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Political Analysis for Friday, January 18, 2019

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Jeff Schapiro of the Richmond Times Dispatch joins WCVE’s Craig Carper for this week’s political analysis. Topics include the 2019 General Assembly session, the government shutdown, and State of the Commonwealth address.

CC: Good Morning, Jeff.

JS: Good to see you, Craig.

CC: It’s been a busy first full week of the General Assembly. The Equal Rights Amendment has cleared the Senate. The Senate has rejected a two-term governor bill. A House subcommittee has killed any efforts to place additional restrictions on guns, and efforts to ease access to abortion have failed. I know I'm missing a lengthy list of other bills.

JS: This is a short session, 46 days. There are actually 36 days left. The pace is quickening. It brings to mind that remark attributed to, among others Bismarck, that the public should be spared the side of lawmaking and sausage making. Add to that list a Senate committee is nudging along a bill that would require Dominion to clean up those piles of spent coal, coal ash that are gathered along the James River, the Potomac river, the Elizabeth River. The big, big issues remain pretty much untouched, and that's pretty much by plan. They tend to move along more purposefully when they're a bit later on in the pipeline, a bit deeper in the pipeline, and that would include casinos, sports betting, and expansion of gaming. Tax relief – there’s a big dispute between the Governor, a Democratic governor, Republican legislature over that. And that, of course it's driving the budget, how much fun money there will be to spend in this election year. The Equal Rights Amendment vote out of the Senate really was not at all surprising. What was surprising is that seven Republicans supported it. These are seven Republicans, many of them from Democrat-trending districts. They're worried about reelection. These Republicans, they are, they are suburban districts with large numbers of women voters. A vote for ERA is supposed to somehow graft the veneer of moderation to the very conservative of voting records of many of these Republicans. There is, of course, some doubt as to whether Virginia's approval were to occur, and that seems unlikely. The House is pretty much dead set against ERA. Whether Virginia's vote would even count - it's been years since the deadline to weave the Equal Rights Amendment into the U.S. Constitution passed.

CC: And Jeff, an issue that largely goes under the radar to the general public - there's been lots of nasty partisan sniping over a high profile judgeship and a pair of gubernatorial appointments.

JS: Yeah, at the last minute the Republicans pushed through Patricia West to be one of the corporate cops to sit on the State Corporation Commission. There has been a vacancy on it for over a year. She's a Republican regular, former circuit court judge down in Virginia Beach, was a cabinet secretary, was Ken Cuccinelli's deputy and at his right hand, pun intended, in the litigation that challenged the Obama climate change regulations. Democrats are crying foul. There was little or no vetting of this nomination, they say, and they did not vote at all. And so West was confirmed or elected in the Virginia legislature with only Republican votes – 50 in the House, 21 in the Senate. And can you say Jane Marum Roush? You know a short timer on a high court. Roush of course removed from the Virginia Supreme Court by the Republicans after she was appointed by Terry McAuliffe, largely because they could. We're all wondering; perhaps the Democrats will do the same if they take back the legislature. West is only serving a year of an, of an open term. That term left open by the snap retirement of a Democrat appointee, Jimmy Dimitri

CC: And Abigail Spanberger is among Democrats who met this week with President Donald Trump over the partial government shutdown and his demand for reopening it, which is more than five billion dollars for a wall on the southern border with Mexico.

JS: And Spanberger is getting grief from the Democratic base on this. Spanberger’s position is that as a member of the bipartisan problem solving caucus, she should be meeting with the president on, on areas of shared concern, and that would be border security, as well as getting the government up and running. As well, she believes that she has some cred on this issue as a former federal employee, if you will; I guess a current federal employee as well as a member of the House. But she worked for the Postal Service, of course was an agent in the Central Intelligence Agency. Tim Kaine also has had a role in all of this, a fairly dramatic and interesting parliamentary moment. Yesterday in the Senate, Kaine taking to the floor and doing as the Floor Leader traditionally does, trying to force a vote, this one on a bill to fund, to finance the government. He was blocked by none other than the Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell. This got a lot of national attention. Lawrence O'Donnell on MSNBC was referring to it as the Kaine mutiny.

CC: Thanks to Jeff Schapiro, political columnist at the Richmond Times Dispatch. Jeff, we will catch up again next week.

JS: Good weekend to you.

CC: You as well.

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