With less than a week until the General Assembly reconvenes, Virginia has a chance to enact meaningful ethics reform. Governor McAuliffe has led on this issue, from convening an ethics commission in the fall to proposing a series of bills aimed at curbing corruption in the Commonwealth.
While Republicans almost tanked ethics reform during the legislative session (see: blaming the media instead of taking the problem seriously), a watered-down version made its way to Governor McAuliffe's desk. In return, Governor McAuliffe has proposed real, common-sense amendments to the ethics bill, including a true $100 aggregate cap on gifts. And he's not going at it alone. There's widespread support for ethics reform in Virginia, from recent polling to opinion leaders across the Commonwealth.
"Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) is on the right track in trying to correct its most egregious problems, and Virginians should pay close attention to what lawmakers do next." - Washington Posteditorial, March 30
"Thanks to McAuliffe, the anemic ethics reform measure - passed after some politicians blamed the press corps for making them do it - is being fitted with dentures to give it some teeth." Virginian-PilotOp-Ed, March 29
"When lawmakers return for their veto session April 15, they must decide whether to go along with McAuliffe’s modest suggestions or to further embarrass themselves by overriding his changes. This will be their third chance to get ethics reform right. Let’s hope they don’t strike out." -Richmond Times-Dispatch editorial, March 31
"Virginians should press lawmakers to have the courage to turn down gifts clearly designed to curry favor." Virginian-Pilot editorial, April 1
Will Republicans in the General Assembly join McAuliffe and Virginians across the Commonwealth in making real progress on ethics reform, or protect their own interests once again?
Eliminating Electricity Imports at Same Time Would Double Job Gains
Mix of new temporary construction and permanent jobs would peak at 5,700 under basic scenario, but reach 12,600 jobs if investments also aim to keep utility spending in the state – a number nearly equal to employment in Virginia’s commercial construction sector.
[Richmond, VA, and Washington, D.C.] – A new report analyzing scenarios for Virginia’s compliance with the U.S. EPA’s Clean Power Plan to reduce carbon emissions from the electric power sector shows that the Commonwealth could create thousands of permanent and temporary jobs by making investments to diversify its power sources with renewable energy, energy efficiency, and natural gas generating plants – and more than double the new jobs if the state pursued a long-sought goal of eliminating electricity imports from out of state.
“This analysis shows the job creating value of putting advanced energy technologies to work in Virginia under the Clean Power Plan,” said Graham Richard, CEO of Advanced Energy Economy, a national business group, and the AEE Institute, its nonprofit educational affiliate. “Deploying these technologies in Virginia to also reduce imports creates even more jobs while keeping precious energy dollars in state supporting economic growth. This report should be a road map for Virginia’s energy future.”
Sadly, the overwhelming number of State Senate districts are not seriously in play this year. As you can see, 26/40 seats are "safe," with 7/40 "likely" holds, leaving just 7/40 for either "tossup" (1 district) or "lean" (6 districts). In other words, right now it looks like a status quo election for the most part, which would mean Republicans maintain (or slightly increase) their 21-19 control of the State Senate. The challenge for Democrats will be holding all of the seats they currently hold, including a few tough ones (retiring Sen. John Colgan's seat; Sen. Lynwood Lewis and Sen. John Edwards), while picking up a Republican-held seat (maybe Dick Black's?).
SD 1 (57% Mark Herring district in 2013): Sen. John Miller (D) vs. Mark Matney (R): Leans Democratic Hold
SD 2 (68% Mark Herring district): Sen. Mamie Locke (D) unopposed: Safe Democratic.
SD 3 (64% Mark Obenshain district): Sen. Tommy Norment (R) unopposed: Safe Republican.
SD 4 (61% Mark Obenshain district): Sen. Ryan McDougle (R) unopposed: Safe Republican.
SD 5 (73% Mark Herring district): Sen. Kenny Alexander (D) unopposed: Safe Democratic.
SD 6 (53% Mark Herring district): Sen. Lynwood Lewis (D) vs. Richard Ottinger (R): Leans Slightly Democratic Hold.
SD 7 (53% Mark Obenshain district): Sen. Frank Wagner (R) vs. Gary McCollum (D): Leans Republican Hold.
SD 8 (55% Mark Obenshain district): Dave Belote (D) vs. Bill DeSteph (R) or Craig Hudgins (R) for retiring Sen. Jeff McWaters' (R) seat: Likely Republican Hold.
SD 9 (72% Mark Herring district): Sen. Donald McEachin (D) unopposed: Safe Democratic.
SD 10 (51% Mark Herring district): Glen Sturtevant (R) vs. either Emily Francis (D), Dan Gecker (D) or Alex McMurtrie (D) for retiring Sen. John Watkins' (R) seat: Leans Republican Hold.
SD 11 (58% Mark Obenshain district): Amanda Chase (R), Sen. Steve Martin (R) or Barry Moore, Jr. (R) vs. no Democratic candidate: Safe Republican.
SD 12 (56% Mark Obenshain district): Siobhan Dunnavant (R), Vincent Haley (R), Bill Janis (R) and Edward S Whitlock, III (R) vs. no Democratic candidate for retiring Sen. Walter Stosch's (R) seat: Safe Republican.
SD 13 (51% Mark Obenshain district): Sen. Dick Black (R) vs. Jill McCabe (D): Leans Slightly Republican Hold.
SD 14 (61% Mark Obenshain district): Sen. John Cosgrove (R) or William Haley (R) vs. no Democratic candidate: Safe Republican.
SD 15 (64% Mark Obenshain district): Sen. Frank Ruff (R) unopposed: Safe Republican.
SD 16 (69% Mark Herring district): Sen. Rosalyn Dance (D) or Joseph Preston (D) vs. no Republican candidate: Safe Democratic, although if Joe Morrissey runs as an "independent" and there's a Republican as well, that rating could change.
SD 17 (53% Mark Obenshain district): Sen. Bryce Reeves (R) vs. Traci Dippert (D): Likely Republican Hold.
SD 18 (65% Mark Herring district): Sen. Louise Lucas (D) unopposed. Safe Democratic.
SD 19 (69% Mark Obenshain district): Michael Lawrence Hamlar (D) vs. David Suetterlein (R) for retiring Sen. Ralph Smith's seat: Safe Republican.
SD 20 (59% Mark Obenshain district): Sen. Bill Stanley (R) vs. Kimberley Adkins (D) and Independent Green Elaine Hildebrandt: Likely Republican Hold.
Here are a few national and Virginia news headlines, political and otherwise, for Thursday, April 9. Also, check out Rand Paul's meltdown/mansplaining ("no no no no no no...") about his many, many flip flops, inconsistencies, etc, etc.
Over the years, I've mocked the strongly right-leaning Richmond Times-Dispatch as the "Republican Times-Disgrace." But one person I've generally enjoyed reading and learned a great deal from, whether I agreed with him or not, has been Virginia political guru Jeff Schapiro. I've often highlighted his work on this blog, on Twitter, etc. But not this morning, and not this column ("Schapiro: Herring's as subtle as a punch in the nose"). As I wrote in the morning news clips, "This is the epitome of "false equivalence" and other flawed reasoning. Definitely the worst column I've ever read by Jeff Schapiro - by far!" Let me explain a bit further.
First off, let's just get out of the way a paragraph that simply makes no sense whatsoever.
History may not be on Northam's side. Of the past eight lieutenant governors, seven sought the governorship. Five were nominated and four won. Over the same period, eight attorneys general declared for governor and were nominated. Three were elected.
Some quick math: 4/8 LGs (50%) ran for governor and were elected; 3/8 AGs (38%) ran for governor and were elected. So why might history "not be on Northam's side?" It's not as if Democratic LGs have been in the habit of running against Democratic AGs for the gubernatorial nomination, either (when was the last time?). What am I missing here?
Political reporters paint investments in clean energy as a pander to a narrow segment of the Democratic base, while pledges to continue investment in coal are framed as smart plays to shoring up the moderate middle. And of course you have to support corn ethanol or you'll lose the entire center of the country!
But take a look at this new poll of homeowners by Zogby Analytics for Clean Edge and Solar City. It's solar and wind that are broadly popular, while coal and biofuels have only fringe support - and keep in mind this question allowed people to name their top three.
Meanwhile, for all the talk of the popularity of fracked gas, it finished a distant third to clean energy.
We already know that Virginians overwelmingly support cutting carbon pollution while increasing emphasis on energy efficiency and clean power solutions like solar and wind. We also know that Virginians support doing this for strong reasons: environmental protection, job creation, lower power costs and increased freedom from reliance on monopoly utilities, to name just a few. Now, NRDC is out with a new report, "Bridging the Clean Energy Divide: Affordable Clean Energy Solutions
for Today and Tomorrow," which adds two more powerful arguments for clean energy to the list: economic fairness and social justice. As the report explains:
...we must consider the disproportionate health impacts of dirty, coal fired power generation on low-income communities and people of color. According to the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), people of color and low-income families are more likely to live in close proximity to the coal plants that generate most of our electricity. People of color make up 36 percent of the U.S. population, but 39 percent of those who live within three miles of a coal-fired power plant. Coal plants that are located in urban areas are overwhelmingly sited in communities of color. While 56 percent of white Americans live within 30 miles of a power plant, 68 percent of African Americans do. African Americans frequent the emergency room for asthma attacks three times as often as white Americans do.
In stark contrast, clean energy choices will disproprotionately benefit low-income Virginians, people on fixed incomes, etc. A few highlights from the report illustrate why that's the case.
Definitely read Media Matters on this topic. Also note that the Washington Post has been particularly egregious, with its propaganda-masqueraring-as-"news" including Dan Balz waxing rhapsodic about "the most interesting politician in the country, with a libertarian message that seemed to sweep across the ideological spectrum and that challenged the establishment of both parties;" and this prominent/front-page article which refers to Paul as a "maverick" and "a fiercely independent conservative," while uncritically stenograph-ying that Paul "emphasized a message of inclusion and diversity in step with his strategic aim to expand the traditional GOP base." Seriously? How much is Rand Paul paying the post for this hagiography and outright lying about his extreme, conspiracy-theory-laden, hard-right-wing record on pretty much every issue?
The article notes that Mollie Loeffler announced her candidacy as an "Independent" for Mason District Supervisor against Penny Gross. In fact, she's not an "Independent," but someone with strong and deep Republican roots. As of last month, for instance, Loeffler was still the Republican precinct captain in Mason District's Parklawn precinct, according to the Mason District Republican Committee Facebook page (note: the page is down now, but you can still see the relevant part about Loeffler if you Google it).
Loeffler also was a signer of an April 2013 Tea Party Patriots letter to Congress that expressed "our opposition to House consideration or passage of any legislation, amendment, resolution or conference report that bears any resemblance to S.744, the Senate amnesty bill that passed the Senate on June 27, 2013" (signature around page 161 of this PDF file).
In other words, if Loeffler really HAS become an independent, it was a very, very recent epiphany. One could surmise she is only calling herself an independent because it is very tough to win in Mason District as a Republican (e.g., note that Terry McAuliffe won "every precinct in the Mason district...decisively" in 2013). But the evidence shows she is a card-carrying Republican who at least flirts with the Tea Party.
Now, I've got no problem whatsoever with a Republican or a Tea Partier running for office in Mason District. But first off, they should be honest about who they are. And second, the Washington Post should do a bit of...ya know, reporting...before writing a story which doesn't mention a candidate's actual political background, positions on the issues, etc. In this case, the Post article is highly misleading, as it identifies Loeffler only as "a former chair of the Mason District Council of Community Associations" who believes "it's time for a new direction and new leadership." Yet another example of shoddy reporting from the Post...even as they bash Rolling Stone for, yep, shoddy reporting. Physician, heal thyself!
Barbara Comstock is infamous for avoiding the media at all costs. However, in an profile yesterday, she let the New York Times in just enough to glimpse a carefully-crafted moderate schtick. We've translated her deceptively-benign answers into a more realistic picture of what it means to be Barbara Comstock -- something Barbara Comstock can't hide from so easily.
NYT: What moved you to run for Congress?
Comstock says: "I passed a lot of tech legislation, worked a lot with my tech community, and I do think a lot of the technology areas are where we’re going to break through a lot of the sort of the right-left divide."
Comstock means: By technology, I mean transvaginal ultrasounds! Or maybe it's what the Washington Post cited in their 2013 endorsement of my opponent, saying "Barbara J. Comstock, a two-term Republican with one of the most ideologically rigid voting records in Richmond, likes to cite her legislation extending tax breaks to data centers in Northern Virginia. But by opposing Virginia’s transportation funding bill, she became part of the problem that has plagued her district’s commuters."
NYT: What do you think of Hillary Rodham Clinton’s potential candidacy for the presidency?
Comstock says: "It’s always good to stay in my lane on that one, and I don’t know what’s going to happen on the other side."
NYT: What is it like to be a Republican right now, when many of the prominent figures in your party are such divisive figures?
Comstock says: "Obviously you want women to be experienced, and in my case, I like the Maggie Thatcher model more in terms of women leaders, but I think we need to get women leaders out there on a lot of fronts."
~ Amicus brief argues that recently announced immigration enforcement reforms would create substantial economic and public safety benefits for Virginia while helping to keep families intact ~
RICHMOND(April 6, 2015)--Attorney General Mark R. Herring is joining 14 other states and the District of Columbia today in filing an amicus brief advocating for recently announced federal immigration reforms that "will increase State tax revenue, enhance public safety, and help avoid tragic situations in which parents are deported away from their U.S. citizen children, who are left to rely on state services or extended family." The package of executive immigration reforms announced by President Obama in November, and currently subject to an injunction preventing its implementation, would improve our nation's broken immigration system by improving border security, making it easier for highly-skilled workers to remain here, demanding accountability from undocumented immigrants who are already here, and prioritizing the deportation of dangerous criminals instead of breaking up families in Virginia and across the nation. It is estimated that the reforms could extend revocable protection from deportation to up to 92,000 undocumented immigrants in Virginia, producing more than $106 million in increased tax revenues over five years.
"Immigration has been a source of economic, cultural, and social benefit for the Commonwealth for more than 400 years," said Attorney General Herring. "While we're waiting on Congress to enact long overdue comprehensive immigration reform, the President has offered lawful, reasonable steps that will boost our economy, keep families intact, and promote public safety by removing criminals and increasing trust between law enforcement and communities. In Virginia, deferred action for young people has enabled us to offer an affordable college education to the children of immigrants who, in many cases, know no home but Virginia. These reforms would offer additional benefits to our Commonwealth, and they should be allowed to move forward."
Very cool new tool by the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication. Have you ever wanted to know what people in your county or city thought about climate change? Now you can find out. For instance, here are a few Virginia counties/cities and the estimated percent of people living there who support regulating CO2 as a pollutant.
Also worth noting: 79% of Virginians support funding research into renewable energy sources; 66% of Virginians support etting strict CO2 limits on existing coal-fired power plants; 61% of Virginians support requiring utilities to produce 20% electricity from renewable sources; etc. In other words, Virginians strongly the goals of the EPA's Clean Power Plan, with solid support even in "coal country." So why do Virginia politicians keep caving to fossil fuel interests intead of doing what the strong majority of Virginians all over the state want? Simple answer: fossil fuel interests have a lot more money than you and I do, and they use it to buy our fine, upstanding politicians. Great, huh?
Cross posted from Scaling Green, as I think this has relevance to Virginia, in which fossil fuel extraction, refining, etc. (as in Rhode Island) make up a miniscule percentage of the economy (which is dominated by professional and technical services, government, real estate, healthcare, other services, retail trade, etc. Of course, it would be great to do a study like this one specifically focused on Virginia, but for now, the national and state trends are clear: switching to a clean energy economy and putting a price on carbon would benefits Virginia's economy, as well as its environment, in a big way. The question is, what on earth are we waiting for?!?
We have previously reported on studies by the policy-neutral economic modelers, Regional Economic Models, Inc. (REMI), on the potential economic and environmental impacts of revenue-neutral carbon taxes nationally, as well as in California, Massachusetts, and other states. The results have been consistent: increased economic activity and jobs; reduced carbon pollution. Now, REMI is out with a study of Rhode Island, the results of which - more jobs, a stronger economy, and significantly lower carbon pollution - are summarized in the graphic. A few more key points from this study include:
There were four scenarios considered, returning carbon tax revenues to the state in different ways, and in ALL four cases, there was an increase over the baseline in "the total number of jobs and [Gross State Product - GSP] in Rhode Island-mostly by reducing the importation of fossil energy and, therefore, keeping dollars local to create jobs and grow businesses in the Ocean State."
A key point made by this study is that "a strong economy and environmental quality are not mutually exclusive." To the contrary, these "environmental measures might have positive economic effects," in part due to reduced fossil fuel imports (aka, "economic losses").
In addition to the significant economic benefits Rhode Island would enjoy from implementation of a revenue-neutral carbon tax, the state would also see "20% to 30% [carbon dioxide emission] reductions from the baseline in the 2020s, and up to 30% to 50% reductions in the 2030s and out to 2040 from price and efficiency."
Almost every economic sector (construction, health care, finance and insurance, real estate, retail trade, etc.) in Rhode Island would benefit from the carbon tax, with only utilities, manufacturing, transportation and warehousing seeing any signficant adverse impacts. Overall, however, Rhode Island's economy would benefit significantly, as there are many more sectors seeing a positive impact than a negative one from the carbon tax.
We'd just add that these results would almost certainly be applicable to most states in the country, except possibly in the short term for the few states (e.g., Alaska) where fossil fuels make up a large share of the economy. Our bet, though, is that even in those states, the long-term benefits of switching to a clean energy economy would far outweigh any adverse impacts from moving away from dirty energy. That is particularly the case given how fast the costs of clean energy have been falling, and are projected to continue falling, while fossil fuel costs will likely remain volatile for the foreseeable future. Finally, of course, there are the crucial benefits that would result from slashing carbon pollution that is contributing to dangerous, potentially disastrous, global warming. In sum, most states would benefit from a revenue-neutral carbon tax on purely economic grounds, but adding in the environmental beneifts makes it a huge winner in Rhode Island, and across the country.
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!