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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Political Gamesmanship Again/Still in Virginia

State Senator Linda (Toddy) Puller, D-36, announced her retirement. She did so at the beginning of the session, to allow her compatriots to play their games.  Now, I notice that for the first time in years, she has updated her photo, no longer using the one from before her stroke, but rather one that makes her appear much more frail.  (NB: Though her body is frail, and has been for years, her mind is still extremely strong.)  She’d have had a harder time winning elections with the new photo in campaign ads, but is more realistic now.  And yes, people will make decisions based on photos, unfortunately, so Puller has been demonstrating she is very politically astute.

So Scott (“Isn’t-it-Nice-I-Got-Named-to-a-Leadership-Position-Again-in-Time-for-an-Election”) Surovell has declared his intent to run in her place.  No surprise there.   Dems hand-picked their Fairfax County Chairman to replace Kris Amundsen, who conveniently decided to announce after primary day that she wouldn’t run again; now they elect Surovell chair of the caucus (read:  special-interest group) in the House.  No good little Democrat Party Member would announce against him.

According to Megan Howard, Surovell’s Legislative Assistant, Scott will not resign his current position in order to run.  Think about that.

Democrat Paul Krizek has announced a run for Surovell’s seat.  What’s he going to do?  Challenge Surovell in a primary?  Or will they hold a firehouse primary so they can run Scott for both seats and promise the likely opening to Krizek?  Will they truly force a special election on the voters (of course, assuming the Republicans, Libertarians, or Independent Greens actually bother to run a candidate)?

No Republican, Libertarian, Independent Green (well, maybe the IG; they’re not very politically savvy) can announce now, because that would be tantamount to acknowledging Surovell is a shoo-in — which he is, but mostly because no one will commit to the effort to take him on in an issues-based race.  So toady publications like the Connection newspapers run items like this, probably weekly or biweekly, for the next year so Google searches have lots of name recognition for searches when election season rolls around.

Hey, Republicans and Libertarians, THIS is how you take elections.   NOT by nominating someone no no one has ever heard of, or leaving it to the Independent who spent $5 on an election and still managed nearly 30% of the vote.

Barriers to entry

I’ve been taking a lot of flack from self-defined “one-issue” voters lately. What’s annoying is that these are really not one-issue people at all, but they think they are. They (most of them) think “conservative” is an issue and the Tea Party defines “conservative.”

I refuse to vote the self-identified “conservative” candidate in the Virginia gubernatorial race.  Because every gun-rights group in the Commonwealth has endorsed him, I’ve been called stupid, a traitor, a “liberal” (as a pejorative, of course), misguided, and other terms.

What many of these people – people who have known me for years – fail to realize is that gun-rights is simply the barrier to entry.   After that, you other positions come in to play.  If you don’t support my gun rights, I don’t recognize your “right” to my vote, pure and simple.  That lets out Terry McAuliffe, though I have a strong handful of other reasons.  My only other absolute barrier is a conviction that the Tennessee constitution got it part right (“Whereas Ministers of the Gospel are by their profession, dedicated to God and the care of souls, and ought not to be diverted from the great duties of their functions; therefore, no Minister of the Gospel, or priest of any denomination whatever, shall be eligible to a seat in either House of the Legislature.”) and I’d carry that to “any elected office”.  Those are the barriers to my vote.

After the barriers comes the curtain – the other civil rights.  Candidates can pass the curtain if I disagree with them on these issues, but only if they have very very strong credentials and a record of respecting others’ beliefs and practices.  Among these are the right to marry the person I choose; the right to confer with my doctor and elect those medical procedures best for me; the right to speak my mind even if that speech might offend your god; the right to be treated equally under the law; and the right to insist that your religious preference not affect mine.    In other words, believe what you want, but don’t restrict others.  After that, I assess life experiences and personal characteristics.  And I consider whether my votes can help keep the government split.  That is, all else considered, let’s assure that no one party controls the Governor’s mansion and both houses of the legislature.

It’s that latter set of criteria that many of my gun-rights acquaintances don’t understand.  I believe that in their minds, those rights are inextricably linked, and individuals can have differing opinions on each and every one of them.  It’s a matter of prioritization, and deciding which have to be met and which can be squishy.  In my mind, the gun-rights question must be met, and a combination of the others must be met.  Cuccinelli can’t meet any of them.

Both barriers are in place for LG.  That’s a shame, because the LG is an important person in Virginia, with tie-breaking authority in our evenly divided State Senate.  “None of the Above” as a write-in is the only option.  I feel this is a cop-out, but it is the only way an American has to show that no candidate is acceptable.   We are literally prevented by election law from expressing our opinions.  Even a “none of the above” is seen only in the category of “write-ins” – also-rans – unless there are enough of them the same.   If all voters would write in, maybe the message would be carried, but there are just too many who are happy to select all the people with the same letter after their names, no matter their qualifications.

I am still seeking the election that has a slate of candidates without barriers.

We ELECT these people

The Virginia legislative season is back.

Time for amusement.  The do-nothing, feel-good legislation rolls on.

I’ll be adding more of these as I happen across them.  I have only just so much duct tape I can wrap around my head at one time to keep my brain from exploding.

 

HB1366 “makes it unlawful for a person to smoke in a motor vehicle in the presence of a child younger than 13 years of age; punishable by a civil penalty of $100.”   (Delegate J. Morrisey, D-74)

Okay, who thinks it’s a smart idea to light up in an enclosed space around a child?  Anyone?  Anyone?

Better yet, who thinks a police officer will take the time to cite someone for such a feel-good law?  Oh, by the way, it’s a secondary offense, so you have to do something else wrong, for which the officer will cite you, and then s/he can pile on, if s/he’s in a bad mood.   (Of course, by now the cigarette would be gone, wouldn’t it?  More on that later …)  Since it’s been my experience officers in Fairfax County  run red lights, change lanes in an intersection, cut off other drivers, don’t bother with directional signals, and read their computer screens while driving, I’m not sure they’d recognize a traffic offense.

And … the fine doesn’t go to some health fund, as one would expect since smoking is a health danger, but to a literary fund.  Maybe so offenders could read the new law.  And that literary fund sure could use an extra $200/year.

 

HB 1367  ” includes cigarettes specifically in the category of things deemed litter for purposes of criminal punishment for improper disposal of trash. The bill also provides that in lieu of the imposition of the Class 1 misdemeanor criminal penalty, the court may order the defendant to perform community service in litter abatement activities. If the offense involves a cigarette or cigarettes, the court shall order the payment of a $100 civil penalty payable to the Litter Control and Recycling Fund established in § 10.1-1422.01 in addition to the imposition of such community service.”  (Delegate J. Morrisey, D-74)

At least this one goes to the the Litter Control and Recycling Fund.

 

HB1375 “requires a retail establishment that has a toilet facility for its employees to allow a customer who suffers from Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, or other medical condition that requires immediate access to a toilet facility, to use that facility during normal business hours if certain conditions are met. The measure does not apply to certain filling stations or service stations or to banks or savings institutions. The operator of a retail establishment that violates this requirement is subject to a civil penalty of not more than $100. A violation does not subject the retail establishment to further liability to the customer.” (K. Rob Krupika, D-45)

Full disclosure – I suffer from Crohn’s disease.

This bill says a business owner must allow me to use a restroom.  Unless he runs a gas station or bank, though why those are excluded escapes me.

If he doesn’t, there’s no penalty.

But we’d have a law ……..

SB 736 “requires drivers and passengers to wait for a reasonable opportunity to open vehicle doors on the side adjacent to moving traffic. The bill also requires that in this case vehicle doors only be left open as long as necessary. A violation constitutes a traffic infraction punishable by a fine of not more than $100.”  (J. Chapman Peterson, D-34)

Because I always leave my car doors open much longer than necessary, and I’m sure hundreds (or even thousands) of others do as well.

And wasn’t it sweet of him not to include “any law-enforcement officer, school guard, firefighter, or member of a rescue squad engaged in the performance of his duties.”

Re-election

Imagine this.

You’re the boss; you own a small company with about 200 employees who are the face of your  business to the public; what they say binds you.

You hire Bob Brightguy, and tell him go forth and do.

Then you go do something else for a while.  Services are rendered and billing works in your name.

When it’s time for contract renewal, you look over the list of employees up for renewal, you say “Oh, I know that name.  Yeah, keep him.” and you go play more golf.

That’s what WE THE PEOPLE seem to be doing with our elected officials.  They’re our employees!

We’re not paying attention to how Bob Brightguy votes on routine issues. Does he go along to get along, doing as the party says?   Does he introduce legislation that’s good for the entire county/state/country?  Does he automatically say “no” to ideas that aren’t part of his list of interests?  Is he swayed by unions, associations, lobbying groups, or individuals with deep pockets?  What other sources of income does he have besides what WE THE PEOPLE pay?

When it’s re-election time, we get bombarded with “look what I did for you” mail, e-mail, and phone calls.  Well, to be even more frank, often we get “look what a scumbag the other guy is” instead, or “Fred Flamelight hates redheads, so vote for me.” communications instead.

Can you name one piece of legislation your State Delegate or Senator introduced?  Do you know how s/he voted on legislation that’s important to you?  Do you look to see whether the legislation s/he votes for is giving power to the government or taking it away, and cast your votes accordingly?

What is your federal representative an expert on?  What Committees does s/he sit on?  How does s/he vote on routine issues?  Is s/he party-line, and does that meet your approval?

I ask all this because I was part of a discussion recently where someone was complaining about a ballot issue on our November ballot, and whining that s/he didn’t know anything about it until s/he got to the polls.  ( I’m leaving alone for now the whole issue of a responsible voter learning BEFORE election day what will be on the ballot.)  The issue was a Constitutional Amendment, which by law our legislature must pass it in identical form two years in a row; then they must pass a bill dictating exactly the wording to appear on a ballot.  So by the time the voters see it in November, it has been through the General Assembly twice.

Confidence in our politicians has dropped to atrocious levels over the past few decades, yet WE THE PEOPLE don’t know what our legislators stand for.  Often we don’t know their real stance on issues of importance to us, we don’t know whether their voting record matches their campaign promises, and sometimes we just vote because s/he has a D, R, L, IG, S, or I after his name.

Wake up, voters.  Pay attention – or you get the government you have now, with an approval rating in the cellar and the power to do just about anything they want because they know you won’t listen to anything but Fox or MSNBC, if that.

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?

Bruce Shuttleworth’s candidacy for Congress

Just got off the phone with Bruce Shuttleworth, Democratic candidate for Congress and the only one amongst those on the ballot next Tuesday whom I have not yet eliminated from consideration.

He’s drunk too much of the koolaid from the Dems on guns, but is willing to listen, I think.  (Like – if you want “assault weapons” go in the military.  So I asked why I had to give them up after I retired, and he had no answer.)  After I challenged him on his parroted responses (“reasonable” gun control, “extended clips,” licensing, gun-show loophole myth, etc.) he offered to go shooting with me.   I didn’t ask about one gun a month, since that’s a state issue and not one he’d be expected to vote on.  Somehow I don’t think we can win him over, but I’d wager a little bit that he won’t be lockstep with the Brady Bunch.

While he hasn’t gained my vote yet, he hasn’t lost it yet either.

Published in: on June 5, 2012 at 2:49 pm  Leave a Comment  
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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.