1. Tobacco Friendly No More

“Tobacco-Friendly Virginia.”   How many times have we read this phrase and never given it a second thought? After this week, it is a label that will never be applied again. The General Assembly passed a smoking ban in restaurants by over 60% majorities in both chambers. Just a couple of years after Philip Morris USA moved their headquarters from New York City to Richmond. And despite the pleas of many bar and restaurant owners to let the market determine their practices. The bottom line is really quite simple: the majority of the public (especially in metropolitan areas) want the restaurants they patronize to be smoke-free and don’t want to have to guess about whether they are or are not.  The Assembly did their bidding.

2. We Haven’t Heard the End of It

One reason House Speaker Bill Howell supported the smoking ban was to remove it as an issue for the 2009 Assembly elections. And he took a lot of grief from members of his own caucus for doing so, some of whom were opposed to the bill on philosophical grounds and others who couldn’t stomach giving Tim Kaine a big victory just a few weeks after Barack Obama named him the Democrats’ Partisan-in-Chief. But we haven’t heard the end of the smoking ban.  Democrats will surely try to use Bob McDonnell’s opposition to it in the gubernatorial race in their effort to paint the former AG as out-of-touch with popular currents in Virginia. 

3. Will McDonnell and/or Bolling Follow Jindal’s Lead?

Bobby Jindal, the Governor of Louisiana, is really going to do it. He will tell President Obama “thanks, but no thanks” to part of the stimulus package that was to be directed to Louisiana.  Jindal claims that the strings attached to obtaining stimulus funding for expanding unemployment insurance will cost Louisiana  millions in the long run, so he is telling the President that Louisiana will take a pass on part of the money. Jindal’s move is likely to compel all the other GOP Governors who are actually thinking of running for President in 2012 to follow suit.  So what if you’re running for statewide office in 2009 in Virginia?  Will Bob McDonnell or Bill Bolling follow Jindal’s lead or do they think we should take every penny we can get our hands on?  I might be wrong here, but I think that the Louisiana Governor may well have introduced a new dimension to the 2009 statewide races in Virginia.

4. GOP Attorney General Face Off 

The Roanoke City and Salem Republicans put on a first-class debate this week between John Brownlee, Ken Cuccinelli and Dave Foster, the three contestants for the Republican nomination for Attorney General.  I was impressed with all three. Foster was smart and engaging. Cuccinelli exhibited a thoughtful and wide-ranging grasp of the issues facing the Commonwealth. And John Brownlee demonstrated that he could use his background as a prosecutor and his skill in the courtroom to be a very formidable statewide candidate. The conventional wisdom in GOP circles is that a convention favors Cuccinelli, but that he will need to win on the first ballot. If Brownlee and Foster can bring enough delegates to Richmond combined to prevent a Cuccinelli first ballot victory, the chances of one of them obtaining the nomination rise exponentially.

5. Bad News on the Media Watch

Major Virginia media companies, Media General and the Virginian Pilot, announced a new round of layoffs, furloughs, discontinuance of certain publications and other cost cutting measures at their newspapers this week. This is on top of previous cost cutting actions taken just a few months prior. All across the nation the survival of daily newspapers has become an open question as their business model seems increasingly obsolete.  Here’s the cruel irony: we’re obviously in “The Information Age,” yet many of the traditional “information” companies are teetering on the edge.

6. CrackBerry Crackdown

Senate Transportation this week voted to crack down on crackberry addicts, voting to levy a fine on individuals caught “texting while driving. ”  I’m not sure that we actually need a new category or a new violation- a plain old “Reckless Driving” would be fine with me. I just wonder when the insurance companies are going to start offering a seven step program for those addicted to the practice.

7. What Will the Stimulus Provide for K-12 Education?

Governor Kaine made clear this week that the federal stimulus package is likely to prevent further cuts in Medicaid services (at least for the 12-24 months that the money will be available). House and Senate budget writers will start to indicate how the dollars will impact other areas of the state budget. Given all the cuts being made in local K-12 budgets across the Commonwealth, everyone will be waiting to see what impact the stimulus money will have on public school funding  in the Commonwealth. his remains the $64,000 question (or, given the costs these days, the $1 billion question).

3 Comments

  1. After over a year of experience here in Chicago, trying to ban smoking in small neighborhood “shot and beer” bars is pretty useless. Many small bars in my area ignore the ban to keep their customers, neighbors, and local police (many are patrons when off duty) satisfied. The problem of undesirables being attracted by groups of people outside the bars and causing disturbances on the PUBLIC street, property that the owner has no control over, far outweighs the issue of people peacefully smoking inside a bar, bothering absolutly no one. Bars ignoring the ban also result in fewer kids being exposed to more smoke than ever before when adults gather at their homes instead of at a local bar.

  2. “the majority of the public (especially in metropolitan areas) want the restaurants they patronize to be smoke-free and don’t want to have to guess about whether they are or are not. ”

    rather than passing a law which will require enforcement, and thus place an additional burden on our law enforcement forces, why couldn’t they have just passed a bill that requires the owner to post a large neon sign visible from the street next to their entrance that says either Smoking Allowed or No Smoking. This would make it clear to employees and patrons both as what would take place inside the establishment.

    But that makes too much sense.

    one final point. If a bar owner or restaurateur wished to ban smoking from their establishment what was stopping them?

  3. Once this becomes law, this will become the year to remember because the people of Virginia were FINALLY heard louder than Big Tobacco. That is great news for Virginia Bars and Restaurants, too. Bottom line is that smoking stinks and non-smokers don’t want to smell it when they’re eating out. Whether studies are considered skewed or not, 80% of the population are non-smokers, and we frankly don’t want to be exposed to it. Maryland saw a substantial increase in business when they went non-smoking. Which population would an owner rather cater to – 1 out of 5, OR 4 out of 5? Non-smokers can finally enjoy the bar setting without being forced out by smoke! The facts are in the numbers. I’m not one to deny anyone their right to smoke, just take it outside. Airports and Hospitals have no smoking policies, and they haven’t gone out of business; restaurants won’t either. Smokers, don’t feel like you’re the ONLY ones that keep restaurants and bars in business.

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