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VA "Democratic" Leader Dick Saslaw Strikes Again, This Time Wants to Make Execution Drugs Secret

by: lowkell

Sun Jan 25, 2015 at 11:36:22 AM EST

Yep, the same Dick Saslaw who doesn't believe Virginia needs any stinkin' ethics laws, who is well known to despise progressives and environmentalists (aka, his "base"; can you imagine Tommy Norment constantly dissing his right-wing base like this?!?), who recently called the Sierra Club "crazy," who has presided over Democrats losing control of the Virginia State Senate (and the pissing away of much of the money he raised), is at it again. This time?

That's right, Saslaw's latest cause is to ensure that "information relating to the identity of...compounding drugs for use in executions and all documents related to the execution process are confidential, exempt from the Freedom of Information Act, and not subject to discovery or introduction as evidence in a civil proceeding except for good cause shown."

Now why might Saslaw be doing something like this? Well, for starters, he's a supporter of the death penalty. Virginia also has a "problem," if you think not being able to execute people is a "problem," in that it has some lethal injection drugs, lacks anesthetic ("the department does not have in stock either thiopental sodium or pentobarbital - anesthetics used as the first in the three-drug lethal injection protocol developed by the Department of Corrections."). Meanwhile, the U.S. Supreme Court is preparing to rule on the constitutionality of an execution "drug cocktail," with death row opponents contending "that the drugs being used are untested, experimental drug combinations that can cause great suffering, in violation of the Eighth Amendment ban on cruel and unusual punishment."

Now, if the public doesn't know what is IN Virginia's execution "drug cocktail," it will be kind of hard to challenge it in court. Of course, the public should have a right to know this information, as the state is arguing for the right to put people to death using our tax dollars. In short, Dick Saslaw is wrong both on the merits of the issue here as well as on the right of the public to know what's going on. So when is someone going to primary this faux "Democrat?"

Discuss :: (1 Comments)

Virginia News Headlines: Sunday Morning

by: lowkell

Sun Jan 25, 2015 at 07:13:53 AM EST

Here are a few national and Virginia news headlines, political and otherwise, for Sunday, January 25. As for that photo from yesterday's "clown car" event put on by raving bigot and extremist Steve King in Iowa, I had to post it simply because I thought it was hilarious, and also because it epitomizes the lunacy of the Teapublican Party these days.

*Obama Lands in India, With Aim of Improving Ties
*Outrage in Japan as Video Appears to Show Victim of ISIS
*Sarah Palin 'seriously interested' in 2016 bid (Hahahaha.)
*GOP clown car runs into ditch ("Simon says the Republican Party's clown car has become a clown van.")
*CNN's Newt Gingrich Parrots Debunked Right-Wing Smear About Hillary Clinton And Boko Haram (Gingrich is truly a horrible, horrible human being.)
*The Jindal-Hate Group Relationship You Won't Hear About This Weekend ("When it comes to GOP politics, media outlets have a hard time seeing what's newsworthy about a hate group like AFA being used to cement the campaign of a potential presidential candidate.")
*Greeks vote in 'make-or-break' poll
*Schapiro: A scenario under which assembly elections actually matter ("It's not just losing [in court] that scares House Republicans. They're panicking over the possible remedy - that the court draws new districts and orders a special election.")
*With Medicaid expansion unlikely, hospitals and lawmakers in bind ("Virginia lawmakers are beginning to see what lies on the other side of their decision not to expand Medicaid or health coverage of uninsured Virginians." Except it's not "lawmakers" generally, it's REPUBLICANS specifically who have been blocking this. Why won't the corporate media just SAY THAT?!?)
*Killings of blacks by police in Virginia fuel debate
*Rose: To prosper, Southwest Virginia must break with coal (Yep, coal's been a disaster for Appalachia.)
*Letter: Mountain Valley Pipeline would harm Southwest Virginia's economy
*Avoiding bad deals for transportation ("The errors and reckless decisions that shaped key transportation projects under former Gov. Bob McDonnell's administration were so egregious, so inexplicable, that lawmakers rightfully feel burned. And they appear increasingly willing to overhaul the state's Public-Private Transportation Act to prevent them from happening again and to ensure that the public's interests are served.")
*Privacy concerns create strange alliances in Richmond
*Virginia GOP elects John Whitbeck as new chairman (No comment from DPVA on the anti-Semitic "joke" dude?)
*Virginia bars' happy hours might become less secretive if bill passes ("A Fairfax delegate's proposed law would let bars detail their drink specials, though not prices.")
*Heroin overdose deaths alarm leaders in Maryland, Virginia
*Former Del. Phil Hamilton says feds target Virginia politicians (Well maybe if they'd get their own act together...)
*Restraining or secluding Va. schoolchildren demands strict guidelines
*Dominion power line project also needs federal approval (If Domninion would encourage, instead of blocking, distributed power like rooftop solar, plus energy efficiency of course, it wouldn't need to build more power lines.)
*Snowfall tonight could make for a dicey Monday morning commute

Discuss :: (3 Comments)

RPV's Farewell to Chair Features "Spousal Rape" Guy, "Anti-Semitic Joke" Dude, Convicted Felon

by: lowkell

Sat Jan 24, 2015 at 15:06:16 PM EST

Ah, the Republican Party of Virginia (RPV), that force for moderation and sanity, gotta love it. Today, they've having their farewell lunch for RPV Chair Pat Mullins, to be replaced by John Whitbeck, at an event cohosted by Sen. Dick Black and at which speakers included Ollie North. Just a few quick points about what this says about Virginia Republicans.

1. They clearly have no problem with the far-far-far-right-wing nutjob (State Sen. Dick Black) who sent plastic fetuses to members of the General Assembly, and who likes to muse about "spousal rape," "nighties, supposed gay rapes in the showers, and how contraceptives are just "baby pesticides.

2. They also clearly have no problem with the convicted felon (Ollie North) and extremist who almost singlehandedly brought down the presidency of their greatest hero, Ronald Reagan. Also note that Nancy Reagan ripped North, "asserting that the former aide to President Ronald Reagan 'lied to my husband and lied about my husband'" and that he "has a great deal of trouble separating fact from fantasy."

3. Finally, as for the incoming RPV Chair John Whitbeck, here are a few articles you might want to check out about him: Virginia Candidate John Whitbeck Has Anti-Semitic 'Macaca' Moment; Mark Herring: Statements Made at Cuccinelli Rally "a disgrace to Loudoun County & the Commonwealth", and Anti-Semitic "Joke" Candidate's HOA Was Sued for Anti-Arab/Muslim Discrimination.

Any further questions about the Republican Party of Virginia?

P.S. Also note that none of these folks has condemned State Senator Steve Martin for his recent comments about how Muslim Americans shouldn't be protected by the U.S. constitution (Martin continued his tirade against Muslims: "They celebrate death. We celebrate life. They celebrate denial of liberty. We celebrate liberty restrained by virtue.")

Discuss :: (2 Comments)

Atlantic Coast Pipeline Opponents Rally on Capitol Square

by: pontoon

Fri Jan 23, 2015 at 23:04:38 PM EST

(Maybe not just tilting at windmills. - promoted by lowkell)

No Pipelines photo 150123RichmondNoPipeline_s_zps69e10fda-1.jpgAnti-pipeline grassroots groups Free Nelson and Friends of Nelson, and the Sierra Club held a rally Friday at the Bell Tower protesting the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline. They were also there to seek support for a bill Senators Emmett Hanger (R-Mt. Solon) and Creigh Deeds (D-Milboro) are cosponsoring which would repeal what has been dubbed the Wagner Bill. The Wagner bill purportedly gives natural gas companies the right to trespass on private property without landowner permission to survey and do other testing needed as they choose the best possible route for a pipeline.

About 60 landowners and residents of Nelson County made the trek to Richmond to share their frustration with the bullying and abusive tactics used by Dominion in its attempts to pressure landowners into allowing it to survey. Approximately 70% of landowners in Nelson have steadfastly refused to allow surveyors onto their properties.  Dominion retaliated with letters threatening lawsuits, and in December began filing those suits, making its actions public on Christmas Eve. Since December, they continue to file suits in dribs and drabs, with the latest 6 suits being filed January 21, one of which is against John Ed and Ruth Purvis, seventh generation farmers. (See earlier post.)

The protesters recognized Hanger and Deeds for their efforts to protect their property rights, as well as Richard "Dickie" Bell for legislation he introduced requiring public service corporations to meet the Freedom of Information statute should they use eminent domain while completing a project. Sharon Ponton, a Free Nelson organizer, spoke about her frustration with elected officials within the Democratic Party, making specific reference to Governor Terry McAuliffe's first energy policy action as being to "stand at a podium beside Dominion and call a 42" fracked gas pipeline a game changer" after running as a green renewable energy candidate. She continued by asking if the Governor thought an African American community known as Union Hill whose ancestors had received their land from their previous slaveholders after emancipation would think it was a game changer when the pipeline destroyed their community". The crowd bellowed, "No'" in response. She gave other examples of private property being desecrated and each time the crowd answered empathetically no.

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Virginia News Headlines: Saturday Morning

by: lowkell

Sat Jan 24, 2015 at 07:48:22 AM EST

Here are a few national and Virginia news headlines, political and otherwise, for Saturday, January 24. Also see President Obama's weekly address, about "middle-class economics."

*Playing Politics on Iran ("House Speaker John Boehner's invitation to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel defies diplomatic norms and common sense." What Bibi and BONEr are doing here is disgraceful at best.)
*Jorge Ramos, Voice of Latino Voters on Univision, Sends Shiver Through G.O.P
*Sarah Palin on 2016: 'Of Course' She's Interested (Oh pleasepleasepleaseplease run! LOL)
*Get used to Obama's swagger ("Economic indicators suggest he's going to have even more to crow about in the months to come.")
*Why Republicans can't stop talking about rape ("There's a deep philosophical divide between the core of the pro-life movement, which wants no exceptions for abortion, and those who side with the vast majority of Americans, who support access to the procedure for rape victims.")
*Opponents of proposed gas pipeline rally at Virginia Capitol ("Environmentalists and western Virginia property owners rallied Friday at the state Capitol in opposition to a proposed 550-mile natural gas pipeline.")
*Va. Senate panel rejects adoption by unmarried gay couples ("A proposal to allow adoption by the partners of unmarried gay parents was rejected Friday by a Virginia Senate committee.")
*Legislation would reform Virginia Tobacco Commission ("Gov. Terry McAuliffe is backing legislation sponsored by two Republican lawmakers to reform a commission that doles out tobacco settlement money.")
*Governor appears in public after hospital stay; talks veterans healthcare
*Notice critical to government oversight (Sure, but that notice does NOT have to be printed in hard-copy newspapers, it can be posted online these days.)
*McAuliffe trip security cost taxpayers nearly $16K
*Virginia State Bar suspends Bob McDonnell's law license
*20-week abortion bill faces long odds in Virginia
*If you think the D.C. region is crowded now, just wait until 2030 (More than ever, we need policies that encourage smart growth, not sprawl development!)
*Booming student population puts Arlington schools at conflict with parks, housing (Again, we need smart, transit-oriented, high-density developoment.)
*Reston residents fiercely opposed to idea of building homes on golf course ("The course sits near a new Metro station on the Silver Line, making it a prime spot for developers.")
*U-Va.'s sensible new fraternity rules
*Hampton Roads economy set to improve in 2015
*Weather advisories in some areas; D.C. might see light rain or snow

Discuss :: (7 Comments)

Sen. Warner Votes Against Amendment on Urgency of Climate Change, Switching to Clean Energy

by: lowkell

Fri Jan 23, 2015 at 15:23:19 PM EST

Who on earth would oppose an amendment (see below) that simply reiterates the science of climate change -- namely, that it's real and caused mostly by humans -- while urging that we move towards non-carbon-based energy?  As you can see from the roll call vote on the Bernie Sanders amendment to the Keystone XL bill, every single Democrat but three - Heidi Heitkamp, Claire McCaskill and....Virginia's own crazy "radical centrist," Mark Warner - voted against "tabling" (aka, "killing") this amendment.  Yeah, I know, WTF Mark Warner?!?  I mean, heck, even Sen. Joe "Coal" Manchin voted the right way on this one.  

What's totally f'ed up about this vote is that fossil fuels make up only a tiny percentage of Virginia's economy, so there's not even that lame excuse. In addition, Hampton Roads is one of the most vulnerable areas in the entire country to the impacts of climate change. Plus, Virginia stands to benefit enormously from the business opportunities surrounding the multi-trillion-dollar clean energy market in coming days -- unless, of course, we foolishly, idiotically choose not to take advantage of that profit opportunity.  

Finally, what really boggles my mind is that when "Green Miles" Grant, Josh Tulkin (at the time with the Chesapeake Climate Action Network) and I met with Mark Warner in January 2008, we all felt that he totally "got it" with regards to climate change and clean energy. So what happened since then? I mean, in the real world, the urgency of dealing with climate change has actually GROWN significantly since then, while the cost of clean energy has plummeted.  If anything, in other words, Warner should have become far MORE enthused about clean energy as a business opportunity, and also far MORE concerned about global warming. The question is, why hasn't he?  

SA 24. Mr. SANDERS (for himself, Mr. BENNET, Mr. CARDIN, and Mr. MENENDEZ) submitted an amendment intended to be proposed by him to the bill S. 1, to approve the Keystone XL Pipeline; which was ordered to lie on the table; as follows:

     After section 2, insert the following:

   SEC. __X. SENSE OF CONGRESS REGARDING CLIMATE CHANGE.

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Solar Power Grows by Leaps and Bounds in USA...But NOT in Virginia

by: lowkell

Fri Jan 23, 2015 at 10:58:11 AM EST

The other day, I ran into yet another article - on the superb website Greentech Media - regarding the rapid rise of clean energy in America. The numbers this article ("America Installed 22 Times More Solar in 2014 Than in 2008") presents are truly eye popping.
In 2008, the U.S. installed 263 megawatts (AC) of solar PV and CSP. In 2014, based on GTM Research's conservative estimates, the U.S. installed at least 5.7 gigawatts (AC). The PV figures were discounted into AC from DC in order to make an accurate comparison and include concentrating solar.

More than 80,000 new jobs have been created in the industry since then. Today, one company, SolarCity, is booking almost as much solar capacity in one quarter as the entire industry put on-line in all of 2008.

So, yeah, solar power installation in this country is growing by leaps and bounds as the cost of solar plummets. And no, the fastest-growing states are not just in the desert southwest, but also in places like Colorado, Delaware, Massachussetts, New Jersey, North Carolina, Vermont, Maryland, Connecticut, Oregon and Pennsylvania. Notice a state missing here? That's right, Virginia, also known as the "Old Dominion, with the emphasis on the word "Dominion" - as in Dominion Virginia Power, a largely fossil-fuel (and nuclear) utility which essentially owns the Virginia General Assembly, as well as the powerful State Corporation Commission, which ostensibly is supposed to regulate Dominion.

So, what have the results been in Virginia, with Dominion and its fossil-fuel-funded friends in the state legislature blocking and tackling for dirty, carbon-based fuels, while doing their utmost to stymie the explosion of clean energy (wind, solar, energy efficiency, etc.) we're seeing in the rest of the country and world?

In two words: not good. Here's the sad story, courtesy of the Solar Energy Industries Asssociation (SEIA):

In 2013, Virginia installed 6 MW of solar electric capacity, ranking it 27th nationally...The 9 MW of solar energy currently installed in Virginia ranks the state 30th in the country in installed solar capacity.  There is enough solar energy installed in the state to power 1,000 homes.
Wow, 1,000 homes out of millions. Yes, that number really is as pitiful as it looks. The frustrating thing is that the situation is pitiful not because Virginia is lacking in sunshine, wind, or potential for energy efficiency gains, but simply because of bad policies.

On the upside, policy is something we can change, at least in theory. Of course, the "powers that be" could decide not to change policy, but that won't help their pals at Dominion Power in the long run. For more on that, see David Roberts' superb article, Rooftop solar is just the beginning; utilities must innovate or go extinct. So, Dominion (and Virginia more broadly) has a stark choice: 1) continue to fight inevitable change, saddle Virginians with dirty energy for years to come, yet eventually see the entire business model collapse anyway (what Roberts calls the "death spiral"); or 2) adapt to a changing world, one in which even oil-rich Middle Eastern countries are moving heavily into solar power for purely economic reasons -- because its price is low and heading lower. It seems like an easy call to make, but as we saw just this morning, with the defeat of a Virginia renewable energy tax credit bill (by Del. Rip Sullivan) in a House of Delegates committee, there are a lot of politicians who still don't "get it."  

Discuss :: (2 Comments)

Your 2015 Legislative Session Cheat Sheet, Part 2: Fossil Fuels

by: ivymain

Fri Jan 23, 2015 at 10:12:31 AM EST

( - promoted by lowkell)

My last post covered clean energy bills introduced into the 2015 legislative session, which began last week and ends at the end of February. Time to hustle on to the oil, gas, and coal bills.

Coal subsidies
Coal companies claim to be victims of a "war on coal," but for nearly two decades they've been conducting a war on Virginia taxpayers. Virginia's tax code offers so many preferences that a 2012 study concluded the coal industry costs Virginia more than it gives back. Among other preferences, two different subsidies in the Code have allowed coal companies to siphon off tens of millions of dollars annually from the General Fund since 1996.

The subsidies come with nominal sunset dates, currently January 1, 2017. Over nearly twenty years, no matter how fat or lean the state's financial condition, the legislature has repeatedly passed extensions, and they are being asked to do so again this year. HB 1879 (Kilgore) and SB 741 (Carrico) would extend the giveaway out to 2022.

(According to VPAP.org, Delegate Kilgore, chairman of the Commerce and Labor Committee, gets a check for $10,000 every year from coal giant Alpha Natural Resources. Alpha also gives ten grand a year to Senator Carrico, who just happens to sit on Senate Finance, which will hear the bill. I mention these facts only in passing. It would be cynical to suggest a connection.)

Supporters of the subsidies seem to believe coal companies need the inducement to blow up our mountains and dump waste into stream valleys. And they maintain this is a good thing for the people of Southwest Virginia, who can enjoy gainful employment by participating in the destruction of their communities.

The coal companies certainly do benefit from this arrangement, but coal jobs have declined to less than 5,000 total in Virginia today, and it's clear to everyone that Southwest Virginia needs to diversify its economy or face a future of poverty and high unemployment. The coal subsidies suck up money that could be spent on new jobs and a better-educated workforce.  

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The State of the Gunonwealth (satire - in case you didn't notice!)

by: AndyG

Thu Jan 22, 2015 at 18:25:36 PM EST

( - promoted by lowkell)

The circus is in town again, so it's time for my annual blog post about the "State of the Gunonwealth." It's time to see what came tumbling out to the clown car again this year, at least regarding firearms legislation. As in previous years, there's plenty of crazy to go around. So here is a brief roundup of some of the high, or should I say low points, of the firearms bills:

This year we have two bills to allow concealed carry in the "unsecured" parts of our air terminals. Seems we can't rely solely on the increasing number of highly trained and competent individuals that show up at TSA checkpoints, with loaded guns that they "forgot they had," to keep us safe. After all, should a rampaging hoard of AQAP members come spilling out of one of the many Yemeni Airways flights to Richmond international or an ISIL pickup truck take a wrong turn outside Mosul and find itself in the airport parking lot in Roanoke, we need to be able to rely on Gary and his Glock to protect all the passengers from being mowed down in the baggage claim area.
Either that, or see him shooting off a significant part of his manhood during a "wardrobe malfunction" in front of the urinals.

Not satisfied with turning our airports into a scene from a Rambo movie, there are several bills that would "enhance the security" of our school kids, despite the fact that most of them are already safer in school than they are in their homes. A brilliant idea to decriminalize the carry of knives of all sizes, Ninja throwing stars, blackjacks and even ballistic knives for anyone in, or on the bus to or from, Private and Religious schools would certainly spice up the Kindergarten classes. This "Baptist Babies with Blackjacks" bill might not make you feel like immediately transferring your kid from Public to a Private school, but if you do want to, make sure they are packing a tazer on the first day of class, or at least a set of suitably sized brass knuckles.  

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Virginia News Headlines: Friday Morning

by: lowkell

Fri Jan 23, 2015 at 06:26:41 AM EST

Here are a few national and Virginia news headlines, political and otherwise, for Friday, January 23. Also see the video of President Obama's post-SOTU YouTube interview.

*Saudi king championed reform, preserved power (He may have "championed reform," but this is still a country with an abysmally bad human rights record.)
*What is the GOP thinking? ("There they go again. Given control of Congress and the chance to frame an economic agenda for the middle class, the first thing Republicans do is tie themselves in knots over...abortion and rape.")
*Inside The GOP Meltdown On Abortion And Rape
*Abortion dissenters face backlash ("GOP lawmakers who haulted the signature anti-abortion bill could face primaries in 2016.")
*Steve King for a day ("Democrats seize on an event being hosted by immigration lightning rod Steve King." He's not just a "lightning rod," he's a raging bigot and all-around lunatic.)
*Senate's marathon Keystone debate ends in anger ("Majority Leader Mitch McConnell moved to end debate around midnight, after a seemingly endless series of votes and quorum calls that left Democrats fuming.")
*Lawmakers focus on lagging pay for state employees and state police
*Governor McAuliffe released from hospital
*Keeping dreamers' hopes alive ("Virginia lawmakers should approve House proposals to ensure that high-achieving students who've graduated from Virginia high schools, who've stayed out of trouble and been raised by families that pay taxes, have a shot at earning higher education and contributing to Virginia's economy. No matter where they were born.")
*Va. lawmakers struggle with campus sexual assault policy ("Mandatory reporting to law enforcement at heart of difficult issue")
*Va. lawmaker seeks to decriminalize marijuana possession ("Sen. Adam Ebbin's bill would downgrade possession of a small amount of pot to a civil offense.")
*Decriminalizing marijuana will take more than grass-roots support
*Va. GOP objects to McAuliffe's Republican choice for elections board ("Republican parity pick also voted in Democratic primaries, which could jeopardize his party standing.")
*House subcommittee rejects cellphone ban for drivers ("A bill that would ban drivers from using cell phones failed again before a House subcommittee, ending any chance of further restrictions this legislative session.")
*Virginia lawmakers push for increased day-care regulation ("The proposals follow a Washington Post investigation of child deaths in day-care operations.")
*Humane Society undercover investigation alleges animal abuse at Natural Bridge Zoo
*Scandal: Joltin' Joe ("Juries are instructed to assume a defendant is innocent until proven guilty. Lawmakers and the public labor under no such obligation. In the wake of Del. Joe Morrissey's indictment on felony forgery charges, it's fair to assume a large share of both groups suspect the worst.")
*Government opposes Bob McDonnell's appeals court bond bid
*Rain and snow mix may fall by your evening commute; then comes sleet

Discuss :: (7 Comments)

Democrat Announces for State Senate Seat Being Vacated by Retiring Sen. John Watkins (R)

by: lowkell

Thu Jan 22, 2015 at 14:41:59 PM EST

Back in November 2014, State Senator John Watkins (R-10th) announced that he would be stepping down at the end of his term, in January 2016. Just to put this in context, the 10th State Senate district is the strongest Senate district, from a Democratic perspective, currently held by a Republican incumbent. For instance, the 10th went 46%-42% for Terry McAuliffe over Ken Cuccinelli in 2013 and 50%-49% for Barack Obama over Mitt Romney in 2012. So, clearly the 10th district is competitive in high-turnout years.

But what about in an "odd-year," non-gubernatorial election year like 2015, when turnout is likely to be much lower? Well, that simply makes it even nore crucial for Democrats to nominate a candidate who can/will excite, enthuse, motivate, and otherwise get out our "base." Also keep in mind that it's very possible this seat could determine control of the Virginia State Senate in 2016 and beyond, so this will be a high-profile, potentially critical race this year.

Up until now, I'd heard and read about various potential Democratic candidates for Watkins' seat, but to date nobody had stepped up to the plate. Now, one has - "nonprofit advocate" Emily Francis of Richmond (see her announcement on the "flip"), whose background involves (in her words) working "extensively with organizations advocating on the environment, public health, and consumer rights by supporting public policies that move communities forward while protecting Virginia's way of life."

I spoke with former Delegate Al Pollard a little while ago, and he said he's a huge supporter of Emily Francis. Pollard described Francis as a "strong worker" and "no nonsense," adding:

I wouldn't be supporting Emily if I didn't know she was going to win. Keep in mind that 55% of the Democratic primary electorate is likely to be female, also heavily from Richmond, where Emily lives. Needless to say, the primary electorate will be strongly progressive. Also remember that in 1999, people told me I would lose my race because of my close association with the Sierra Club.
Note that Pollard WON that race 53%-47%, and continued winning many more elections to come. In other words, so much for that theory!

By the way, one of the people I've heard talked about for this seat on the Democratic side is Chesterfield Board of Supervisors member Dan Gecker, who last ran as a self-described "independent". Why did Gecker not run as a Democrat in that race? In Gecker's own words:

We are in a period where doing what is best for the party is taking precedence over doing what is best for the people. This election should be about problems and solutions, not party labels. Party affiliation tends to carry connotations about what a candidate believes that can be quite misleading and, quite often, completely incorrect...I will work with all people, regardless of party. I will not ask those who contact me what party affiliation they have. All of us on the local level want our taxes lowered, our children educated and safe streets. These issues are not Republican or Democrat.
First off, that should be "Democratic," not the Republican way of saying it as a supposed insult -- "Democrat" as an adjective. Second, it certainly does matter, particularly these days when the Republican Party has gone so far off the right-wing deep end, whether or not you see yourself as a Republican or Democrat. Assuming Gecker runs for the Democratic nomination this time around, we'll see what he has to say about why he didn't want to be called a Democrat, and/or didn't think it mattered one way or the other, in the past. That should be...uh, interesting.

P.S. In that same interview, Gecker was asked, "Who is your political hero?" The answer: "President Reagan." Ee gads.

There's More... :: (11 Comments, 352 words in story)

Sen. Saslaw Continues to Oppose Strengthened Ethics Laws; Says "Everyone Knows" Sierra Club "Crazy"

by: lowkell

Thu Jan 22, 2015 at 08:07:32 AM EST

For more on Saslaw's obnoxious, bizarre comments see the Checks and Balances Project (C&BP). A few highlights:

  • C&BP Executive Director Scott Peterson "pointed out that last year, Dominion was the largest donor to state-level politicians with over $1.3 million in campaign contributions.* 'No wonder Dominion Virginia gets its way when it comes to energy in Virginia.'"
    *Peterson writes: "I had Senator Saslaw's attention now. In fact, he appeared to be glaring at me."
  • Saslaw doubled down on what he said in March 2014 ("Video: In Crude Language, Sen. Dick Saslaw Argues that Ethics Laws are Irrelevant, Unnecessary"), regarding how you "can't legislate ethics," because "either you're dishonest or you're not." Ugh.
  • Saslaw refused to let Peterson respond, then "before I could sit down...bounded up the aisle toward me...walked up and leaned in within inches of my face...told me that he had been interviewed by the FBI who told him that the way he handled campaign contributions was not corrupt."
  • As for the following exchange, it needs to be quoted in full to believe:
He seemed not to understand, so I repeated the word "apologist." He then explained how he had gotten Virginia Dominion President Robert Blue and a solar chieftain together to try and work out their differences. I countered with the fact that the Sierra Club's climate and energy scorecard had given Senator Saslaw an overall grade of D, while three Republican delegates received B's.

"Well," Senator Saslaw huffed. "Everyone knows they're crazy!" He invited me to visit him in Richmond, then walked off.

Of course, when Saslaw talks about how "everyone knows," he's talking about the people corporate interests he hangs out with (lobbyists from Dominion, the Virginia Bankers Association, Verizon, the Beer Wholesalers, the Auto Dealers, the Trial Lawyers, the Wine Wholesalers, the Realtors, the coal companies, etc, etc.).

Bottom line: Dick Saslaw continues to represent the antithesis of where Virginia should be going on ethics legislation. He also should be an embarrassment to any Virginia Democrat with a moral compass. Sad to say - at least as far as I can determine - he remains as Majority Leader in large part due to his ability to raise s***-tons of money from Dominion Power and many other wealthy, powerful corporations. The problem, other than the massive ethics #FAIL of doing the bidding of companies who contribute huge sums of money to you, is that Saslaw's utterly incompetent in what he DOES with the money, such as blowing hundreds of thousands of dollars on an unwinnable special election for Phil Puckett's Senate seat in a 2:1 Cuccinelli district, or losing control of the State Senate in district lines drawn/approved by him. And that's not even counting the fact that Saslaw completely missed the embezzlement of $600,000 of his own money by trusted advisors. But, again, as Saslaw himself says, you can't legislate that kind of thing. So,  by that fascinating "reasoning," I guess Saslaw won't be pressing charges against the people who stole his money? Talk about "crazy."  

Discuss :: (4 Comments)

Virginia News Headlines: Thursday Morning

by: lowkell

Thu Jan 22, 2015 at 06:29:47 AM EST

Here are a few national and Virginia news headlines, political and otherwise, for Thursday, January 22.

*Fox News is self-destructing: Islamophobia, Obama's Reagan moment and Roger Ailes' new humiliation ("The network was riding high after the midterm elections. Since then, it's been one embarrassment after another.")
*GOP leaders abruptly drop abortion bill ("The move comes after female Republican lawmakers raised concerns that the bill, which would ban abortions after the 20th week of pregnancy, might spoil the party's chances to broaden its appeal." Ya think?)
*Israeli Mossad Goes Rogue, Warns U.S. on Iran Sanctions ("The Israeli intelligence agency Mossad has broken ranks with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, telling U.S. officials and lawmakers that a new Iran sanctions bill in the U.S. Congress would tank the Iran nuclear negotiations." I'm with the Mossad on this one, at least for now.)
*Reagan, Obama and Inequality ("Congressional Republicans seem focused on a pipeline that isn't even economically viable at today's oil prices. Let's hope that the national agenda can broaden along the lines that Obama suggests, so that the last 35 years become an aberration rather than a bellwether.")
*'Discrimination With a Smile' ("Blacks and Hispanics have faced unjust biases in getting mortgages and renting homes in the past. The Supreme Court should uphold the Fair Housing Act.")
*Fueling Speculation, Romney and Jeb Bush Will Meet (Personally, I'm hoping both of them will run!)
*Republicans pulled a classic bait-and-switch with abortion bill ("The decision wound up blowing up in the faces of House GOP leaders.")
*Obama ditches his illusions about Republicans ("... in telling the Republicans that all their predictions turned out to be wrong, he reminded his fellow citizens which side, which policies and which president had brought the country back.")
*Uber bills, transportation issues and the Morrissey mess dominate the day at Capitol
*Obamacare enrollment tops 300,000 in Virginia ("With nearly a month of enrollment remaining, Virginia has already surpassed last year's number of people obtaining health insurance through the Affordable Care Act.")
*Pipelines prompt discussion of property rights law
*General Assembly notebook: Conservative caucus supports bills that favor lower taxes, gun rights (Yep, trickle-down bull**** and the opposite of what huge majorities of Virginians want in terms of background checks, etc.)
*Lung association gives Virginia an F on anti-tobacco efforts (Start by cranking up the cigarette tax, which is the second-lowest in the nation!)
*Bill: Let Dominion skip state of Virginia reviews (We should actually be going in the opposite direction on this out-of-control behemoth.)
*McAuliffe official says politics and media drove McDonnell on U.S. 460 project
*Gingrich ally Haley seeks Stosch's Senate seat ("The onetime campaign manager for former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich's 2012 presidential bid has joined the race to succeed retiring Sen. Walter A. Stosch, R-Henrico.")
*A pardon can begin treatment ("Gov. Terry McAuliffe's decision to conditionally pardon a man in prison for assaults prompted by mental disabilities was made easier because leaders in both political parties supported it and mental health authorities rallied for it.")
*Lawmakers: Metro smoke fatality 'unacceptable'
*Warner, Connolly on Metro: "Some answers but a lot of questions remain"
*Va. lawmaker Joseph D. Morrissey faces new criminal charges (The question is, how many lives does this cat have?)
*Ending saga, Norfolk bald eagles relocate away from airport
*Saving dogs is a calling for XOXO Pet Rescue in Hampton Roads
*Distaste grows for Washington football team's name, even among some NFL allies (Again, so why is the Washington Post still using that name in its "news" articles?)
*McAuliffe talks about safari injury, health care, and his tolerance for pain ("Va.'s governor, still hospitalized, says the horse that threw him 'could have won the Kentucky Derby.'")
*Partly sunny and breezy today, but sleet and snow possible late Friday

Discuss :: (6 Comments)

VA House Republicans Block Attempt to Prohibit Fundraising During Lengthy Special Sessions

by: lowkell

Wed Jan 21, 2015 at 18:00:41 PM EST

Currently, as you probably are aware, members of the Virginia General Assembly are prohibited from raising money during session. There's a logic to this; namely, that fundraising during session creates at least the appearance of impropriety (e.g., members taking  money from the very corporations and others who stand to gain - or lose - from legislation before those very same General Assembly members).

Of course, this prohibition is utterly inadequate - basically a bad joke - as it's still possible for corporations and others to donate unlimited amounts of money to members in all the time leading up to and following sessions. For instance, while our pals at Dominion Power aren't allowed to donate to Speaker Bill "ALEC" Howell DURING a session, it's perfectly legal from them to donate as much as they want to Howell (or anyone else) the moment a session ends, all the way up to the moment a new session begins. How on earth that prevents the appearance of impropriety, let alone actual impropriety (e.g., the "capture" of our government by powerful interests of all types) is beyond me.

Add to this pathetically weak, intrinsically corrupt situation the fact that Republicans last year held extended "special sessions," the apparent purpose of which being to prevent Gov. McAuliffe from appointing judges, while effectively allowing the Republican-dominated legislature to stack the Virginia judiciary. During those "special sessions," commonsense would suggest that the same logic about not being able to fundraise during regular sessions would apply. I mean, either you're in session or you're not, whether it's called "special" or "regular" or whatever.

Right? Except for one problem: we're not talking about normal human logic here, but instead that strange, oxymoronic concept known as "Republican logic." As Gov. McAuliffe tweeted earlier today: "Disappointed to see a party line vote defeat proposal to ban fundraising in special session. A session is a session & should have same rules." Yeah, you'd think they should. But not, apparently, in a General Assembly controlled by the likes of Bill "ALEC" Howell, Tommy Norment, etc.

Anyway, that so-called "Republican logic" was on full display earlier today in a House of Delegates subcommittee, where Republicans killed, on a party-line vote (shocker!), legislation that would have prohibited fundraising during special sessions, just as it's prohibited during regular sessions. I had a short conversation with Democratic House Leader Del. David Toscano about this a little while ago. The bottom line, in Toscano's view, is that prohibiting fundraising during special sessions would have made Virginia's pathetically weak campaign finance ethics system at least a wee bit stronger than it is now. But Republicans clearly prefer to have their cake (being able to call extended special sessions to block Gov. McAuliffe from appointing people to the judiciary) and eat it too (treat the special session differently than the regular session when it comes to raising money). It's not good government, it's not a sign of seriousness on ethics reform (even after everything we've seen the past couple years, including the conviction of former Gov. McDonnell), and it's not internally consistent logic. But...it's what Republicans want, and sadly they're in the majority right now and can get their way. Which is just one reason, out of many other important ones, why Democrats need to take back the State Senate this November and pick up a bunch of seats in the House of Delegates as well.  

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Your 2015 legislative session cheat sheet: Clean energy bills

by: ivymain

Wed Jan 21, 2015 at 09:57:23 AM EST

( - promoted by lowkell)

I'm starting my review of 2015 energy legislation with a look at bills dealing with renewable energy and energy efficiency. Most of these bills will be heard in the committees on Commerce and Labor, though bills that cost money (tax credits and grants) usually go to Finance.

Bills referred to Senate Commerce and Labor are heard by the full committee, which meets on Monday afternoons. It consists of 14 members: 11 Republicans and 3 Democrats. They form a tough lineup; none of these senators received better than a "C" on the Sierra Club's Climate and Energy Scorecard.

The House bills are typically assigned to the 13-member Special Subcommittee on Energy (10 Republicans and 3 Democrats, no fixed schedule, but we've heard February 3d is the likely date). Bills that do not meet the approval of Dominion Power can expect a quick death here on an unrecorded voice vote, never to be heard from again. But on the plus side, the meetings are often quite lively, like old-fashioned hangings.

Net metering bills

Net metering is the policy that allows owners of solar (or other renewable) energy systems to be credited for the excess power they feed back into the grid when the systems produce a surplus; the owners use the credits when their systems aren't supplying power and they need to draw electricity from the grid. Virginia law restricts who can use net metering, and how much. Expanding net metering is a major goal of renewable energy advocates, who argue it offers a free market approach to growth-give customers the freedom to build solar projects, get the utility out of the way, and solar will thrive.

This year's initiatives include:  

There's More... :: (0 Comments, 2140 words in story)
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The purpose of Blue Virginia is to cover Virginia politics from a progressive and Democratic perspective. This is a group blog and a community blog. We invite everyone to comment here, but please be aware that profanity, personal attacks, bigotry, insults, rudeness, frequent unsupported or off-point statements, "trolling" (NOTE: that includes outright lies, whether about climate science, or what other people said, or whatever), and "troll ratings abuse" (e.g., "troll" rating someone simply because you disagree with their argument) are not permitted and, if continued, will lead to banning. For more on trolling, see the Daily Kos FAQs. Also note that diaries may be deleted if they do not contain at least 2 solid paragraphs of original text; if not, please use the comments section of a relevant diary. For more on writing diaries, click here. Thanks, and enjoy!

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