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2018 GOP-Controlled Virginia General Assembly a Nearly Total #FAIL; Replace Them All in 2019

2022
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Republicans can pretend all they want that the 2018 Virginia General Assembly session was a success, but of course we know that it was, in fact, an almost complete failure. Let’s look back to the list of progressive, pro-environment, pro-clean-energy ideas I posted back in November (Time to Go on Offense: 50 Legislative Ideas for the New, Improved Virginia General Assembly) and see how we did.  After each item, see IN RED for a status report. In sum, this session was almost a complete debacle, with a few exceptions (e.g., Metro funding) — no progressive or environmental legislation to speak of, no Medicaid expansion so far, no budget so far…ugh.  The answer? Vote Democratic, up and down the ballot, in 2019 — turn the Virginia General Assembly blue and watch a lot of good stuff get done.

  1. Medicaid expansion, obviously. In fact, there are at least 400,000 reasons to do so, with essentially none not to do so.  NOTHING YET…DUE TO GOP OPPOSITION
  2. No-excuse absentee voting, such as Sen. Janet Howell’s bill that “Allows qualified voters to vote absentee in person without providing an excuse for not being able to vote in person on election day.” Also see Sen. Adam Ebbin’s SB 1002 on this subject. FAILED DUE TO GOP OPPOSITION
  3. Make it a lot easier to vote, NOT harder to vote. For instance, see this bill by Del. Rip Sullivan, which “Adds to the list of acceptable forms of voter identification a valid student photo identification card issued by any institution of higher education located in any other state or territory of the United States.” FAILED DUE TO GOP OPPOSITION
  4. Raise the minimum wage, as in this bill by Del. Sam Rasoul, “from its current federally mandated level of $7.25 per hour to $10.00 per hour effective July 1, 201[8], to $12.50 per hour effective July 1, 20[20], and to $15.00 per hour effective July 1, 20[22].” Also see Sen. Rosalyn Dance’s SB 978 on this subject. FAILED DUE TO GOP OPPOSITION
  5. Limit firearms “magazines” to 10 rounds; see this bill by Sen. Dave Marsden, which “Prohibits any person from selling, bartering, or transferring a firearms magazine designed to hold more than 10 rounds of ammunition.” FAILED DUE TO GOP OPPPOSITION
  6. Enact universal background checks for gun purchases in Virginia. FAILED DUE TO GOP OPPOSITION
  7. Do what Massachusetts did recently and ban so-called “bump stocks.” FAILED DUE TO GOP OPPOSITION
  8. Reinstate “one handgun a month” limits, as per this bill by Del. Marcus Simon (” Prohibits individuals who are not licensed firearms dealers from purchasing more than one handgun in a 30-day period and establishes such an offense as a Class 1 misdemeanor.”) FAILED DUE TO GOP OPPOSITION
  9. Raise Virginia’s pathetically low (50th in the nation) cigarette tax of just 30 cents per pack to at least the national average ($1.72 per pack). DIDN’T GET ANYWHERE IN THE GOP-CONTROLLED GENERAL ASSEMBLY AS FAR AS I CAN TELL
  10. Raise the felony threshold for “amount of money taken or value of goods or chattel taken at which the crime rises from petit larceny to grand larceny” from the ridiculously low $200 to $1,000 or more.  THE FELONY THRESHOLD WAS RAISED, BUT ONLY TO $500 THANKS TO GOP OBSTINANCE 
  11. Restrict predatory lending; see here for Sen. Scott Surovell’s four bills that would “protect financially vulnerable Virginians from predatory lending practices by capping interest rates on largely unregulated consumer finance loans, close a loophole that title lenders could use to make predatory loans, prohibit car title and consumer finance lenders from co-locating, and enhancing reporting requirements for consumer finance lenders that co-locate with car title lenders.” FAILED DUE TO GOP OPPOSITION
  12. Take the lead on the booming business of energy storage; see Del. Patrick Hope’s bill, for instance, that “Establishes the Virginia Energy Storage Consortium as a political subdivision of the Commonwealth for the purpose of positioning the Commonwealth as a leader in research, development, commercialization, manufacturing, and deployment of energy storage technology.” UNLESS I’M MISSING SOMETHING, I DIDN’T SEE ANY PROGRESS ON THIS ONE
  13. Make restoration of voting rights for ex-felons easier/more automatic; see, for instance, Del. Lamont Bagby’s bill which “Authorizes the General Assembly to provide by law for the restoration of civil rights for persons convicted of nonviolent felonies who have completed service of their sentences subject to the conditions, requirements, and definitions set forth in that law. The present Constitution provides for restoration of rights by the Governor. The amendment retains the right of the Governor to restore civil rights and adds an alternative for restoration of rights pursuant to law for nonviolent felons.” UNLESS I’M MISSING SOMETHING, I DIDN’T SEE ANY PROGRESS ON THIS ONE – THANKS A LOT REPUBLICANS!
  14. Encourage distributed power (e.g., rooftop solar) and net metering: see here for more on that subject, including bills by Delegate Alfonso Lopez and Senators Edwards and McClellan that would “raise the maximum size of a commercial project eligible for net metering, from 500 kilowatts (kW) currently to 2 megawatts (MW)…a much-needed expansion of the net metering program if Virginia is going to make real headway with solar.” Also encourage Community Choice Aggregation (CCA), which allows municipalities to select the delivered energy mix for their community. UNLESS I’M MISSING SOMETHING, I DIDN’T SEE ANY PROGRESS ON THIS ONE – THANKS A LOT REPUBLICANS!
  15. Make “solar gardens” blossom: see here, for instance, about a bill by Del. Rip Sullivan which “creates ‘solar gardens’ consisting of community organizations with 10 or more subscribers. The generation facility can be as large as 2 MW.”  UNLESS I’M MISSING SOMETHING, I DIDN’T SEE ANY PROGRESS ON THIS ONE – THANKS A LOT REPUBLICANS!
  16. Push Virginia to be a LOT more energy efficientsee here for bills that would establish MANDATORY goals for electric utilities on energy efficiency and to strongly encourage PACE (Property Assessed Clean Energy) as a great “way to finance energy efficiency, renewable energy and water conservation upgrades to commercial and non-profit-owned buildings.” I MEAN, THERE’S THE DOMINION BILL, BUT OTHER THAN THAT…
  17. Establish a MANDATORY, AGGRESSIVE Renewable Portfolio Standard; see here for an article about a bill by then-Sen. Donald McEachin “that would convert the state’s voluntary renewable portfolio standard to a mandatory program for investor-owned electric utilities” and that “would ‘incrementally increase until, in calendar year 2025 and thereafter, such sources account for 25 percent of the amount of total electric energy that the utility sold” using the 2007 base year, according to a summary of the legislation.” I’d advocate shooting for something truly aggressive – but totally achievable – like 40% clean energy by 2030, 60% by 2040, 80% by 2045 and 100% by 2050.  YOU MUST BE KIDDING – THANKS A LOT REPUBLICANS AND ANY DEMOCRATS WHO ARE BOUGHT-AND-PAID-FOR TOOLS OF DOMINION
  18. Protect (and expand if possible) access to birth control: see, for instance, Del. Vivian Watts’ bill that would define birth control to mean “contraceptive methods that are approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration,” and that “shall not be considered abortion for the purposes of Title 18.2.” KILLED DUE TO REPUBLICAN OPPOSITION
  19. Protect a woman’s right to control her own body: see, for instance, Del. Jennifer Boysko’s bill: “Provides that a woman has a fundamental right to obtain a lawful abortion and that no statute or regulation shall be construed to prohibit the performance of an abortion prior to viability or if necessary to protect the life or health of the woman. The bill also provides that any statute that places a burden on a woman’s access to abortion without conferring any legitimate health benefit is unenforceable.” KILLED DUE TO REPUBLICAN OPPOSITION
  20. Defend DREAMers, who are under assault by the Trump administration. See, for instance, Del. Lopez’s legislation on “Eligibility for in-state tuition; certain individuals who have applied for permanent residency; certain individuals approved under deferred action programs.” KILLED DUE TO REPUBLICAN OPPOSITION
  21. Reform and professionalize Virginia’s legislature by, among other things, lengthening sessions, raising legislator pay, tightening ethics laws big time, putting in place a system of public financing (to the extent constitutionally possible, of course) for elections, restricting any lobbying by state-“regulated” entities, preventing for-profit entities (let alone state-“regulated” monopolies, like Dominion Energy) with business before the state from contributing to the very people who pass laws on their companies, putting in place a serious ethics commission with sharp teeth, etc. See Vivian Thomson’s “Climate of Capitulation” for some good ideas on this subject.  YOU MUST BE KIDDING!
  22. Put non-partisan redistricting into place for the next redistricting, scheduled for 2021. We can start by passing all of these bills – “SJ 290, a constitutional amendment that states, “No electoral district shall be drawn for the purpose of favoring or disfavoring any political party, incumbent legislator or member of Congress, or other individual or entity.” It was sponsored by Sens. Jill Vogel, R-Winchester, and Janet Howell, D-Reston.”; “SJ 231, a constitutional amendment that would create an independent commission to redraw legislative and congressional districts after each census. It was sponsored by a group of Republicans and Democrats.”; “SB 846, a bill requiring Virginia to use an independent commission if a court declares a legislative or congressional district unlawful or unconstitutional. It was sponsored by Sen. Louise Lucas, D-Portsmouth.” OF COURSE NOT -THANKS AGAIN TO REPUBLICAN OPPOSITION
  23. Prohibit anti-LGBT discrimination in employment, such as in this bill by Del. Mark Levine (“Prohibits discrimination in employment and public accommodation on the basis of sexual orientation. The bill defines ‘sexual orientation’ as a person’s actual or perceived heterosexuality, bisexuality, homosexuality, or gender identity or expression.”). KILLED DUE TO REPUBLICAN OPPOSITION
  24. Require presidential candidates to disclose their federal tax returns – “Any person who does not submit this statement shall not have his name printed on the ballot for a presidential primary election or the official ballot for the presidential election.” KILLED DUE TO REPUBLICAN OPPOSITION
  25. Decriminalize simple possession of marijuana, as in this bill by Sen. Adam Ebbin. Also see this bill by Sen. Louise LucasNO CHANCE IN A GOP-CONTROLLED LEGISLATURE
  26. Allow instant runoff voting (or other forms of “range” or “ranked” voting in Virginia elections, as in this bill by Del. Nicholas Freitas (“Provides for instant runoff voting in elections for statewide offices, the United States Senate, the United States House of Representatives, and the General Assembly. With instant runoff voting, voters rank the candidates for each office in order of choice, and only the candidate receiving a majority of the votes for such office is declared the winner.”) KILLED IN GOP-CONTROLLED COMMITTEE
  27. Permit a governor to succeed himself or herself in office, for a maximum of two, four-year terms. See former Del. Bob Brink’s HJ231, for instance. NOPE
  28. Make Virginia’s tax code more progressive, by reinstating the “estate tax” and by other means so that the richest 1% or so of Virginians pay a higher percentage of their income, while everyone else pays the same or lower percentage of their income. YOU MUST BE KIDDING!
  29. Require that Virginia law enforcement officers be fully trained in de-escalation techniques, as in this bill by Sen. Barbara FavolaKILLED DUE TO REPUBLICAN OPPOSITION
  30. At long last, ratify the Equal Rights Amendment, as in this bill by Sen. Scott Surovell. KILLED DUE TO REPUBLICAN OPPOSITION
  31. We badly need universal pre-K in Virginia; can’t believe we don’t have it already – get it done!  HA, NOT WITH THE ANTI-EDUCATION PARTY IN CHARGE!
  32. Divest the Virginia Retirement System of fossil fuel holdings. For more on divestment, see Growing number of global insurance firms divesting from fossil fuelsWorld’s Biggest Investment Fund Considers Divesting From Fossil FuelsNew York’s duty to divest from fossil fuel companies: State and city pensions should stop pouring money into oil and coalD.C. to Divest Pension Fund from Fossil Fuels; What About Virginia???, etc.  YEAH RIGHT
  33. Crack down on animal abuser of all kinds (individual and corporate). For instance, see this bill by Del. John Bell, which “Prohibits tethering of companion animals outdoors unless the owner is outdoors within sight of the animal.” Also, it should go without saying that cruelty to animals should be a felony, such as in this bill by Sen. Bill DeSteph. Also see Del. Keam’s bill that would authorize “localities to adopt ordinances prohibiting the sale in a business of any dog or cat that was not obtained from a Virginia releasing agency or a nonprofit animal rescue organization.” DEL. BELL’S TETHERING BILL WAS KILLED BY THE ANIMAL ABUSE PARTY (REPUBLICANS OF COURSE). MINIMAL PROGRESS ON THIS ISSUE IN GENERAL, THANKS OVERWHELMINGLY TO THE ANIMAL ABUSE PARTY.
  34. Make sure we do not give billionaire Dan Snyder a penny in taxpayer money to move his (highly lucrative) football team to Virginia. If he wants to do that, he can pay for all of it himself.  A BILL TO DO THIS WAS “LAID ON THE TABLE,” AKA KILLED.
  35. Stop f’ing around and pass a serious, dedicated funding source for Metro. Did I mention that it’s time to stop f’ing around on this crucial issue for Virginia? THIS ACTUALLY PASSED, ALTHOUGH WITHOUT ANY NEW TAXES TO PAY FOR THAT DEDICATED FUNDING, THANKS TO REPUBLICANS LIKE DEL. TIM HUGO
  36. Seriously consider imposing a revenue-neutral carbon tax in Virginia, with all money going back to Virginia citizens in a progressive manner and/or towards helping Virginia citizens make their homes and businesses more energy efficient and/or to run on clean energy. OF COURSE NOT, THE ANTI-ENVIRONMENT, ANTI-SCIENCE PARTY IS IN CHARGE
  37. Require that transportation projects must take into account the environmental impacts, including sprawl, global warming, etc. OF COURSE NOT, THE ANTI-ENVIRONMENT, PRO-FOSSIL-FUEL, PRO-SPRAWL PARTY IS IN CHARGE
  38. Prioritize transportation money for high-speed rail, local transit, bicycle and pedestrian improvements, and other non-fossil-fuel-centered transportation modes. OF COURSE NOT; THE ANTI-ENVIRONMENT, PRO-FOSSIL-FUEL, PRO-SPRAWL PARTY IS IN CHARGE
  39. Prioritize “smart growth,” as in this 2006 bill (“Requires localities to incorporate specified smart growth policies into their comprehensive plans. State funding is tied to such policies.”). OF COURSE NOT; THE ANTI-ENVIRONMENT, PRO-FOSSIL-FUEL, PRO-SPRAWL PARTY IS IN CHARGE
  40. To the extent legislatively possible, direct the Department of Environmental Quality to use all its authority under Section 401 of the Clean Water Act to deep-six the Atlantic Coast Pipeline and Mountain Valley PipelineOF COURSE NOT; THE ANTI-ENVIRONMENT, PRO-FOSSIL-FUEL PARTY IS IN CHARGE
  41. Expand the definition of hate crimes and crack down on them, such as in this bill (“Adds gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, and disability to the categories of victims whose intentional selection for a hate crime involving assault, assault and battery, or trespass for the purpose of damaging another’s property results in a higher criminal penalty for the offense” and this bill (“Adds immigration status to the categories of victims whose intentional selection for a hate crime involving assault, assault and battery, or trespass for the purpose of damaging another’s property results in a higher criminal penalty for the offense”) by Del. Ken Plum. WITH REPUBLICANS IN CHARGE, FUHGETTABOUTIT!
  42. Legalize hemp, as in this bill by Del. Nicholas Freitas (“Removes all restrictions on the production of industrial hemp, including licensing and regulations.”). THIS NO-BRAINER MADE SOME PROGRESS
  43. Set an aggressive goal for preserving nature/wildlife habitat in Virginia, along the lines of what acclaimed biologist Edward O. Wilson has suggested – ” If we want to preserve our wildlife, Wilson says, we need to set aside at least half of the world’s lands and seas.” OF COURSE NOT, THE ANTI-ENVIRONMENT, ANTI-WILDLIFE PARTY IS IN CHARGE
  44. Impose a plastic bag tax in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed, as in this bill by Sen. Chap Petersen, or simply allow localities to ban disposable plastic shopping bags, as in this bill by Sen. Mamie LockeOF COURSE NOT, THE ANTI-ENVIRONMENT, PRO-FOSSIL-FUEL PARTY IS IN CHARGE
  45. To the extent possible, it would be great to loosen the “Dillon Rule” to allow localities more autonomy to go “above and beyond” – strengthen, not weaken, environmental protections, LGBTQ anti-discrimination laws. IF ANYTHING, THE GOP MOVED TO STRENGTHEN THE DILLON RULE, SPECIFICALLY IN THE CASE OF TRYING TO MICROMANAGE HOW LOCALITIES ASSESS PROPERTIES FOR TAXATION PURPOSES
  46. Pass Sen. Mamie Locke’s SB 53 — “Removes the requirement that a woman undergo a fetal transabdominal ultrasound prior to an abortion.” DEEP-SIXED DUE TO GOP OPPOSITION
  47. Virginia apparently is going to be joining the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) by executive action, but how about putting this into law, as in former Sen. Donald McEachin’s SB 571 (“Requires the Governor to join the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative that established a regional CO2 electric power sector cap and trade program and establishes the Commonwealth Resilience Fund, a revolving fund to serve as a consistent revenue stream to assist counties, cities, and towns with the implementation of adaptation efforts to combat sea level rise and recurrent flooding. The bill also provides economic development assistance for families, businesses, and localities in Southwest Virginia to offset negative economic impacts associated with reduced fossil fuel production.”) TO THE CONTRARY, THE GOP RAMMED THROUGH A BILL THAT WOULD PROHIBIT VIRGINIA FROM JOINING RGGI. PRESUMABLY, GOV. NORTHAM WILL VETO THIS CRAP.
  48. Scour the budget for any giveaways to polluters or to wealthy corporations that don’t need or deserve taxpayer-funded corporate welfare. Get rid of them. NOT WITH THE PARTY OF CORPORATE WELFARE (THE GOP) IN CHARGE!
  49. Open up Virginia’s power sector to as much competition as possible. Revoke any and all competitive advantages currently held by Dominion Energy. OF COURSE NOT; THE VIRGINIA GENERAL ASSEMBLY MIGHT AS WELL BE NAMED AFTER DOMINION
  50. To the extent possible, open up Virginia’s government to “sunshine,” including getting rid of as many as possible of the “more than 170 exemptions that allow officials to shield records from public view and meet behind closed doors” under Virginia’s current FOIA law. SOME PROGRESS MADE ON THIS FRONT, BUT NOT NEARLY ENOUGH IMHO

So those are 50 things to start with — far from a definitive list by any means, but hopefully a start to thinking about how Democrats, progressives and environmentalists might start going on offense (for a change) in the 2018 Virginia General Assembly coming up right after New Year’s…

UPDATE: Let’s add #51, something like Tom Perriello’s plan for two years of free community college – great idea! Also add for serious consideration #52, Perriello’s Plan for Working Families, including family and medical leave, reducing the burden of student debt, etc.  NOPE

UPDATE #2: The Secretary of the 10th CD and Loudoun County Dems sent me the following excellent suggestions. “53. Pass a Resolution to support a U.S. Constitutional Amendment known as the “We The People” Amendment, sponsored by https://movetoamend.org. The amendment says that only natural persons can have constitutional rights and money is not speech. It thus overturns both of the Supreme Court doctrines underlying the Citizen’s United decision: corporate personhood and treating money as a form of free speech. This amendment is currently before Congress as HJR 48. NOPE

54. Have Virginia join the National Popular Vote State Compact. Last year’s HB 1482 – Presidential electors; National Popular Vote Compact, sponsored by Del. Marcus Simon, who is having it re-drafted for introduction again this year.  NOPE

55. Require that all product packaging be made from recyclable materials.” NOPE – THESE ARE REPUBLICANS AFTER ALL

  • This statement by Gov. Northam is beyond laughable. I can’t even…

    Governor Northam Statement on Regular Session Adjournment

    RICHMOND – Governor Ralph Northam today released a statement upon the adjournment of the 2018 regular legislative session.

    “As the General Assembly concludes the first regular session of my governorship, I am heartened by all that we have accomplished to make the lives of Virginians better. Over the past 60 days we have worked together in a bipartisan way to make significant progress on a number of issues that are important to the families we serve. While this session has been marked by real progress on challenges that Virginians are facing, the fact remains that our most pressing business will remain unfinished until the General Assembly passes a budget that reflects the priorities of the people who sent us to Richmond.

    “Virginians expect their leaders to work together to get things done, and we have managed to address a number of the issues they placed on our docket. For the first time in decades, we have raised the felony larceny threshold. We have made a bipartisan commitment to regulatory reform and are on track to finalize a historic agreement to strengthen Metro’s management and stability and provide the system with a dedicated source of revenue. We have come together to end the freeze on energy utility rates and significantly improve legislation to return money to consumers, invest in a clean energy future, and modernize our electrical grid.

    “These would be significant achievements on their own; together, they form a remarkable package of legislation that will help grow our economy and make life better for Virginia families. I am hopeful this is a signal of what we can accomplish when the General Assembly returns to complete their work on a budget.

    “I am disappointed that the General Assembly, so far, has been unable to pass a budget that expands health coverage to Virginians who need it and makes essential investments in core priorities like education, workforce development, public safety, and revenue reserves. By including the expansion of health care in the budget, we have a tremendous opportunity to build a healthier workforce, create new jobs, and boost our state budget.

    “The House of Delegates has worked with my team and me to build a compromise proposal that will bring the benefits of health coverage and the related savings to Virginians. I am hopeful that members of the Senate will join us to build on the bipartisan progress that has defined our work this session. As we prepare for a special session to resolve this issue, my team and I will introduce budgets for the General Assembly’s consideration. It will include Medicaid expansion and the significant investments that the savings from expanded coverage will generate to fund key priorities like education, workforce development and salary increases for public servants, with a particular focus on men and women in law enforcement.

    “At the beginning of the legislative session, I outlined priorities that still demand our attention. Virginians are asking us to act on commonsense gun safety reform, to move towards a renewable energy by formally joining the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), to protect all Virginians from discrimination based on gender or sexual orientation, and to increase access to the voting booth. These efforts will not end with this regular session. We have many exciting opportunities for collaboration ahead of us and I look forward to continuing a productive partnership with the members of the General Assembly in the weeks, months, and years ahead.”

  • Morris Meyer
  • Sen. Scott Surovell on the Metro funding bill:

    Aside from Medicaid, funding Metro was probably the next biggest priority this session. While this bill was a step forward, it was done in a way which sucks about $70M/yr out of NVTA which is bad for the 36th District and bad for NOVA who was counting on that money to widen U.S. 1 and other priorities. The conferees should have followed Senator Dick Saslaw’s approach and imposed a hotel tax and grantor’s tax to fund this. We can’t keep funding 20 years of deferred investments by using existing revenues – there is a reason these projects have been deferred and it’s not enough money.