1. MCDONNELL SHOWS SOME SUCCESSES IN FIRST LEGISLATIVE SESSIONS
2. LAWMAKERS APPROVE TWO-YEAR, $70 BILLION BUDGET
3. ASSEMBLY APPROVES TWO-YEAR, $70 BILLION VA BUDGET
4. STATE KEEPS CCCA OPEN
5. HOUSE, SENATE PASS VIRGINIA'S TWO-YEAR SPENDING PLAN
9. STATE WILL DIP INTO PENSION FUND, REPAY WITH 7.5% INTEREST
11. LEGISLATORS LEAVE TOWN, MCDONNELL BIDS THEM ADIEU
13. GOVERNOR'S STEPS TOWARD OFFSHORE ROYALTIES
14. THE AG PENS AN OP-ED ON SEX BIAS PROTECTION
16. POWER BILLS HEATING UP 9TH DISTRICT ELECTION CAMPAIGN
18. NOT SPECIAL
20. ASSEMBLY ETHICS BILL NEEDS STRENGTHENING
It is about time. Even though progressive sacrificed a tremendous amount in this health care reform legislation, and even though it most closely resembles the 1993 Republican alternative to "Hillarycare," on balance I still believe this represents progress for America. I also believe this will give Democrats a boost heading into November. Up until now, Democrats have gotten all the "negatives" of debating health care reform, including a constant stream of Big Lies by the Republicans, while simultaneously looking weak for not seeing this become law. Once this thing actually is signed by President Obama, the entire dynamic should change, and hopefully "the base" will start getting excited again and close the "enthusiasm gap" with Republicans for this fall. At least, that's the theory! :)
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.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****.
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.
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.
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 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...
1. BIAS DISPUTE KNOCKS MCDONNELL OFF STRIDE
2. HOUSE, SENATE REACH BUDGET DEAL AFTER MIDNIGHT
4. VIRGINIA LAWMAKERS REACH AGREEMENT ON BUDGET
8. GENERAL ASSEMBLY WRAP-UP: WHAT PASSED, WHAT FAILED
17. VIRGINIA HOUSE AGREES TO FORFEIT OVERTIME PAY; SENATE TO ACCEPT PAY
18. A ONE-MAN WINDOW INTO LAWMAKING
19. MCCLELLAN'S PREGNANCY BELIEVED TO BE A FIRST FOR HOUSE
20. BOUCHER WON'T SUPPORT HEALTH REFORM WITH MEDICARE CUTS
23. NUCLEAR STANDOFF
34. SOME VICTORIES, MUCH PAIN IN VA. GENERAL ASSEMBLY SESSION
36. FOR METRO'S STRAPPED BUDGET, A WEALTH OF IDEAS BUT NOT CASH
42. COUNTIES BRACE FOR BRUTAL CUTS TO SCHOOLS, POLICE, PARKS
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.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.
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.
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).
1. MCDONNELL SAYS HE'S DONE ENOUGH TO PROTECT GAYS
2. REPUBLICAN GOVERNOR AS GAY RIGHTS DEFENDER: A SIGN OF THE TIMES?
3. MCDONNELL VISITS LEGISLATORS ON THEIR TURF, ENCOURAGES BUDGET DEAL
4. MCDONNELL ANNOUNCES NEW CLEMENCY POLICY
5. BOLLING: SUBCOMMITTEES CAN'T TAKE FINAL ACTION
7. CUCCINELLI NOT GIVING IN ON COLLEGES' GAY BIAS POLICIES
8. FORMER GOV. BALILES CHALLENGES CUCCINELLI ON COLLEGE GAY POLICIES
10. BUDGET BREAKTHROUGHS SEEN, BUT OVERTIME LIKELY
16. VIRGINIA GENERAL ASSEMBLY GOES SLOW ON TOUGH ETHICS REFORM
18. VA. LAWMAKERS PASS CAR TITLE LENDING REFORM
20. APPALACHIAN EFFORT DEFEATED
31. IN VIRGINIA, A WATERED-DOWN BILL ON CHARTER SCHOOLS