Archives January 2019

SATJ: Great Smirks Through History

The Covington High School Student v. Native American veteran story has been covered ad nauseum by the media, so Norm and I have a different take: analyzing the greatest smirks in modern history. (see National Review for more coverage)


(The Washington portrait mentioned by Norm in the podcast)

Of course, there is a General Assembly session approaching crossover, so we discuss what we have learned thus far.

And, we wrap up with Virginia’s annual homage to Messrs. Lee and Jackson. And why it’s a part of our history, but not worthy of its own annual slice.

Links of note:
Read Norm’s Column
Read my take on Lee-Jackson from a decade ago
Del. Margaret Ransone’s speech to girls regarding the ERA:

State Sen. Amanda Chase on Fox News regarding open carry empowering women:

Shout out:
Check out the No Uncertain Terms Podcast from U.S. Term Limits. We’re coming up on Term Limits’ Day – Feb. 27.

Stephen Haner – Tax Conformity and Reform in Virginia

In late 2017, President Donald Trump won what is probably his signature policy win to date: federal tax reform. However, Virginia, in its 2018 General Assembly Session, failed to conform with the new tax policy. Because of this failure, Virginians are poised to send to the state a whopping $1.2 billion, simply because they’re taking a “standard deduction” at the federal level.

Helping us make sense of this and explaining the legislation before the General Assembly is Stephen Haner, senior fellow with the Thomas Jefferson Institute for Public Policy, which has advanced much of the ideas found in the proposed legislation.

Links of note:

Haner on Bacon’s Rebellion

HB 1851 (Peace)
Virginia income tax; emergency. Advances conformity of the Commonwealth’s tax code with the federal tax code to December 31, 2018, starting with taxable year 2018.

HB 2110 (Freitas)
Virginia income tax; emergency. Advances conformity of the Commonwealth’s tax code with the federal tax code to December 31, 2018, starting with taxable year 2018.

SB 1443 (Stuart)
Virginia income tax; emergency. Advances conformity of the Commonwealth’s tax code with the federal tax code to December 31, 2018, starting with taxable year 2018.

Victoria Cobb – Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) Explained

Nearly 100 years ago, Alice Paul sought to ensure that women were granted equality under the law. Her vision of what that meant and what it means today is profoundly different, yet Virginia is on the cusp of being the last state to ratify an Equal Rights Amendment via legislation before the General Assembly.

But which amendment is it? What does it actually do? Who is it going to affect? What are the legal concerns?

Returning to the podcast to explain it all is Victoria Cobb, President of The Family Foundation.

To get an idea about how Victoria feels about the ERA, read her statement released after the state Senate passed the resolution:

“At a time when families are facing serious issues in the commonwealth, the Senate has wasted time debating and voting on a vague, irresponsible, and outdated resolution. The so-called ERA is a dead resolution that, if shoehorned into the US Constitution despite being legally invalid, harms women. Polling shows that a majority of Virginians oppose this resolution when they are informed about the impact it will have on taxpayer funding of abortion. Women deserve better than this patently political proposal.”

Also check out her latest op-ed co-authored with Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List, in The Roanoke Times.

A Tale of Two Amendments

The Virginia General Assembly has reconvened in Richmond, and the longest continuously serving democratically elected legislature presses on.

In its 400th year, the legislature has an opportunity to do something extraordinary: ratify an amendment to the United States Constitution and set in motion a state amendment that transforms politics as we know it.

Pretty heady stuff.

Equal Rights Amendment
In 1923, Alice Paul, the drafter of the ERA, proclaimed, “We shall not be safe until the principle of equal rights is written into the framework of our government.”

Her vision was that women would have the same rights as men and that this specifically would be codified in our Constitution.

The amendment has gone through several revisions and still doesn’t have consensus on its wording.

In 1943, when the amendment finally made it to a vote in Congress, it read:

Section 1: Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.
Section 2: The Congress shall have the power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article.
Section 3: This amendment shall take effect two years after the date of ratification.

In 2014, Congress reintroduced the amendment as follows:

Section 1: Women shall have equal rights in the United States and every place subject to its jurisdiction. Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.
Section 2: Congress and the several States shall have the power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article.
Section 3: This amendment shall take effect two years after the date of ratification.

The difference in the two is the clear identification of women.

Five states voted to rescind their ratification, but the Constitution doesn’t say if states have that power. Additionally, new concerns over what genetic makeup constitutes a “woman” has been clearly conveyed in the recent transgender discussions.

Finally – and in my view, most importantly – states that have enacted similar laws have faced challenges from pro-choice advocates demanding state funding for abortion as protected under this law. And their appeals have been upheld.

“We the people of the United States …” plus amendments 14, 15, 19, and 26 have more than abundantly clarified the question. The language of the ERA will bring about a new era of judicial process, should the U.S. Supreme Court rule that states must fund abortion as part of its healthcare plans.

This new era of litigation will largely focus on an individual’s right to exercise their faith by not funding abortion – and take direct aim at our First Amendment.

State Gerrymandering
Politics is involved in everything. And the preservation of power is certainly at its root.

It really doesn’t matter if Patrick Henry was trying to oust James Madison from Congress, or if Democrats drew uncompetitive lines for George Allen and Randy Forbes, or whether Republicans attempted to hold the state House of Delegates by making a deal with state Senate Democrats.

It is a simply flawed process.

Our U.S. Constitution leaves the process of how to determine the drawing of legislative boundaries to the states. And, in this case, the drafter of Virginia’s state constitution, A.E. Dick Howard – along with former Attorney General Ken Cuccinell, former Democratic Leader Ward Armstrong, and many others – have all come to the conclusion that the best check and balance on legislative tyranny and judicial activism is a very detailed process that has its own checks and balances.

That is an independent redistricting commission.

Now is the time to act. Because of Virginia’s constitutional amendment process, this proposal must pass this General Assembly, be voted on by the public in an intervening election, and then pass the Assembly again.

It’s imperative now because of the 2020 Census. Only if this amendment is passed now and winds its way through the previously described wickets will it be in place to have any meaning for the next decade.

Stop fooling yourself. If you think your vote is a secret, yet you vote consistently in any partisan political primary, you’ve identified yourself. And that data will be isolated with today’s technology to ensure the majority has the partisan makeup it needs to retain its power.

That was never the intent of our Founding Fathers, nor our state constitution’s crafters.

It’s time for an independent redistricting commission.

Pretty amazing things are happening this General Assembly session. It’s nice to be part of living history.


This column appears in The Princess Anne Independent News.

Brian Cannon, One Virginia 2021

We just learned of breaking news today on redistricting:

Today the Supreme Court rejected a request by Virginia legislators to put lower-court proceedings in a case challenging the legislative districts drawn for the state’s House of Delegates as the product of unconstitutional racial gerrymandering – that is, the idea that legislators relied too much on race when drawing the maps — on hold until the justices rule on the case. Today’s order means that a federal district court’s efforts to create a new map, with the assistance of a voting-rights expert appointed by the court, for the state’s elections in November can move forward, even as the Supreme Court prepares to hear oral argument and eventually issue a decision that could prompt changes in that map.

So, take that, legislators. All the work done from the 2010 Census is for naught.

That puts into context my first guest of 2019 – and probably the most important political issue that will be decided this year – Brian Cannon of One Virginia 2021.

Cannon’s group is trying to get the first reading of a proposed state Constitutional Amendment to pass this legislative session so that it could potentially become law for drawing the next set of lines from the results of the 2020 Census.

With a diverse and bipartisan group of proponents on his side (including former Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli and Virginia Constitution Drafter A.E. Dick Howard), Brian thinks that this is the crucial year for this amendment and he thinks that it stands a great chance of passing the GA. He explains why.

I will warn you – this podcast is for wonks and We do a serious deep dive into this topic. If you get into this stuff, which, if you’re listening to this show I’m sure that you do, you’re going to love this episode.

For those interested, I think this bill (HJ 615) submitted by Del. Mark Cole might be the one to watch.

A message from Jerry Mandering:

Watch the full documentary: GerryRIGGED: Turning Democracy on Its Head

Top Political Stories to Follow in 2019

A s 2019 begins, there are several storylines we know will have significant impact upon us as Virginians and Americans. Here are a few that we should think about and pay attention to this year.

Beginning right away, will be the emergence of the presidential aspirants. Already, U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., has announced her presidential exploratory committee. While the November 2020 presidential election might seem an eternity away, things like the Ames, Iowa Straw Poll happen this summer, and then the presidential primaries and caucuses start in just a year.

It will be interesting to watch how many candidates enter the contest, who begins to catch a wave, how often one candidate becomes a media darling only to fall out of favor, and how the narrative is driven. Will the Democratic Party move further left? Will President Trump face a challenge from within the GOP?

With the beginning of the 116th Congress and funding not secured to run portions of our federal government, the question becomes how far will Trump go to hold out for “the wall” at the U.S.-Mexico border? He was unable to get a lame duck Congress to agree on a funding plan – and that was with Republican majorities in both the House and Senate. With Democrats prepared to lead the majority in the House, one wonders what of Trump’s agenda he will be able to accomplish. Especially with ongoing investigations and impeachment of the President a potential distraction from governance.

The Virginia General Assembly, as championed by Gov. Ralph Northam, expanded Medicaid this past year in an effort to ensure more Virginians had healthcare coverage. Northam is proud to state that, as of Tuesday, Jan. 1, an additional 200,000 Virginians have the coverage. However, base Medicaid expenditures were previously underestimated and now the state has to augment an additional $202 million this fiscal year and another $260.3 million in the next fiscal year, which begins in July.

Healthcare remains a hot-button topic, especially since a Texas federal judge declared the Affordable Care Act unconstitutional, though it will remain in effect while the ruling is appealed. There is a great deal of uncertainty associated with these programs, so budgeting, particularly updating the state’s mandated balanced budget, becomes a challenge.

The Virginia State Senate once again will be offering its own set of manageable healthcare fixes. Locally, Sen. Frank Wagner serves as the vice chairperson of the Health Insurance Reform Commission and seems optimistic that bipartisan consensus can be achieved, in spite of 2019 being an election year for the entire General Assembly – all 100 House and 40 Senate members.

“There are simple, practical changes we can approve now that would make affordable healthcare coverage available to more Virginians,” Wagner wrote in a statement. “We have a duty to do so.”

Wagner’s optimism will be put to the test as memories of the 2017 election that nearly brought the Democrats a majority in the Virginia House of Delegates remains fresh.

Republicans only hold a 51-49 lead in the House of Delegates. They also only have a 21-19 advantage in the Senate. This is the narrowest of margins, and Democrats will go all out to win back majorities in this critical election year. This election determines the legislature that will be in place when decennial redistricting begins in 2020 with the U.S. Census.

Northam has proposed for a mid-cycle biennial budget adjustment with more than $1.6 billion in new spending. It’s clear some of that spending is laudable and worthy of consideration, particularly with respect to education. How it’s afforded is another matter that will be fiercely debated.

“Unfortunately, it appears much of the proposed spending is predicated on allowing over 600,000 middle-class taxpayers to pay higher taxes,” Del. Chris Jones, R-Suffolk, chairperson of the House of Delegates Appropriations Committee Chairman, said in a statement this past month.

“Before we can contemplate new spending, the General Assembly will have to resolve the governor’s willingness to allow by inaction a tax increase and the elimination of key deductions on mortgage interest and property taxes.”

Speaking of redistricting, we still don’t know the outcome of the proposed redrawing of Virginia House of Delegates lines by the federal judiciary. An analysis of the proposal by the Virginia Public Access Project comparing changes to how the districts voted in the 2012 election decidedly favors the Democrats. If accepted, these new districts will put the GOP squarely behind the eight ball going into this campaign season.

That is just a small sample size of the big stories that will be part of 2019.

Get ready for the ride.


This column appears in The Princess Anne Independent News