“We shall not flag or fail,” said another nation’s leader, in another time, as waves of tanks and armaments rolled across Europe. “We shall go on to the end ... we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender.” The free citizens of Ukraine are doing just that, against the overwhelming remnants of what Ronald Reagan once called “an Evil Empire.” We pray that this, too, some thousand years from now, will be known by the heirs of freedom as their finest hour.
1.)It is out of our normal wheelhouse, but the world changed two weeks ago and will affect us all. Last Thursday, the Thomas Jefferson Institute hosted the former Ambassador to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (better known in Virginia as “Governor”) Jim Gilmore for an expansive and extraordinarily informative webinar dissecting events in Ukraine and what he termed the start of a global struggle with authoritarianism. If you missed it or want to review it again, you can click here. The progressive Virginia Mercury covered it, with fair-handed reporting we wish we saw on all issues in all news media, here.
2.)The Institute continues to push for doubling the standard deduction, but Democrats in the State Senate are having no part of it so far, calling for a “study” that would delay consideration of it until after the General Assembly has spent the $16.7 billion surplus (here). Hope lies in conference committee negotiations, where the size of the surplus and the differences between the House and Senate budgets are being graphically highlighted by the Jefferson Institute (here) in our Facebook advertising. If you haven’t already, you can dig deeper into the issue with Senior Fellow Steve Haner’s commentary here. And if you haven’t already, you can write your Delegate and Senator and insist on doubling the standard deduction and a higher tax break. Find out your legislator and their contact information here.
3.)Governor Glen Youngkin, meanwhile, reminded budget conferees of his priority to return a larger portion of the surplus to Virginia taxpayers (here), and made clear his willingness to keep the General Assembly in “overtime” to get it right (here.) Former Delegate Jim LeMunyon shares our argument that, in the long run, we shouldn’t stop there (here).
4.)Following actions in Richmond (here), the House of Delegates wanted to pass a law prohibiting local governments from looking like San Francisco (here). But the State Senate amended the legislation to carve out businesses – residential customers would still be on the hook and potentially have to retrofit their homes to the tune of $26,000. Haner, again, has the story here, and also uncovered that Fairfax County is opening the door to a natural gas ban, too (here). An Institute Facebook ad campaign is alerting and educating the public. You can write your own legislator by clicking here.
5.)The Left’s solution to cleaning up the environment is to tax and ban legal products consumers need. Our preferred solution is different, and the Thomas Jefferson Institute is part of a coalition to encourage new technologies making recycling more viable. Brett Vassey, president of the Virginia Manufacturers Association, makes the case for that approach here.
6.)The Institute welcomes new Visiting Fellow Barbara Hollingsworth. Sharp-eyed observers will recognize Barbara from her years as editorial page editor at the Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star, the Northern Virginia Journals, and the Washington Beacon. We hope to offer her an expansive opportunity to speak extensively on the issues, not subject to the space limitations of the newspaper world. Her maiden piece for us, on the need to limit powers of the executive branch is here.
7.)Youngkin’s hand in Richmond may be strengthened by a pair of polls indicating considerably more approval than in the one issued by Christopher Newport University. The Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association shows his favorability at 49 percent (here), and Roanoke College puts it at 50 percent (here), considerably outpacing President Joe Biden.
8.)While stacked Senate committees have thwarted much of Youngkin’s agenda, bipartisanship reigned in a number of important issues. One of them is Senator David Suetterlein’sSB5, making votes of the Parole Board on the record. This comes too late to stop the scandals of last year, in which the parole board violated law and policy by not properly notifying police and victims about parole releases. Board Chair Adrianne Bennett, later rewarded with a judgeship, was at the center of the controversy, and has been on “extended leave” since May of last year (right around the time things got hot). The State Supreme Court has now sealed its reason for closing records filed by Bennett. The Richmond Times-Dispatch has the story here.
9.)After senior aides to Governor Ralph Northam interfered with the Inspector General’s investigation of the Parole Board scandal, Delegate Les Adams introduced legislation to prohibit such interference. This, too, is headed towards passage in the General Assembly (here).
10.)Other parts of the Youngkin agenda are moving forward as well: Parents will now have a say whether their children are assigned in school to read sexually explicit material (here). A bill removing the permitting power of citizen boards, the decisions of which often exceeded the recommendation of the Department of Environmental Quality and have been shutting down pipelines supplying energy to Virginians, is headed to the Governor’s desk (here).
11.)And, with the support of several Democrats, the Senate Education and Health Committee moved forward a bill banning a Governor’s school’s admissions process from discriminating “on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity or national origin,” likely ensuring its passage in the Senate. (here) This came just days after federal judge Claude Hilton ruled that Fairfax County school officials violated the law by changing admissions requirements at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology to deliberately reduce the number of Asian-American students enrolled there (here and here). Philosophically, all in tune with the aims of Education Secretary Aimee Guidera (here).