Hope your holidays were all that you and yours wished them to be and that 2020 will be equally satisfying. Despite the drag by the corrupt dark side of the force in our nation’s capital, 2019 was a productive year for the forces of good, progressive politics. Impeachment was a fitting final note, although we know there are grounds for at least ten articles of impeachment, rather than the charitable two finally agreed upon by the House of Representatives.
In early 2019 Virginia Dems’ outlook for General Assembly elections was bleak. Governor Northam was dogged by an old medical school yearbook picture which had Democratic pols wetting their britches and calling for him to step down, and Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax was plagued by sexual assault accusations, leading to demands that he quit. Both proclaimed innocence, stood their ground. Northam proved he could govern and moved Virginia forward. Fairfax kept a low profile and the storm seemed to pass, playing little role in pivotal state elections. In fact, the Democrats not only kept huge 2017 House of Delegates gains, but took four more seats and control of the House. They also won control of the Senate! Now, what will the Democrats do with their newly consolidated power? Progressives want to attack issues most vital to the people of Virginia, such as economic equity—specifically increasing Virginia’s pathetic minimum wage and ending the union-killing Right to Work law. Not far behind for me are strengthening underpinnings of our deteriorating democracy, i.e., redistricting reform to end gerrymandering and doing real campaign finance reform. Other priorities would include approving the ERA, sensible gun safety laws including universal background checks and banning assault weapons, climate action such as carbon pricing, and expanding protection for women’s right to choose.
Reston Del. Ken Plum and Senator Janet Howell, with a total of nearly 70 years seniority, should be able to help guide efforts to get it done.
Del. Plum is offering a major bill to raise the minimum wage (from $7.25/hour immediately to $11, rising to $15 over a couple of years). He also supports doing away with “Right to Work,” approving the redistricting reform constitutional amendment that has already passed the General Assembly once and will take effect if passed again this year, genuine gun control, and carbon pricing to address greenhouse gasses. No word on campaign finance reform.
Unfortunately, the Democratic leadership is more timid, favoring less heavy lifting that might face corporate and special interest opposition. They are OK with ERA passage (more symbolic than effective), very modest gun reform, some easing of abortion restrictions and increased education funding. However, the crucial constitutional amendment for redistricting reform, regarded as a slam dunk before Dems took control of the Senate, is in jeopardy of being killed despite being rated one of the top such reforms in the country and having already passed last year. Senate Majority Leader Dick Saslaw and others seem more interested in exercising their new power to draw the lines than in reform. They are according no priority to increasing the scandalous minimum wage. Furthermore, the Democrats, including our own Senator Howell, do not plan to address the union-killing “Right to Work” law or to take on climate change by using the most effective tool available, carbon pricing. It will be interesting to see if they can muster the courage to support even Gov. Northam’s proposed modest, long overdue, increase in the gasoline tax… just 4 cents/gallon. We will soon know…. Closer to home, 2019 Fairfax County Board of Supervisors elections saw the Democrats add two more seats. They now hold all but one of 9 Board slots. Lots of new blood — four new Supervisors — may bode well for a board which could stand reinvigoration, fewer lowest common denominator decisions. New Chairman Jeff McKay trounced his opposition. Along the way, McKay took some body blows for his cozy relations with developers (e.g, taking $50,000 from one developer cash cow). It will be interesting to see how he handles those relationships now that he is the Chairman.
We’ll look at our own promising new Hunter Mill Supervisor Walter Alcorn and shenanigans inside Reston Association in a future column. Happy New Year!