Commentary: 2016 Politics and Better News

Commentary: 2016 Politics and Better News

My plan for today was to discuss the silly season of Virginia’s General Assembly session which opened Jan. 13. But, it is really hard to tune out the noise of the 2016 campaign for President which is in its second—or is it third—year? To sum up, at this point it seems the voices of hate, racism and greed will coalesce around the Donald, while the more timid voices of community and caring may have found the revolutionary spark they need for victory. Let’s see.

In our area, Reston’s delegation to the General Assembly — Delegate Ken Plum and Senator Janet Howell -- head to Richmond with their nearly sixty years of seniority to engage in a 60-day session of probable futility. They’ll be joined by new Delegate Jennifer Boysko of Herndon, a bright and promising progressive whose civic experience should serve her well in the Richmond swamp.

Along with a couple thousand proposed laws addressing any public interest or special interest you can imagine, there are major matters of public policy in need of serious discussion and hopefully action by our legislators. Examples of the latter include proposals by Governor McAuliffe, who is seized with the desire to accomplish things in his constitutionally limited 4-year term, to reform public high schools to include professional credentialing and hands-on work experience, and to expand Medicaid coverage at federal expense for about 400,000 uninsured low-income Virginians. Other matters of public policy in dire need of action include how to care for thousands of Virginians with mental illness now untreated due to lack of services. A large proportion of the mentally ill are warehoused in jails—for lack of alternatives. And, frankly, we desperately need a serious debate on ways to improve gun safety as Del. Plum proposed in his recent column in the Connection. However, the likelihood of serious debate of McAuliffe’s proposals, mental health care or gun safety is very slim to none. Instead, the General Assembly will spend the 60-day session on bills that would, for example:

  • allow faculty members of public higher education institutions to carry concealed handguns on campus;

  • allow the use of turkey feathers and turkey toes in making tools or utensils;

  • allow school boards to put advertising material on school buses—you know like Drink Coca Cola! or This Bud’s for You!

  • bar persons on the FBI’s terrorist watch list from getting a concealed handgun permit. But not bar them from acquiring AR-15s or AK-47s.

  • designate the cuddly Eastern Garter Snake as official Virginia serpent; and,

  • reduce the penalty for adultery from a misdemeanor to a civil penalty-a change proposed no doubt in response to popular demand among legislators?

Turning to the good news in Reston: The 2016 Best of Reston Award winners were just announced. A tip of the Progressive’s cap goes especially to those honored for their volunteer service to the community—Jim Elder, Amy’s Amigos, and the Friends of Reston.