Column: Gov. McAuliffe—Please, Not the Richmond Way

Column: Gov. McAuliffe—Please, Not the Richmond Way

Gov. Terry McAuliffe did the right thing to line item veto health care restrictions in the 2015 budget in order to allow Medicaid expansion. But, what now? How in fact can he deliver on his promise to expand care to uninsured low-income families so despised by Republicans? Or will his action simply open the door to deliver a gift of billions mostly benefiting a handful of big insurers? He needs to explain those details soon to sustain the credibility I hope he deserves.

Why did the Gov. really veto the General Assembly ethics bill to address pervasive low and high-level gift taking in Richmond? Granted the bill creating a body to study and provide advice on ethics to legislators not only lacks teeth but also a couple of limbs. At least it does establish a capacity which could implement more serious reform. So, why veto it? Terry says he did so because it creates an unnecessary bureaucracy and that he plans more serious ethics reform next year. Really? How does he plan to get genuine reform through the same unenthusiastic body that passed what he rightly says was too weak, and that only because of the fading McDonnell uproar? Hmm?

Then there is the latest slime to surface in the Richmond swamp, nominal Democratic Senator Phillip Puckett. He resigned his seat to allow Republicans to capture control of the Senate and thus the entire General Assembly. Why did he resign? The mainstream media is telling us he resigned in exchange for a cushy, high-paying job doling out the billions from the big tobacco settlement, and a lifelong judicial appointment for his daughter. They focus on the former, virtually ignoring the latter—cutting a deal with the Republicans selling a judgeship (appointed by a committee they head) for his daughter in return for Puckett’s resignation. Yep, the next time you or someone you know is in court, your/their fate could be decided by an offspring of Puckett, a guy with ethics right out of the sewer. Fortunately, the U.S. Justice Department is now investigating the Republicans’ deal with Puckett.

Some legislators, including a number of Democrats, say they can’t believe this little bit of horse trading is actually the subject of a criminal investigation. The very idea! Many of the same people—folks like Democratic Majority (now Minority) Leader Senator Dick Saslaw and Republican Delegate Dave Albo—also saw absolutely no reason for indicting Bob McDonnell for taking about $200 large to do favors for a favorite corporate buddy. They say this is just the way things are done and have been done for a long time in Richmond. Indeed, that is just the problem!

It is certainly my hope that Bob and Mrs. Bob and good ol’ boy Phil Puckett get some real time behind bars. Outrageous violations of the trust the public has vested in them should be punished, not continued as a way of life in Richmond (or Washington, D.C.). In fact, we need more investigations, not fewer. Gov. McAuliffe is new to Richmond. Let’s hope that this rare potential hero figure in a leadership role isn’t expanding health care mainly for insurance industry profit and vetoing ethics legislation only to kill sorely needed reform just so that he can somehow fit in down there by doing things “the Richmond way”!