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Judge Says Confederate Statues Must Stay

Officials in Charlotte, Virginia, want that city’s monuments to the Confederacy gone. Those efforts do not look likely to succeed, however, as a judge rules that state law prevents the city from removing war monuments.

 

In 2017, the city council voted to remove the statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee. The city also wants to remove the statue of General Stonewall Jackson, too. State law, however, bars municipal governments from taking down war statues without permission of the state.

 

The city had argued that these statues are not war monuments, but a state judge did not buy that argument. He said that the law did indeed protect those statues from removal, and so Charlottesville had no choice but to keep them.

 

The proposal to remove these statues sparked the August 2017 alt-right march in Charlottesville. At this incident, a white supremacist ran over a counter-protestor, killing her.

 

Do you think that cities should take down monuments to Confederate generals?

Virginia Considers Late-Term Abortion Bill

Legislation to loosen restrictions on late-term abortions is causing controversy in Virginia as supporters and opponents argue over how close to birth abortions could be performed.

 

The bill in question would reduce the number of doctors required to approve a late-term abortion from 3 to 1 and would remove the requirement that late-term abortions could only be performed because of a medical health risk to the mother. It also allows these abortions to take place in facilities that are subject to fewer health regulations than in current law.

 

Opponents of the legislation say that this would remove important safeguards that prevent abortions from occurring up until the moment of birth. They point to a video of the bill’s sponsor in which she testifies that the bill would allow abortions until a few moments before delivery. Virginia Governor Ralph Northam, a supporter of the legislation, also stoked controversy when he appears to discuss whether a doctor should resuscitate a baby who is born alive after an abortion attempt.

 

Supporters of the bill counter that in cases where these abortions would take place, they would involve situations with non-viable fetuses. They say that they are only talking about extreme situations, and that opponents are taking their words out of context.

 

With Republicans in control of both houses of the legislature, this late-term abortion bill is unlikely to make it to Gov. Northam’s desk.

 

Do you think that it should be easier for women to get late-term abortions?

Felon Voting Rights Proposal Dies in Virginia

Virginia is just three states permanently bar felons from voting. Thanks to a recent vote in a legislative committee, it won’t be restoring felons’ voting rights any time soon.

 

On Wednesday, a Senate committee voted down a proposed change to the state constitution that would have removed the ban on felon voting. Currently, the Virginia constitution bars felons from being able to vote unless their rights have been restored by the governor.

 

This issue has been an area of contention for Virginia in recent years. The state’s former governor, Terry McAuliffe, attempted to use an executive order to restore the rights of felons who had completed their sentences. That effort was stymied by the legislature and the state’s Supreme Court. He then undertook efforts to restore these voting rights on an expedited case-by-case basis. 

 

Critics of the ban on felons voting note that nearly every other state allows some form of voting rights for felons. Some states even allow those in jail to vote. They say that this van is an impediment to rehabilitation and reintegration into the community. Supporters of the ban note that it is proper to punish those who commit serious crimes by imposing serious penalties.

 

In the 2018 election, Florida voters overturned their state’s ban on felon voting. Beginning this month, felons in that state have begun to register to vote.

 

Do you think that felons who have completed their sentences should see their voting rights restored?

Virginia Will No Longer Suspend Drivers’ Licenses for Court Debt

Virginians who do not – or are unable to – pay their court or administrative debts will no longer face the suspension of their driver’s license. Governor Ralph Northam announced the change to state policy this month, although legislators will have to approve it when they convene next year.

 

Under current practice, Virginia drivers who incur court or administrative debt can have their driver’s license suspended. Currently over 600,000 state residents have their licenses suspended for debt. The state faced a 2016 lawsuit to end this practice.

 

Those who support ending license suspension note that if someone cannot drive, then he or she will have a more difficult time going to work. They say that license suspensions result in a cycle of debt that is hard to break. There have been some who sound caution on this plan, however, noting that it will result in a loss of state funds.

 

Governor Northam, a Democrat, announced this change in policy following the introduction of a bill to accomplish this by a Republican senator. There appears to be bipartisan support in both houses of the Virginia legislature to ratify this policy change.

 

Do you think that someone’s driver’s license should be suspended if that person has court debt?

States Use Big Subsidies to Lure Amazon

The long wait to see where Amazon’s new headquarters will be located is over. In a surprise move, the company announced that it was opening up two new headquarters – one in New York and one in Virginia. It also will open a call center in Tennessee. While state and local leaders cheer these developments, some critics question the size of subsidies that taxpayers will provide to Amazon.

 

Across the nation, state and local leaders had put together subsidy packages to lure Amazon to their areas. Amazon evaluated these packages and other amenities before making its decision, which it announced earlier this week. It chose a site in Long Island, New York, as well as northern Virginia for its two new headquarter locations. Somewhat unexpectedly, it also announced that it would locate a new operations center in Nashville, Tennessee.

 

Here are the subsidy packages these governments promised to Amazon:

 

New York

  • $1.5 billion in direct payments to Amazon on the condition the company creates 25,000 jobs
  • Additional payments to the company if it creates more than 25,000 jobs

 

Virginia

  • $573 million in direct payments to Amazon on the condition the company creates 25,000 jobs
  • $233 million for transportation infrastructure improvements, including upgrades to two metro stations
  • Additional payments to the company if it creates more than 25,000 jobs

 

Tennessee

  • $102 million in payments for a new operations center that Amazon says will create 5,000 jobs

 

New York’s subsidies for job creation will come in the form of tax credits to Amazon, which equal $48,000 per job. Virginia will provide direct cash grants worth $22,000 per job.

 

Supporters of these subsidies argue that they are a vital part of growing an area’s job base. They say that if governments did not offer these incentives, then companies would locate elsewhere. Opponents counter that governments should not tax citizens and businesses to then give that money to a for-profit company. They point out that every dollar given to a company like Amazon is a dollar that cannot be spent on schools, roads, or other public services.

 

While taxpayers in New York, Virginia, and Tennessee will be providing a significant amount of money to Amazon, other states offered even larger incentive packages. Maryland, for instance, put together a subsidy plan that was worth $8.5 billion. New Jersey offered $7 billion in subsidies.

 

Legislators in the three states must now approve these incentives to Amazon. While there are some lawmakers who have vowed to fight the subsidies, it is generally expected that the packages will see quick approval.

 

Do you support states providing subsidies to lure Amazon? Should New York taxpayers provide $48,000 to Amazon for every job it creates in the state?

Equal Rights Amendment an Issue in Virginia Senate Race

 

It may be over 40 years old, but the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) is a fresh topic in the Virginia Senate race.

 

During last night’s debate between Sen. Tim Kaine and challenger Corey Stewart, the issue of whether Virginia should ratify the ERA. Stewart said that passage of the ERA would lead to a rash of lawsuits, with men suing to participate in women’s athletic programs. Sen. Kaine said that the amendment was good for women.

 

The ERA says, “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.” Supporters of this measure say that it is necessary to ensure that federal or state laws do not treat men and women differently. They say that, just like previous constitutional amendments prohibited discrimination based on race, this amendment is needed to prevent discrimination based on sex. Opponents of the amendment say that it would lead to government laws being made without regard to natural gender differences.

 

First submitted to the states for ratification in 1972, the ERA has yet to see enough states ratify it so it becomes part of the Constitution. Congress initially set a deadline of 1979 for the required 38 states to ratify the ERA. When that passed without the necessary number of states doing so, Congress extended the deadline to 1982. Only 35 states ratified the ERA prior to 1982, but 4 states rescinded their ratification. Since 2017, two states have ratified the ERA.

 

One house of the Virginia legislature ratified the ERA in 2011. A bipartisan group of legislators plans on introducing a ratification resolution next year. If that resolution passes, then 38 states would have ratified the ERA. However, a legal fight would likely follow, since the necessary ratifications occurred after the congressionally-set deadline and four of those states later reversed themselves. The Constitution is silent on whether or not Congress can set a deadline for ratification and whether states can rescind their ratification of amendments.

 

Do you think that the Equal Rights Amendment should be added to the Constitution?

Virginia Governor Denounces Plan to Arm Teachers

 

If the school board in a small Virginia county gets its way, teachers and staff members will soon be allowed to carry guns. This does not please Governor Ralph Northam. He has come out against the proposal, urging the attorney general to look into its legality.

 

Lee County is a rural county in the southwest part of Virginia. Its school board unanimously voted to allow some teachers and staff members to carry concealed weapons or store them in lockers at school. County officials have said that they cannot afford to hire more security for schools, so permitting staff members to carry guns is the only option to provide greater protection to students.

 

Governor Northam said that arming teachers is not a good idea. He said that school districts should wait for an opinion by the attorney general before undertaking this action. The attorney general’s office is researching the matter, but Attorney General Mark Herring has said that the law bans guns in schools with very few exceptions.

 

The issue of allowing teachers to carry guns to protect students has been discussed across the country after recent school shootings. Those in favor of the idea think that a teacher with a gun could be the first line of defense if a school shooting occurs. Others say that teachers should not be responsible for confronting armed intruders. Instead, those like Gov. Northam support providing more money for schools to hire security officers.


Do you support allowing teachers and school employees to carry guns to stop school shootings? Or should the government provide more money to schools in order to hire security guards?

 

Prominent Confederate Flag Coming Down in Virginia

 

A group in Virginia has been installing Confederate flags around the state, prompting a backlash from some residents. In this debate, issues of history, racism, zoning, and commemorating the past all come together.

 

The Virginia Flaggers have existed since 2011 with the mission of putting up Confederate battle flags near heavily-traveled roads. They were formed in response to efforts at the local level to remove or alter monuments commemorating the Confederacy. In addition to erecting flags, they have also protested at sites where local governments have debated Confederate monuments or the display of Confederate flags.

 

In March, the group placed a flag near I-64 in Louisa County. Recently county’s Board of Zoning Appeals decided that the flagpole that this flag was placed on violated zoning rules by being too high. The Virginia Flaggers argued that this was a monument, and thus exempt from height requirement. The board did not accept this argument and ordered the flagpole lowered or removed.

 

Those supporting the placement of Confederate flags across the state say that they are reacting to efforts that would cleanse the state of its Confederate history. They say that there is nothing wrong with remembering the Confederacy and memorializing the men who died fighting for it. Those opposed to the proliferation of Confederate flags say that this group is celebrating a treasonous government that fought to preserve slavery.

 

There has been an ongoing debate in the Virginia General Assembly over legislation that would allow local governments to remove Confederate monuments.

 

Do you think that flying the Confederate flag honors Virginia’s history as part of the Confederacy? Or does flying of the Confederate flag celebrate racism?

 

Virginia Expands Medicaid

 

A key part of the Affordable Care Act – or Obamacare – is an expansion of Medicaid. This joint state and federal program provides health care coverage for low- and lower-income Americans. Eight years after Obamacare’s passage, Virginia is moving to take advantage of this Medicaid expansion. Critics worry that this move may prove to be a burden on the commonwealth’s taxpayers.

 

Governor Ralph Northam came into office this year supporting the expansion of Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. This would mean allowing access to the program for childless adults who live in households earning up to 139% of the federal poverty level. Virginians in this population currently do not have access to Medicaid at any income level.

 

In February, the state House of Delegates passed a budget bill that contained Medicaid expansion. Other bills during the regular budget session on this issue did not advance, although there was some support for an expansion bill that also contained a work requirement for Medicaid enrollees.

 

During a special budget session called by Governor Northam, state senators supported a bill that would allow the Medicaid expansion with work requirements. The requirement that some Medicaid recipients seek or obtain jobs was vital to obtaining enough Republican votes for passage. A work requirement must get approval by the federal government. The Trump Administration has allowed states to do this, while the Obama Administration turned down similar state requests.

 

Proponents of the Medicaid expansion say that it is needed to provide low-income Virginians with access to health care. They contend that with the federal government picking up 90% of the cost, Virginia is turning away significant federal dollars that will help the state’s economy. Opponents counter that the federal government may cover 90% of the cost now, but that this could change in the future. If that happens, they point out, Virginia will be facing a significant budgetary burden.

 

Do you think that Virginia lawmakers were wise to expand Medicaid?

 

Virginia Governor Vetoes Bills on Lawyer Fees and Franchise Employees

 

Virginia’s newly-elected Democratic governor, Ralph Northam, faced his first legislative session this year. Republicans control the commonwealth’s General Assembly, although they face a narrower majority than they did under the previous Democratic governor. This split in partisan control in Richmond produced significant disagreements over policy this year, some of which resulted in gubernatorial vetoes.

 

Although Governor Northam has voiced concern with many legislative actions, he has only vetoed two bills so far this year:

 

House Bill 110

Clarify status of franchisee employees

Passed 50 to 48 in the House on January 25 and 20 to 19 in the Senate on February 22. Vetoed by the governor on March 9.

Clarifies that under Virginia law, neither a franchisee nor the employees of a franchisee are considered to be employees of a franchisor company. This employment status is not affected by any voluntary agreement entered into by the U.S. Department of Labor and a franchisee.

 

This bill involves a long-standing dispute between organized labor and business owners. Labor organizations would like franchise employees, such as those who work at a local McDonald’s, to be treated as employees of the larger company. Business owners say that these are employees of the local franchises owner, not the company that grants a franchise, or franchisor. Recognizing franchise employees as employees of the franchisor would open up this company to fines if local franchises broke labor laws as well as make it easier to organize workers into unions.

 

Senate Bill 926

Limit fees for outside attorneys used by the state

Passed 21 to 19 in the Senate on February 12 and 51 to 48 in the House on February 28. Vetoed by the governor on March 19.

To limit the contingency fees charged by private attorneys that the state contracts with for legal services. If the fees and expenses are expected to exceed $100,000, such attorneys could only be hired through a competitive bid process. The fees would be limited under this bill on a sliding basis, starting with a 27% cap for awards under $10 million and a 5% cap for awards over $25 million.

 

Governor Northam sees contingency fees as a valuable way to protect taxpayers by shifting the risk of trying and winning a case onto a private law firm, which recovers nothing unless they prevail. Opponents of high contingency fees contend that they are a way to enrich private lawyers for doing the work that government attorneys should be doing.

 

On another eighteen bills, Gov. Northam has recommended that legislators modify certain provisions. Legislators will meet April 18 to vote on whether to override the governor’s vetoes or act on his recommendations for the other bills. Given the narrow majority enjoyed by Republicans, the governor’s vetoes are likely to stand.

 

Do you think that Gov. Northam is right to veto bills that would limit fees for private attorneys working with the state government? Should franchise employees be treated as joint employees of the local franchise and the larger company that grants franchises?

 

 

Guns, Medicaid, Energy Rates All Big Issues in Virginia Legislative Session

 

Virginia’s 2017 elections left the commonwealth with divided government once again. Democratic Governor Ralph Northam faces his first legislative session with Republicans in control of both the House of Delegates and the Senate. Republicans only have a thin majority in both houses, however, which gives the governor leverage. On some issues, such as gun control, the governor and legislators have clashed. On other issues, such as electricity rates and criminal justice reform, there has been bipartisan compromise.


Here are some of the big issues at play in the 2018 Virginia legislative session:

 

Guns

 

Democratic legislators have introduced a variety of gun control bills, some at the request of the governor. These bills include bills to ban bump stocks, expand background checks, and ease the process of seizing guns from those whom family members consider a threat. Republican legislators have defeated all of these proposals. This issue became a flashpoint in the House of Delegates after the recent school shooting in Florida, with legislators making impassioned speeches on both sides of the issue. However, no legislative action resulted.

 

Medicaid

 

Whether or not to expand Virginia’s Medicaid program in line with the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, is a major point of dispute between the governor and Republicans. Gov. Northam wants to see the state expand its Medicaid eligibility to include childless, able-bodied adults who live in households with income up to 138% of the federal poverty level. Legislative Republicans resisted a similar Medicaid expansion under Gov. McAuliffe, but Gov. Northam has said that he would support work requirements and other conditions on beneficiaries. This concession has won him some support in the House of Delegates, but senators are so far standing firm against expansion.

 

Criminal justice reform

 

While Gov. Northam and legislative Republicans have differing views on how to reform Virginia’s criminal justice system, they were able to agree on a compromise in this area. Gov. Northam made it a priority to raise the $200 threshold for felony theft, which was the lowest in the nation. Republicans agreed to raise the level to $500 in exchange for the governor’s support of strengthening the state’s efforts to collect restitution for victims of crimes.

 

State regulations

 

The governor and Republicans also agreed on a legislative package that would reduce state business regulations. This would initially involve a pilot program that targets the Department of Criminal Justice Services and the Department of Professional and Occupational Licensing. The end result of this pilot program could be to lessen state mandates on individuals seeking work in certain occupations, such as private investigators or tow truck drivers. The overall goal of this bipartisan reform is to reduce state regulations by 25% over three years. Legislative Republicans are also working to advance an amendment to the state constitution that would give the legislature power to approve or disapprove regulations. If this proposal passes the General Assembly, it will be on November’s ballot.

 

Energy rates

 

In the wake of the Obama Administration’s Clean Power Plan, Virginia lawmakers froze the electricity rates for Dominion Energy customers for the past three years. That will change under legislation agreed to by the governor and legislators. This bill will allow rate increases and encourage the utility company to invest in infrastructure and renewable energy. Critics call this a giveaway to an energy company that enjoys a near-monopoly in the commonwealth.

 

Offshore drilling

 

The Trump Administration has released a plan that would eventually allow oil and natural gas exploration off of Virginia’s coastline. Governor Northam has spoken out against this proposal, asking that the federal government exempt Virginia waters from any offshore drilling plan.

 

 

Do you think that Virginia legislators should pass more restrictions on gun ownership? Is Governor Northam right to push for a Medicaid expansion under Obamacare? Do you support exploring for oil and natural gas in Virginia’s coastal waters?

 

Key Virginia Votes on Education

 

Check out these key votes made by elected officials in Virginia earlier this year, and go to www.votespotter.com to sign up and see how your elected officials voted on these and other issues that impact your daily life.

 

Senate Bill 1283, Allow state to establish charter schools: Passed 21 to 19 in the Senate on February 7 and 54 to 43 in the House on February 20

To allow the state Board of Education to establish regional charter schools. Current law gives the power to establish charter schools to local boards of education. In effect, this law would make it easier for charter schools to open in Virginia.

 

House Bill 1536, Ban grade school suspensions and expulsions: Passed 49 to 47 in the House on February 6 and 33 to 7 on February 13

To prohibit students up to third grade from being suspended for more than five days or expelled except for drug, firearm, and certain other criminal offenses.

 

House Resolution 431, Encourage college free speech: Passed 64 to 31 in the House on February 22

To encourage public higher education institutions to protect free speech and develop policies that outline how they will deal with public policy controversies.

 

House Bill 1605, Provide parents with funding for education expenses: Passed 49 to 47 in the House on February 7 and 21 to 19 in the Senate on February 21

To establish an education savings accounts that parents can use to pay for education expenses such as books, tuition, or fees at private schools that do not discriminate by race. The money for these accounts would come from their local school division and be equal to a certain percentage of the per-pupil funding in that district.

 

House Bill 1578, Allow home schoolers to participate in school sports (the “Tebow Bill”): Passed 60 to 38 in the House on January 24 and 22 to 18 in the Senate on February 13

To allow a home schooled student to participate in interscholastic programs, such as sports, offered by public schools.

 

Senate Bill 1428, Expand education tax credits for students with disabilities: Passed 23 to 17 in the Senate on February 3 and 61 to 35 in the House on February 7

To remove the requirement that a student with a disability be enrolled in public school to be able to use the education improvement scholarships tax credit. The bill also increases the amount of the tax credit from 100% to 400% of the per-pupil funding amount given by the state to the local school district.

 

Senate Bill 1242, Establish school choice program: Failed 20 to 20 in the Senate on February 6

To allow parents of a public school students to receive a savings account from their local school district that can be used to pay for a variety of educational expenses, including tuition and fees at a private school. Participating private schools could not discriminate on the basis of race, color, or national origin.

 

Virginia Minimum Wage Hike Coming in 2018?

 

A minimum wage showdown could be coming to Richmond next year.

 

Virginia’s incoming governor, Ralph Northam, made increasing the minimum wage a centerpiece of his campaign. He cannot enact this policy without the help of legislators, however. While Republicans saw their numbers reduced in the General Assembly, it is likely they still control both chambers (a few key races have yet to be decided). It is unlikely that the governor will find much support for his proposal with these legislators.

 

During the campaign, Northam said, “Nobody in 2017 can support themselves, let alone their families, on a $7.25 an hour, so it's incumbent on all of us to make sure we raise the minimum wage here in Virginia.” However, he has not explicitly supported a minimum wage increase to $15, a key goal of many progressive activists.

 

Currently, Virginia’s minimum wage is $7.25 an hour, the same as the federal wage floor. Some of Virginia’s neighboring states have higher minimum wages. Maryland, West Virginia, and the District of Columbia all mandate a higher wage.

 

The effects of increasing the minimum wage are hotly debated by economists and politicians. Opponents of such a mandate say that it prices low-wage workers out of the marketplace by banning businesses from paying them what their labor is worth. Supporters contend that workers deserve to be paid a wage that allows them to support a family.

 

Do you think that Virginia should increase its minimum wage? Or would a minimum wage hike be bad for the Commonwealth’s economy?

 

Charter Schools Key Area of Disagreement in Virginia Gubernatorial Race

 

The direction of Virginia education policy may be decided in a few weeks. The commonwealth’s gubernatorial candidates have very different views on how Virginia’s children should be educated. Republican Ed Gillespie supports giving parents wider options for their children like charter schools, home schooling, and others. Democratic Governor Ralph Northam wants to focus on providing more funding for traditional K-12 education.

 

Their differences are very stark when it comes to charter schools, which are public schools operating with more freedom than traditional school settings. There is support for charter schools across the political spectrum, with many Democrats joining Republicans in backing them as an alternative to traditional schools. However, Virginia does not have robust charter school programs – it has only eight in existence. Governor Terry McAuliffe has opposed legislation that would give the state power to open charter schools, a move that would curtail the authority of local boards of education to stop these schools from opening.

 

Proponents of charter schools see them as a way to give children who are struggling in traditional school settings more options to succeed. Opponents contend that charter schools take money away from the school system, giving a few students an advantage at the expense of others.

 

Lt. Governor Northam is married to a school teacher and is not shy about expressing his skepticism of alternative educational options. When it comes to vouchers for private schools or expanding charter schools, he says, “With regards to charter schools or vouchers, we need to make sure that we fund K-12 first before we move on to other things like charter schools.” He also objects to charter schools for monetary reasons, saying, “the charter proposals seen in Virginia would ultimately divert much-needed funding from school divisions, often those that are in the most need.”

 

Ed Gillespie takes the opposite view. He embraces charter schools as part of a wider plan to expand educational choice in the commonwealth. On his website, he says, “Through more opportunities, we can improve public schools and provide families greater choices. As governor, I will diversify educational opportunities by strengthening our charter schools, expanding the Education Improvement Scholarship Tax Credit, establishing education savings accounts and promoting policies that are fair to homeschool families — like the Tebow Bill.”

 

The Republican legislature has passed legislation along the lines of what Gillespie is proposing in his educational platform. If he is elected, it seems likely that many of his ideas would be popular with legislators. If voters return a GOP legislature but give Lt. Governor Northam the governorship, Virginians can expect another four years of stalemate over school choice policy.

 

Do you support focusing on funding traditional schools over charter schools or vouchers? Or should Virginia expand its charter school network to give children more choices?

 

Energy Issues at Play in Virginia Race

 

Republican Ed Gillespie thinks that the way to the Virginia governor’s mansion lies through coal country. His opponent, Democratic Lt. Governor Ralph Northam, embraces renewable energy sources as the way to advance Virginia. Their divergent views on energy issues present a stark choice for voters as they choose the commonwealth’s next governor in November.

 

Coal played a big role in the final gubernatorial debate held this week. The two candidates squared off at the University of Virginia’s campus in Wise, located in the southwest corner of the state. This is the middle of coal country, and Gillespie played up this fact repeatedly. He stressed his support for coal jobs, his backing of a coal tax credit, and his happiness that President Trump is reversing the Obama Administration’s Clean Power Plan.

 

Lt. Governor Northam also declared his support for coal jobs, but then went on to discuss his view on renewable energy sources. He said that wind and solar “would move us to cleaner energy and a cleaner environment.”

 

Southwest Virginia has been hit hard due to the declining use of coal. While Hillary Clinton won the state in 2016, this region strongly supported Donald Trump. Many residents there blame environmental policies supported by Democrats for contributing to the problems in the coal industry. That view is shared by Gillespie.

 

Citing concerns about climate change, Lt. Governor Northam would like Virginia to focus on developing energy sources like wind and solar. Even with his opponent’s stronger embrace of coal, the lieutenant governor garnered the endorsement of the United Mine Workers of America Virginia State Council of the Coal Miners.

 

On other energy issues, Gillespie and Northam have stark differences. Gillespie supports hydraulic fracturing to develop shale gas and offshore drilling, while Northam opposes them. Northam backs Governor Terry McAuliffe’s initiative to limit carbon emissions, while Gillespie does not. Gillespie also supports two controversial natural gas pipelines, while Northam has not taken a stand on that issue.

 

Do you think that Lt. Governor Ralph Northam is right that Virginia should support renewable energy sources? Or do you prefer Ed Gillespie’s approach of making it easier to develop coal, natural gas, and oil in Virginia?

 

Do Virginia Gubernatorial Candidates Differ on Confederate Monuments?

 

The two candidates running for Virginia governor, Lt. Governor Ralph Northam (D) and Ed Gillespie (R), appear to have dramatically different views on the commonwealth’s Confederate monuments. However, a deeper look into their positions on the state law regarding those monuments reveals that they may actually be close to agreement.

 

The two candidates discussed the issue in a recent debate. Here is what Gillespie said:

 

“When you are on the side of preserving the institution, the evil institution of slavery, you are on the wrong side of history. But our history is our history, and I believe that we need to educate about it, and that we need to teach about it. So my view is that the statues should remain and we should place them in historical context so people can learn.”

 

This is the view of Northam:

 

“If these statues give individuals, white supremacists like that, an excuse to do what they did, then we need to have a discussion about the statues. Personally, I would think the statues would be better placed in museums with certainly historical context, but I am leaving it up to the localities.”

 

While the two candidates seem far apart on what they think should happen to the monuments, focusing on this aspect of the issue may mask a deeper agreement. While they can express their wishes for the monuments to stay or go, the real question is what they propose when it comes to the law governing these monuments.

 

A state law dating back a century prohibits county governments from removing monuments. A 1997 laws applies that same prohibition to city and town governments. However, there is a dispute over whether that law can be applied retroactively. This is the issue in Charlottesville’s attempts to remove its statues honoring the Confederacy, which were erected before 1997.

 

In the 2016 legislative session, legislators approved a bill that would definitively ban any local government from interfering with these monuments. Here is how VoteSpotter described it:

 

House Bill 587 Restrict local authority over monuments: Passed 82 to 16 in the House and 21 to 17 in the Senate

To prohibit local governments from removing or interfering with monuments or memorials erected for a war or conflict, such as the Civil War.

 

Governor Terry McAuliffe vetoed this bill, and legislators failed to override that veto.

 

Northam has been clear that he would like to see local governments have the power to remove monuments. Gillespie, too, has expressed support for local authority over them, according to a report from the Hill:

 

Dave Abrams, a spokesman for Gillespie’s campaign, said that, if elected, Gillespie would ensure that statues and monuments under the state’s control would remain up while being placed in the proper historical context.

 

Local jurisdictions would be free to choose for themselves whether to leave the statues standing, Abrams said.

 

While Northam and Gillespie stress different aspects of their view – Northam generally condemns the monuments, while Gillespie thinks they should remain – the two candidates do not appear to be far apart on policy issues.  Both express support for local authority over what happens to them, regardless of their personal feelings on the monuments’ disposition. The major difference is that Gillespie does not stress this aspect of his position as much as Northam, and it is unclear if he would actually support a law that gives this power to local governments.

 

Do you think that local governments should remove these Confederate monuments? Or should they stay in place?

 

Virginia Senate Bill 1240

 

Check out this key bill voted on by elected officials in Virginia, check-in to the VoteSpotter app to see how your legislators voted, and comment below to share what you think!

 

Virginia Senate Bill 1240, Override Veto of Allowing Students to Take Online Schooling: Failed 21 to 19 in the state Senate on April 5, 2017.

 

To override the governor’s veto of a bill to establish the Virginia Virtual School, which will serve up to 5,000 Virginia students. This online education must meet state standards and will be available beginning 2019.

 

Comment below to share what you think of Virginia Senate Bill 1240!

 

 

Trump a Big Factor in Virginia Governor’s Race

 

Donald Trump may not be on Virginia’s ballot this year, but he is certainly making his presence felt in the commonwealth’s gubernatorial race.

 

During a recent debate between Republican candidate Ed Gillespie and Democratic candidate Lt. Governor Ralph Northam, the president and other national issues played a large role in the discussion. In fact, moderator Judy Woodruff led off the questioning by asking about President Trump.

 

Lt. Governor Northam did not hold back, saying:

 

“I believe that our president is a dangerous man. I believe that he lacks empathy. You need to look no further than his mocking of the journalist. That’s all that I needed to see. And he also has difficulty telling the truth. And it happens again and again. As we say on the Eastern Shore, he lies like a rug.”

 

Gillespie countered by saying that it would do Virginia no good to have a governor who insults the president: “When you hear the lieutenant governor, he calls his campaign the resistance. Resistance 2017. What are you going to do as our governor? Call the White House and say, ‘please put me through to the narcissistic maniac?’”

 

While promoting good ties with the Trump White House, Gillespie did make it clear that he has differences with the president. For instance, Gillespie supports funding for the Chesapeake Bay cleanup, which Trump’s budget proposal slated for elimination.

 

During the debate, Northam stressed his opposition to hydraulic fracturing, his support of gun control, his desire to see Medicaid expanded to cover Virginians with higher incomes, and his opposition to restrictions on birth control. Gillespie discussed his plans to cut taxes, his support for gun rights, and said that he would work to end “sanctuary cities.”

 

This was the first in a series of three gubernatorial debates.

 

Do you think that gubernatorial races should focus on what President Trump is doing? Or do you think that governors and gubernatorial candidates should focus on state-level issues?

 

Virginia Senate Bill 865

 

Check out this key bill voted on by elected officials in Virginia, check-in to the VoteSpotter app to see how your legislators voted, and comment below to share what you think!

 

Senate Bill 865, Override Veto of Bill Allowing Family Members to Give Minors Knives: Failed 20 to 20 in the state Senate on April 5, 2017

 

To override the governor’s veto of a bill allowing family members to transfer a dirk, switchblade knife, or Bowie knife to a minor engaged in sporting event or activity.

 

Comment below to share what you think of Virginia Senate Bill 865! 

 

 

Virginia Senate Bill 872

 

Check out this key bill voted on by elected officials in Virginia, check-in to the VoteSpotter app to see how your legislators voted, and comment below to share what you think!

 

Senate Bill 872, Override Veto of Requirement for Photo ID for Absentee Ballots: Failed 20 to 19 in the state Senate on April 5, 2017.

 

To overturn the governor’s veto of legislation that requires that anyone requesting an absentee ballot by mail to include a copy of his or her photo ID with the request. Exempt from this requirement are military and overseas voters as well as voters with disabilities.

 

Comment below to share what you think of Virginia Senate Bill 872!

 

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