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Political Analysis for Friday, March 15, 2019


Jeff Schapiro of the Richmond Times-Dispatch joins WCVE News Director Craig Carper for this week's political analysis. Topics include legislation hitting Governor Northam's desk for signing, and the continuing fight over gerrymandering in Virginia heads to the Supreme Court.

CC: From WCVE News in Richmond, I'm Craig Carper. Joining me now is Richmond Times Dispatch political columnist and WCVE’s political analyst, Jeff Shapiro. Hi, Jeff.

JS: Hi, Craig. Beware the Ides of March.

CC: That's right. Ralph Northam again, acting as a governor should, signing, vetoing legislation, and amending legislation sent to him by the 2019 General Assembly session.

JS: And the pace of the governor's work is accelerating. He has about 800+ bills to sign, veto, or propose revisions. That includes some highly symbolic legislation - bills by House Democrat Cia Price and a Senate Democrat, Lionell Spruill, that eliminates Jim Crow era language from the minimum wage law. And these are jobs that were typically held by African Americans - newsboys, shoeshine boys, babysitters, doormen. And of course, given the blackface calamity, the governor's decision to sign these bills qualifies, presumably qualifies, as a step towards racial reconciliation. One would note that the General Assembly, however, is still refusing to raise the state minimum wage from $7 and change to $15 an hour. The governor also signed the bill, Bolling bill. You'll remember this is the bill that was introduced in a bit of revenge, dare one say, by Mark Obenshain after it was learned, Patrick Wilson at the Times Dispatch reported this first, that Bill Bolling, the former Lieutenant Governor, while sitting as an overseer of James Madison University, at least began conversations with JMU about a job there teaching politics and public policy. But the bottom line here was sort of the bottom line. This was going to mean a fairly substantial increase in state pay, and that would have the effect of significantly bumping up Bill Bolling's pension. The bill signed by Northam would require a cooling off period of about four years for overseers, members of the Boards of Visitors before they could begin conversations on employment to those institutions. When I say revenge, Obenshain was the candidate for Attorney General in 2013, and Bill Bolling's refusal to support that year's Republican nominee for governor, Ken Cuccinelli, clearly contributed to Obenshain 's defeat. The governor vetoed a couple of bills that would make it more difficult to control air pollution. These bills would have prevented Virginia from joining these consortia to control greenhouse gasses through cap and trade agreements. He also vetoed a gun bill. This was introduced by Brenda Pogge, a delegate from York County, that would've made it easier for out-of-staters to get concealed weapons permits. The bill would have allowed these permits to be issued if the State Police had not completed the necessary background checks within 90 days. Now, all of these vetoes are certain to stand, and that's because the Democrats, excuse me, the Republicans are well short of the two-thirds vote they would require in the House and in the Senate to overturn a veto and pass a bill into law.

CC: And Monday is the last chance for Republicans to make their case before the U.S. Supreme Court in blocking federal court drawn boundaries that could help Democrats’ chances for taking back the House of Delegates. Fair to point out are Whitney Evans and the RTD’s Graham Moomaw will be there.

JS: And yes, this is part of that Groundhog Day litigation that's been in the federal courts it seems forever. A trial court in Richmond threw out eleven African American majority districts. These were drawn by the Republican majority. It was the court's view that disproportionate numbers of African Americans were packed in these districts only to protect Republican candidates in the surrounding, largely suburban areas. This is the last chance for the Republicans to stop these boundaries. We will see of course what happens. The court was not hospitable to the Republicans appeals earlier. Among the redrawn boundaries of course, the Speaker of the House Kirk Cox from Colonial Heights and Chris Jones, the House Appropriations Committee Chairman from Suffolk and also the creator of these districts.

CC: And Richmond Mayor Lavar Stoney's tax increase plan is in trouble. That's a twist that could have implications for his presumed statewide ambitions.

JS: And one can only assume if the new, youthful mayor of Richmond is not seen as terribly effective on his side of Broad Street, is he going to be viewed effective on the other side of Broad Street at the State Capitol where the governor works. Stoney, of course, is a protégé of former governor Terry McAuliffe. He makes no secret of his interest in the, in the governorship, and with these racial and sexual calamities having dinged up, and badly, the Democrats' big three, that would be Ralph Northam, Justin Fairfax, and Mark Herring, Democrats might be looking for a fresh face in a 2021.

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.

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