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Budget Updates, Biden Comes to Richmond, the 400th Anniversary of Slaves' Arrival: Political Analysis | August 23, 2019

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Jeff Schapiro from the Richmond Times-Dispatch joins WCVE News Director Craig Carper for this week's political analysis. Topics include an update to the state's budget from Governor Northam, an upcoming visit from former Vice President Joe Biden, and the 400th anniversary of the arrival of the first enslaved Africans to America.

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

JS:  Good morning all.

CC:  The governor offered a rosy budget outlook, but he urged caution to the Joint Spending Committee.

JS:  Yes, but a castor oil approach to government and politics is not really in vogue come election time. And, there wasn't a considerable emphasis on the possible bumps for the Virginia economy or recession in particular.  And something that could be triggered by the Trump trade wars, of course Virginia has a significant trading partner in China, the largest consumer of Virginia's soybeans.  If they can't get to market, that means trouble for the Agra business sector.  Plus the state is facing rising and compulsory increases, that includes adjusting the minimum contribution to public education.  And of course, healthcare is an always spiking cost.  Even the lottery is not the cash cow it once was.   The Times-Dispatch reported this week that Kevin Hall, the lottery director, former news guy by the way, is informing the legislature that all of those gambling machines that are popping up around the state, I guess you're a player there, Craig (laughing), are starting to take a bite out of lottery profits.  And lottery profits account for 10% of the state's annual contribution to K-12 spending, public elementary and secondary schools.  Now, we do have this substantial, substantially fattened revenue reserve, but there are some very strict rules about using those dollars.  And I don't know that a lot of the legislators running for reelection and even those aspiring legislators appreciate just how strict those rules are, and that if we do have to use them here in Virginia, we're going to have to use them after making cuts, ergo that castor oil approach to politics and government.

CC:  That's right.  Next week ex-Vice President Joe Biden, the front runner for the Democratic presidential nomination, will be coming to Richmond for a fundraiser.

JS:  Ah yes, Joe Biden.  And Biden, the former vice president, is well known in Virginia.  He's been on the ballots twice here as Barack Obama's vice president.  Of course, it was the Obama-Biden ticket that broke in 2008 that 40-year Republican presidential wind streak in Virginia.  That he's coming into Virginia, and there have been other presidential candidates in the state, is not as significant as who is supporting him.  He'll be attending this fundraiser, among the hosts Congressman Donald McEachin, Dan Gecker and Charlie Diradour, property guys here in the area who both run for office, Michael Schewel, a lawyer who was Mark Warner's commerce and trade secretary.  And, Virginia of course has been going Democrat for president since 2008, and given the changes in the state that are accelerating, continuing and accelerating, there's a good chance, so the Democrats tell us, that it will remain blue in 2020.

CC:  Virginia is observing another 400th anniversary, this time the arrival of the first enslaved Africans in America.

JS:  Ah yes, and this is a reminder of the contradiction maybe on which Virginia and the nation was built.  In 1619, about this time a couple of weeks earlier, the General Assembly met for the first time, that first step towards representative government in the, in the New World.  Several, about two weeks later at Point Comfort, now Hampton, the 20 and odd Africans, enslaved Africans were deposited in Virginia.  Of course, we continue to deal with the aftershocks of, of that event, the Civil War fought largely in Virginia, the struggle over court-ordered school desegregation, and in the Trump era, well, we've had Charlottesville, violence up there.  And a reminder this past week that even in Hanover, these things continue to unfold - the NAACP up there suing the county in an attempt to have schools named for confederate icons renamed.

CC:  There were two days, two full days of meetings on gun control.  The Virginia Crime Commission heard a variety of proposals on which Republicans refused to act in July.

JS:  At that special session that had been called by the governor in response to the mass shooting in Virginia Beach, a session that was shut down after 90 minutes.  What's perhaps lost in this hearing, we've heard one side say there should be more gun control and the other side say there should be less gun control, is that the legislature isn't going to do anything until it's clear who's in charge of the legislature.  And that's what this election is all about.  Should Republicans retain the majority or if there's a split decision, the status quo likely endures.  Virginia remains a gun-friendly state.  Should the Democrats take back the legislature in partnership with a Democratic governor, Katy bar the door.   One hand gun a month is back, universal background checks are a go, ditto on closing the gun show loophole.  Also count on bans of military style weapons, high capacity magazines and silencers.

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

JS:  See you then.

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