1. Obama and McDonnell
One criticism of President Obama that is becoming more prevalent is that he has tried to accomplish too much, on too many fronts, too quickly. Don’t be surprised if the McDonnell administration takes a very different approach to the challenges the state faces and focuses more narrowly on efforts to jump start the Virginia economy and deal with the budget shortfall. The Governor-Elect gave a tantalizing hint in an interview last week when he noted that his economic team is looking at some policy initiatives that were not highlighted during the campaign. I could certainly be wrong, but this sounds like a possible tax cutting initiative intended to make Virginia a more attractive place for business and job creation.
2. You’ll be Hearing a Lot More About Local Governments’
Fiscal challenges during the next few months. In many localities the school superintendents are readying their budget proposals and the local jurisdictions are preparing their budgets for the next fiscal year. Early indications from across the Commonwealth indicate that the shortfalls discussed at the state level will have their largest impact on local government services.
3, Is Terry McAuliffe Following the Warner Model?
And preparing to spend the next four years working with local and regional organizations across Virginia to build a political base for another run at the Governorship. News that McAuliffe is involved in an effort to bring a “green automobile technology plant” to Virginia prompted the comparison this week. After his unsuccessful run for the Senate in 1996, Warner became involved in regional economic development efforts across the state as means of doing good, remaining visible and building a political base simultaneously. McAuliffe’s friends think that this is exactly what he needs to do if he wants another bite at the electoral apple. His critics wonder whether he has a long enough political attention span to spend four years at it.
4. If You Think Virginia Hasn’t Changed?
Just consider the smoking ban that will be enacted this week in the state’s restaurants. It was pushed by Governor Kaine, a Richmond-based elected official, just a few years after the Greater Richmond region successfully enticed Philip Morris USA to locate its corporate headquarters in the area. And the role that Speaker Bill Howell played in enacting the ban has yet to be fully explained and recognized. It was a bipartisan compromise that few people saw coming.
5. Marshall and McSweeney to Challenge Obamacare
Bob Marshall is one of the most unique individuals in the Virginia political arena. An unabashed social conservative from Prince William County, he has consistently fended off electoral challenges from Democrats interested in taking his seat. And his outspoken stances, criticisms of fellow Republicans, and willingness to go it alone on controversial issues have often irritated members of his own party as well. A few years ago, he joined forces with Pat McSweeney in a challenge to the state’s transportation “compromise” that permitted regional authorities to levy transportation-related tax increases and won the case unanimously in the Virginia Supreme Court. Marshall and McSweeney are apparently back together- this time on a “state” challenge to Obamacare that they intend to announce at this week’s GOP advance. I don’t quite know what he’ll have to say, but it may sketch out the kind of legal and political challenges that federal health care legislation could face in a number of states.
6. Alleged White House Crasher Sits on Virginia Tourism Corporation
It appears that the White House is not the only entity with a little egg on its face. According to a David Rees story in the RTD, alleged White House crasher Tareq Salahi’s Virginia connection is far deeper than being a resident and running a business. It seems that the Governor appointed Salahi to the board of the Virginia Tourism Corporation in 2006, an organization responsible for setting state tourism policy. Rees reports that the phone number Salahi provided the VTC rings at a winery number where the employee says he has no connection with the operation. Rees deserves kudos for his work on the Virginia Connection.
7. Underwater Homeowners
Virginia is the 7th in the nation according to a story on The wall Street Journal this week in the percentage of homeowners whose total mortgage amount exceeds the net worth of their home. The decline in personal wealth and the continuing anxety about employment have created a new political dynamic in the state, one to which the Virginia Republicans have been faster to respond.