"Whether the Board of Health may require that facilities in existence before the enactment of the Regulations for Licensure of Abortion Facilities satisfy the 'design-and-construction standards' in those regulations."
After exhaustive and careful review, Attorney General Herring has concluded that:
"...in 2011 and 2013 the Board did not have the authority to apply the design-and-construction section of the regulations to facilities built before the regulations took effect, nor does it have the authority to do so now."
The opinion supersedes and reverses incorrect advice provided to the Board of Health by the previous Attorney General during the regulatory process in 2012. That advice--that design-and-construction standards had to apply to preexisting facilities--is not supported by the law and represented an anomaly in how the Board of Health has treated the facilities it regulates and the way that laws are interpreted in Virginia. This opinion restores the way the Board has traditionally dealt with "design-and-construction" standards of health care facilities--namely that they apply only to new construction and major renovations.
Design-and-construction standards do not apply to preexisting facilities because:
Here's some video from tonight's Prince William County Democrats' Jefferson-Jackson Dinner, at which Rep. Bobby Scott was the keynote speaker. Other speakers inluded Virginia AG Mark Herring, Virginia LG Ralph Northam, and Rep. Gerry Connolly (see videos in the comments section). Excellent dinner, thanks to Delegate/future Senator Scott Surovell for inviting me to sit at his table!
Over the past few weeks, I've had the chance to interview (in writing) all five Democratic candidates for Virginia's 45th House of Delegates district. Here are my composite scores, issue by issue and candidate by candidate, with an overall grade at the bottom. Of course, there's a lot of subjectivity to this, but I tried to rate the answers on their own merits, as well as to be internally consistent in how I rated the candidates (e.g., in terms of thoroughness, local relevance, progressive and environmental values). As you can see, there are several strong candidates for the Democratic nomnination in the 45th, which is the kind of "problem" voters should want to have!
P.S. Also, just to emphasize, these grades are based on the candidates' answers to the Blue Virginia questionnaire, not their debate performances, endorsements, fundraising, etc.
1. Tell us a bit about yourself, and specifically, what in your background and/or temperament makes you the best qualified of the Democratic candidates to represent the 45th House of Delegates district in Richmond. Mark Levine: B+; lengthy and generally very strong answer, except that it doesn't talk about any local involvement specifically in Virginia and/or the 45th district.
Clarence Tong: A-; strong background in national and local politics, including service as chair of the Alexandria Democratic Committee and as an Obama administration appointee.
Craig Fifer: A-; strong history of involvement in the Democratic Party, as a volunteer, and in his professional work.
Julie Jakopic: B+; good answer, although nothing about Democratic Party activity, volunteering on campaigns, etc.
Larry Altenburg: B; as in "business," which seems to be his focus.
2. What three issues are you most passionate about and why? What specifically have you done to further those issues? What would be the first bill you'd introduce in the House of Delegates? Mark Levine: A; very strong answer with detailed explanations.
Clarence Tong: A; very strong
Craig Fifer: A+; very strong and detailed answers, also very much like the focus on "effective and transparent government," a core progressive value and something sorely needed in Virginia these days!
Julie Jakopic: A; strong focus on education and health care, and promoting economic opportunity for all, with detailed answers.
Larry Altenburg: B-/C+; solid background, mostly in business and urban planning, although nothing necessarily jumps out from a progressive or environmental perspective.
3. How would you describe yourself ideologically - "progressive," "moderate," "liberal," or something else? How does your record of votes, endorsements, employment, and other activities reflect your political ideology? Mark Levine: A; very strong answer about being a "progressive" and a "liberal."
Clarence Tong: B; decent answer -- "I am proud to call myself an Obama Democrat, although there's certainly question - even to this day - about what it means exactly to be an "Obama Democrat" (despite the right wing's feverish imaginings that Obama's some sort of far-left radical, my views is that he's a pragmatist who likes to seek consensus and bipartisan compromises).
Craig Fifer: A; good answer -- "I'm a progressive" who has worked to "help elect progressive candidates and make our Party stronger and more effective."
Julie Jakopic: A-; good answer ("results-oriented progressive").
Larry Altenburg: C; my preferred answer to this question would have been "progressive" or "pragmatic progressive," as I'm not sure exactly what a "pragmatic Democrat" would be in practice, given the current reality of politics in Virginia (e.g., a House of Delegates overwhelmingly controlled by hard-right Republicans).
In March, I posted here the video and text of my press conference in which I announced that I was running against Mark Obenshain for the state senate seat in the 26th District. I said there that Mr. Obenshain was on the wrong side of the two big (and related) issues that will do most to determine what kind of Virginia, and what kind of America, our children and grandchildren will live in: climate change, and the theft of our democracy by big money.
This past week -- now as the official Democratic nominee-- I made my second major statement, focusing on that latter issue. This statement -- with the title "The First Duty of a Patriot" -- represents my effort to reach out to the conservatives in this district, which generally votes about 70 percent Republican.
Here are the video and the text of that speech.
I have a lot I want to share, from my heart as a patriot.
Our founders made it very clear what they wanted American patriots to protect, above all. What they required is a solemn pledge to defend the system of government they bequeathed to us. Not the homeland, not the flag, but this government of, for, and by the people.
That system is threatened now in a way we've never seen. And that's why the choice between Mark Obenshain and me is important. That's why even conservatives should consider me - the Democrat in this race - as the choice of real patriots.
When I announced my campaign, I spoke of how Big Money is getting too many of our legislators - including Mr. Obenshain - to serve its interests at the expense of ordinary Virginians.
Here are a few national and Virginia news headlines, political and otherwise, for Sunday, May 3. Also, check out that map, which shows what Gov. McAuliffe's and Dominion's plans for massive new natural gas pipelines (resulting in a spike in "fracked" gas produced in West Virginia) will to Virginia's air quality. Yet another reason, in addition to economics and a myriad of environmental reasons, to reject these pipelines.
It was a packed house at Los Tios Restaurant in Alexandria a bit earlier today, as State Senator Adam Ebbin - first elected to the Virginia House of Delegates in 2003, then succeeded Patsy Ticer to the State Senate in 2011 - kicked off his reelection campaign. In addition to Sen. Ebbin, speakers at the event were Alexandria Commonwealth's Attorney Bryan Porter and Attorney General Mark Herring. Just a few others in attendance today included: all five candidates (Julie Jakopic, Craig Fifer, Mark Levine, Clarence Tong, Larry Altenberg) running for the 45h House of Delegates district seat being vacated by Del. Rob Krupicka (who was also there today); State Senator Barbara Favola; ACDC Chair Kip Malinosky; Mt. Vernon Democratic Committee Co-Chair Kate Spears; 8th CD Democratic Committee Chair Margo Horner; Fairfax Sheriff Stacey Kincaid; Fairfax County School Board member Ilryong Moon; Alexandria City Council members Tim Lovain, Justin Wilson and Del Pepper; "Ready for Hillary" co-founder Allida Black; etc.
To the right is video of AG Mark Herring's speech, in which he talked about several of the many accomplishments his office has achieved in just 15 months or so. According to AG Herring, he is "really proud" to have helped bring marriage equality to Virginia (he noted that Republicans filed bills to impeach and disbar him over this), which has helped allow "over 1,500 same-sex couples [to] have married in Virginia." AG Herring noted that in Virginia's history, there have been times when the state's Attorney General "went to the Supreme Court and argued on the wrong side of key, major, landmark civil rights cases in the past, but this time I was there on behalf of Virginians and standing up for equal rights for all Virginians, and it's a great feeling."
Herring also talked about helping "all of our students have a better opportunity for an affordable college education." That includes allowing in-state tuition for the children of undocumented immigrants (aka, "DREAMers"). This allows talented young people to "climb the ladder of success" here in Virginia, which they wouldn't have been able to afford otherwise.
Herring further discussed fighting "the heroin and prescription drug abuse spike," "finding concrete ways to stop sexual assault on our college campuses" and to treat victims with the "respect and compassion they deserve."
Herring noted that these are "not just independent hodgepodge or random decisions we've taken, but rather they are connected." To the contrary, it demostrates "just what an Attorney General can do for" Virginians. Of course, Herring pointed out, none of this would have happened if he hadn't won an extremely close election, which he pointed out is why we have to work so hard to elect Democrats like Adam Ebbin.
With regard to Sen. Ebbin, AG Herring talked about how he's shown "true leadership" on issues ranging from clean energy to LGBT equality to one of the earliest version of a Virginia DREAM Act.
Finally, AG Herring argued that Democrats have a "great opporunity to get a majority back in the Senate, which is absolutely critical."
(For video of Adam Ebbin and Bryan Porter, see the comments section)
Sorry to be a curmudgeon on this fine Saturday morning -- also, I realize that a lot of people, possibly even readers of progressive political blogs (LOL), get off on this stuff, but right now when I check Google News two of the top "news" stories are either irrelevant, idiotic, offensive, or all of the above.
1. Breaking: Rich/famous couple has baby! And that's "news" because...???Meanwhile, there are about 1,000,000,000,000,000 things we should all care more about. Which means, of course, that the media will give the rich/famous couple having a baby huge attention, while ignoring the gazillion other important issues (starting with climate change) facing the planet. Total #mediafail by the pathetic corporate media, as usual.
2. As Democratic nominee for Loudoun County Board Chair Phyllis Randall writes: "WHY, WHY, WHY are we so willing to look the other way when women and children are being physically or emotionally abused. Count me as one that will NOT watch tonight's fight. Sheesh!" She's referring, of course, to the despicable excuse for a human being or a man, Floyd Mayweather, whose "history we know of through arrest and court records...extends over more than 12 years and includes at least seven separate physical assaults on five different women." I'm sorry, but anyone who abuses a woman (or a child or an animal) should be in jail, or at the minimum ostracized from society, certainly not on our TV screens making hundreds of millions of dollars.
Here are a few national and Virginia news headlines, political and otherwise, for Saturday, May 2. Also, check out President Obama's weekly address, on "expanding access to education, and to spreading the joy of reading to more children and young adults."
This following press release came out this afternoon, almost simultaneously with the issuance of new safety rules for high-hazard flammable trains (e.g., those carrying oil) by the U.S. Department of Transportation. Regarding the latter, enviro groups are blasting the rules as far too lax, with a 10-year phaseout period instead of an immediate ban on these super-dangerous trains (see Lac-Mégantic rail disaster for an example of the horrible damage these things can do when they explode in populated communities). As for the Virginia report, it notes that oil train safety is mostly a federal responsibility: "Given the constitutional limitations on state governments to address the root causes of rail emergencies, the Task Force’s efforts were necessarily focused on opportunities to enhance response and recovery, with some limited prevention and safety-related activities conducted within the authorities delegated to the State Corporation Commission (SCC) by the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA)." Strangely, the Virginia report also states: "the overall probability of such an incident remains relatively low compared to other types of transportation-related emergencies. The probability of life loss and significant property or environmental damage is lower still." Perhaps so, but again, when these things DO explode - and they do so far too freqently - they are deadly and destructive. Yet another reason to get off dirty, dangerous fossil fuels and onto clean energy (last I checked, you don't get deadly explosions from energy efficiency, solar and wind power!).
RICHMOND – Governor Terry McAuliffe today announced the release of the Virginia Railroad Safety and Security Task Force’s Initial Report and Recommendations.
"I applaud the members of this task force for the work they have done over the past 11 months in bringing subject matter experts, environmental groups, industry representatives and members of the public together to act on immediate opportunities for enhancing railroad safety and security in our Commonwealth,” said Governor McAuliffe. “This group has also done a great job producing a set of longer-term recommendations to help guide future preparedness initiatives. I look forward to reviewing and implementing these recommendations with my public safety and transportation teams so that we can ensure the safety of these rail lines that are essential to our economic growth.”
Governor McAuliffe formed the Railroad Safety and Security Task Force on May 9, 2014 after a derailment and explosion of crude oil rail cars in Lynchburg. Since it was formed, the agencies comprising the Task Force have increased the frequency of rail inspections on high-hazard routes, delivered crude oil response training across Virginia, and developed additional hazardous materials response capability in concert with local jurisdictions.
Yesterday, we saw a particularly heinous example of the Washington Post's fatal shortcomings, as they completely botched a major story, uncritically regurgitating outrageous disnformation from an obviously biased source, strongly implying that Freddie Gray somehow severed his own spine, while shackled in a police van. I mean, let's just say, anyone who believed that Big Lie should never be listened to about anything, ever again.
Anyway, here's the Washington (Com)Post today, with the REAL story of what happened (obvoius to anyone with half a brain for a long time now).
Now, where's the front-page, above-the-fold call by the Post for heads to roll among reporters and editors who had the Freddie-Gray-severed-his-own-spine story up all day yesterday? You know, like when the Post went ape**** on Rolling Stone for their journalistic malpractice in the UVA "gang rape" story, or when the Post went ape**** over Brian Williams (but not Bill O'LIElly) for making stuff up, etc. Hmmmm...perhaps the (Com)Post's new motto should be: "We often f*** up but we never OWN up?"
P.S. Fox, CNN and others also fit that motto, except that with Fox (and to an extent CNN), I would never expect truth or accuracy. I had hoped for better from the Post, but apparently they're no better than Fox, CNN, etc.
On April 8, I sent Blue Virginia interview questions to all five Democratic candidates running for the 45th House of Delegates district (Alexandria, south Arlington) seat being vacated by Del. Rob Krupicka. The candidates are Larry Altenburg, Craig Fifer, Julie Jakopic, Mark Levine and Clarence Tong. I told the candidates that I'd post their interviews in the order I received them. The first one I received back, on April 13, was from Larry Altenburg. On April 16, I received responses from Clarence Tong, and on April 21 from Julie Jakopic. Earlier this week, I received responses from Mark Levine. Last night, I received answers from the remaining candidate (Craig Fifer) - thanks! Finally, please note that the primary for this nomination will take place on June 9, so if you're a Democrat who lives in the 45th, make sure you vote!
1. Tell us a bit about yourself, and specifically, what in your background and/or temperament makes you the best qualified of the Democratic candidates to represent the 45th House of Delegates district in Richmond. My entire career has been devoted to public service. For over 20 years, I've been honored to serve the people of Virginia professionally and through non-profit and political advocacy. As a local government communications director, e-government manager, and instructional technology trainer, I've brought the services of government to the people it serves. I've worked hard to make government more transparent, responsive, and accessible, and to help those in every part of our society have a voice and a vote.
I've been an active volunteer in human services and my faith community, having served on the United Way regional council and many other non-profit boards ranging from the Virginia Society for Technology in Education to the Harrison Museum of African American Culture. As a Court-Appointed Special Advocate (CASA), I have been a tireless advocate for children who are victims of abuse and neglect.
I've faithfully served our Party and our values time and again whenever needed, in positions ranging from precinct captain and parliamentarian to Young Democrats convention chair and DNC national convention delegate. I've served as Chair of the Sixth Congressional District Democratic Committee and a member of the Eighth District Committee; as President of the Virginia Young Democrats and Vice President for Development of Young Democrats of America; and as Vice Chair for Technology and Communications for the Democratic Party of Virginia. Of course, the most important Party role I've played is as grassroots volunteer -- knocking on doors, making phone calls, stuffing envelopes, and doing whatever else is needed to elect Democrats. It's humbling and exciting to put these skills into practice again as I canvass on my own behalf.
If I were running to join a Democratic majority in the House of Delegates, I would stop there. But the next delegate from the 45th District will have to pass legislation in a hostile and highly partisan environment. I have a proven track record of standing up for progressive values while working with others from all perspectives. As the Northern Virginia chair of the bipartisan Sorensen Institute for Political Leadership and a graduate of the Political Leaders Program Class of 2003, I am part of an extensive network of Virginians from all political persuasions who share a common vision of effective and ethical government. I've used these connections many times to advance issues and legislation that should not face partisan barriers.
There are five great Democrats in this race, but this isn't an abstract competition. I'm the best choice for delegate because I have a proven track record of championing our progressive values while getting results. To learn more or get involved with my campaign, please visit www.fiferfordelegate.com.
The Washington Post, which according to rightwingers is part of the mythical "liberal media," has hit many lows over the years. For instance, as we've discussed her ad nauseum, the Post routinely prints columns from people who deny climate science, who have advocated for torture, you name it pretty much. Possibly even more insidious, the paper's "reporting" routinely commits one or more of the following grave mistakes: 1) false equivalency; 2) acting as little more than court stenographers; 3) refusal to properly credit, link, and attribute other people's work; 4) giving far too much attention to topics that aren't important, while almost completely ignoring topics that are extremely important (e.g., climate change); 5) barely covering local politics at all; etc.
Having said all that, today the Post hit a new low, even by its already abysmal/non-existent standards. I'm talking, of course, about the Post's top headline all day on its website:
The problems with this story are so legion, it's hard to know where to start. But let's go with the video, in which WBAL reporter Jayne Miller completely demolishes the stinking pile of rotting trash.
1. "The medical evidence does not suggest at all that he was able to injure himself. The force of this injury, akin to have the force involved in a car accident, with all that momentum going, that is much more force than you would get trying to bang your head against the wall of the van."
2. "According to our sources...at that stop, when that prisoner is loaded, Gray is unresponsive, not ABLE to bang his head against the wall of the van." 3. "If you watch the video of that stop, what you see are several police officers opening the door - the back door of the van and the inside door - and peering in. Now, if you've got a prisoner in there that he's so irate that he's banging his head against the wall, I don't think that's the kind of thing you do...open the door and give him the chance to escape."
4. "You have to have other injuries. You can't bang your head against the van, to injure yourself in a fatal way...There is just no information that would corroborate that."
Right, this all makes perfect sense. Yet the Washington Post, acting as court stenographer, mostly just repeats the laughable story - by an anonymous prisoner, credibility completely unknown - that a handcuffed/shackled Freddie Gray was somehow able to sever his own spine in the police van on the way to the station. As Media Matters explains, although the Post wrote that it's "not clear whether any additional evidence backs up the prisoner's version," there actually IS "available, credible information that contradicts the other prisoner's account, which the Post could have included before the story was uncritically repeated in other mainstream outlets."
But they didn't. Why not? My guess is that it's a combination of several factors. First, they wanted the "scoop," and didn't want to take the time to get the story right. Second, they want "clicks," "eyeballs," etc. on their newspaper, at whatever cost. Third, they just don't care about getting the facts right in their "news" stories (we've seen this time and time again, on issue after issue, including Virginia politics). Yet, ironically, this same paper lambasted Brian Williams for making s*** up, and also skewered Rolling Stone (see The LAST People Who Should Be Criticizing Rolling Stone) for the same sins their own paper commits on a daily basis, including today's "news" story on how Freddie Gray died.
P.S. The comments section at the Post is the predictable cesspool of right-wingnuttery, bigotry, racism...but I repeat myself.
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