I probably agree 99% of the time with Peter Galuszka of Bacon's Rebellion, which is why I found his latest headline, A New, Improved Ken Cuccinelli?, so puzzling. At first I thought that Galuszka was going to write an Onion-style satire or just a "yeah right!" But no, this appears to be serious.
Is one-time conservative firebrand Ken Cuccinelli undergoing a makeover?...
...The hard line former Virginia attorney general who lost a bitter gubernatorial race to Terry McAuliffe in 2013 is now helping run an oyster farm and sounding warning alarms about a rising police state.
...Yet on March 31, Cuccinelli was the co-author with Claire Guthrie Gastanaga, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia of an opinion column in the Richmond Times Dispatch. Their piece pushes bipartisan bills passed by the General Assembly that would limit the use of drones and electronic devices to read and record car license plate numbers called license plate readers or LPRs.
A few thoughts on this. First, you might have noticed that I did NOT link to the aforementioned opinion column in this morning's news clips. That was intentional, as Ken Cuccinelli is an extremist, bigot, and paranoid nutjob who doesn't deserve one drop of ink (or pixels), except to mock him and to expose his extremism/bigotry. Why anyone would want to team up with or associate themselves in any way with this extremist is beyond me, but to each their own.
Bottom line: I'm not sure why Peter Galuszka, who I agree with 99% of the time, thinks that Ken Cuccinelli might be "undergoing a makeove," but it's simply not true. Unfortunately, he's the same right-wing "firebrand" that he ever was...
The U.S. Supreme Court sent Virginia's 3rd District gerrymander case back down the pipe on Monday, a move that brings Virginia another step closer to a redraw of its congressional map.
The nation's highest court vacated and remanded a three-judge panel's decision in the case, which alleges that state leaders focused on race when drew lines for the 3rd District. The district is represented by U.S. Rep. Robert C. "Bobby" Scott, and it meanders back and forth across the James River, taking in minority populations in Hampton Roads.
Given the plaintiff's initial victory, and last week's U.S. Supreme Court decision in favor of plaintiffs from a similar case out of Alabama, Monday's remand will likely lead federal judges here to re-affirm their initial order, according to Marc Elias, lead attorney for the plaintiffs.
"The Alabama decision supports our position," Elias said in an email. "We expect the three judge panel to reach the same result now that Alabama has been decided."
All in all, I'm told by someone (an attorney) with a lot more legal acumen than I've got that this is probably a good thing in the long term, "because the Eastern District Court of Virginia (EDVA) had a broad interpretation of the Voting Rights Act, and the SCOTUS case strengthens their case." In turn, that "definitely helps when [the case] gets to the 4th circuit again. I think there was a good chance the 4th circuit was going to reverse the EDVA opinion before the SCOTUS opinion came down." Also, this "establishes a much firmer legal foundation for Rep. Scott's case (I thought the previous EDVA opinion was weak). But it does push the timeline back because the EDVA has to hear the case again before it inevitably gets appealed to the 4th circuit."
Bottom line: "I think it will get through the 4th circuit by the middle of next year. Whether the GOP wants to waste more money and appeal it to the Supreme Court, who knows? I think it makes political sense for them to push it back as late as possible, but it will cost a ton of $ in legal bills and SCOTUS would almost certainly refuse to take the case since they just adjudicated a very similar case last week."
UPDATE: Del. Scott Surovell says, "Voting Rights Act redistricting cases are heard by three-judge DISTRICT COURT panels. Appeals go directly to the U.S. Supreme Court. Federal appeals courts such as the Fourth Circuit play no role in these cases."
UPDATE #2: My main source for commentary on this article emails, "I should have been more precise: parties can appeal directly to SCOTUS in these cases, but circuit courts can be involved when there is no constitutional claim."
This piece has run as an op/ed in newspapers in my very red congressional district.
Here's what I bet that historians will say was the No. 1 political battle in the America of our times.
Not the national debt, or abortion, or Obamacare, or immigration, or gun rights.
Instead, historians will say the most important fight was over whether the government of the United States would be the democracy our founders gave us, or whether Big Money would succeed in changing us into a different kind of society altogether.
Most of us are aware that our politics are awash in money like never before. The cost of our campaigns - from state legislatures to the presidency - has vastly increased. This avalanche of money - especially since the Citizens United decision - comes mostly not from ordinary citizens but from billionaires and giant corporations.
As a result, more and more of the decisions made - in Congress, in the White House, at the Supreme Court - favor the rich and powerful at the expense of average Americans.
Right before our eyes, our government - which is supposed to be by and for the people - is being stolen from us.
We need to look at this battle in strategic terms, asking: How is Big Money going about its effort to take over?
It is clear, for example, that it serves the interests of the plutocrats to divide the people against each other.
Here are a few national and Virginia news headlines, political and otherwise, for Sunday, March 29. Also, check out that photo of the supposedly "moderate" Republican, Hal Parrish, who's running for Chuck Colgan's State Senate seat, posing happily with one of the craziest, most extreme politicians in Virginia...or anywhere in the country, really.
Here are a few national and Virginia news headlines, political and otherwise, for Saturday, March 28. Also, check out President Obama's weekly address, in which he "highlighted the progress made protecting American consumers since he signed Wall Street reform into law five years ago, including an important new step taken by the independent Consumer Financial Protection Bureau earlier this week toward preventing abuses in payday lending."
RICHMOND - At a press conference today in Richmond, Governor Terry McAuliffe announced his actions on the 800 bills passed by the Virginia General Assembly during the 2015 legislative session.
“When I began the process of evaluating the 800 bills that were sent to my desk this year, I applied one simple standard: Does this legislation make Virginia more competitive and improve people’s lives, and if not, can I amend it to ensure that it does?
“As I have said, this session was marked by bipartisan cooperation on issues that are important to Virginia families. We passed a balanced budget that closed a revenue shortfall, protected core priorities like education, and invested in economic development, health care and school nutrition.
“We took significant steps forward reforming our workforce development system, strengthening our transportation planning process, enhancing the resources we offer Virginia veterans, and building on our efforts to grow a 21st Century energy economy. My focus this session was on laying a foundation for a new Virginia economy, and I am proud to say that we did just that this year.”
The Governor also announced his vetoes to 17 bills that he determined did not comply with his standard of growing and diversifying our economy and moving Virginia forward.
“The bills that I vetoed this year sought changes in law that I viewed to be counterproductive to the economic and social progress we need to better serve Virginia families. From drawing legislative lines outside of the constitutional process, to loosening Virginia gun laws and unnecessarily disrupting the ability of law enforcement and the Virginia Board of Education to do their jobs, these bills do not make Virginia stronger or more competitive. Accordingly, I have vetoed them.”
In addition to the six bills dealing with redistricting which the Governor vetoed yesterday, he vetoed the following bills today:
SB 948 – Provides that information on concealed handgun permitees in the Virginia Criminal Information Network may not be shared with law enforcement in states that do not have reciprocity agreements with Virginia for the carrying of concealed handguns
This bill could unnecessarily hamper criminal investigations in other states and put our law enforcement officers at risk.
SB 1059 – Requires the Attorney General to make a public written determination as to the need for special counsel, and places reporting requirements on the use of outside counsel
This bill limits the Attorney General’s authority to appoint outside counsel and could present challenges to attorney-client privilege.
SB 1137 – Provides that lawful concealed carry permit holders be permitted to carry a loaded shotgun or rifle in any vehicle on public streets, highways and roads
This legislation ignores long-established fire arm safety procedures and could endanger law enforcement officers in the line of duty.
HB 1318 – Requires photo identification for persons seeking absentee ballots by mail, telephone or electronic transmission.
Governor McAuliffe determined that this bill imposes barriers on eligible voters being able to obtain and cast an absentee ballot.
HB 1473 – Allows a General Registrar who lives and is registered to vote in one locality to serve as registrar in an adjoining locality
Governor McAuliffe determined that this bill makes unnecessary changes to current law, which requires that the person who runs elections in a given locality should be a voter in that locality.
HB 1608 – Prohibiting any local government from requiring contractors to have a wage floor or other employee benefit above what is otherwise required by state law.
This bill would unduly limit the ability of local governments to decide their own labor practices and could negatively impact the utilization of registered apprenticeship programs.
HB 1626 – Prohibiting public schools from joining any organization which does not permit home schooled students to participate in sports program (such as the Virginia High School League)
This bill would create a double standard, as students who are not subject to academic or attendance requirements of public schools would now compete with students on public school athletic teams. He also recognized the wide availability of athletic programs that operate outside the public school system.
HB 1752 and SB 724 – Prohibits the Board of Education from adopting the Common Core State Standards without prior approval of the General Assembly
This bill infringes on the authority of the Virginia Board of Education, particularly given that fact that Virginia has no plans to adopt the Common Core State Standards.
HB 2009 – Requires the chief law enforcement officer to provide a certification for transfer of a machine gun within 60 days if the applicant is not prohibited by law from receiving the machine gun
This bill restricts the authority of local law enforcement to make its own decisions about machine gun transfers.
HB 2395 – Prohibits a state agency from requiring a bidder, offeror, contractors, or subcontractors to perform services at rates based on wages and benefits for the corresponding classes of laborers and mechanics
This legislation is a solution in search of a problem. This bill responds to a future circumstance that has not arisen because Virginia does not have a prevailing wage law.
In addition to his vetoes, Governor McAuliffe announced that he would amend around 50 pieces of legislation in order to align them with his goals. Those amendments include significant substantive and technical changes to the ethics legislation that was passed in the final hours of the legislative session.
“The ethics bill that was sent to my desk represented a significant step forward, but it was not perfect. While my amendments do not make it perfect, they do further strengthen our ethics laws so that Virginians can have greater confidence that their leaders are putting them first.
“While I sought a much stronger bill, my top priority is amending this bill to include a $100 aggregate cap on gifts, so that leaders cannot receive unlimited $100 gifts from lobbyists and those seeking influence with the state. That is a reasonable step that I hope the General Assembly will accept this year, so that we can begin preparing to further advance this important cause in the next legislative session.”
The Governor’s amendments to this year’s ethics bill include:
Conference report: Forms reviewed only for completeness. If incomplete, the filer is notified confidentially to file a completed disclosure.
Governor’s amendment: The Council will conduct semiannual, random inspections for compliance with disclosure requirements, limitations on gifts, accuracy of information and deadlines.
Appointments to Council
Conference report: Governor’s appointees would be a retired judge and two individuals from a list suggested by VML and VACO.
Governor’s amendment: Governor’s appointees would be an Executive Branch appointee and the two proposed by local government organizations.
Conference report: Exemptions to the waiver requirement include travel paid by any government, travel to facilitate attendance at the legislative session, a legislative or commission meeting or a national conference approved by House/Senate Rules committee, and travel related to a meeting that an official has been appointed to because of his/her office.
Governor’s amendment: All travel paid by a third party to the legislative session, the NCSL and similar organizations must be disclosed.
Conference report: A $100 cap per gift to state and local officials and legislators from a lobbyist or lobbyist principal. For state and local officials, the cap also applies to entities seeking a contract with an official’s agency. Exemptions/waivers for personal friends and widely attended events in addition to the travel exemption discussed above.
Governor’s amendment: A $100 aggregate gift cap. That cap also applies to gifts to legislators from entities seeking a contract with the state. This is existing law.
Definition of widely attended event
Conference report: Officials may accept food and beverages with a value exceeding $100 at widely attended events. Widely attended events are defined as events at which 25 or more people are expected to attend. The event must also be open to the public or to individuals with a common interest; members of a civic, public or professional organization; or individuals from a particular industry.
Governor’s amendment: Removes language in the definition that exempts events that are open to the public in order to clarify that major sports events such as the Super Bowl are not included in the definition and exempted from the gift cap.
Yet again, the difference between having right-wing extremist Mark Obenshain (shudddderrrr) as Virginia Attorney General, and having Mark Herring as our AG, is immense. In this case, Herring is fighting against a despicable practice - predatory lending. "...on matters large and on matters small, we are going to fight for the rights of Virginia consumers. But there's one place where we need to do more and we're going to do more. I read a few weeks ago that Virginia is now considered the predatory lending capital of the East Coast, and I cannot accept that. It hurts our reputation as a state, and more than that, it means that here are Virginians who are being hurt, and I cannot accept that." Full remarks on the "flip."
P.S. "Democrats" like Dick Saslaw who support predatory lending should be ashamed of themselves.
Here are a few national and Virginia news headlines, political and otherwise, for Friday, March 27. Also, check out comedian Aasif Mandvi at the 2015 RTCA Dinner ripping the corporate media's incompetence and idiocy.
Here are a few national and Virginia news headlines, political and otherwise, for Thursday, March 26. Also, courtesy of Stafford Dem Marc Broklawski, check out the "'greatest hits' compilation of extreme Tea Party testimony bullying the Stafford School Board into abandoning Title IX." It's kinda like watching Faux "News" or Glenn Beck or something. And no, that is NOT a good thing! Ugh.
Today's Supreme Court decision on racial gerrymandering invalidates an Alabama redistricting plan that packed minority voters into majority-minority districts. What "packing" African Americans does is to basically guarantee an African-American will be elected in the "packed" district(s), but that African Americans' voting power will be diluted everywhere else.
Here in Virginia, this issue came to a head last fall, when three federal judges ruled "that the lines of the state's 3rd Congressional District were drawn in violation of the U.S. Constitution" and "ordered the General Assembly to redraw them by April 1, in time for the next congressional election in 2016."
The 3rd District is the only one of Virginia's 11 congressional districts with an African American majority. It has been represented since 1992 by Rep. Bobby Scott, a Newport News Democrat who is unopposed in the Nov. 4 election.
In a 2-1 decision, the judges agreed with the plaintiffs in a lawsuit filed a year ago that the congressional redistricting plan adopted by the Republican-controlled Assembly in 2012 amounted to racial gerrymandering, packing African American voters into Scott's district and leaving adjoining districts safer for their Republican incumbents.
In order to comply with the panel's ruling, the legislature might have to pull some Democratic-leaning voters out of Scott's district and redistribute them to surrounding districts, possibly creating less-hospitable electoral terrain for Republican Reps. Randy Forbes of Chesapeake and Scott Rigell of Virginia Beach.
Note that in 2012, Barack Obama lost the 4th CD (Forbes' district) by just 1 point, while Tim Kaine narrowly won it. Thus, a shift of even a few points could make Randy Forbes' political life a lot less cozy. Same thing with Scott Rigell, whose second district Barack Obama narrowly won in 2012.
Meanwhile, yet another Virginia lawsuit accuses "the General Assembly of 'racial gerrymandering' by packing black voters into 12 of the state's House of Delegates districts." For that reason, "[t]he plaintiffs are asking the court to declare the challenged districts invalid and to block the state from holding elections because of the disputed districts." If plaintiffs win this case, it could lead to the redrawing not just of the affected districts, but also potentially surrounding ones as well. And that, in turn, could have significant consequences for the balance of power in the Virginia House of Delegates. Not surprisingly, House of Delegates Republicans are in no hurry to deal with this situation, and would clearly prefer that it just go away. Unfortunately for them, but fortunately for those who dislike racial gerrymandering and "packing," that's not likely.
Bottom line: Today's SCOTUS ruling has potentially big implications for Virginia, because Rep. Bobby Scott's case is factually similar, as is the House of Delegates case.
Here are a few national and Virginia news headlines, political and otherwise, for Tuesday, March 24. Also, check out Joe Morrissey saying he'd be willing to caucus with far-right-wing State Senator Tommy Norment and the Republicans if he is elected to the State Senate. Yet ANOTHER reason not to vote for this slimeball.
Here are a few national and Virginia news headlines, political and otherwise, for Monday, March 23. Also, check out the video, which shows what a success the Affordable Care Act has been, and how Republicans were wrong about basically everything (as usual).
Here's an opportunity to support Remote Area Medical (RAM) clinics in Virginia and preview the Republican plan for healthcare delivery in America. Look for elected Republicans today at Piedmont Virginia Community College (PVCC) when the movie about Stan Brock's organization is screened to benefit the new Virginia affiliate.
The trailer for the movie quickly frames what should be our national shame and how opponents to providing access to medical care use pride to rally those who would benefit most to rail against their individual interests. RAM was established to bring free aid to the developing world. But that international delivery has been cut back in places like Africa because the organization has been overwhelmed by the need right here. 60% of the RAM clinics are now held in the United States. Four are scheduled in Virginia during 2015.
The showing will be at the Dickinson Fine and Performing Arts Center at PVCC Main Stage in Charlottesville, Virginia today at 3pm. After the screening there will be a question and answer session with Dr. Victoria Weiss, Virginia RAM, and Stan Brock, RAM Founder and President as well as a reception with light refreshments. Ticket sales will benefit the new RAM Virginia affiliate. $10 Adults and $5 Students.
Here are a few national and Virginia news headlines, political and otherwise, for Sunday, March 22. Meanwhile, gotta love the right-wing propaganda network's take on the situation at UVA (for starters, they claim it's the "media" criticizing the police, when of course it's many UVA students who are outraged, and may Virginia politicians who are calling for an investigation and possible changes to the ABC police).
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