RICHMOND-Dominion Resources, already the top emitter of planet-heating greenhouse gas pollution in Virginia, announced a proposal this morning to build a new 1,600-megawatt gas-fired power plant in Southside Virginia. If approved, the plant would be the largest gas-fired power plant in the state.
Kirsten Collings, deputy director of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network, had the following statement in response:
"You can't solve the climate crisis by investing in more fossil fuels. A growing body of evidence shows that fracked gas could be worse for the climate than coal over the next 20 years because of leaks of heat-trapping methane. Governor McAuliffe has his facts wrong in endorsing this project as 'clean,' just as he did when endorsing Dominion's massive Atlantic Coast pipeline for fracked gas.
"The reality is that Virginia simply doesn't need and can't afford new investments in fossil fuels. Dominion could more than offset the need to build a new gas-burning power plant by investing in modest energy-saving technologies that would reduce demand along with Virginians' utility bills. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, Virginians pay the 7th highest average electric bills in the nation, and our state ranks near the bottom on energy efficiency. Dominion should invest in the commonwealth's vast clean energy resources, which would create jobs, lower bills and reduce emissions of climate-disrupting pollution."
In the race to succeed retiring State Senator John Watkins (R-SD10), the candidates currently listed on VPAP are: Dems Emily Francis (a strong progressive and environmentalist, Dan Gecker (who has run as an "I" in the past and who says his political hero is Ronald Reagan); Republican Glen Sturtevant; and Libertarian Carl Loser. In the Dem primary, since the strongest progressive and environmentalist by far is Emily Francis, you just know who the Dem "powers that be" (e.g., Dick Saslaw, who despises progressives and environmentalists with a burning passion) would be supporting the conservadem, and you'd be right.
But now, a major wild card is rumored to be entering the race, and it could mess up all of the "powers that be"'s well-laid plans. That would Alex McMurtrie, a former Republican (correction: the Washington Post article I linked to was wrong, McMurtrie was a Democrat, although it's easy to confuse, as his campaign slogan reportedly was "Conservative Alex McMurtrie" - lol) House of Delegates member (back in the 1980s), now, who last ran (as an "I") and got crushed by John Watkins (R), who's now retiring, back in 1999.
Who knows what the guy really is now, but he donates to both Rs and Ds. Anyway, I hear from sources that he turned in his petitions yesterday to run as a Democrat in the primary for the SD-10 Dem primary. This could be fascinating, as it means two white, male, conservadems will be running, along with a woman who happens to be a progressive and environmentalist. Also, McMurtrie is by all accounts "loaded" in terms of money. So...could McMurtrie split the votes with Gecker and gives Francis a clear path to winning this primary? We can only hope. Stay tuned.
P.S. I also hear our old friend Paul Goldman may be involved in the McMurtrie race. Goldman's really got to be giving Dick Saslaw heartburn these days, and I can't say that doesn't put a smile on my face. :)
Last night, the Stafford County School Board, prior to voting, took public feedback on a debate over transgender students' bathroom access. For some background, see Think Progress, which explains:
Hartwood Elementary School, part of the Stafford County school system, started by accommodating the student's identity. She was allowed to use the girls' room per her gender identity and in consultation with her parents. When another parent complained, the district's Executive Director of Human Resources, Rick L. Fitzgerald, released a message on behalf of the district referring to recent guidance from the Department of Justice that indicates that the "sex" protections under Title IX protect transgender students' use of facilities that match the gender with which they identify. Allowing the fourth-grader to use the girls' room was simply the district complying with the law.
...The transgender student's father, Jonathan Adams, also testified. He admitted to having some of the same misconceptions when the child he thought was his son insisted she was a girl. "And then I watched my little girl grow up," he said. Adams proclaimed that he was "very proud to have a special little girl," and implored others "not to trade understanding for fear or trade misconceptions for hate."
Later in the evening, however, the school board voted 6-0 to direct the superintendent to restrict the girl's bathroom use.
Also interesting were the comments by the public. For the entire debate, most of which involved parents opposed to allowing the transgender student (who identifies as female) to use the girls' bathroom, see here. The video I've included is of a courageous parent (of two students in the Stafford County school system) delivering and impassioned plea for respect and tolerance for the transgender student. Sadly, her pleas feel on deaf ears...
Here are a few national and Virginia news headlines, political and otherwise, for Thursday, March 26. Also, courtesy of Stafford Dem Marc Broklawski, check out the "'greatest hits' compilation of extreme Tea Party testimony bullying the Stafford School Board into abandoning Title IX." It's kinda like watching Faux "News" or Glenn Beck or something. And no, that is NOT a good thing! Ugh.
Today's Supreme Court decision on racial gerrymandering invalidates an Alabama redistricting plan that packed minority voters into majority-minority districts. What "packing" African Americans does is to basically guarantee an African-American will be elected in the "packed" district(s), but that African Americans' voting power will be diluted everywhere else.
Here in Virginia, this issue came to a head last fall, when three federal judges ruled "that the lines of the state's 3rd Congressional District were drawn in violation of the U.S. Constitution" and "ordered the General Assembly to redraw them by April 1, in time for the next congressional election in 2016."
The 3rd District is the only one of Virginia's 11 congressional districts with an African American majority. It has been represented since 1992 by Rep. Bobby Scott, a Newport News Democrat who is unopposed in the Nov. 4 election.
In a 2-1 decision, the judges agreed with the plaintiffs in a lawsuit filed a year ago that the congressional redistricting plan adopted by the Republican-controlled Assembly in 2012 amounted to racial gerrymandering, packing African American voters into Scott's district and leaving adjoining districts safer for their Republican incumbents.
In order to comply with the panel's ruling, the legislature might have to pull some Democratic-leaning voters out of Scott's district and redistribute them to surrounding districts, possibly creating less-hospitable electoral terrain for Republican Reps. Randy Forbes of Chesapeake and Scott Rigell of Virginia Beach.
Note that in 2012, Barack Obama lost the 4th CD (Forbes' district) by just 1 point, while Tim Kaine narrowly won it. Thus, a shift of even a few points could make Randy Forbes' political life a lot less cozy. Same thing with Scott Rigell, whose second district Barack Obama narrowly won in 2012.
Meanwhile, yet another Virginia lawsuit accuses "the General Assembly of 'racial gerrymandering' by packing black voters into 12 of the state's House of Delegates districts." For that reason, "[t]he plaintiffs are asking the court to declare the challenged districts invalid and to block the state from holding elections because of the disputed districts." If plaintiffs win this case, it could lead to the redrawing not just of the affected districts, but also potentially surrounding ones as well. And that, in turn, could have significant consequences for the balance of power in the Virginia House of Delegates. Not surprisingly, House of Delegates Republicans are in no hurry to deal with this situation, and would clearly prefer that it just go away. Unfortunately for them, but fortunately for those who dislike racial gerrymandering and "packing," that's not likely.
Bottom line: Today's SCOTUS ruling has potentially big implications for Virginia, because Rep. Bobby Scott's case is factually similar, as is the House of Delegates case.
Mr. Chairman, this year's Republican Budget Resolution is incredulously titled "A Balanced Budget for a Stronger America." But by every measure, the draconian cuts proposed in this budget would severely WEAKEN America's innovative advantage and competitiveness. It might as well be called "Let's Disinvest in America".
Consider the cuts to basic research, once a bedrock federal priority that has spurred new discoveries that are now vital in our daily lives and the economy. R&D is critical for my Northern Virginian district, where the technology community is driving innovation. But this Republican budget would slash R&D funding by 15% to its lowest levels since 2002. That is a retreat from America's role as the global innovation leader, and essentially cedes the playing field to our international competition.
Similarly, the Republican budget would disinvest in our classrooms. To achieve their ruse of balancing the budget over 10 years, Republicans would cut non-defense spending 24% below the already-reduced sequester levels. For K-12 education, that translates into an $89 billion cut over the next decade and would surely leave every child behind their international peers. It also would put higher education further out of reach for low- and middle-class families.
America did not ascend to its role as the world's leading economy by quashing the potential of future innovators and leaders.
Mr. Speaker, our Republican colleagues are once again showing they know the cost of everything and the value of very little. I often hear my colleagues lament that we should run government more like a business. Well, if that's the case, perhaps we should start by listening to the business community, which is advocating for us to invest more, not less, in R&D, in education, and in infrastructure for the future workforce and the building blocks of a competitive economy.
These are investments that yield tremendous returns for our families, for our children, for our future, and the Republican budget would eviscerate these pillars of America's exceptionalism.
In May, 2014 Dominion Transmission sent letters to property owners from West Virginia to North Carolina requesting to survey private property for the proposed natural gas pipeline known then as the Southern Reliability Project. Many landowners refused, including approximately 70% of landowners in Nelson County.
In December, the Atlantic Coast Pipeline LLC, a Delaware limited liability corporation, began suing landowners who had refused to allow Dominion Transmission to survey. The first of these cases was heard today in Suffolk Circuit Court. Below is a press release from Chuck Lollar, the attorney who argued the case for a landowner in Suffolk who had refused the survey. Suffice it to say, neither Dominion nor the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) LLC are happy this evening. On the other hand, many landowners across the Commonwealth are celebrating, including Heidi Cochran, a landowner in Nelson County who called us this afternoon to alert us of this victory in court.
A Virginia court today dismissed the petition of Atlantic Coast Pipeline, LLC against a Suffolk property owner represented by Chuck Lollar of the law firm of Waldo & Lyle, which exclusively represents property owners only in eminent domain and property rights matters.
The Court heard arguments from Mr. Lollar and ACP attorney John Wilburn on the constitutionality of Virginia Code § 56-49.01. Mr. Lollar argued that because property is now specifically referred to in the recent amendment to Virginia's Declaration of Rights (Article 1 Section 11 of the Constitution) as a "fundamental" right, ACP is required to show a compelling governmental interest and no lesser restrictive alternative to the requested entry; and that applying the required strict scrutiny ACP had not alleged nor could establish either. Mr. Lollar also noted that ACP was not a Virginia public service corporation and did not have the extraordinary power of eminent domain.
ACP was proceeding under § 56-49.01 in seeking a court order allowing entry to survey and take soil and other samples from private property, prior to filing its application with FERC for a certificate of public convenience and necessity. The Court did not have to rule on that constitutionality of § 56-49.01 due to the Court's conclusion that Atlantic Coast Pipeline had neither requested permission from the owner to enter nor sent the owner notice of intent to enter, both of which are prerequisites to actual entry under § 56-49.01. The Court further held that Dominion Transmission, Inc. could not assign to ACP its sending of letters requesting permission and giving notice to owners, in order for ACP to have met those requirements.
A few weeks ago, I posted a graphic showing Virginia's House of Delegates districts, ranked in descending order by the percent that AG candidate Mark Herring received in 2013. Now, I'm well aware that turnout in 2015 will be even lower than 2013 (a statewide/governor's election year), but it's still a more accurate baseline, IMHO, than any "even year" election.
Anyway, what this ranking showed was that there are currently 12 House of Delegates districts where Mark Herring received 50% or greater in 2013, yet are held by Republican delegates. There are also two 49% Herring districts, two 48% Herring districts, two 47% Herring districts, and four 46% Herring districts currently held by Republican delegates. So how are we doing (e.g., how are House Minority Leader David Toscano and Del. Alfonso Lopez, Campaign and Political Chair of the House Democratic Caucus) in terms of recruitment in these districts so far?
According to VPAP, we now have a (super-strong) candidate, Jennifer Boysko, in the 86th district, where Del. Tom Rust has announced his retirement. Nothing's an automatic, but that one looks like a superb pickup opportunity for Democrats this November. We also have candidates in the following districts:
*HD-87 (56% Herring district): Democrat Jack Tiwari vs. Del. David Ramadan
*HD-32 (54% Herring district): Democrat Elizabeth Miller vs. Del. Tag Greason
*HD-42 (53% Herring district): Democrat Joana Garcia vs. Del. Dave Albo
*HD-13 (51% Herring district): Democrat Don Shaw vs. Del. "Sideshow Bob" Marshall
*HD-12 (50% Herring district): Democrat Laurie Buchwald vs. Del. Joseph Yost
*HD-21 (50% Herring district): Democrat Susan Hippen vs. Del. Ron Villanueva
*HD-50 (50% Herring district): Democrat Kyle McCullough vs. Del. Jackson Miller
*HD-94 (49% Herring district): Democrat Shelly Simonds vs. Del. David Yancey
*HD-100 (49% Herring distirct): Democrat Willie Randall vs. Del. Rob Bloxom
*HD-28 (48% Herring district): Democrat Kandy Hilliard vs. House Speaker Bill Howell (let's hope Tea Partier Susan Stimpson wins that primary!)
*HD-40 (47% Herring district): Democrat Jerry Foltz vs. Del. Tim Hugo
All in all, not too shabby, and we still have time to recruit candidates in remaining potentially competitive, House of Delegates districts. In the end, this could turn out to be an excellent year in terms of recruitment. The question is whether we'll be able to adequately fund these candidates, as Republicans started off 2015 with a big money advantage for House of Delegates.
The remaining top House of Delegates recruiting priorities, as far as I can tell, are: 1) someone to challenge Del. Jim LeMunyon in his 54% Mark Herring district (in 2013, Democrat Hung Nguyen got 45.3%); 2) ditto for right-wingnut extraordinaire Del. Scott Lingamfelter, in his 52% Mark Herring district (last time around, Jeremy McPike lost by just 228 votes; not sure why he's not trying again this year!); 3) ditto against Del. Rich Anderson in his 50% Mark Herring district (Democrat Reed Heddleston got 46% in 2013).
One other seat worth noting is the 2nd, a 56% Mark Herring district being vacacted by Del. Michael Futrell. Our candidate there is Roderick Hall, who will take on former Del. Mark Dudenhefer.
P.S. I just read this morning that "Political newcomer Chuck Hedges, a Democrat, will challenge incumbent state Del. David LaRock (R) in this year's House of Delegates 33rd District election." That's a tough district (44% for Mark Herring in 2013), but what the heck, you can't win if you don't play!
Yesterday, the House Foreign Affairs Committee announced that 367 members of the U.S. House of Representatives had signed and "released a bipartisan letter to President Obama underscoring the 'grave and urgent issues that have arisen' relating to the ongoing nuclear negotiations with Iran." The actionable part is at the end (see blockquote below), following a list of Iran's transgressions (e.g., " Iran has still not revealed its past bomb work, despite its international obligations to do so;" "Iran's decades of deception," and "Iran's destabilizing role in the regio"). The letter also states a clear demand that any agreement with Iran "must constrain Iran's nuclear infrastructure so that Iran has no pathway to a bomb, and that agreement must be long-lasting."
The United States has had a longstanding interest in preventing Iran from achieving a nuclear weapons capability. Over the last twenty years, Congress has passed numerous pieces of legislation, imposing sanctions on Iran to prevent that outcome, ultimately forcing Iran into negotiations. Should an agreement with Iran be reached, permanent sanctions relief from congressionally-mandated sanctions would require new legislation. In reviewing such an agreement, Congress must be convinced that its terms foreclose any pathway to a bomb, and only then will Congress be able to consider permanent sanctions relief.
Resolving the nuclear crisis with Iran remains of grave importance to our nation's security. As the Administration continues to negotiate with Iran, we are prepared to evaluate any agreement to determine its long-term impact on the United States and our allies. We remain hopeful that a diplomatic solution preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon may yet be reached, and we want to work with you to assure such a result.
The Iran letter was signed by 10 out of 11 members of Virginia's House delegation, the only non-signatory being Rep. Don Beyer. I'm curious why Beyer didn't sign (I emailed his office late yesterday but haven't heard back), while the other two Virginia Democrats - Gerry Connolly and Bobby Scott - did. Personally, I can see reasons for signing and for not signing. Although I don't really disagree with anything in the letter, the question is whether it is helpful, harmful, or where exactly in between those two?
P.S. For a list of the 59 House Dems and 6 House Republicans who didn't sign the letter, click here -- a mixed bag ideologically, geographically, etc.
Here are a few national and Virginia news headlines, political and otherwise, for Tuesday, March 24. Also, check out Joe Morrissey saying he'd be willing to caucus with far-right-wing State Senator Tommy Norment and the Republicans if he is elected to the State Senate. Yet ANOTHER reason not to vote for this slimeball.
What amazes me about the Affordable Care Act is how it's worked out so well, even better in some ways than people had predicted, and how Republicans were were wrong about pretty much every aspect of what would happen. Now, just imagine if Republicans had been cooperative, instead of obstructionist, how many more people could have health insurance coverage right now under Medicaid expansion, etc. It's truly disgraceful how Republicans have acted, as well as bizarre, given that the ACA was modeled heavily after their own plans and proposals (e.g., Romneycare).
Fifth Anniversary of Affordable Care Act
March 23, 2015 (Washington, D.C.) - U.S. Representative Don Beyer joined Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia M. Burwell, along with local officials, leaders, and consumers in Arlington this morning to celebrate the fifth anniversary of the Affordable Care Act.
"Historians will one day write that the Affordable Care Act was the single most important act of moral leadership in the early 21st century," said Rep. Beyer. "Emancipation, women's suffrage, Social Security, the Affordable Care Act - each a bold move to expand upon the idea that all Americans have the equal right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
"But we still have more work to do. Especially in the Commonwealth of Virginia. There is no denying that we badly need Medicaid expansion. We are lucky to have a true champion, fighting the good fight in Richmond. Governor McAuliffe has been courageous and relentless - and one day soon he will prevail, and the amount of human suffering he will banish is almost beyond imagination."
Governor McAuliffe's plan expands access to care, improve care for veterans and those with severe mental illness, and enhance value and innovation across our health system in the Commonwealth of Virginia. The Healthy Virginia Plan provides health insurance to as many as 25,000 Virginians, however more than 400,000 Virginians will continue to be uninsured as long as Medicaid expansion is not passed through the General Assembly.
Over 16 million Americans have gained quality, affordable health insurance since the ACA became law. More than 11 million Americans were able to sign up or re-enroll through the Marketplace during this year's Open Enrollment. Nearly 80 percent of 2015 Marketplace customers using HealthCare.gov purchased coverage for $100 or less after tax credits.
Ted Cruz couldn’t have picked a worse place than Virginia to launch his soon-to-be-failed campaign for president. After all, it wasn’t so long ago that over 80% of Virginians overwhelmingly disapproved of his government shutdown – a political tantrum Cruz still threatens to repeat today. Virginia, home to thousands of federal workers and military personnel, was more affected than any other state by his dangerous antics.
Cruz would happily keep thousands of Virginians from their jobs and paychecks just to show his opposition to affordable healthcare. Meanwhile, in the Lynchburg area alone, there are over 11,000 Virginians languishing without access to quality care thanks to his national right-wing movement against closing the coverage gap.
“Ted Cruz is remarkably tone-deaf to launch his campaign in Virginia, of all places, after engineering the government shutdown that kept thousands of Virginians from their jobs and cost the national economy $24 billion,” said Robert Dempsey, Executive Director of the Democratic Party of Virginia. “His policies are wrong for the Commonwealth and wrong for the middle class, from repealing all corporate income taxes to opposing a living wage and affordable healthcare. Ted Cruz can take his shutdown politics elsewhere -- Virginians know better than to take him seriously.”
Ted Cruz is the embodiment of everything wrong with today’s Republicans: all he’s done is oppose and obstruct help for the middle class through his bombastic outbursts and unwillingness to govern. Shutdown Ted is starting off on the completely wrong foot coming to a state disproportionally hurt by his partisan brinksmanship to launch a campaign for more of the same.
Here are a few national and Virginia news headlines, political and otherwise, for Monday, March 23. Also, check out the video, which shows what a success the Affordable Care Act has been, and how Republicans were wrong about basically everything (as usual).
Under normal circumstances, Hillary Clinton's position on Israel would be a no-brainer. She would take the usual position of a Democratic candidate: strong in alliance with Israel, and expressing support for a peace process working toward a two-state solution.
These, however, are not normal circumstances.
The way the Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, sought re-election, and succeeded in that quest -- by an unprecedented slap at an American president in speaking as he did to Congress, in alliance with the president's enemies; and by the ugly way he drew upon fear and bigotry in the final days when he faced possible defeat -- have made the usual position impossible.
Hillary must now --that is, whenever she enters the presidential race -- find a way to solve some difficult simultaneous equations. How does she 1) support Israel in ways that satisfy those who care about Israel and generally support the Democrats, 2) take into account the blow that Netanyahu inflicted on any notion of a peace process, and 3) stand with the president of her Party-- a president who, being full up to here with Netanyahu, has deliberately (and in my view, quite rightly) affirmed the serious breach in the normal constellation of relations between the two countries.
Whether she finds a way to do so will demonstrate a good deal about her political skills. And about what she's made of.
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