This morning, for whatever reason, incoming Senate Majority Leader Dick Saslaw (D) went on right-wing talk radio (“The John Fredericks Show”) to share his thoughts on the 11/5 elections (in which Democrats took back control of the State Senate, albeit by a narrow 21-19 margin); about the upcoming 2020 General Assembly session; and about Clean Virginia and its founder, Michael Bills. Here are a few highlights:
- This will be the third time Saslaw will be Senate Majority Leader.
- Saslaw was asked about his approach to legislating, and specifically whether he will be “a little more reticent” than someone like Del. Alfonso Lopez (D-Arlington/Fairfax), who back in April declared, “If we have the majority, the work of a lifetime is the work of two afternoons. If we have the majority, the values and the issues that you cherish…they get done for 8.4 million people…We’re this close – this close – to really making our dreams come true.” Saslaw’s response: “Well, we were elected to try to move the state forward…we weren’t elected to turn the place upside down...there’s a lot to look at…we’re going to move the state forward on a lot of the issues that we campaigned on…I can’t speak for Del. Lopez, he’s in the House, but we will take a look at things that need to be fixed and we will do just that.”
- On so-called “right-to-work” (aka, anti-unionizing) laws, Saslaw said “we’ll take a look at it, but like I said, we weren’t elected to turn the place upside down…There’s a lot of things we need to do to help the working fella and we’re going to take a look at that…and see what needs to be done…We intend to help out the middle class…working class here in America.”
- On gun legislation, Saslaw said “we won World War II…with an M-1 rifle, which I used when I was in the service…that magazine…held 8 rounds of ammunition – not 20, 30, 50 or 100 – eight, and we won a world war with that. I don’t see why people need high-capacity magazines.” Saslaw also said “background checks work.”
- On the minimum wage, Saslaw said he supports phasing in $15/hour over five years, just like Maryland has done. According to Saslaw, “that’s not going to turn anybody into Warren Buffett or Bill Gates, but it’s a start to get them moving.”
- On vaping, Saslaw said “as far as I can see, it’s being used to attract people who are under the age of 21…not a day or two goes by when you don’t pick up the paper and read where someone almost died from that product...I just don’t see how we’re a better society for flavored vaping products.”
- On gambling, Saslaw seems to support the “we’d rather tax it than outlaw it” approach.
- Finally, Saslaw was asked about the group, “Clean Virginia,” and its funder (and founder) Michael Bills. Saslaw had some VERY strong words: “I heard that they had leaned on a lot of people…made phone calls to vote against Eileen [Filler-Corn as Speaker], and quite frankly you’re getting awful close to that quid pro quo line when you’re doing stuff like that…We don’t take any contributions that come with any conditions…You’re getting into dangerous territory when you accept a deal like that…I just don’t believe in…taking campaign contributions that come with conditions…When you [sign a no-donations pledge], you’re getting awful close to stepping over that line on the Hobbs Act…”
- Saslaw added that Clean Virginia’s efforts to stop Eileen Filler-Corn from becoming Speaker “didn’t work, because the Democrats in the House of Delegates caucus have a lot more common sense…Eileen is the perfect fit for that job…We’re not for sale…The House Democrats did an outstanding job in selecting the three leaders that they did…These are all commonsense people; they’re progressives, but they’re centrist progressives…They just want to do the right thing.”
UPDATE: I received a statement from Clean Virginia on Saslaw’s comments this morning.
Dominion Energy advertises heavily on the John Fredericks Show, and it is all-too-common to hear blatant lies about our work on the broadcast. The allegation that our Board Chair Michael Bills was calling to lobby against Delegate Eileen Filler-Corn’s leadership bid is yet another one of these falsehoods. Clean Virginia welcomes the historic election of Del. Filler-Corn and looks forward to her first session as Speaker. Dominion Energy has benefited from one of the most favorable regulatory environments in the country due in part to the massive amount of money the utility monopoly has contributed to the General Assembly. Now one-third of the new General Assembly refuses these contributions in recognition of the fundamental conflict of interest in a regulated utility monopoly contributing to legislators. We look forward to legislative change that will end Dominion’s abuse of its privileged monopoly position which hurts Virginians while lining the pockets of Dominion’s top executives and shareholders.