By Del. Charles poindexter
The Virginia General Assembly’s 2020 Session finally concluded April 22. Also known as Reconvene Day, this session is required to address the Governor’s proposed amendments and vetoes. You likely are already aware of the fiasco of the meeting location outside the Capitol, under a tent with cold wind blowing paperwork, technical problems with electronics, dead laptop batteries, the drama of the Speaker of the House passing out and recovering, and more. The pitfalls of alternatives to a legislative body not convening in its properly prepared location were fully exposed. Convening remotely would have negatively contributed to the issues.
The first item of business was a resolution to allow future sessions to be conducted remotely. This is illegal per the Code of Virginia, so the Speaker and her Democrat allies attempted to change the House Rules. Such resolutions could be passed by a simple majority, but there is also a requirement to first Suspend the Rules, which requires two-thirds (67) votes to Suspend. That motion failed, so we proceeded to do what was on our table for the day and evening—over 300 changes or amendments to bills and the budget.
With Democrat majorities in both the House and Senate, along with some obvious strong-arming of the wavering Democrat legislators, the vast majority of the Governor’s amendments passed, although several votes were required on some. For example, it required three vote sessions in the House to pass his proposal to move May elections to November. Thankfully, calmer heads prevailed in the Senate and that amendment ultimately failed. In addition, ignored by the Democrat Senate and House leaders was the fact that the amendment was “not germane” as it was “legislating in the budget,” not a regular bill to change a law. This type of ignoring of process and rules was common from January through March Regular Session, as I informed you in my timely weekly reports.
Remember, the Virginia General Assembly had passed a 20% increased budget on March 12, when the COVID-19 virus crisis was exploding. Cautious Republicans warned of huge revenue issues forthcoming. But, instead of proposing actual cuts in regular programs or vetoing bills that raise spending, the Governor proposed to ‘un-allot” or hold the increased spending, kicking the proverbial can down the road in hopes the favored Democrat increases and programs would come about. I guess that more citizens and businesses have to actually cut spending — but not the state. Anyway, these amendments all passed.
It is claimed the plan is to hold a Special Session at some unspecified time later this year to address the situation when more is known about reduced revenue. This strategy leads me to believe the Governor, like many large state governors and big city mayors whose cities and states have mismanaged their finances and have huge unfunded pension liabilities and other obligations, hope their Democrat allies in the U.S. Congress will somehow bail them out with a federal stimulus, thus not being forced to actually cut anything. A second possibility is to not hold a Special Session until after November in order to help Democrats win their elections. It also might suggest the Governor and his Democrat cronies plan to wait until after November to cry “Help!” to raise taxes on hard-pressed, beleaguered Virginians to pay for the increased state spending.
Obviously, we have a long and difficult economic recovery coming, so reasonable steps to facilitate that should be taken. Apparently not. Amendments to the really anti-business/fiscal responsibility bills passed, such as increasing the minimum wage, authorizing unions for local government workers (including teachers), anti-discrimination litigation, increasing local government taxing authority, and other onerous bills were not vetoed. Their activations were only delayed four months. So, I pose the question that, if these bills are so good and would help to achieve recovery, why delay four months? If not good and opposed across the vast majority of the business community, why not veto and help recovery?
The amendments that will result in rising electricity costs were approved. Initially, this increase will be around 25% but rising steeply after that to somehow keep our electricity on when sun and wind cannot deliver and enough battery storage is not even feasible or deployable. These passed bills are also a fundamental change in how we have paid for electric service ever since it became available. We pay on the amount used. These new bills will result in ‘means testing,’ so how much people pay will be income based.
That is what I call a social/entitlement program being embedded into a non-general taxpayer funded social/entitlement program. This is not good governance. If the goal is to reduce rising electricity costs on lower income citizens, that should be done via the social/entitlement programs funded by all taxpayers, not on the backs of just a family or business with a meter.
After a hot debate, the House passed amendments to allow the early release of thousands (4,618) of violent felons from prison in response to COVID-19. This includes homicide, second degree murder, manslaughter, abduction, rape/sexual assault, robbery, assault, arson, weapons violations, burglary, and other violent felonies. Not only is this totally unacceptable from a justice principle but also to the victims and their relatives. I also have to wonder if, since prisons, nursing homes, and other concentrated populations may have high COVID-19 rates, is early release from prisons counterproductive by sending positive or likely positive cases back into the general population?
The final amendments I mention in this report are on issuing illegal aliens driver’s license cards and granting them in-state college tuition costs. These amendments passed. I did not vote for them. An illegal alien’s driver’s license will look much like a legal Virginia citizen’s driver’s license card. Look closely on the back, or you might miss the difference. These licenses could well be a recipe for voter fraud, among other illegal activities.
The amendment to the Democrat bill that grants in-state college tuition to illegal aliens passed, meaning legal U.S. citizens and legal Virginia resident parents, students or their benefactors will have to make up for reduced funding to a Virginia college or university. Even more unfair is fewer qualified U.S. citizens will be admitted to Virginia’s institutions of higher learning as illegal alien students receive coveted seats.
The 2020 Regular and Reconvene Session adjourned sine die on April 22. Our statewide work for the year is complete, unless the General Assembly is called back into a session before the 2021 Regular Session. My district office in Glade Hill is closed for now in response to the Governor’s coronavirus lockdown orders. However, my service to 9th District constituents continues. You can contact me or my legislative assistant, William Pace, at (540) 576-2600 or by email at DelCPoindexter@house.virginia.gov. I hope and pray each of you remain positive, safe and healthy during this frustrating time.