While Virginia exports of agricultural and forestry products approaching $3 billion last year is impressive, there is a downside. To a large extent, it is a function of geography and climate. Virginia has not positioned itself to take advantage of the bountiful harvest. Much more impressive would be sustainable jobs.
Bob McDonnell didn't make this happen under his watch. The convergence of conditions, largely out of human hands, did. And though you can claim that there is some correlation between this outcome and jobs, any additional employment is at the margin and highly susceptible to the vagaries of weather. So this is a moment when another man who told us he had a jobs plan, Governor McAuliffe, can step forward to show the world how to turn this advantage into something that can shield the state in the lean years.
As long as these products are shipped off to other places to be processed, ignoring the potential benefit resulting from jobs that are immune to weather, this portion of the economy will remain as vulnerable as any backwater that is content with shipping off raw materials for processing until they are exhausted. And then what?
It is the transformation of raw materials that creates wealth. In Virginia some of this does occur; sometimes due to force of circumstance. Hams keep and ship over long distances better than pigs, for instance. The grapes that we harvest are generally economical to grow because they reap a premium when transformed into wine. But we should not be satisfied when so much of the raw agricultural and forestry production in Virginia goes off to other lands where labor is rewarded for the potential that is unlocked there.
Production of end-products is not dependent upon Virginia agricultural conditions. If Virginia has a bad harvest as a result of drought or pestilence or whatever, there's always someplace else to find raw materials. If transformation of raw materials happens to be in Virginia, then the port continues to operate (and is potentially busier with the import of materials) and end product continues to be produced and sold. We are positioned to assist the sectors which are suffering misfortune to sustain them for the future good years.
So let's learn from this moment. We should all look forward to initiatives coming out of the McAuliffe administration that will leverage our great agricultural and forestry fortune. It certainly didn't happen under the other jobs governor.
It could have been about mental health or affordable care, but this General Assembly session accomplished favors for the former Governor and itself. John L. Brownlee must be silently gloating. His client will benefit from what turns out is the real Virginia Way. To heck with becoming Attorney General.
What the General Assembly accomplished was to provide tacit approval of almost every unethical act Bob McDonnell, or any one of themselves, committed, ever. Mr. Brownlee, a former U.S. attorney, is a more than competent lawyer and he appreciates that the omission of specific restrictions from the "ethics bill" allows him to argue that those activities are condoned.
Some may not remember, but Bob McDonnell's attorney aspired to statewide office. He was cut off at the knees by Ken Cuccinelli, a centrist by comparison. Turns out it is better to have lost and lived to join a very good law firm than to have won and become such a pariah that the only way to earn a living is to bleed the paranoid. It's unfortunate that we'll never know if Brownlee had the stuff to tango with Jonnie Williams. What we do know is that his defense of McDonnell will be that nothing McDonnell did was unethical, at least anything he is charged with, or it would have been included in the ethics bill passed by legislators with the benefit of hindsight.
What is even more unfortunate is that politicians that take advantage of the Virginia Way to fatten their wallets (or purchase personal automobiles with campaign contributions) will continue to thrive. Frankly, there's no luxury like that of candidates willing to subsidize their lifestyle with campaign funds that the state of Virginia treats as their own. And if elected to office, why hire a staff when no one can be more valuable on your staff than yourself? Where's any reasonable standard for behavior, path for remedy, or process to enforce/punish?
So, bravo General Assembly, you may have made John L. Brownlee's case winnable.
It must be tough being an elected Virginia Democrat; with Governor McAuliffe leaning on you to support his choice for the Virginia Party Chair. No matter where you stand or how this turns out, Terry will be there when the smoke clears. There is no public option. Tough business, this.
So really, the support for Dwight Jones coming from elected officials must be severely discounted. Many of them don't have a vote in this selection or have regularly failed to attend Central Committee meetings, so there they have no say either. And at this point, after the Boyd Marcus maneuver, they cannot be certain if there would be any consequences if Jones does not become Party Chair. The vote is closer than many will acknowledge and a secret ballot provides cover for the principled stand.
"Should Jones assume the chairmanship, it will be interesting to see how Democrats finesse painting Republicans as intolerant for embracing a view their own head of the party shares." - Richmond Times Dispatch Editorial
On the face, some pretty savvy members of the General Assembly have come across as illogically rationalizing their support for Mayor Jones. Calling the objections a litmus test or saying Jones is being denigrated is about the only way you can respond when your Party's Governor has leaned in on you. Rejection of litmus tests applies more appropriately to candidates for elected office, not to the face of the party. And what does it mean when you say Jones should get a pass because the Governor is at fault for the selection? If Dwight Jones aspires to be Governor, this may be his Waterloo. His choices are not what he wants them to be. They are to announce an incredible revelation or to step away. If he becomes Party Chair, he will spend four years documenting his inability to deliver on promises. Unlike unsubstantiated claims of $40 million in capital investment, failures to fill seats in the House of Delegates and state Senate are readily evident. Bad posture for one who will want to claim effective stewardship.
Sensing a rising tide of sentiment against the prospect of Mayor Jones' candidacy for DPVA chair, it seems the "powers that be" have chosen to short-circuit the process. This further solidifies the argument that Jones is no more than a strawman for whomever feeds his self-perceived competence.
While this certainly will save the Central Committee substantial time and effort at the meeting on March 15, if true, the announcement will come as a pre-emptive strike that is not so surprising, yet will serve to allay any illusion that the DPVA functions for the benefit of its members. And it will be good news for the Republican Party of Virginia, despite themselves, because it would guarantee that the DPVA will lack the focus required to maintain control of the State Senate beyond 2015.
The best part of this ham-handed move is that it alienates the party members who reside in districts that are currently held by Republicans; as in the grassroots members who the DPVA needs the most to accomplish any gains anywhere. While a competent, experienced, incumbent Executive Director would be able to manipulate a marionette Chair with one hand, it will probably require both hands just to keep the ship steady in the heavy rolls that can be anticipated with the staff changes that have already taken place.
Advice to the powers that be: don't ask for unanimous consent or acclamation at the Central Committee. It doesn't exist.
The stadium deal is a useful distraction. While the school system crumbles, Dwight Jones mumbles. The return on investment of his professional football venture is a closely guarded disappointment. Now he ties baseball to slavery. Where was he when Curt Flood made the only reasoned connection? It is shameful self-promotion.
When the Richmond Times Dispatch held one of its public square forums about the stadium proposal, Mayor Jones slid into the back of the room and refused the opportunity to explain why Richmond should invest millions in circus events in another scheme that will rob the deficient school system of funds sorely needed for not only current operations and maintenance funding but also investment in deteriorating infrastructure. It isn't just schools, but they are most important. On this, the Mayor is mute.
"They paved paradise and put up a parking lot..." - from Joni Mitchell's Big Yellow Taxi
Jones's argument that the Shockoe Bottom stadium is somehow tied to the funding for the preservation of what should be hallowed ground is oxymoronic. The ground was long ago violated when I-95 plowed through; enough. And now the Mayor wants to break ground without a care about the potential sanctity of the very location he's ready to plow under. Somehow he's argued privately that is only the concern of those who oppose the slavery museum. And Jones is desperately looking for evidence that supports his "vision."
The litigants in Norfolk are same-sex couples, but in the end the discrimination will result in inequitable application of the law that places many opposite-sex couples at a financial disadvantage. Such will be the consequence of the twisted effort by Virginia homophobes to socially engineer human behavior by unconstitutional edict.
For all the whining about Attorney General Herring's position regarding defense of a patently unconstitutional scar on the Virginia Constitution, he never mitigated enforcement. Not one single same-sex couple has been issued a marriage license in Virginia while we wait for the law to be struck. The opinions of both his predecessors regarding the effects of the law remain in force; for now. But consider this. When the marriages of same-sex couples are inevitably recognized in Virginia, those couples will have an option that other married couples will not: filing their Virginia income tax returns with the most advantageous filing status.
Based upon an opinion by then Attorney General McDonnell and guidance from former Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, the Virginia Department of Taxation does not allow same-sex married couples to file joint income tax returns even though they must use the status on their federal tax returns. Everyone else must. What was (and currently remains) an undue burden on same-sex couples (the requirement to construct fictional federal income tax returns to calculate Virginia income taxes) transforms to an advantage; consistent with federal policy after the Supreme Court DOMA decision, married same-sex couples will likely be allowed to choose the filing status that is to their advantage for the years when they were prohibited from using a married filing status.
So my advice to Virginia's married same-sex couples: if filing using a status other than married is to your tax advantage, file this year's return soon, before the stay on yesterday's ruling is removed; after that, you'll be like everyone else. Then for the three years prior to this, recalculate your Virginia tax returns to determine if you should file amendments, in the same way you should have with your federal returns last year. How the Department of Taxation will handle these amendments could be a bit more complicated, so stand by for guidance.
For other married couples, you just won't have equal treatment under the law. You might want to send the bill to Senators Marshall and Newman who spearheaded the amendment or those George Allen strategists who supported it in an underhanded effort to save his bacon.
As one example, Gov. Bob McDonnell seemed to do everything he could to undermine the concerns voiced by Virginians over the issue of uranium mining, going so far as to exclude citizens groups from the Uranium Working Group while inviting Virginia Uranium, Inc. (VUI) lobbyist. Were it not for the adamant protests of citizens groups, it is highly likely that McDonnell would have asked for a regulatory framework to be written regarding uranium mining and milling before the moratorium was lifted, something the former governor's friends at VUI would have appreciated.
It isn't politicians alone. Commercial media never called out a horribly flawed Governor and Attorney General. Less than two dozen citizens showed up for a public forum on ethics. And the newspaper that hosted that event obscured references to specific instances of malfeasance. Truth is, it's always open season here.
Monday, the outgoing Lieutenant Governor issued a memorandum he penned proposing changes to existing ethics standards. Where was he when it was revealed that his fellow Republican statewide office-holders violated the very standards he proposes? Or anytime during his almost two decades in the Senate chamber? Wednesday members of the House of Delegates offered up what was termed a "sweeping bipartisan ethics reform agreement." The only thing it sweeps is the issue under the carpet. I am ashamed it's called bipartisan. And consistently the media has offered up little in the way of objective or substantive reporting on ethics violations.
Maybe the citizens of Virginia don't care that the state is rated one of the most vulnerable to corruption by the Center for Public Integrity. When the Richmond Times Dispatch held one if its Public Square events last October, it was sparsely attended. When it reported on the discussion, the transcript that publisher Tom Silvestri promised was delivered redacted, removing the most compelling discussion, much of which was about politicians the paper regularly supports.
A couple of things before I continue. No doubt Tom Silvestri would be a super game show host and is certainly an entertaining addition to any cocktail party guest list, but I wouldn't count on his paper or any Media General product for my news. Delegate Jimmie Massie (R-72nd) will come across in what follows as at best naïve and sometimes self-serving, but gives no cause to suspect his personal integrity. At least Delegate Massie puts himself out there and should be applauded for showing up and his openness during this discussion. But there are a number of things you might not know if you rely on the redacted transcript (or "highlights" to use the paper's term), you weren't among the twenty or so at the forum, or you can't find the full video online because the Times Dispatch has made that difficult to search by titling it Public Square 1008 on YouTube. This was Public Square 48.
In case anyone needed additional evidence that Virginia Uranium Inc. (VUI) hasn't given up on lifting Virginia's moratorium on uranium mining, Exploration Permit 90484EX was renewed on November 13th, 2013 and will remain in effect until November 20th, 2014. The permit was first issued to VUI in 2007.
With billions of dollars worth of uranium ore deposits on the line, it's not surprising that VUI has taken a long-term approach to achieving its goal of lifting Virginia's ban on mining uranium. Once believed to be an inevitable short-term outcome, VUI has had to settle for waiting at least another 4 years before there is a serious chance of mining uranium in the state.
For many residents of Southside Virginia, VUI has been a symbol of the tension between capitalism and democratic governance in our modern era. While some polls have shown a close split among Virginians who favor or oppose uranium mining, no polls that I am aware of have been targeted towards the people of Southside Virginia, where the uranium mining would actually take place. With all due respect to Virginians living outside the Southside, your backyard isn't the one where the process of uranium mining will take place (at least, not yet).
While the iron is hot, there are a few observations that should be taken concerning elections. While paper ballots provide a tangible record, it turns out they are not slam dunk evidence. The cost of optical scan and paper methods is unjustifiable except in distinctly unique cases. DRE is optimal.
The Direct Recording Electronic (DRE) method of casting and recording ballots removes subjectivity. There is natural discomfort with a black box recording and storing election results but that is not reason to challenge the reliability of this method. Something on the order of 75% of Virginia jurisdictions use DRE. There is not one case of an election being challenged because DRE was the balloting medium.
Three things that stand out in the Attorney General recount:
Virginia elections are reliably supervised and adjudicated
Paper ballots in any form invite error
Marc Elias is one cool operator
Why is paper less reliable? Here is an example of a marked paper ballot. The standard published by the Virginia State Board of Elections (SBE) requires a positive affirmation in order to count a vote. According to SBE, this mark is a strike-through; negative. But did the voter really intend an underline making it an affirmation? You'd have to channel the voter's intent. That's no way to determine election outcomes.
The margin might be the closest in US election history and is certainly the closest in modern history. The State Board of Elections certified the results when they convened the fourth Monday in November. The margin is 165 votes out of 2.2 million cast. It's over this Thursday (or Friday at the latest).
Obenshain, because of the margin, is within his rights to petition for the recount. The Recount Court has been empaneled and convened twice. Motions by both camps have been heard. The court has established procedural orders and a timeline for the recount.
Chesapeake, Fairfax, and Alexandria, because of their size, are going to begin today, a day earlier than the remaining jurisdictions in Virginia. Tomorrow, the remaining jurisdictions will begin and those three will continue as required. The State Board of Elections will convene on Wednesday, December 18, as will the Recount Board (to recertify the local results). All the jurisdictions will recount and then the SBE will recanvass the recounts. If there are any ballots in question from the local recounts, it will be the SBE that adjudicates.
Anyone expecting fireworks during this procedure will be sorely disappointed. This is a very narrow process. The kinds of games that are available in other states are not in Virginia. Barring malfeasance by election officials, any drama would have to be manufactured. By design, the Virginia process is streamlined. In this case, this is the retabulation of the votes that were cast for Attorney General only on election day. Provisional ballots that were rejected will not be revisited nor will absentee ballots that were not counted. By court order, the election officials may not draw down the number of ballots that were cast (they may not reconcile the numbers; yes that is allowed in very narrow circumstances on election day). Machine errors and voter eligibility are not at issue.
An immediate Cuccinelli political comeback was dispelled on Saturday during a dinner speech at The Homestead Resort. According to one source, Ken Cuccinelli stated "I don't mind not having an elected role in about a month or so. I've been in office 11 years... I look forward to a little bit of a break. ... but I'll be back with you. I'm not talking as a candidate, but just fighting for these principles because I believe in them."
Before anyone except staunch Cuccinelli supporters get too excited, the attorney general's words seem more like those of a man still licking his wounds from a recent election defeat rather than those of someone who's given himself enough time to make a resolute long term decision. And if there is one thing that Virginians should know by now, it's not to trust a good deal of what Ken Cuccinelli says.
Tis the season for more absurd remarks by Republican members of congress, and Rep. Morgan Griffith (9th District) didn't waste any time. While recently visiting Tazewell, Griffith told a crowd of supporters during lunch that if 95 percent of the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) employees were classified as 'non essential' during the federal government shutdown in October then "they should be able to cut 15 percent."
Indeed, the august Griffith claimed that he intends to introduce legislation during the next session of congress that would cut the EPA's staff by 15 percent even though he concedes that "I don't want to mislead anyone, I don't think it will pass in the Senate and maybe not the house but we are going to ask for their staff to be cut by 15 percent." In essence, then, Griffith's legislative gamble will once again waste legislative time, energy, and taxpayer dollars.
The results of the November 5th election for Virginia Attorney General were certified by the Virginia State Board of Elections on Monday. State Sen. Mark R. Herring (D-Loudoun) was announced the victor by 165 votes, making the 2013 election for attorney general the closest Virginia political contest in "modern Virginia history" (however "modern" is defined).
Meanwhile, state Sen. Herring announced the five co-chairmen of his inaugural committee, another unforeseen action (*sarcasm again*) that signals Herring's own expectation of becoming Virginia's next attorney general. According to a statement made on Tuesday by Sen. Herring, "It is within Senator Obenshain's right to pursue electoral victory to an ultimate conclusion beyond the original count, canvass and certification." Herring went on, "His tactics, however, will not impede our efforts to build the finest team to serve all Virginians in the Office of Attorney General or prepare for the 2014 legislative session."
In the first edition of tales from a sore loser, Virginia Attorney General and loser of November 5th's race for governor, Ken Cuccinelli, suggested that Sen. Mark Warner will be vulnerable during the 2014 election because of the perceived flaws of the healthcare reform legislation. In other words, Cuccinelli could be positioning himself for a senatorial run against Mark Warner in 2014.
According to Cuccinelli, "There is no such thing as an unendangered Democrat who promised, as Mark Warner did, on video, sitting in his Senate office, 'I would not vote for a health-care plan that doesn't let you keep health insurance you like.' " On the other hand, there is no such thing as an unendangered Republican who compares abortion to slavery.
Unfortunately, Cuccinelli may not have learned much from his gubernatorial loss to Democratic candidate Terry McAuliffe. Fortunately for Virginia, Cuccinelli may not have learned much from his gubernatorial loss to Terry McAuliffe.
For three years we have heard that Virginia is enjoying budget surpluses. All the while, a series of gimmicks have been employed that will unravel during the years to come; some immediate, some long term. Terry McAuliffe would be well advised to determine baselines that provide context for funding obligations.
Ken Cuccinelli was right when he claimed that taxes would increase during a McAuliffe administration; what he failed to point out was that they also had consistently increased during the current administration and would under his own. The difference will be that Governor McDonnell was allowed to borrow against the future and underfund capital requirements, in effect levying the tax on his successors and generations to come. Cuccinelli would have done much more of the same. Such maneuvers by the coming McAuliffe administration will not be met with the deafening silence afforded the current administration.
Maintaining the Illusion of Surpluses
The Virginia Retirement System (VRS) "loan" amortization, the legislatively mandated 20% annual contribution deficiency, and total unfunded pension obligations
Education infrastructure maintenance, capitalization and re-capitalization underfunding
Transportation infrastructure maintenance, capitalization and re-capitalization underfunding
Positive growth of revenue streams; particularly from areas such as agricultural production where weather and markets are beyond the influence of state government but have had a good run
Terry McAuliffe should conduct an audit early on so that the inevitable future claims of fiscal malfeasance can be placed in context when the bills come due. This one must be much more honest than the audit by McDonnell's team which made claims like turning up over $100 million that had been "mismanaged" by the Department of Transportation during the Kaine administration (conversely, McAuliffe should make certain that operating funds and reserves have not been drawn down). No, this audit should nail down underfunded and unfunded obligations that are currently, to a great extent, off the books. Some will come due during the next four years; some will continue to grow otherwise unacknowledged until they explode with consequences similar to the Detroit pension crisis.
All eyes on Virginia. Governor Howard Dean and Purple to Blue 86th District House of Delegates candidate Jennifer Boysko will be featured on a special call Monday to talk about the shutdown crisis and how we can make it a game changer up and down the ballot, starting in Virginia.
"Republicans in Virginia are cut from the same cloth as the folks who just held our country hostage, and they're governing the same way, too. They've slashed education funding, essentially outlawed abortion, passed strict voter ID legislation and blocked efforts to control deadly weapons."
You will be able to join the call using a computer with working internet or, if a computer isn't available, by calling in with your phone. Register online to receive instructions for participating tomorrow at 8:30PM. Note that the registration page indicates "EST." I have written DFA asking for clarification. (Update: The E-mail notification uses "ET" rather than "EST," so local time)
Here's yet another example of how low you can go if you capitulate to the Tea Party and their benefactors in Virginia this November. North Carolina just reversed a despicable position that had meant North Carolina's WIC recipients wouldn't have help during the partial government shutdown. But it shouldn't gone gone "there" in the first place. It's a disgrace.
In the face of a partial government shutdown, those receiving food under the Women, Infants and Children Program (WIC) were left hung out to dry, or rather starve. Every other state in the nation gave their WIC recipients vouchers to buy food, but not North Carolina. And in true Tea Party form, Aldona Wos, the righteous radical wrong-wing horror that is the head of our state DHHS (who has crippled our state Medicaid program both by policy and incompetence) blamed guess whom? Why the President of course.
In quick succession, four polls have shown the race for governor is slipping away from Ken Cuccinelli. Yesterday Quenton Kidd, Director of the Wason Center for Public Policy at Christopher Newport University (CNU) discussed recent poll results with Cathy Lewis on Norfolk's WHRV. Not all the news was great.
After about a month or so with a McAuliffe lead of around five percent and margins of error around three and four percent, there had been an argument that the gubernatorial race could be closer than the numbers indicate. Two days ago, Politico published a poll showing McAuliffe holding a 10 point lead and soon afterwards CNU released the results of a poll with him up by nine percent. Roanoke College had McAuliffe up by seven and today the Quinnipiac University poll has him with a lead of eight.
Lewis asked Kidd about the libertarian candidate. Kidd responded that Sarvis continues to perform well with about eight per cent of the vote (according to CNU). Sarvis's support, by Kidd's assessment, is coming out of what would naturally be Cuccinelli's voters; he's a protest vote for Republicans and independents who would normally go with the Republican. So the real question is: What do they do on election day? Do they stay home, do they go back to their natural base and vote Republican, or do they stick with Sarvis? Kidd believes that is the real unknown right now.
Kidd told Lewis CNU is currently conducting a poll asking about the shutdown and who is to blame; he expected the Quinnipiac poll to address the shutdown (it did). This he said, would begin to give a clearer picture about whether the race opening up for McAuliffe is directly or indirectly attributable to the "larger politics" around the shutdown and Ken Cuccinelli's connection to those "larger politics."
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