Important Legislation for a Short Session

Virginia has “short” and “long” sessions of its legislative session.  This is a “short” year, when legislators tell you they haven’t much time, and must deal with the most important issues.  Here is just a sampling of some they apparently put in that category.

 

HB 1420
Newborn screening; Krabbe disease. Requires the screening tests conducted on every infant born in the Commonwealth to include a screening test for Krabbe disease and other lysosomal storage disorders.

This is not the first time the Virginia legislature has dictated what tests must be run on newborns.  whether or not a person with an actual medical degree believes it necessary.

HB 1515

Information for maternity patients; safe sleep environments for infants.  Information for maternity patients; safe sleep environments for infants. Adds information about safe sleep environments for infants that is consistent with current information available from the American Academy of Pediatrics to the list of information that licensed nurse midwives, licensed midwives, and hospitals must provide to maternity care patients

Not only does the legislature want to practice medicine; it also wants to dictate what information your pediatrician or other health professional must provide you, removing all discretion based on medical knowledge and individual cases

HB1548

Revocation of concealed handgun permit; delinquency in child support payments. Provides for the revocation of an individual’s concealed handgun permit if such individual (i) has failed to comply with a subpoena, summons, or warrant relating to paternity or child support proceedings or (ii) is delinquent in the payment of child support by 90 days or more or in an amount of $5,000 or more. If the obligor remedies the delinquency, reaches an agreement with the obligee or Department of Social Services to remedy the delinquency, or complies with the subpoena, summons, or warrant, he may reapply for a concealed weapons permit.

Because the two are so closely related.  Doesn’t matter that you can’t afford your child-support payments, your life is not worth maintaining. Fortunately, does not note that one may carry a firearm in Virginia without a Concealed Handgun Permit.  This is a nose under the tent to removing firearms eligibility.
What happened to “punishment should fit the crime”?

HB1566

Grading system for individual school performance; star number scale. Requires the Board of Education to develop an individual school performance grading system and assign a grade or a series of grades to each public elementary and secondary school using a five-star to one-star scale, five-star being the highest grade. Current law requires individual school performance to be reported by October 1, 2016, using five letter grades from A to F.

Uh, excuse me?  The current six-letter scale uses A-F, but apparently we think our students and parents can’t understand the same grading method we use to grade them.  Let’s make it a five-star scale.  What?  Are we rating hotels?  Is this really an issue?

HJ593

Losing Loved Ones in a Tragic Accident Month

Who doesn’t want a “Losing Loved Ones in a Tragic Accident” Month?

HB2331

Definition of fur-bearing animal.  Defines the fisher as a fur-bearing animal in hunting and trapping provisions of the Code of Virginia. The fisher (Martes pennanti) is a small carnivorous mammal native to North America. It is a member of the weasel family.

Apparently, Virginia law has to mirror wikipedia, which lists 70 references for the animal..  Never mind that there is an entire branch of science devoted to Mammalogy, and that scientific documentation of species identifiers already exists.  I doubt (though I can’t be certain) that any members of the General Assembly are members of the American Society of Mammalogists, but perhaps they should be?

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You Gotta Wonder …

Delegate Scott Surovell (VA-44) has led several clean-up days over the past few years for Little Hunting Creek.  Volunteers have cleaned (and re-cleaned, and re-cleaned, apparently) an area of the creek that is used as a dumping grounds.

These efforts are commendable, though I wonder if perhaps a fundraising effort for fences to keep trash from getting IN to the creek might be more long-lasting.

Here comes the “but …”   Surovell writes in an e-mail:

To help deal with the never ending [sic] stream of trash into our community’s creeks, I am currently considering the following action items:

    -Legislation authorize Fairfax County to enact legislation to allow fines for abandoned shopping carts
-A comprehensive litter education program in the Route 1 Corridor
-Supporting measures to make trash and litter a measurable metrics [sic] in determining stream health
-Re-introducing a $0.05 plastic bag fee

Being me, I have to ask the obvious questions …

Who the hell are we going to fine?  Stores, which already lose hundreds of dollars when a cart is stolen?  The dumper?  As if we’d find them.  Gods know the police have so much free time they can investigate cases of dumped shopping carts.  And why only Fairfax County?  What’s so special about carts dumped here instead of, say, Prince William County?

Why would we need legislation to enact a comprehensive education program in the area?   Sure, we’re a Dillon Rule state, but there is no state law that says communities cannot educate their citizens.  (Sounds like a plea for funding the program, which I would oppose vehemently as not high-enough priority.)

Along the Route 1 corridor, there are hundreds of families who don’t have cars (which they would have to fuel, insure, and maintain).  They take buses to work, and stop at WalMart, Safeway, Target or, yes, 7-11, for food and toiletries on their way home from work.  The $.05 tax harms these people more than any.  (I can almost hear the “oh, wait, we’ll provide them reusable bags”)

FYI – the didn’t the volunteers collect, this time, 51 plastic bags of trash?

I can’t argue the remaining point, simply because I don’t know enough.  IS litter a metric of a stream’s health?  One cannot make it relevant just by enacting legislation.  Nor is anyone helped if the state or administrative bureaucracy is forced to collect measures on topics that do not drive action.  If the metric can be shown to be useful, why is it not already part of data-collection efforts?

An open letter, and a promise, to Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell

Governor McDonnell, you have the power to stop this atrocity.   The government of Virginia is poised to retrogress to a patronizing, sanctimonious mass of social laws designed to step on women.

I urge you in the strongest possible terms to reject in whatever form the “personhood” bill and the “ultrasound” bill reach you.  Reject them outright.

I am so repulsed by the ideas espoused in these bills that I will make a promise.

I will promise, should these bills pass with or without your signature, that I will not cast a vote for a Republican in Virginia until they are repealed.  Nor will I cast a vote in a national election for any ticket with which your name or your endorsement is affiliated.

I will do what I can to get other women and others who value individual freedom to join me.

Voter ID laws

Voter identification laws are getting a lot of attention in Virginia this legislative season.

Proponents are correctly noting that ID requirements can help to prevent voter fraud.  Opponents are correctly noting that voter fraud is not a big issue.

Opponents are also claiming that voter ID laws disenfranchise the poor, the elderly, and minorities.   In some way, that’s true.  Those groups are less likely to have ID, though with the possible exception of elderly individuals born before widespread (one might even say mandatory) issuance of birth certificates.  Opponents are claiming that minorities and the poor are less likely to have driver licenses — also (perhaps) true, but irrelevant if the acceptable forms of ID are not limited to drive licenses.

The real purpose of voter ID laws is to prevent unscrupulous political operatives (are there any other kind?) from offering to drive any group of people to polling places (to “exercise their god-given rights”), extolling the virtues of their candidate (and the “evils” of his opponent) during the drive, and thus swaying the elections.  This type of community do-gooder action (“driving people to the polls”) is touted highly, but is actually most often buying a vote.  If an individual calls a campaign headquarters and asks for a ride, it would be reasonable for that campaign to presume the individual will vote for its candidate.  For a campaign to go out to seek out people to take to the polls is disgusting.

I would surmise that amongst those people who would likely not have gone to the polls otherwise, there will be a percentage who do not have, for one reason or another, an ID.  I’d like to see actual data, but apparently it doesn’t prove a thing or the sides would be trotting it out.

Now, one might argue that it is a damn shame there are groups of people in any area who might be subject to such practices.  I’d agree.  That’s also irrelevant to the voter ID issue.

So one party is always afraid the other party will perform such “community service.”

It just so happens this time it’s the Republicans who believe the Democrats have more to gain by using this tactic.  This time, the Republicans believe the Democrats buy votes with promises of government programs (or loss of same).  It has not always been this way.

We pay legislators to do WHAT? (Redux)

I’ve been trying for two days to comment on Del. Surovell’s reply to my comments.  Can’t do it at the Dixie Pig; I’ll do it here.

Why is it the government’s role to “protect” my property values?  Can you find that anywhere in either the US or the Virginia  Constitutions? Regulating grass height to protect property values is the role of the community of residents, not the community of legislators.

Can you say “nanny state”?  I knew you could.

Del. Surovell is bemoaning the steps a locality has to take in order to request permission to regulate grass height.

I say don’t allow any locality to regulate it, and the problem is solved.

Protect me? Oh, really?

In Warren v. District of Columbia, DC’s highest court ruled it is a “fundamental principle of American law that a government and its agents are under no general duty to provide public services, such as police protection, to any individual citizen.”

The Supreme Court has upheld such decisions.  Police have no duty to protect individual citizens.  (See here for several citations; the Wikipedia citation is down on SOPA protest day.)

So why do they rule that speed traps and drunk-driving checkpoints are legal?  Aren’t those designed to protect individuals?  Some states get it right, and either prohibit them or don’t conduct them because police lack the statutory authority.     I like this page about the legality of the checkpoints, noting the “DUI exception to the Constitution.”

What could possibly be the states’ vested interest, other than – wait for it – protecting individuals?

So what the courts are really telling us is that governments (police forces) don’t have to protect individuals unless they can potentially make money from it.

What we’re paying Legislators to do

Sometimes even I wonder why I rail so about politicians and government?  Is it blinders?  Am I just so opposed to government (as it is) that I can’t see the good?  Perhaps.  But then I go looking for something, and the inanity strikes me over and over again.  Do we really need to pay people to do these things?

While tracking the status this morning of a bill that would require committee and subcommittee votes to be recorded* I came across the House Rules Committee’s probable agenda for yesterday.

Glad to see they’re doing such important work.

Later, they’ll tout in their campaign literature and session reports how busy they were, and how much legislation they had to plow through.

So thrilled that Dave Albo found something important to introduce, now that his abusive Virginia driver fees were repealed (and cost the state a BUNCH of money in collecting and then refunding).

Albo – HB94 – School boards, local; meeting procedures  (Requiring local school boards to use Roberts Rules — at least he requested in Committee that it be stricken.  He might be redeemable.  Might.)

Brink – HJ128 – Shaken Baby Syndrome Awareness Week; designating …  (Surely he doesn’t think designating a week is going to do a single thing for any baby?  “Oh, no, I have to wait until tomorrow to shake this baby senseless; this is awareness week!“)

Cox – HB349 – Virginia War of 1812 Bicentennial Commission (Virginia War of 1812???)  (This one is actually a funding bill, requiring the commission to be funded or to die)

Crockett-Stark – HJ98 – First Lady Edith Bolling Wilson Day; designating …

Englin – HJ105 – Virginia Cider Week; designating …

Englin – HJ143 – Spay Day; designating …

Filler-Corn – HJ107 – Hold Out for Hunger Day, designating …..  (Let’s legislate something so we can guilt people into donating …)

Gilbert – HJ49 – Governor’s Executive Reorganization Plan  (Must have been contentious.  Two people in Rules don’t want the Governor’s plan, which eliminates a number of entities.  Or perhaps they just don’t want to approve  anything the Governor does.  Hard to tell without recorded votes.)

Hugo – HJ142 – Asian Lunar New Year Day; designates day designated as new year (Because if we don’t legislate it, the Asian Lunar New Year might happen everywhere else but Virginia.  Who says time can’t stand still?)

Hugo – HJ144 – Small Business Day; designating … (Because the legislature can’t leave them alone to just do their jobs the rest of the year.)

Hugo – HJ145 – Preeclampsia Month; designating …. (Guess that’s how we get around the whole prenatal care thing … one month a year we write on the calendar that women should be watching for symptoms.)

Marshall – HJ93 – Local Government Education week; designating …  (I’m not really sure local governments would be happy if their citizens REALLY understood everything they do!  Sounds like an excuse for them to publish more flyers.)

Orrock – HB79 – Disability Commission; establishing work groups …  (“Shall establish,” not “may establish.”  Strike 1.  Commission was set to sunset in July; this allows it to continue.)

Sickles – HJ120 – Mesothelioma Awareness Day; designating … (Excuse me? Is there anyone with a television who isn’t aware of mesothelioma?  And that lawyers will “help” you get money.)

 

 

* Not recording committee and subcommittee votes allows the chamber to send a bill somewhere that legislators don’t have to go on record as supporting or opposing.  This happens frequently.

A tale of two hardware chains

Or are they “home-improvement” chains.

Whatever.

On the one hand, Home Depot, whose customer service has become atrocious lately, has stood up for its beliefs.

The hate group “American Family Association” *  has been pressuring Home Depot not to speak out in favor of human rights.  Apparently, it’s okay to favor human rights; you just can’t say so and stay on AFA’s good side.

On the other hand, Lowe’s chose to pull its advertising from the TLC Show “All-American Muslim”.  All-American Muslim follows families in Dearborn, Michigan.  Yet the primary hate group opposing it is the Florida Family Association (*).  Lowe’s comment:  “We believe it is best to respectfully defer to communities, individuals and groups to discuss and consider such issues of importance.”   Apparently they’ll defer to communities far removed from the one portrayed.

I haven’t watched All-American Muslim.  It’s not in a time slot I pay a lot of attention to; I know a number of American Muslim families; and I’m not a big fan of TLC.   I  cannot comprehend, though, a company pulling advertising based on opposition from a hate group.  When verifying the information on the Florida group’s web page, I note they’re pissed that neither Hershey’s and Campbell’s Soup has bent.

Excuse me.  I’m off  to buy Hershey’s cocoa, Hershey’s chocolate, and a few dozen cans of Campbell’s soup.   Then I’ll stop at Home Depot for my DIY needs.

What our government bureaucracy rewards

I would hope civil libertarians have this on their scope:

“Finalists named for top federal workforce awards”

Note what the Washington Post considers noteworthy.  The first one they list is someone who will regulate what goes in to your body.  Now, I’m in no way defending smokers; though I quit over 10 years ago, I’m not the rabid anti-smoker, and don’t care what you do to yours.  What I do find reprehensible is a statement like “We have a fundamental authority now that no other country has.”  Fundamental?  Really?  What they have is an assumed authority based on a fundamental assumption that the government has a right to control you.  In my book. Deyton would be doing a great service if he advertised and educated, so people understand what they’re ingesting, and its effects.  From there, personal responsibility takes over.

I’ve not gone to the full list of nominees. In a couple of past years, some deserving folks have actually been recognized.  This year, I hope it’s not the one the Washington Post is cheering.

Fairfax County Supervisor Gerry Hyland sent out an interesting “invitation”.  In it, he noted something new — an admission charge of canned goods for United Community Ministries.

I wrote asking whether he was simply promoting a very tasteless joke or actually charging admission to an audience with a public official — a serious lapse of ethics and an electoral issue, in my eyes.

Later he sent out a notice stating:

Some folks have challenged my “tongue in cheek” requirement that admission to the event is a can of food for the hungry.  Not to worry, this was my erstwhile attempt to emphasize the desperate need to help United Community Ministries feed the less fortunate.  Obviously, I have no legal right or desire to deny anyone admission to the Town Meeting, nor would I ever do that.  Lest there be any doubt, there is NO requirement for anyone to bring food for admission to the Town Meeting.  However, any help you can give will be sincerely appreciated.

Now, let’s apply junior-high-learned analysis.  The fact that “tongue-in-cheek” is contained in quotation marks can say one of two things — one, that the quote comes from elsewhere, or two, that it does not have the meaning one would normally associate with it.

How many of us really believe this was a tongue-in-cheek request?   I don’t, because the original message also said that if you “forgot”, you could promise to make that donation within a week.

Make a stupid mistake, such as requiring a donation – even for such a good cause?  Forgiveable.

Implying that is not what you meant?  Typical politician.