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.

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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?

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.

The American Bar Association is on the government-solution bandwagon

The ABA has done it too.   In its Resolution 111-A, it asks the government to help out students who voluntarily take on too much debt.

They’re asking the federal government to alter the terms of loans the individuals took from private corporations — commercial lenders.  Sure, they’re asking the commercial lenders to change terms as well, but the idea of asking the federal government to change loan terms after-the-fact is an anathema to me.

To the ABA and anyone else…

If you want to go to law school, fine.  Figure out how to pay for it, negotiate for the loans if needed, then live up to your end of the contract.  If you make a mistake, live with it.  DO NOT ask Uncle Sam to take care of it for you.

Virginia National Defense Industrial Authority
– It takes EIGHTEEN people to fulfill this mission? Figure the taxpayer only pays mileage and per diem, including lodging for overnight trips to the capitol. If they only meet once a year, figuring conservatively $200 for lodging and per diem, plus $100 for mileage, that’s $5400. Multiply that by the number of boards and advisors in the state, and you start talking some money.

We also have:
Virginia Foundation for Healthy Youth
Virginia Small Grains Board
Virginia Bright Flue-Cured Tobacco Board
– Alzheimer’s Disease & Related Disorders Commission

And those are just the ones announced in the governor’s press release of July 1st!

The 2011 Scott and Toddy Show: or Let’s Not Define Civil Discourse in VA-36 or VA-44

(I’m having difficulty uploading the recording I made.  It may have to follow.  Maybe that’s what I get for using Windows Media Player instead of a real audio program.  I can hear it fine on my machine. Where I reference time hacks on my recording, the time is very rough.  For some reason, I can’t see the time hacks on my playback. )

Today was the 2011 Annual Town Hall Meeting sponsored by Senator Linda (Toddy) Puller (VA-36) & Delegate Scott Surovell (VA-44).   (I’ve linked to both sites, but Puller’s is, as of today, 29 January, woefully out of date). It should have been titled differently.   I came away feeling as if I’d just attended a report on a Democratic Committee strategy session, and not a report of legislation.  This is the third such town hall I’ve attended – two under Surovell’s predecessor Kris Amundsen, and one with Surovell.  I presume there was one last year, but I never heard about it.  Probably because I’m not on the Democrat’s mailing list.  I don’t know why—I’m on the Republican’s list, and I give them exactly zero percent more credibility than I give the Democrats.

I simply cannot understand how an elected official can stand in front of constituents and vilify “the other side” while barely defending positions on budget, transportation, education, child care, health care, redistricting, and other issues.

Toddy spoke first.  After  lamenting that she was in Richmond during the storm and came home last night to find her driveway not shoveled (in all fairness – she can’t do it, but it doesn’t seem to me it’s her constituents’ worry that whoever was supposed to have done it did not), she whined that the legislators only had a week to submit bills.  Not that they follow that rule; she did note that every day someone asks unanimous consent to submit another bill.  Why have a rule you’re not going to follow?  And how on the planet of the gods can a legislator not know what legislation s/he intends to submit in a given year.  What are they waiting for?

Since 1994, Toddy has been fighting for studies of one form or another for US-1 – that glorious highway that defines Virginia east of I-95 from Prince William County to DC.  It’s poorly constructed, with little to no capability to handle the number of cars that traverse it each day, and sadly in need of work.  However, the other side of that issue is that there is apparently no will on the part of the County or the State to enforce laws on the highway, either.   I’m almost convinced there are massive magnets built into intersections for the 6-or-so-mile stretch, given the number of people who think intersections are THE place to change lanes.  And for that stretch of highway, people seem to have forgotten that if you miss a turn, you go down, turn around, and come back.  No, on US-1 you cut across three lanes of traffic, right-of-way be damned.  I’m personally convinced that vigorous enforcement of existing laws on just the 4-mile stretch from the beltway to Ft Belvoir would easily solve both traffic problems and the lack of funding for transportation.  At about 19:00 on the link (audio of the townhall) she starts talking about it.

Then she complains about lawyers arguing over the meaning of law.

Toddy then spoke about how she, as Chair of the Senate Rehabilitation and Social Services Committee, is holding the governor’s privatization plan hostage (starting about 23:00 on attached).  Governor McDonnell proposes to privatize alcoholic beverage sales in the state, but the Democrats in the state see alcohol as a revenue producer and don’t want to give it up.  I’m not sure where “retail sales” is a governmental function in anyone’s constitution, but there you go.  Toddy should assign the proposal to the Alcoholic Beverage Control subcommittee (there is no other appropriate subcommittee), but has to date not assigned it, nor has she scheduled any action on it.  She bragged that she won’t do anything with it before the House does, since the House is controlled by the governor’s party.   Her words – that way he can’t blame the Senate Democrats for voting it down.  At least she admits to being a coward, and brags about stymying the bill.

She dismisses the governor’s transportation plan, but claims that transportation is her #1 issue.   Apparently his plan involves general fund monies, which she opposes.

I’m not sure what Scott spoke about.   He starts about 26:45 on the attached, and rails against Republicans for a while.  This is a guy who was formerly Chairman of the Fairfax County Democratic Committee, so one expects partisanship, but this is ridiculous.   I felt he was giving his presentation in that Chairman role, and not as a state Delegate.  Maybe it is just his mannerism, but every second or third sentence, he looks at Toddy as if for approval.  He sure seems like a Toddy clone.  At least his predecessor – you know, the one who didn’t decide to retire until after the Republicans ran someone against her, and after primaries, so the County committee could name the nominee – was her own person.

First, he complained that he’s not in the Senate, then that he’s not in the majority.  Then he bitches about the press (about 29:58).  And the governor’s definition of “surplus”, referring to the governor’s “budget gimmicks”.   On transportation, he admits that looking at only one’s district is parochial and small-minded, but then complains that he didn’t get enough in the 44th.  Listen about 36:13 – one of the problems in the House is the Tea Party.  Apparently he doesn’t like states’ rights, from the way he dismisses them “or whatever”.  Actually, that’s probably right – he doesn’t think the state should tell the county how to live its life.  Not sure what kind of a reading of the Bill of Rights leads one to think that if the states have primacy over the federal government, then counties should have prmacy over states.  I don’t read it that way.

Redistricting was a big deal.  But my delegate has absolutely no say in anything, if you listen to him.  It’s someone else’s say.  Listen to Toddy starting about 53:25.  Listen carefully. “I have to lose 10K people and probably in PWC.  The growth is in PWC and Lorton.  We will be trying to redraw the PW lines to help Sen Colgan’s district ‘cause his is very very Republican and he’s the only one who could win that district.”  Then Scott says “Toddy left out the part where the AG sues somebody.”  Neither the senator nor the delegate admitted to having a clue how redistricting works.  When asked if it follows a formula or is it a partisan heyday, Toddy blamed politics.  She swears the House of Delegates doesn’t want to be nonpartisan.  She says the Senate will be fairer, implying that the House will not.  They both claimed that “both sides” have hired lawyers.

Then there was the Cuccinelli bashing.  Mind you, if any politician ever needed bashing, it is Cuccinelli, but this was not the place for it.  This was the place, I thought, for talking about issues.  Apparently I was in the minority today.  He blasted the AG opinion that says the state may not appropriate monies to charity.   Much as I dislike Cuccinelli, I do agree that the state has no business providing my tax dollars to charity.  At 44:51, he states the AG is not very popular.   In fact, the statements on the questionnaire didn’t ask about the AG.  At about 45:10, he states the Senate is considering legislation to restrict the AG power for the next three years.  (Addendum;  this post in the Washington Post addresses it.)

Surovell spoke about his survey.  He noted the 283 (46.2% of respondents) who want to raise taxes rather than cut government.   However, 283 respondents of the 8000 surveys sent out is 3.5%, so the real answer is probably somewhere between 3.5 and 46.2%.

Neither individual spoke about any issues s/he had not specifically introduced bills for.  Surovell lamented the fact that he’s limited to 15 bills, but his 15 include solar tax credits, funding  a local charity (a GREAT organization, by the way, but still a charity) and providing credit for students who study piano.  Notwithstanding that he apparently doesn’t give a rat’s ass about cello players, or tuba players, or harpists, can one honestly and with a straight face lament one can’t do enough, while simultaneously sponsoring legislation for piano credit at the high-school level?   At least his constituent survey showed him that of the 2.25% of his constituents who even gave the question any credibility, 48% oppose it.

Toddy was masterful at finishing up the remarks with redistricting, so the initial questions all dealt with redistricting, and they got to electioneer while ostensibly answering questions.
Now, I’ve not been to town halls in other districts.  I only became involved in state issues after moving here to Virginia.  If most town halls go this way, it’s no wonder people blew up at them.

The very first article on the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors’ Chairman’s newsletter this month is perplexing me.   The article describes the breach of a dam in the Kingstowne area, from a pond not included in the county’s stormwater management system.  It goes on to tout the importance of the recently passed increase in the stormwater management fee.   I can’t figure out how the two are related.

Oh, by the way, the October issue landed in my e-mail box on Friday, November 5.   Page 4 encourages voters to go to the polls on November 2nd.

The newsletter also invites citizens to a public outreach meeting on October 23.

Published in: on November 6, 2010 at 10:02 am  Leave a Comment  

What is a right?

Someone hand me a copy of the new Constitution, please?  The one I haven’t seen yet.  I didn’t get the memo it had been changed, but I’m seeing pieces of evidence.

Apparently, there’s a right to own a house.

Apparently, there’s a right to television reception.

And a right to broadband internet service.

And now, some say a right is being abridged if a student group isn’t recognized on a campus.  If the school doesn’t give them perks, like access to mass e-mail lists, or meeting rooms, or money.

What?????

So, a group isn’t recognized.  Free choice.  There are sound, valid reasons for not admitting everyone to every group.  (I know; I joined a sorority in college.  I don’t now, as a matter of principle, join all-female groups, but I took an oath back then, and I believe in the organization.  For some known-only-to-the-gods reason, fraternities and sororities are exempted, by law.  Another issue altogether, for another time.)  Of course, Young Republican groups don’t want a fervent group of Democrats to join, take over, and re-focus the organization (replace titles as you choose, the point is the same).  And religious groups want their leaders to be followers of that religion (silly as that may be, but again, another topic for another time).

But schools insist to get recognition as a student group — with the perks — you must accept everyone who chooses to join as a member.

Where’s the beef?

This is not a case of the group’s rights being trampled.  There are no rights being trampled.  The group is free to form, organize, meet, whatever.  It is not entitled to perks.  Perhaps the students should focus on learning logic; they might then be able to see the difference.