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Gun Control, Holiday Rearrangements, and Payday Loans: Political Analysis for Friday, January 24, 2020

A cartoon image of Craig Carper and Jeff Shapiro, with a microphone between them.

Jeff Schapiro from the Richmond Times-Dispatch joins VPM News Director Craig Carper for this week's political analysis. Topics include the ongoing fight over gun control measures including a newly passed "red flag" law, the elimination of Lee-Jackson Day in favor of an election day holiday, and a crackdown on high-interest payday loans.

Phil Liles:  With this week’s analysis Craig Carper, our VPM News Director, and the Richmond Times-Dispatch political columnist Jeff Schapiro are in studio this morning and good morning to both of you.  And Craig, more reminders there's a new majority in the Virginia legislature, and it's not just new gun control measures which inspired that big gun rights protest on Capitol Square.

Craig Carper:  That's right.  Thanks, Phil, good morning and good morning, Jeff.

Jeff Schapiro:  Hi there.

Carper:  Perhaps the most controversial element of the Northam administration's gun control package cleared the Senate just a couple days after the rally, which drew 22,000 2nd amendment advocates to the Capitol.  This was the so called “red flag” law.

Schapiro:  One would note at this rally, of course the organizers dispute the police count.  It was a cold, cold morning and many of the demonstrators outside the Capitol of course were openly armed.  Given the conditions one might ask, “Is happiness a cold gun?”  That said, the votes a couple of days later, excuse me [laughing], before the Senate was a party line vote 21-19, 21 Democrats, 19 Republicans to the so-called “red flag” rule which would allow judges to strip individuals deemed, strip firearms from individuals deemed dangerous to themselves and others.  There is a good deal of debate over this within the gun rights community.  The feeling is that this denies people the chance to sort of make a case for why they should be allowed to keep their firearms.  On the other hand, the gun control people say this is simply a public safety measure.  Of course the Senate has already sent the House several gun control bills.  They include the universal background check, again a casualty of the old Republican majority, and restoring the one hand gun a month law which was put in place, of course, in the closing months of the Wilder administration.  Of course, all of this a response to the mass slaying in Virginia Beach.

Carper:  And lawmakers are saying goodbye to Lee-Jackson Day and hello to Election Day as a state holiday.

Schapiro:  Of course it was the Republicans who had protected this holiday for the Confederate heroes.  This in the view of its opponents, the holiday’s opponents, it's a tad dated, if you will, politically incorrect.  But of course it's clearly another conciliatory gesture by Governor Northam post-blackface calamity.  Now there is some logic to this, some political logic to this.  If there's a holiday on Election Day, of course, it's a lot easier for a lot more people to vote, that's probably better the Democrats would argue for them.  But of course, this is part of a larger effort by the new Democratic majority to roll back a number of Republican imposed restrictions on the electorate that were largely directed at Democratic leaning voters - the young, seniors, minorities.  This is perhaps best embodied by the photo ID requirement.

Carper:  And it appears the state is poised after nearly 15 years of debate to crack down on high-interest, instant loans, but the latest fight is far from over.

Schapiro:  That is true with this bill heading over to the Senate from the House where the House committee approved it yesterday, House Labor and Commerce Committee as it's now called, in a bow to working men and women.  Dick Saslaw, a very good friend of the instant loan, high-interest instant loan industry. . . This was a fascinating scene yesterday in this House committee.  You know, this place was packed with lobbyists who have been at it for years.  I mean these people have been growing old together, but the committee sent to the full House, it's called the Virginia Fairness In Lending Act, and it imposes restrictions on the industry, principally the interest or the payment cap, if you will.  This has been pushed primarily by the Virginia Poverty Law Center.  That the industry has been as successful as it has been, despite a few other adjustments that were imposed on it some years ago, speaks to its, shall we say, generosity to the political class.  And with this change in power, it seems that the money just doesn't go quite as far.  But again, watch Saslaw; this fight isn't over yet.

Carper:  Right and the gambling debate has taken another twist with a surprise proposal for regulating those slot machines which seem to be popping up everywhere.

Schapiro:  Yeah, Jeremy McPike is a state senator from Prince William County.  He’s proposing that the state would regulate all of these slot machines.  Some are supposedly games of skill, others are games of chance.  Senator McPike would make the argument that it really isn't any difference.  And you know, one should recognize that the Virginia Lottery would oversee them and tax them at a rate of 36% with the money going to schools and local government.  Of course, this is all a part of this bigger push towards opening up Virginia to full-on gambling, and that includes an announcement by the Pamunkey Tribe to perhaps open a casino in South Richmond.  It would be the tribe’s second, assuming that first one goes up in Norfolk.

Carper:  Alright, thanks to Jeff Schapiro, political columnist at the Richmond Times-Dispatch.  Jeff, we will catch up next week, but I'm sure I'll see you at the Capitol.

Schapiro:  Rolling those bones [laughing].

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