Moral Abnegation

Associate Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia died unexpectedly last week and exposed the sad state of American politics. Not more than two hours had passed when Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced that “this vacancy should not be filled until we have a new president.”   He also orchestrated Republican members of the Judiciary Committee to pledge to do absolutely nothing until January 2017, even when the President nominates someone. Neither Justice Scalia’s strict constructionist approach to the Constitution nor American history supports Senator McConnell.

While usually cloaking themselves in high principle, Republican Senators have now declared themselves dedicated to naked politics and sabotaging the Constitution’s instructions to the President. Article II, Section 2 of the Constitution clearly states that he “… shall nominate, and by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, shall appoint Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls, Judges of the Supreme Court, and all other Officers of the United States …” The bottom line is that the voters who elected President Obama, twice, are now being told by intractable Republican Senators that their votes no longer count and that they will block the President from performing his Constitutional duties.

Republicans, pundits, commentators, and presidential candidates cite examples of Democrats making similar political arguments, but Democrats never followed through with them. Republicans have conceded the moral high ground, while twisting the legislative and judicial history of the country and ignoring the broader truths. The Senate has confirmed Supreme Court nominees of both parties in election years and in the last year of a presidency many times over the course of our nation’s history. As recently as 1988, a presidential election year, a Democratic Senate confirmed President Ronald Reagan’s nomination of Justice Anthony M. Kennedy in the final year of his administration. Just the other day, Senator Grassley (R-Iowa), who voted for Kennedy, stated, “The reality is that the Senate has never stopped confirming judicial nominees during the last few months of a president’s term.” That is true and that is how our system has worked for more than 200 years. Numerous nominations can be cited from the historical record, including a nomination by John Adams after he lost the election of 1800 which was confirmed by the Senate before he left office in March 1801.

Senator McConnell’s present recalcitrance is not an isolated substitution of politics for principle. He had famously said he intended to make the President a one-term President. He tried very hard to make that happen. When he failed, he did his best to ensure that the 113th Congress was the most feckless, fruitless, non-cooperative, and anemic in the nation’s history, passing virtually no legislation of any significance. The political imperative to block the President at all costs trumped [sic] any responsibility to govern the country. Even the simplest Presidential appointments, such as Foreign Service Officers, Inspectors General, the Surgeon General, the Secretary of the Army, and others were held up for months, regardless of need. Republicans were behind the egregious shutdown of the government in September 2013 that cost the taxpayers billions of dollars. No other modern Western government has ever been brought to its knees except by losing a war.

The media describes today’s voters as angry and disgusted at “politics.” Who can blame them? But politics wins out and Majority Leader McConnell’s obstreperous rejection of the checks and balances in the Constitution is just the latest example.

McConnell may view his preemptive shock and awe strike against any nomination as good politics, particularly if he believes the President will be so intimidated that he doesn’t make a nomination – that’s not likely. When the President does make a nomination and if the Senate doesn’t take it up, the Republican leadership, Republican Presidential candidates, and Republican Senators running for reelection will again show their obstructionist colors. This will be particularly telling if the President nominates someone the Senate may have already confirmed, or who might, for example, be a moderate Republican.

Justice Scalia was known for arguing that the Constitution is what it says it is. Senator McConnell’s strategy is not a tribute to the memory of the strict constitutionalist nor to supposed conservative (in the true sense of the word) values. Shame on McConnell for besmirching Justice Scalia in this way and shame on any of his colleagues who follow his ill-advised leadership. It remains to be seen how the voters will respond to McConnell’s and his Republican cronies’ subversion of the Constitution.

Mike McClary

Note: reprinted with author’s permission and appeared in the printed version of the Culpeper Star Exponent on 2/27/16.

General Assembly’s social distractions

A week after cross over, the Republican dominated General Assembly is hard at work trying to quietly pass a host of social issues bills. And one of the worst of them, the pain capable act HB963 which would have banned all abortions after 20 weeks was reported out a house sub-committee just before cross over, and will be continued in the 2017 legislative session.

While it’s not news that the actions of the Republican Party at the national and state level are driven by ideology, Republican controlled states use of their budget process to eliminate policies they don’t agree with have become their latest weapon of mass distraction.

State Control

And they are part of a nationwide pattern designed to challenge Roe v. Wade, which says that the government cannot interfere with a woman’s right to an abortion before the fetus is viable sometime between 20 and 24 weeks. The 20-week ban would move the cutoff several weeks earlier.

Along with systematically defunding everything from Planned Parenthood to women’s health services and Medicaid expansion with amendments to the state budget HB30 it’s clear they intend to defund these programs out of existence.

Nor was it any coincidence that 2 bills HB43 and SB53 to end the Commonwealths infamous “ultrasound” laws went nowhere. With HB43 dying in House committee by an unrecorded voice vote, while SB53 barely passed out of committee and will be “continued” during the 2017 legislative session.

Their assault on the rights of the citizens of the Commonwealth doesn’t stop there, as the state budget was passed with an amendment that will remove funding for the State Police to handle increased workload related to the restoration of voting rights process.

Along with laying HB107 on the table in sub committee by an unrecorded voice vote, it should be clear that the Republican controlled General assembly has no intention of restoring voting rights to felons who have completed restitution.

Along with passing voter ID laws they claim are necessary to “protect the integrity of the vote,” they are deliberately ignoring the disconnect between voter ID and voter fraud, knowing full well that low voter turn out disproportionately favors their candidates in primaries and general elections.

States with voting restrictions

Note: Since this map was created, the states of Missouri, Arkansas, and Montana have also passed restrictive voting laws.

Nor does their abuse stop there; it also includes stripping the state and localities of any ability to raise revenue for transportation infrastructure, via tolls on interstate highways, with HB1069 effectively transferring control of that process to the General Assembly.

Currently this bill is sitting in the Senate Committee on Transportation, where it is likely to quietly make its way to the Senate floor. And when coupled with bills like SB742 which proposes to limit the amount of gas tax that the Hampton roads region could charge, it’s clear that they are doing everything possible to limit the amount of money available for transportation infrastructure.

And right on cue, this bill was tabled by an unrecorded voice vote for further discussion in the 2017 session.

Which brings us to the Government Nondiscrimination act, aka the religious freedom bill HB773, which passed the House 56-21 with Delegate Farrell voting against it, and the Senate along strict party lines by a 21-19 vote with both Garrett and Reeves voting for it.

Allegedly the intent of this bill is to protect small businesses, like cake bakers, florists and photographers, from having to pay fines if they refused services to same-sex couples.

James Parrish, Executive Director of Equality Virginia, spoke in opposition to the bill saying that it  ”doubles down on discrimination” already illegal in our commonwealth. “The discriminator is protected, not the individuals facing the discrimination,” and that “We support the freedom of religion, but this bill provides broad, potentially unconstitutional protections for individuals, organizations and businesses to unfairly single out and discriminate against Virginia’s gay and lesbian families.”

This bill is part of a nationwide pattern of religious freedom bills intended to codify and legalize discrimination which have passed in Republican controlled state legislatures, with some state like Indiana taking their right to discriminate to another level.

States with religious freedom laws

Keep in mind that virtually all of these social “issues” are intended to scapegoat and marginalize women, the poor, minorities, and especially the LGBT and gays communities.

And it may explain why so many Republican controlled state legislatures are taking their cue from the RNC, and are hard at work trying to pass “bathroom” laws which target transgender students by prohibiting them from using the bathroom which aligns with their gender identity.

Bathroom bills

While Virginia’s equivalent bill HB663 failed to advance out of sub committee this year, it was laid on the table by an unrecorded voice vote, and will likely be resurrected out of the General Laws committee during the 2017 legislative session. While some states like North Carolina are calling for a special legislative special session aimed at overturning Charlotte’s new non-discrimination ordnance

Since loosing their marriage equality battles in the Supreme Court, Republicans have doubled down on social wedge issues, using these “God, Gay’s and Guns” distractions to keep their supporters agitated and motivated to show up at the polls so they may continue their business as usual … I mean ideology at any cost ways.

Such as passing by indefinitely SB129, a bill which would have raised the states minimum wage, or  passing HB2, which requires the state Department of Environmental Quality to have the General Assembly’s “approval” to implement any  plans to comply with the EPA’s latest CO2 emissions standards.

The latter bill was passed along party lines by a 64-34-1 margin with Delegate Farrell who’s father is the CEO of Dominion Power abstaining, and is currently is in the Senate finance committee awaiting further action.

Nor are these attempts to systematically attack citizen’s rights, and destabilize government’s ability to function anything new. And since Virginia is one of five states with off year elections much of what the General Assembly does often gets get buried in the larger narratives of congressional and presidential elections.

And it is no coincidence that the most heinous legislature which gets passed in the Commonwealth often happens during Virginia’s “off years.” So expect to see many bills that were “passed by” this year to show up like bad pennies during next years 2017 legislative session.

The extremity of the legislation passing through our General Assembly would be laughable if the consequences weren’t so dire. And make no mistake their actions threaten to plunge the Commonwealth further into the darkness of unaccountability and fiscal ruin which continues to plague other Republican controlled states like Wisconsin, Michigan and Kansas.

Jon Taylor

Hearing on bio-solids in Louisa County

This past Tuesday, the Department of Environmental Quality held a public hearing at the Louisa County High School about permits for sewage waste, or bio-solids to be applied to farmland in Louisa County.

According to Ed Stuart, the DEQ’s Water compliance program manager, the final decision for approving these permits will be made by the State Water Control Board sometime in April. Going on to say that roughly half of the farms seeking to apply bio-solids were renewing their applications under an existing “draft” permit issued by the Virginia Department of Health in 2008.

Stuart also said that since the DEQ took over regulating bio-solids from VDH in 2008 that the SWCB board has not denied any bio-solids permits. Approximately 100 people attended this meeting, which started off with a presentation by Margaret Quigley of the DEQ’s Northern Virginia office.

During this presentation, she talked about some recent changes in the DEQ’s permitting process, including; changes to reporting requirements and odor abatement practices. She also said that while the DEQ had responsibility for enforcing those permits, the agency has no stance on the adequacy of those regulatory requirements.

She clarified those remarks in a later phone conversation, saying that the DEQ in conjunction with the VDH conducts a bi-annual review of emerging public safety trends, such as additional substances they are not currently legally required to regulate, specifically mentioning the accumulation of prions in the soil and water.

She also said that the bio-solids vendor, Synagro was applying on behalf of all of the landowners/farmers in Louisa country who were their customers in the past, with their application identifying specific tax parcels that these farms are located on. And that this year’s permit is requesting permission to apply bio-solids to approximately 90 farms encompassing 16,000 acres.

Adding that since ownership of specific tax parcels (aka farms) may have changed in between permits that the specific farms where bio-solids are being applied varies slightly with each permit, saying that of the original 90 parcels identified under the older 2008 VDH permit, 76 of them were included in this latest permit application.

Since Synagro’s original application for this permit was filed back in 2013, she said that the remaining parcels would be identified under new owners, or may even represent new bio-solids users.

And when asked about notifying land owners whose property is adjacent to these farms, she said it was less of an issue than they had originally anticipated. Saying that roughly 20 of the 1,300 notices they sent out during their last notification were returned as undeliverable, and that public hearings like this one, are where they often hear from those who weren’t notified.

After she was done speaking, roughly 30 people spoke for more than an hour and a half during their public comments period. Those remarks were fairly evenly divided between local farmers speaking in support of bio-solids, and concerned citizens against the use of bio-solids.

Some of the people who spoke at this hearing also spoke at an earlier Board of Supervisors meeting in December, and their remarks from that meeting can be found here. Ms. Quigley says the DEQ has an audio file of this meeting and when it is available it will be included in this post.

One of the most eloquent speakers against bio-solids was Lydia Epp a research specialist from William and Mary, whose remarks expanded beyond the usual arguments about “dangerous chemicals” in bio-solids to cover the gaps in research which currently exist. Saying that the “degree of confidence” that we have about bio-solids is greatly “exceeded by what we don’t know.”

And another speaker, Tom Miller pointed out that the EPA was “behind the curve in measuring and regulating” toxic chemicals and harmful substances in bio-solids. Saying that Federal and state laws and regulation were “fundamentally broken” when it came to mitigating bio-solids impact on the environment.

While Fred Gruber the outgoing head of the 7th Congressional District Republican’s may be convinced that local authorities need to exercise their powers and implement bio-solids regulations which go well beyond the existing Federal and state regulations, that’s not very likely to happen in Louisa county.

Especially since the Board of Supervisors have publicly announced that they will be holding a Public hearing on March 21st for repealing Article III, Chapter 38 of the Louisa County Code “Biosolids”

The text of their February 26th public “announcement” reads:

The Louisa County Board of Supervisors has determined that it is in the best interest of its citizens to deal with only one authority in all matters relating to biosolids; and that to re-vest the Commonwealth of Virginia with the authority to monitor and investigate complaints related to biosolids in Louisa County. For these reasons, the Board of Supervisors states it intent to repeal Section 38-81 through 38-86 of the Louisa County Code in its entirety.

A full text of the ordinance under consideration is available for review in the Office of the County Administrator, Upper Floor, Louisa County Office Building, Louisa, Virginia, during regular business hours, Monday through Friday, 8:30 am to 5:00 pm, or by calling (540) 967-3400. Appropriate amendments may be made to the text of the ordinance prior to adoption.

This statement is perhaps the strongest indication that the Board of Supervisors intends to use this public hearing as political cover for abrogating their responsibilities to the people of Louisa County by willingly ceding their ability to protect them over to a dysfunctional state Department of Environmental Quality.

On the other side of the coin, most of the local farmers speaking in favor of bio-solids spoke briefly, and had very little to say other than the oft repeated phrase “no adverse effect.” While Jack Manzari, made one of the more insightful comments about the economics forces driving the use of bio-solids, saying that “half of the farmers made money, and half didn’t.”

And that in order for then to continue to stay in business farmers had to find ways to reduce their operating costs and that by using bio-solids they could better control their “operating expenses,” with another farmer saying that without bio-solids that “we can’t afford” to stay in business.

While Farm Bureau’s President Jim Riddell asking all the local farmers to “stand up and show their support” for bio-solid repeated his earlier actions at the December Board of Supervisors meeting,  his use of orange miss utility flags at this meeting to “demonstrate” how his fields were marked were far closer to theatrical license than any relevant point.

And in the meantime, all parties are anxiously awaiting the Louisa County Board of Supervisors actions on the County’s bio-solids regulations, along with SWCB’s decision on these permits.

Jon Taylor

General Assembly’s economic duplicity

Less than a week after the General Assembly’s bills have “crossed over” between chambers it’s clear that this years session will be little different than previous ones, and that their legislative priorities are being imposed from the top down.

And it’s also clear that the leaders of the Republican dominated General Assembly are enthralled by the notion that the free market will solve all of the Commonwealth’s problems. Which probably why they have put so much emphasis on passing and promoting various components of the Virginia Growth and Opportunity Act, commonly known as GO Virginia.

What’s unusual about these bills (HB834, HB846, SB449, and SB459) is not that they have passed the House and Senate by wide “bi-partisan” margins, is that since 2010 the state has already sunk $679 million into similar programs. And the results speak for themselves, a persistent unemployment rate well above historical averages, and a growth rate near zero.

Meanwhile, our 56th District Delegate Farrell, informs us in via a legislative “update” in our local paper, the Central Virginian that, “We believe that this is not just another jobs program, but will establish a framework and infrastructure for real, long-term economic growth.”

Perhaps, but given the level of “crony capitalism” … I mean economic development that we have witnessed with the Tobacco slush fund Revitalization Commission it remains to be seen if the General Assembly is actually capable of overseeing let alone micro managing yet another commission.

It’s been said that when something seems too good to be true, there usually is a reason why. So if you read the wording of HB846 closely, it states that if the General Assembly can’t decide on an economic development board for GO Virginia, control of this new program reverts to the Virginia Economic Development Partnership, or VEDP.

Whether this represents a new and innovative way of doing business, or is simply a sophisticated regional multi-level marketing scheme remains to be seen. But a quick look at one of this regions “supporters” web page clearly states that they offer ‘completely outsourced … services.”

Such proclamations indicate that this company’s free market approach to economic development might not be an isolated bug, but are a design feature of the entire program. And in the case of the General Assembly they “… have become a screen behind which complex and costly issues unfold often unnoticed…”, and where “…The business of Virginia is business.”

The concern we all should have is by setting up a statewide network of economic developers is that based on the past performance of other state commissions, accountability, fiscal responsibility and local control are usually the first things to go.

And speaking of local control over economic development, the Senate and the House recently passed SB549 and HB770 which propose to “reform” the proffer system that allows local governments to extract cash payments from residential developers for public infrastructure, and prohibit them from denying rezoning requests to developers based on “unreasonable” proffers.

Critics say that this unilateral bill would prevent local governments from being able to effectively manage growth and would greatly diminish public input into the planning process. Especially since the General Assembly’s definition of “unreasonable” gives developers considerable legal leeway.

Beyond these bills being something that only a litigation attorney could love, it’s clear that they are an ideological solution in search of a problem. And collectively these economic agendas go well beyond simple greed or even stupidity; they are a well coordinated assault on your local government’s ability to function lifted straight out of the ALEC playbook.

Perhaps that’s why the Republicans have been so busy of late hosting conferences proclaiming their “achievements” to a compliant and incurious media. Knowing those distractions will allow them to piously claim that they are only interested in improving the ability of local governments to function more “efficiently, while undermining localities ability to raise revenue and function in plain sight.

Nor are these attempts to systematically destabilize local government’s ability to function anything new. What we are seeing happen here is a variation of what we’ve seen before in Republican controlled states like Kansas, Wisconsin and Michigan.

Jon  Taylor

General Assembly’s double cross of governmental ethics and accountability

While last year’s legislative session was in the words of our 56th District Delegate, Peter Farrellshort and strangely calm,” it had little to do with how efficiently the General Assembly was in conducting the peoples business.

In the words of Democratic Senator Scott Surovell, it was because the Republican Party took such care to “muzzle their firebrands — and kept the crazy cousins in the closet.” And for the most part they managed to avoid pushing the radical Tea Party agendas which have dominated Virginia’s legislative efforts in recent years.

Choosing to soft peddle their usual social wedge issues, all the while doing their corporate masters bidding, particularly when it comes to whatever Dominion Power wants.

Deeds which gave them ample cover for passing a host of “brochure billsthat got them on the record of having “tried” to address a particular issue without actually doing anything.

Assured that any commonsense bill which manages to pass one side of the legislative chamber will die in committee in the opposite Republican controlled chamber.

It’s an old tradition in the Commonwealth, part of the hypocritical Virginia Way, one that our Republican legislators refuse to discuss, preferring to cling to promote the illusion of “peace in the valley.” So it should come as little surprise to learn that the General Assembly’s 2016 winter session has been anything but.

Whether is because the coming presidential election has increased the stakes for future control of a divided legislative body, or simply represents a return to business as usual is unclear.

What is clear is that during this brief break in the General Assembly schedule where bills “cross over” from one chamber to another, is that the Republican dominated General Assembly intends to double down on their own sense of entitlement and hypocrisy.

And like last year; the best examples of this mindset are found in the various ethics bill which have passed through both chambers.

While the Senate, including Senators Garrett and Reeves, had no problem passing SB692 which redefined a “gift” from lobbyists to exempt the first $100 of their food and bar tab.

This bill also bars lobbyists from disclosing the name of any “legislative or executive official, or a member of his family,” …. if the official pays their own way, and now sits in the House Committee for Courts of Justice ethics sub committee awaiting further action.

On the flip side of the coin, HB162 which would have given the States ethics council the power to investigate conflicts of interest by members of the General Assembly was tabled by an unrecorded voice vote by the same sub committee.

In a similar vein; SB202, which prohibits revealing any salary information about public employees who earn over $10,000 a year, easily passed the Senate, with both Garrett and Reeves voting for it. While one can reasonably argue that revealing such personal information particularly that of low level employees has long been a form of institutionalized shaming.

The same can not be said about SB552, which specifically shields the identities of all local and state law enforcement officers, as well as their, positions and training from Virginia’s Freedom of Information Act.

This bill sailed though the Senate with Garrett and Reeves once again voting for it, and both bills are currently in the House Committee on General Laws sub committee # 2.

Apparently the Senate is determined to go out of their way to transform all law enforcement agencies in the Commonwealth into unaccountable and non-transparent secret police forces. And have chosen to overlook the fact that this bill was introduced in direct response to a newspaper investigation about why police officers who are fired for misconduct are permitted to work for another agency

One Virginia state senator, Bill DeSteph actually cited “ISIS terrorism” was why we need to keep the identities of police officers secret. Claiming that “What’s happened in the last 30 years is ISIS terrorism and targeting of our police officers and individuals.”

When in fact, the evidence shows that the dangers police officers face has declined steadily and substantially for many years, with the Post’s Radley Balko meticulously documenting that 2015 was one of the safest years for U.S. police officers on record, surpassed only by 2013.

Making the Senators disingenuous claims that “our culture has changed” and the business of policing is gotten significantly more dangerous not just wrong, but dead wrong. While it’s long been known that a government’s natural impulse is to operate in secrecy, these bills are clearly intended to shield corrupt officers and agencies from the cleansing sunlight of public scrutiny.

The Republican dominated General Assembly’s obsession with protecting secrecy in their affairs like Republican Senate Majority Leader, Tommy Norment’s and the rest of the Republican controlled Senate’s premeditated and punitive decision to ban the press from the Senate floor for three weeks simply because they don’t like being in the public eye.

Utterly convinced that they can continue to spin this narrative, and the public will actually believe that they are the victims of a “liberal media,” when in fact their actions threaten to plunge the entire Commonwealth further into the darkness of unaccountability and fiscal ruin which has plagued Republican controlled states like Wisconsin, Michigan and Kansas for years.

Jon Taylor

Another fake Town Hall

Those who attended a Town Hall hosted by Congressman Dave Brat last week saw a classic demonstration of psychological manipulation.

And some who were there might recall another Town Hall hosted by Delegate Farrell, and Senator’s Garrett and Reeves in 2014 that was described by Jeff Schapiro of the Richmond Times Dispatch as “welcome to the echo chamber.”

This meeting followed a similar pattern; with the speaker laying out homilies for the faithful, who respond with a chorus of amen’s, with one audience member subjecting everyone to a constant barrage of commentary.

Brat took few questions from the audience, and it was clear that with several coming from Party claques that they were more affirmations of faith than actual questions. Meanwhile most of Brat’s answers were so long winded that most of the audience had long ago forgotten the original question.

The purpose of this Town Hall wasn’t to inform the people about his actions in Congress, it was a tent revival gathering of the faithful. And like the 2014 Town Hall, Brat gave the audience of establishment types and tea partiers exactly what they wanted to hear.

His grandiose claims that Judeo Christian values and moral principles of government are why he’s been so busy appearing on TV and radio unapologetically articulating the Republican creed, while simultaneously saying he was voting NO against reckless spending, regulation, and debt went completely unchallenged.

Comments that completely failed to talk about what he has accomplished during his first term. So what has he done for the people of the 7th Congressional District?

When asked by an audience member what he intended to do about fixing Pell Grants, his response was a long tirade about the importance of moral principles in education, and concluded with him saying that he didn’t want to give them any “wrong information” and would need some time to “research” it and would get back to them.

Brat’s idea of supporting education is to claim on his website that he voted for universal savings plans and that an annual tax free account of ~ $ 1,000 to $ 2,500 a year is enough to finance education and even retirement.

Perhaps he’s anxious to conceal the fact that by voting for the A Plus amendment to the Student Success Act that no one would notice that he voted to manipulate education grants to states, claiming this drastic measure was necessary to stop excessive “federal overreach” and to ensure “transparency” in education.

Brat’s actions in congress should make it clear that his commitment to moral principles consists of voting against virtually every bill which might have begun to fix some of the countries biggest education problems.

So the next time you see him flashing his Cheshire cat grin… I mean making fearful distractions about terrorism, immigration, and refugees, be sure to ask him what he’s doing about our children’s future?

Jon Taylor

 

 

Make your voice heard in the Primary on March 1

Have your vote count even more on March 1. Virginians, along with 15 other states, have the privilege of going to the polls on that Tuesday and choosing who will be on the presidential ballot in November.

After a hectic and entertaining debate season, most of us have the presidential election on our radar. We have a good idea what each candidate stands for and who is a better fit for our issues and our vision of the future.

I urge every Virginian to develop the habit of voting in every election. They are all important and your input is needed in the process to keep our elections fair and our country democratic.

This year, in Louisa County, we will vote with paper ballots and optical scanners. In the primary, you must ask for a Democratic ballot or a Republican ballot. Your ballot will only have the names of candidates from the party you have requested. Once you have marked the ballot with a pencil, you will feed it into an optical scanner which records your vote electronically. The paper ballot is kept as a backup to your electronic vote.

Early absentee voting is open now at the Louisa County Registrar’s Office in the county administration building located at 1 Woolfolk Avenue in Louisa. If you will be out of town, or unavailable, on March 1 because of illness, work, school, vacation, etc., you can cast your vote now from 8:30 a.m. through 4:30 p.m. on Monday through Friday, and on Saturday, Feb. 20 and 27, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. You can request an absentee ballot by mail or apply online for one.

You must have identification to vote, so take your driver’s license or other acceptable form of identification with you. If you do not have an acceptable form of identification, one can be made for you at any registrar’s office in the Commonwealth. Check the Louisa County registrar’s website for more details on voting, absentee ballots and hours. You can also call the registrar’s office at (540) 967-3727.

The important thing is to get out and vote in the primary on Super Tuesday!

JoAnna Hickman Louisa

Brat should support the President’s budget proposal

On Tuesday, February 16th I attended a town meeting held by Representative Dave Brat, 7th Congressional District, at the Louisa Arts Center.  Representative Brat’s talk was interesting and informative.  However, not once did he mention any bills he had sponsored or supported that benefited the residents of Louisa County.    As the economic recovery continues, now is the time for our Representative to support strong investments that would benefit families and businesses in Louisa County.

Therefore, I would suggest that Representative Brat as a member of the House Budget and Education Committee support the President’s budget that benefits Louisa County residents and calls for year-round Pell Grants to help our hardworking students.

The President’s budget proposal is a responsible plan that helps hardworking Americans and invests in the future of our nation. As the economy continues its recovery, the Congress has been presented a bold, forward-looking strategy that would also benefit the state of Virginia and Louisa County. This includes investments in early and higher education, child nutrition, small business, medical research, transportation infrastructure, and important measures to combat prescription drug abuse and the heroin epidemic. Now is the time to secure continued prosperity for and Louisa County families and businesses.

As for the Pell Grants low-income, full-time students are eligible for two Pell Grants per year to help finance their education.  After two semesters, however, students must wait until the next academic year to become eligible for Pell again. Representative Brat should support the President’s proposal to expand the federal Pell Grant program to cover a third semester per year. Students could obtain their degrees more quickly, resulting in fewer costs and, likely, less accumulation of debt, with full-year Pell grants. The President’s budget includes this proposal, which would provide nearly 700,000 students with additional funds to help pay for college, complete their degrees faster, and then enter the workforce and contribute financially to our society.

Melvin Burruss

Whither American exceptionalism?

There has been much rhetoric bandied about in the past few years where “American exceptionalism” has been claimed by one political group to the exclusion of the other and accuses them of undermining our heritage.  I believe that most Americans of any political persuasion still believe that our nation is exceptional. We can argue about decisions, policies and directions, but who among us does not believe our country is the greatest on the planet?

What makes us exceptional arose out of our American Revolution and began with our form of government, the constitutional federal republic that emerged out of the ashes of the Articles of Confederation.  James Madison concluded that solving the Confederation’s problems required creating an extended republic, in which a variety of opinions, passions and interests would check and balance each other, supported by a governmental framework that endorsed a separation of powers between the branches of the national government.

The infant United States of America was unlike any other nation on earth. Our founding values included liberty, egalitarianism, democracy and laissez-faire economics.  Of particular note was the Fathers’ belief in republicanism (not to be confused with Jefferson’s Democratic Republican party, Lincoln’s Republican Party or the modern Republican Party).  Republicanism embodied liberty and the unalienable rights of the people, who were sovereign.  It rejected aristocracy and inherited power, valued the citizen’s independence of thought and action and it vilified corruption.

In addition to our federal system, “checks and balances” among the three branches of the national government ensured against a “tyranny of the majority.”  Our Bill of Rights mandated additional constitutional protections for our individual liberties, among them the freedom of religion, speech and the press and our individual judicial rights.  In an era of state religions, and remembering the devastating religious wars of the previous century, the Founders took great care to separate “church” from “state” to ensure a completely secular government. Still controversial today, the Second Amendment guaranteed that a “well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”  The 10th Amendment reinforced federalism and the separation of powers by specifying that all powers not delegated by the Constitution to the federal government are reserved to the states or to the people.

Since our Constitution was ratified in 1788, we have seen our small republic evolve into the freest, richest and most powerful nation on earth.  Though our Constitution was written by a relatively small group of privileged white males, our nation has evolved into a modern society not defined by race, tribe or religion, but by the precept that all men and women are created equal, where the rule of law and individual freedom allow the country to run on merit and not by tribal affinity or aristocratic birth.

America has saved Europe and Asia from themselves in two world wars.  We have facilitated the peace, security and liberty of hundreds of millions of people around the world. Despite today’s uncertainty, the slow recovery of our economy and three foreign wars, there’s not another nation even remotely similar to the United States where an individual can realize his or her dreams.

That’s not to say we don’t have problems, but we have overcome them in the past, and there’s no reason why, working together, we cannot solve them today.

Watching this election season’s Republican and Democratic debates, I am reminded of Thomas Jefferson’s observation in 1804:

Amidst the direct falsehoods, the misrepresentations of truth, the calumnies and the insults resorted to by a faction to mislead the public mind, and to overwhelm these entrusted with its interests, our support is to be found in the approving voice of our conscience and country, in the testimony of our fellow citizens and that their confidence is not shaken by these artifices.

The results of the New Hampshire primary last Tuesday night showed that Jefferson was correct. American voters can still wade through all the (ahem) bovine manure — to come to conclusions that are radically different from what the party political establishments, the rich bankers, lobbyists, super PACs and the powerful political dynasties have tried to impose on the rest of us.  Angry Republicans have rallied behind a billionaire who has not accepted any super PAC, lobbyists’ or Wall Street money.  Angry Democrats have rallied behind a relatively obscure “socialist” from a small state who has not accepted any super PAC, lobbyists’ or Wall Street money.

What does this tell us?  The beliefs in American exceptionalism are not the exclusive province of one party, nor should we believe that this exceptionalism is fading as long as we adhere to our founding principles — chiefly among them, the supremacy of the people.

Mike McClary

Note: reprinted with author’s permission and appearing here.

Dave Brat’s Fake Town Halls

Recently, I received a forwarded email notice from our 7th Congressional District Representative Dave Brat, about a series of Town Halls he will be hosting this month. Louisa County’s paper of record, the Central Virginian also posted a brief notice about his Town Hall meeting in this week’s edition.

Brat TH_CV notice

While from all appearances this email notice was limited just to the party faithful, and for some reason is dated for next Wednesday the 17th.

Brat Email

For years such one sided communications with their constitutients have been standard operating procedure by all of our Congressional and State Republican representatives.

Brat is taking these exclusionary tactics to new levels, and if you go to his Facebook page events section, you will not find any notices about this months Town Halls.

Brat Notices

Whether these represent a series of oversights, or are meant to ensure that their Town Halls will be packed with their supporters is not clear.

But considering that his notice in the Central Virginian had to be submitted before their deadline, and that the local Republican Committee put out this notice on the 3rd, and that notices of all of Brat’s Town Halls in February are listed on his Congressional webpage, it’s not very likely that someone forgot to update his Facebook page.

Nor is he alone in such deceitful tactics, they have become standard operating procedures for all of our Republican representatives. Like our 56th District Delegate Peter Farrell who has developed a finely tuned multi-level misinformation campaign.

One that starts off every year with a leading mail “survey” conducted during the first week of the General Assembly session. Followed a week or two later by deceptive telephonic “Town Halls,”  and culminating with carpet bombing the faithful with email legislative “updates” right around the midway point of the legislative session.

At least that was the pattern until this year, when his most recent update was reprinted nearly verbatim by our local paper the Central Virginian, (highlighted in yellow) where presumably only space considerations kept it from being reprinted word for word.

CV_Farrell update

Rather than attempt to detail the CV’s long standing pattern of omitting details and their complicity in allowing our local politician’s to misinform their readers, I would like to ask them to attend one of Congressman Brat’s Town Hall meetings and let them decide for themselves.

—————————————————————–

JOIN ME FOR A TOWN HALL MEETING

Bring your family, friends, and questions!

Louisa County Town Hall

Tuesday, February 16, 2016
7:00-8:00 pm

Louisa Arts Center/Louisa Town Hall Building
212 Fredericksburg Avenue
Louisa, VA 23093

Click here for directions

Hanover County Town Hall

Wednesday, February 17, 2016
7:00-8:00 pm

Board of Supervisors’ Room
7516 County Complex Road
Hanover, VA 23069

Click here for directions

Spotsylvania County Town Hall 

Monday, February 22, 2016
7:00-8:00 pm

The Marshall Center
8802 Courthouse Road
Spotsylvania, VA 22553

Click here for directions

Jon Taylor