it need tweaking basically because it appears to be more generous to counties that are relatively wealthy but down a notch from NoVa. This unfairness also affects small towns like Fredericksburg that is classified like Fairfax is. I also wonder since the housing meltdown how that might influence the calculations.

    I think you need the State Police. I think you do want the State to maintain responsibility of roads of statewide significance but you’d also have to figure out what share of Federal funds you’d get because right now a lot of Fed funds are allocated to the state to in turn allocate to jurisdictions.

    and I’m quite sure you’d want some of the state gas tax also, right?

    I’m not at all opposed to more autonomy for NoVa and I agree you got your work cut out for you trying to convince RoVa and trying to change the Va Constitution.

    So I guess this proves that not all founding fathers had good ideas, eh?

    Oh..and Albo’s site says that it was a Supreme Court decision that mandated the composite index….not RoVa.

  19. Groveton, fascinating suggestions. I do think people want government at an even smaller level. I am most familiar with people’s views in Reston, Vienna, McLean and Great Falls. I believe you could get a plurality, if not a majority, in each of these communities to have their community an independent government that could make land use and transportation decisions. I think many people are suspicious of unelected regional government. It is too easy to manipulate.
    Larry, the problem with the Composite Index is that is does not adjust for costs.

  20. just curious – If Fairfax could become a city – with a city charter – would that fix the problem?

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