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A Few Questionable Votes – and Bills – by Virginia House Democrats So Far

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Overwhelmingly, so far the 2017 Virginia General Assembly session has been the story of Republicans – apparently not in the least bit chastened by the shellacking they took last November – blocking anything and everything that might move Virginia forward. You name the subject – gun violence prevention, environmental protection, promotion of clean energy, expansion of quality/affordable health care coverage, protections against discrimination and sexual harassment, etc, etc. – and Republicans have responded with a loud, mostly unanimous, Putin-strength “NYET!”

It looks like Virginia Republicans are gambling that by 2019, voters either won’t remember what they did in the 2018 General Assembly session and/or anti-Trump anger will subside and/or they’re still more afraid of a primary challenge from their faaaar right than a Democratic general election opponent. But the bottom line is that, for whatever reasons, Virginia Republicans are acting just as you’d expect Virginia Republicans to act. And that’s not a good thing.

Having said all that, there have been a few cases – actually very few, which is reassuring – where Democrats have voted in questionable ways on legislation, or even patroned bills that no self-respecting environmentalist or progressive should even dream of patroning. For instance…see below. And again, just to be absolutely clear, remember that OVERWHELMINGLY — close to 100% – it’s been Democrats (including the ones listed below) voting the right way and Republicans the wrong way on bill after bill after bill after bill.

Sen. Chap Petersen (D-Fairfax City) has some excellent legislation (e.g., increasing the threshold for grand larceny to $1,000; putting a tax on plastic bags in the Chesapeake Bay watershed, prohibiting campaign contributions to candidates from any public service corporation), but also has had a few doozies this session, such as bizarrely moving to water down Sen. Scott Surovell’s fracking ban to a four-year moratorium. As Chap said, he knows just enough about this issue to be dangerous. Grrrr. Chap also voted against another one of his former law partner’s bills — SB74, which “Expands the prohibition on using a handheld personal communications device while operating a motor vehicle to all communications unless the device is specifically designed to allow voice and hands-free operation and the device is being used in that manner.” Chap – along with Sen. Creigh Deeds – further voted against Surovell’s bill to reduce adultery to a civil penalty. Seriously?

Delegates Ken Plum (D-Fairfax), Lamont Bagby (D-Henrico County) and Joseph Lindsey (D-Norfolk, Virginia Beach): Sorry/not sorry, but no Democrat should have their name on a piece of legislation THIS bad (Del. Terry Kilgore’s Dominion-bought-and-paid-for monstrosity). Please, my fellow Democrats, take your names off of there right away and tell Dominion’s wholly-owned subsidiary, Del. Terry Kilgore (R), where to shove his dirty Dominion dollars! By the way, it’s important to note that Del. Bagby has some good legislation, including automatic voter registration and no-excuse absentee voting; and Del. Plum has good legislation on gun violence prevention and the minimum wage.

Sen. Dick Saslaw (D-Falls Church/Fairfax/Alexandria): Saslaw’s carrying Dominion’s water over on the Senate side, with SB 967, the equivalent of the bill by Kilgore/Plum/Bagby/Lindsey mentioned above. It’s not surprising coming from one of the biggest recipients of Dominion’s largesse, but still…can somebody PLEASE primary this guy???

Sen. Lionell Spruill (D-Chesapeake/Norfolk): It’s bad enough that incumbent Virginia General Assembly politicians get to draw their own districts and essentially pick their own voters, but they also get to choose the method of nomination as well. Now, Sen. Spruill wants to go in the 180-degrees wrong direction, actually EXPANDING the latter to “incumbent constitutional officers” instead of getting rid of this incumbent protection idiocy altogether. No thanks. Fortunately, Sen. Spruill does have a few good bills, including on tethering of animals and gun violence prevention.

Senators John Edwards  (D-Roanoke) and Creigh Deeds (D-25th district): Both voted to kill Sen. Louise Lucas’ bill to bring back Virginia’s one-handgun-per-month limit. Gack. On the other hand, Sen. Edwards has some great legislation — on the minimum wage, pipelines, clean energy, elections, etc. And Sen. Deeds has some excellent bills as well, particularly on mental health issues.

Senators Dick Saslaw, Rosalyn Dance (D-Richmond, Chesterfield, etc.), Adam Ebbin (D-Alexandria/Arlington/Fairfax),  Janet Howell (D-Fairfax/Arlington), John Edwards and Lionell Spruill: All five voted to “Pass by Indefinitely,” aka kill, Sen. Chap Petersen’s SB10, which “Prohibits any candidate from soliciting or accepting a contribution from any public service corporation, as defined in § 56-1, or any political action committee established and administered by such a corporation.” That would be Dominion Energy, first and foremost, and they absolutely should NOT be allowed to corrupt our political process as they have done for years. On the other hand, Sen. Dance has some excellent legislation, such as on repealing voter ID nonsense, making it easier to vote in other ways and increasing the minimum wage. Sen. Ebbin also has some great bills, from gun violence prevention to LGBT equality to voting to marijuana decriminalization.  And Sen. Edwards has some great bills, noted in the previous item. Sen. Spruill has some good stuff as well, listed above.  Finally, Sen. Howell has excellent bills on no-excuse absentee voting, keeping guns out of the hands of children, and (I love this one) requiring ” any person seeking the nomination of the national political party for the office of the President or Vice President, in order to have his name appear on the primary or general election ballot, to submit to the State Board his federal tax returns and any income tax returns filed in any state from each year of the five-year period immediately preceding the general election.” Of COURSE, that last bill was killed by Republicans in committee, but just wait until Dems take back the Senate in 2019! 🙂

Sen. Barbara Favola (D-Arlington/Fairfax): Has some excellent bills (e.g., on hate crimes, bump stocks, child abuse, the death penalty, family life education, marijuana, pedestrians) but unfortunately was the deciding vote in the Senate’s Local Government committee to kill Sen. Deeds’ SB667, which would have authorized “a locality to pass an ordinance to regulate, restrict, or prohibit the wearing of any combination of attire or weaponry commonly associated with military combat, paramilitary operations, or warfare that gives the impression that the wearer is an on-duty member of the United States Armed Forces, an official law-enforcement agency, or the militia during any permitted assembly of persons or movement of persons or vehicles if such attire constitutes a threat to the public safety or welfare.” I watched the committee debate on this, and for the life of me I can’t figure out where Sen. Favola was coming from on this one…especially given that she voted against every other Democrat on the committee. Huh?

  • James McCarthy

    As research demonstrates, being a Republican means being far more ideologically demanding than Dems [NY Times Op-Ed; 1/22/18]. Dems need to review Joe Kennedy’s message as it struck the chord necessary for Dems to appreciate What, in fact, Was the Matter with Kansas. Very few folks are NOT in the working class, i.e. earning a wage or salary, but that class is losing its white identity and identity politics will not win elections. Messages to the working class will. e/g/ the Dominion debate.