Great stuff from House Minority Leader Del. David Toscano (bolding added by me for emphasis):
Republicans would have you belief that this General Assembly session was one big Lovefest. They even celebrated the fact that we adjourned one day early, as if that fact itself was enough to prove that they should be trusted with governing the Commonwealth. To be sure, the working relationships with Speaker Howell and House leadership are generally civil, far superior to Washington, and a good thing.
There were some measures about which we can all be proud -- passing a budget on time, investing in job creation and workforce development, providing raises to teachers and state employees, educational reform, attacking problems of campus sexual assault. These were enacted by broad bipartisan majorities, and supported by our constituents across the state. And all of these will be used by Republicans as they seek to maintain their majorities in the House and the Senate elections this fall. With the end of the McDonnell ethics trial and no vaginal probes populating late night television, it was a less controversial and more civil session.
But before we get too gushy about our accomplishments, let's dig a little deeper.
First, let's remember that this is an election year and that the Republicans were smart enough not to push a Tea Party agenda that has taken hold of their party nationally and that has so dominated Virginia's legislature in recent years. They could avoid this in 2015 because they did their greatest damage in earlier years, whether it was over transvaginal ultrasounds - a term few of us would have uttered in political discourse a mere two years ago, much less debate in a public forum, TRAP regulations, repealing the one-gun-a-month handgun purchase law, allowing citizens to carry guns into bars, railing against the children of immigrants, trashing reasonable EPA regulations designed to make air cleaner and our planet more secure, making voting more difficult, or bottling up a way to bring our taxpayer dollars back to Virginia to create jobs, help our hospitals, and provide insurance to 400,000 Virginians by embracing Medicaid expansion.
The Republican leadership had a game-plan from the beginning. It first involved going soft on social wedge issues. For example, the so-called personhood bill, which would have created constitutional rights for unborn fetuses, and sailed out of the House last year, was sent to a subcommittee where it died an unceremonious death. And Republican bills that would arm teachers and put guns in airports experienced a similar fate. Leadership was even able to derail a darling of a significant segment of the right wing, the proposal to convene a new U.S. constitutional convention, on the House floor without taking an embarrassing vote that would have lead to its defeat.
Arlington County Board member Walter Tejada gives a fiery farewell speech to the Arlington County Democratic Committee. Tejada emphasizes his commitment to fighting for human and civil rights, for economic justice, and for progressive values generally. Tejada blasted the election of John Vihstadt, a person he (correctly) argues "ran on an anti-government agenda and who does not share our Democratic values." He repeatedly stressed the importance of electing Democrats, that ACDC is a Democratic committee. He defended what has been criticized as "group think" as creating one of the best places to live in the country. "Standing up for progressive values could be at a crossroads in Arlington today...will we continue to make long-term investments and lead with bold and innovative initiatives, or will we become a timid and stagnant community?" He asked whether we would allow Arlington to become "a new Arlington of rich, entitled people lacking in compassion, empathy and sense of community, viscerally opposed to government of any kind, opposed to everything [they allege to be] 'overspending' on every front?" He reiterated his "unequivocal and unapologetic" support for the "modern streetcar system" and affordable housing efforts (also ending homelessness, providing resources for mental health treatment, helping integrate immigrants into the community and fighting xenophobia, among other things). Great stuff, gracias por todo a Walter Tejada!
Also see the comments section for speeches by the two Democrats (Reid Goldstein and Sharon Dorsey) running for Arlington County School Board, and the five Democrats (Peter Fallon, Andrew Schneider, Katie Cristol, Christian Dorsey, James Lander) running for two open seats on the Arlington County Board.
With the Virginia General Assembly (mercifully) done for 2015, I thought I'd list a few bills that are awaiting action by Gov. McAulife. Note that the following is just a short list, I'm sure there are a LOT more bills that Gov. McAuliffe should amend or veto. Also note that a ton of progressive legislation died in subcommittee, or in conference committee, or wherever, many times without even a recorded vote. That's a topic for another diary...
HB 1400 Budget Bill: How aggressive does Gov. McAuliffe want to be in improving a bill, that as Del. Scott Surovell explained, does "not include enough money for pre-kindergarten programs, teacher raises or health care for the mentally ill." Nor does it expand Medicaid, of course. Recommendation: AMEND or VETO
The Senate voted earlier this afternoon and failed to override President Obama's veto of the "ram-filthy-Canadian-tar-sands-down-our-throats" bill. Thank you to Tim Kaine, and to the 36 others, who voted against overriding. As for Democrats who voted to override the veto, including Virginia's own Mark Warner, to put it mildly I'm not pleased. What is it about the science of global warming, and the dire/urgent need to get off of fossil fuels ASAP, don't they understand? Also, what don't they understand about the fact that Keystone XL would only produce at most a few dozen permanent jobs, while encouraging production of some of the dirtiest, nastiest fossil fuels on earth? Are these people 100% bought-and-paid-for or what?
The Honorable Terence R. McAuliffe
Governor of Virginia
1111 East Broad Street
Richmond, VA 23219
Dear Governor McAuliffe:
The undersigned members of the Virginia House of Delegates have serious concerns about the Conference Report for HB 2070 State and Local Government Conflict of Interests Act, General Assembly Conflicts of Interests Act (the "Ethics Reform Bill") approved in the waning hours of our abbreviated regular session on February 27, 2015.
The unanimous vote on the matter should not be taken as a sign that there was universal agreement that the legislation was adequate. Many of us were in the queue to speak to the report and ask questions of the conferees when Republican lawmakers abruptly ended debate. The Speaker further refused to acknowledge any debate whatsoever on the Senate version of the legislation. Had we had the opportunity to more thoroughly discuss our concerns, we believe the House would have rejected the Conference Report and requested a second committee of conference with the Senate to correct some glaring deficiencies in this legislation, given that session wasn't scheduled to adjourn until the following day.
Some Tuewsday afternoon gibberish and idiocy from an interview in the Washington Post with new RPV Chair, anti-Semitic "joke" dude John Whitbeck. Note that in the first quote, Whitbeck first says that Virginia's "changed a lot" demographically, then a breath later says "although things haven't changed much." Translation? Then, in the second quote, he basically says the Republican Party of Virginia is NOT going to change from the disastrous convention nominating process which in 2013 brought us the "Extreme Team" (Ken Kookinelli, EW Jackson, Mark "Criminalize Miscarriages" Obenshain). Hey, as a Democrat, that works great for me -- keep nominating unlectable extremists, and keep losing more statewide elections in Virginia. In other words, to put it a way John Whitbeck might (or might not) understand: Virginia Republicans, please don't ever CHANGE! Hahaha.
“This bill is really one step forward and two steps back,” said ProgressVA executive director Anna Scholl. “On the surface a new, lower gift limit is progress but the devil is in the details and the details of HB2070 allow for multiple exemptions and loopholes from gift rules.”
According to ProgressVA Education Fund’s analysis, 79% of gifts reported by legislators in 2014 would not be impacted by the bill, including 69% of gifts from lobbyists. ProgressVA Education Fund could not determine the legality of approximately 10% of lobbyist gifts without additional information.
The report identifies a significant new loophole that would exclude some travel, such as to conferences hosted by the American Legislative Exchange Council, from regulation and disclosure. “This loophole essentially allows the Speaker and Senate Rules Committee to exempt gifts from regulation or disclosure by approving attendance at a conference,” said Scholl. “The public's business should be conducted in the light of day.”
From Virginia House Minority Leader David Toscano:
The General Assembly adjourned on Friday, February 27, 2015, at approximately 9:00 p.m.In most sessions, the last minute negotiations surround the budget. This year, it involved ethics reform. As you may have noticed from numerous news reports, Senate Republicans threatened to block any ethics bill from being passed. At the last moment, however, they relented, and we were able to pass modest ethics reform that improves the law somewhat on what had previously been in place. While this law goes farther than previous efforts, it does not tackle the critical issues related to campaign finance reform, including the role of major contributions in election campaigns. That being said, the bill lowers from $250 to $100 the value of gifts, meals, and travel that an elected official can receive from a lobbyist or a person seeking a contract with the state. It also includes any dependents living in the official’s home, such as a spouse, child, or other relative. The bill clearly could have gone farther; the Ethics Advisory Council does not have much enforcement power and there are certain exemptions to the gift ban for legislators’ travel to “widely attended” events such as conferences. I voted for the bill because it is better than our laws were two years ago, but I believe there is still much to be done.
The last days of the session saw a number of measures passed that I had proposed and strongly supported. Included in these were the expansion of the DNA database, a campus sexual assault reporting bill that protects survivors while providing increased encouragement to them to report perpetrators of these crimes, and a bill that requires notations be placed on college transcripts when students are discharged for violations of the codes of conduct. These measures were proposed as a result of The Rolling Stone article on UVa and the Hannah Graham case, and I believe that they will bring a higher level of protection for our citizens while encouraging more reporting of sexual assault on campuses.
I've now seen Terry McAuliffe use the same messaging too many times to write it off as a mistake, a fluke, a slip of the tongue, whatever. What messaging is that, you ask? See here and here, for instance. The key messaging points:
*"'It's a lovefest here in Richmond,' McAuliffe declared during his "Ask the Governor" segment Thursday morning on WRVA-AM."
*"'We all put Virginia first,' McAuliffe said, praising Del. S. Chris Jones, R-Suffolk, chairman of the House Appropriations Committee; and Sens. Walter A. Stosch, R-Henrico and Charles J. Colgan, D-Prince Williams, the chairmen of the Senate Finance Committee."
*"I enjoy working with the legislature."
*"Gov. Terry McAuliffe praised lawmakers for working with him in a bipartisan fashion to produce a budget that safeguarded mutual priorities and serves the best interests of the commonwealth."
*"McAuliffe also said he was satisfied with the last-minute agreement on ethics reform and reiterated his position that the $100 cap on all gifts 'is a big deal.'"
*"'It's been a great session,' the governor said Friday night to a delegation of House and Senate members that included eight retiring lawmakers.
'We've all worked together. We put the partisan politics aside. ... It was great teamwork,; he added."
*"This is the model - we can work together."
Does this not-at-all-subtle happy talk of bipartisanship and how (supposedly) great it is to work across the aisle by a Democrat, coming after said Democrat got his (political) butt seriously kicked last year on Medicaid expansion and other issues, remind you of anything? How about McAuliffe's BFF Bill Clinton, following the 1994 "Republican Revolution"/"Gingrich Revolution," in which Republicans saw a net gain of 54 seats in the House of Representatives and eight seats in the Senate? Before that, Bill Clinton had governed basically as a strong progressive, pushing for universal health care (aka, "Hillarycare"); a tax package that, among other things, helped balance the budget by raising tax rates on the wealthy; signing the Brady Bill into law; implementing the "Don't Ask Don't Tell" policy, which at the time was considered progressive (believe it or not); etc. No, it wasn't all progressive prior to the Gingrich Revolution (e.g., NAFTA anyone?), but for the most part Clinton pushed for progressive policies in 1993 and 1994, until...cue scary music!
After the 1994 wipeout, of course, Clinton was forced to work with a Republican Congress for the rest of his term in office. That meant scaling back...well, pretty much anything and everthing remotely progressive, and instead turning to advisors like Republican strategist (and all-around right wingnut, as it turns out) Dick Morris to figure out how to "triangulate" himself back to relevance. Here's what I'm talking about.
Here are a few national and Virginia news headlines, political and otherwise, for Tuesday, March 3. Also, check out Jon Stewart mocking the "unstoppable tag team" of "turtle and carrot" (McConnell and Boehner).
I made a graph (broken into two parts because it's so wide; click on each to "embiggen") of the 100 Virginia House of Delegates seats, with their performance in 2013 measured by the percentage that Mark Herring received. Out of these districts, which could be possible pickup opportunities for Democrats this year? By far and away, that would be district 86, held by retiring incumbent Tom Rust and a great pickup opportunty for Democrat Jennifer Boysko, who lost by just 32 votes in 2013. Other than that one, in descending order of Mark Herring 2013 percentages down to 50%, Democratic pickup opportunties would be: David Ramadan (87th), Jim LeMunyon (67th), Tag Greason (32nd), Dave Albo (42nd), Scott Lingamfelter (31st), Bob Marshall (13th), Randy Minchew (10th), Joseph Yost (12th), Ron Villanueva (21st), Jackson Miller (50th) and Rich Anderson (51st). Of course, Democrats would need strong candidates in those districts, with enough resources to compete.
A few other districts that COULD potentially be competitive include 49% Herring 2013 performance districts in the 94th (David Yancey) and 100th (Rob Bloxom), and 48% Herring districts in the 28th (Bill Howell) and 68th (Manoli Loupassi). Beyond that, it's really getting to be a longshot in an odd-year, low-turnout election, but the next two would be Tim Hugo (40th) and Glenn Davis (84th), both in 47% Herring 2013 districts.
As for Democratic incumbents' most vulnerable seats, those would be the 34th (a 55% Mark Herring 2013 district held by Kathleen Murphy), the 93rd (a 56% Mark Herring district held by Monty Mason), and possibly the 2nd (a 56% Mark Herring district being vacated by Michael Futrell). Hopefully, we'll be fine in all of those, though. Anything else I missed?
Bottom line: Democrats should certainly pick up one seat in 2015 (Jennifer Boysko in the 86th), with the potential for several more, depending on how strong our recruiting is, how well funded Democratic House candidates are this year, what the national mood is looking like this fall, etc.
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