Tuesday, November 12, 2019
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Thank You David Englin! [UPDATE: And Scott Surovell Too!]

What a concept, a Democrat from the "Democratic wing of the Democratic Party!"  Thank you David Englin, for speaking the truth about this piece-o'-crap budget.
Budgets are moral documents that express our values as a Commonwealth and determine whom we lift up and whom we leave out. While the final version of the budget is less bad than the initial House version, I still cannot justify supporting a budget that balances the books on the backs of children and the poor and that includes a fiscally irresponsible shell game with the state pension trust fund.

Thanks to strong, unified, vocal opposition from House Democrats, the final budget is less bad than the budget House Republicans passed Feb. 25. For example, the final budget rejected the Republican plan to take money away from poor students and give it to students who are not poor, and it rejected the Republican plan to redirect federal Medicaid enhancement money from health care for the neediest Virginians to non-health care programs.

However, these concessions do not make up for the fact that the final budget cuts billions of dollars from public education, health care for the poor, public safety, and aid to localities, with no serious attempt to mitigate these cuts with revenue and no serious attempt to give localities the power to mitigate these cuts in their own. Even worse, the final budget still includes a risky, $800-million scheme to divert state contributions from the state pension trust fund, which will put Virginia's triple-A bond rating at risk and threaten our ability to meet our pension obligations to teachers, fire fighters, law enforcement officers, and state and local employees.

And how about bringing back the estate tax, repeal of which Tim Kaine foolishly signed into law?  Why should we slash services for the neediest Virginians while the top few hundred families (out of millions of residents) get a huge tax break? It's wrong on every level - economic, political, moral - for Democrats to go along with this, so why are they going along with it?  I call bull****.

UPDATE: And thank you Scott Surovell!

My grandfather always taught me that you either pay less for things now or you pay more for them later. I do not believe these budget "cuts" are cuts. They are simply reductions in funding on going responsibilities that are now being pushed onto the poor, the uneducated, to middle class families and local government who now have to make the tough decisions.

Educating our children, caring for the poor, and keeping our public safe are a core responsibilities of state government. This Budget does not do that. It balances our budgets on the backs of the poor, the sick, the disabled, college students and their families, and the criminal justice system.

And we haven't done a single thing to resolve this state's transportation crisis.


UPDATE #2: See the Washington Post and WTVR for more on the state budget passage. The vote in the Senate was 34-6, and in the House 73-23. According to Anita Kumar and Rosalind Helderman, "The breakthrough on the budget came when Senate negotiators agreed to eliminate 60 percent of fees that they had proposed to preserve some programs."  The result of which, of course, was to harm more vulnerable Virginians. Heckuva job.

Diane Ravitch on Why Charter Schools Are A Really Bad Idea

This past Thursday, former Assistant Secretary of Education, Diane Ravitch, laid into "charter schools" and "No Child Left Behind" on the Diane Rehm Show. This is a timely and topical subject here in Virginia, as Bob McDonnell's education agenda relies heavily on the "charter school" concept. In contrast to McDonnell and his ideological approach to education (and everything else, for that matter), Ravitch is essentially nonpartisan - a Ph.D. historian of education and research professor at New York University's Steinhardt School of Education who served under both President George HW Bush and President Bill Clinton.

Earlier this month, Ravitch came out with a new book, The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education, which is being described in glowing terms by reviewers. For instance, Valerie Strauss of the Washington Post writes, "Her credibility with conservatives is exactly why it would be particularly instructive for everyone--whether you have kids in school or not--to read [Ravitch's book]." I'm looking forward to reading the book, but in the meantime, I listened to Ravitch on the Diane Rehm Show.  I also read this article by Ravitch, "The Big Idea -- it's bad education policy."  A few key points regarding charter schools and why they're a really bad idea.

Senate and House Democrats Sum Up Session

I received emails yesterday from both the House and Senate Democratic caucuses, summarizing what they believe to be their successes during the (about-to-conclude) General Assembly session.  Here are the highlights, with my comments in italics.

*"Senate negotiators are fighting for their version of the budget which protects jobs and services in K-12 education, higher education, public safety, and the healthcare safety net."
That's great, but from what I've seen so far this morning, there's not a heckuva lot to celebrate on this front. Unless, of course, you believe that "unprecedented cuts to state spending and core services once thought sacrosanct" and "governmental austerity born of the hardest times since the Great Depression" to be a good thing. I don't. Nor do I consider the General Assembly's unwillingness to raise revenues from the wealthiest Virginians, first and foremost by reinstating the Estate Tax, while slashing funding for programs to the most vulnerable Virginians, to be a badge of honor.

*"The Senate Democrats introduced many bills that passed both chambers of the legislature and await Governor McDonnell's signature, though many worthy bills were defeated by an uncooperative House of Delegates"
If you're a "glass half full" kind of person, you focus on the first clause in this sentence. If you're a "glass half empty" type, you focus on the last clause.  Personally, I'm somewhere in the middle, but probably leaning towards the "many worthy bills were defeated" view of things.  On the other hand, the Senate killed many bad bills from the House, such as the infamous "Mark of the Beast" bill and a repeal of Virginia's one-gun-a-month law.  So, overall, it could have been better but it certainly could have been worse.

*"The Senate defeated numerous bad bills from the House of Delegates including efforts to repeal Virginia's crime-reducing 'one hand gun per month' law, a frivolous bill to prevent forced implantation of microchips, a bill that would have allowed unregulated 'super guns', and one that authorized deadly force, instead of proportional force, against any person who sets foot on your property."
On all these fronts, thank goodness that Democrats control the State Senate to offer a "check and balance" against the right-wing Republican controlled House and governor's mansion.

*"The Senate Democrats also fought for the best interest of Virginians in several debates. At the beginning of the session, the Senate Democrats told Governor McDonnell they would not approve his Secretary of Commerce and Trade appointee because he served as a paid board member of private corporations, presenting a conflict of interest. Senate Democrats also convinced Governor McDonnell to present his budget recommendations as all other Governors do. The Governor decided that $4.2 billion in budget cuts had to be made and after weeks of pressure he eventually presented his plan to make those cuts. Finally, Senate Democrats raised serious concerns over Governor McDonnell's proposed charter school arrangement which would have taken power from local school boards and put it in the hands of a group of political appointees. This arrangement would have violated the Virginia Constitution and Senate Democrats worked constructively with the McDonnell administration and education stakeholders to negotiate a constitutional arrangement that satisfied all parties."
Good work, particularly on the Secretary of Commerce and Trade, although Robert Sledd still ended up with a powerful position advising Bob McDonnell on commerce and trade issues.  And on the charter schools, I'm not sure if all the "serious concerns" I heard raised were really addressed. Still, at least they raised them I guess...

Krystal Ball Sweeps Fredericksburg, Stafford Caucuses: Is This Race Over?

Krystal Ball tweets:

Now that's impressive: Every. Single. Delegate. So, with that -- Krystal picking up 1/3 of the committed delegates she needs to win, with Robinson picking up zero - is the race for the 1st CD Democratic nomination between Krystal Ball and Scott Robinson already over?  After today's rout of Robinson, it certainly could be. Here's Marc Broklawski's take.

While there are plenty of contests left before the 1st Congressional District Convention in May, the math for Scott just got a whole lot harder to secure the nomination - if not impossible. The fact is that Krystal's base of support is strong throughout the district, especially in the southern part of it. I'm also confident that Krystal understands that she cannot take anything for granted and will continue working hard throughout the entire district.

Scott's field operation seemed non-existent today, if he even has one. Back in February, Scott believed that because of his background, the fact that he was raised within the district and the fact that he was a waterman as a kid that would translate into victory. His overly simplistic and naïve view of things, was clearly on display today; and should provide a moment of pause for democrats who were thinking of supporting him. His formula for victory is a losing one and his message, or lack thereof, is not resonating with the electorate. This election is too important and the stakes too high. Krystal is clearly our best chance of winning this year.

The wheels are clearly coming off of his campaign and his lack of a clear message and strategy is evident. It may be time for him to reassess the viability of his campaign and whether or not he drag out what appears to be an inevitable outcome.

I strongly agree with Marc's analysis and look forward to Krystal Ball taking on Rob Wittman (R) and/or Catherine "Bullet Box" Crabill (T as in "Tea Party") in the general election.

McDonnell/Cooch, Good Cop/Bad Cop?

Do Bob McDonnell and Ken Cuccinelli differ in any substantive way on the issues? Or, are they actually two peas in a pod, playing a "good cop/bad cop" game, in which McDonnell pretends to be the "reasonable" one while Cooch plays himself as "the right-wing crazy?" That's certainly what Lee Hockstader of the Washington Post think, and I'm inclined to agree.

What McDonnell needed during the election last fall, and continues to need, is to establish that he is not a rigid right-winger whose ideological fervor trumps pragmatism. And that's where Cuccinelli comes in so handy. In contrast to Cuccinelli, practically anyone looks like a moderate.

So when Cuccinelli staked out the hard-right turf by telling public colleges that they have no business banning discrimination against gays, it was like manna from heaven for McDonnell...

Look for McDonnell and Cuccinelli to maintain this good-cop-bad-cop routine for the foreseeable future, as McDonnell tries to cement the moderate cred that will make him a vice presidential contender in 2012 or 2016, and as Cuccinelli continues to sing sweet music to his base of gay-hating conservatives.

In sum, Bob McDonnell is probably ecstatic that Ken Cuccinelli is in the AG's office, pandering to "the base," and freeing up "Pat Robertson's Manchurian Governor" to appear "moderate" in public while actually being a Closet Cooch Clone. A Clever Closet Cooch Clone at that!

P.S. For an illustration of what Cooch's rigid homophobia and intolerance can lead to, read this superb diary by "The Nephew". I'd recommend the diary to McDonnell and Cooch as well, but they probably believe their private parts will spontaneously combust if they so much as click on such a thing (either that, or they're doing like "Sideshow Bob" Marshall and voraciously reading the "homosexual literature" - heh).

Catherine Crabill on Muslim Prayer to House of Delegates: “Just say NO to this...

I may just make this a regular feature of Blue Virginia: "It's not just crazy, it's 1st CD (Republican? Tea Party?) candidate (well, maybe) Catherine Crabill Crazy!!!"  Here's the latest from her Facebook page, in reaction to this article in today's Washington Post ("Boycott urged for Muslim imam's prayer in Virginia House").  Take it away - far, far away! - Catherine "Bullet Box" Crabill!
Again, this is a Christian Nation that extends grace to people of other faith's that are not reciprocated to Christians. Just say NO to this blasphemy! Islam is the enemy of liberty, period.

I reject Muslim's offering prayers sanctified by any branch or office of our government. The Koran is the antithesis of liberty. And because of the Christianity of our nation you Muslims have been offered a refuge here that we would NEVER be offered in your world. Please respect OUR faith and OUR heritage just as you would NEVER allow a Christian or Jew to pray in your mosque or place of government which does not offend me.

Baliles: Cooch’s Legal Reasoning Flawed [UPDATE: Two Lies from Cooch]

Former Gov. (and former Attorney General) Gerald Baliles refutes Ken Cuccinelli's legal reasoning on whether Virginia colleges and universities can protect gay students, professors, etc. from discrimination.
The Attorney General's opinion, in my judgment, erroneously attempts to place colleges and universities into the same category as "local governments," and therefore, subject to the Dillon Rule's requirement of operating only within specific enumerated grants of power from the General Assembly.

For years - decades, even -public colleges and universities have operated pursuant to their "own charters." In the Educational Institutions title of the Virginia Code, the specific statutes creating the Commonwealth's public colleges and universities, and amended over the years, including recent restructuring legislation, grant very broad powers to presidents and boards of visitors to "make all needful rules and regulations" concerning their operations and to "generally direct the affairs of their institutions." Thus, unless the General Assembly affirmatively revokes such powers, Virginia's public colleges and universities may continue to engage in adopting rules and regulations necessary to their operations, including standards of conduct.

In short, we have an Attorney General who, aside from being a raging homophobe, is also ignorant of Virginia law. Great combination, huh?

h/t: Rosalind Helderman at the Virginia Politics Blog

UPDATE #1: The Alexandria City Council weighs in.

UPDATE #2: Cuccinelli makes a couple of claims that are almost certainly not true. First, Cooch that nobody disagrees with his legal reasoning. On this point, see Baliles' opinion above. Second, Cooch repeatedly claims that his office was just answering a question, and that there's no political motivation or anything else in this. The problem is, at least as far as I know, Cooch's office hasn't provided any evidence that it received a request on this subject.  If so, I'd love to hear who made that "request," but barring any evidence, my assumption is that Cooch undertook all this on his own initiative.

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