Sunday, February 7, 2021

Your February 7th Sunday Summary

Dear Friend of TJI,
On January 26, the San Francisco School Board renamed dozens of public school buildings. Among those not worthy of honor: Franklin Roosevelt, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, John Muir, Robert Louis Stevenson, Paul Revere, and Dianne Feinstein (here and here). Nor did they stop there. Clarendon Elementary was renamed because (this is an exact quote): “Named for the street its on, whose origins can be traced to a county in South Carolina, one of the 13 Colonies named for Edward Hyde Earl of Claredon — English Politician — Clarendon was impeached by the House of Commons for blatant violations of Habeas Corpus, for having sent prisoners out of England to places like Jersey and holding them there without benefit of trial.” The work of the woke never ends.
Meanwhile …
1.) The city of San Francisco sued its own School Board for failing to plans for re-opening the schools for the children they are supposed to teach (here). C’mon, man! Priorities! Those kids might be damaged if they had to attend schools named after guys like Abraham Lincoln!
2.) Friday marked “crossover” in the General Assembly – the day by which all bills must have passed their house of origination in order to continue living and “cross over” to the other House. A major issue on which the Thomas Jefferson Institute has fought has been over whether or not Virginia should conform to the feds and allow employers who received forgivable Paycheck Protection Plan loans and who kept their employees employed during the pandemic to deduct the expenses. Congress did, and conformity would recognize that keeping paychecks going to families is better than unemployment and welfare.
Senior Fellow for State and Local Tax Policy Steve Haner described the situation here and here. We sent out an alert to our supporters here. Failing to conform constituted, in our view, a tax on the PPP loans that kept those employees employed.
We’re happy to report that the bill passed out of the Senate did not ignore those employers, although it could have done better. It did not limit them to $50,000 in deductible expenses, but expanded it to $100,000, covering about 80 percent of employers taking loans to help their employees, and passed it on a 39-0 vote. You can read the bill history here. We continue to favor allowing the full expensing and, in fact, Senator Ryan McDougle proposed an amendment to do that, but it was rejected 17-22. You can see who your friends are here.
Over at the House of Delegates, there was less success. There, the House actually lowered the deductible expenses to only $25,000, thereby raising the tax on the PPP loans. You can read that bill’s history here.
The bills now go to a Conference Committee, and we’ll continue to fight and remind General Assembly members they need to stand up for those who stood up for their employees and did the right thing as the state shut down their operations.
3.) Believers in the free market are forced to make an exception when it comes to public utilities: In exchange for being given what is a fundamentally protected monopoly, rates are to be approved by an independent State Corporation Commission (SCC). But over the years, the General Assembly has taken much of the SCC’s decision-making away, leaving questions about rates and profits in the hands of an increasingly politicized General Assembly, anxious to make friends with powerful allies. The result has been legislation like the Virginia Clean Economy Act and ratepayers paying more than they would have otherwise.
Five bills strengthening the SCC’s oversight came before the House and the Jefferson Institute’s Steve Haner explained why Republicans should be supporting legislation to rein in a form of crony capitalism here. About a handful of Republicans supported one or more of the measures (here), and we note most were younger and represent the next generation of elected Republicans. The bills now head over to the Senate.
4.) “I’ve got to be honest, on the one hand people say, ‘We need fewer landfills, let’s regulate landfills, let’s get rid of landfills.’ On the other hand, this is a bill that says, OK, we’re going to bring in an industry that’s going to create something from this waste, and people are opposed to that,” said Sen. Chap Petersen about Senator Emmett Hanger’s advanced recycling bill. It all makes sense as long as one understands the goal of the Left is simply to reduce waste by not making things available. We explain the advantages of advanced recycling here. The House bill died in Committee; the Senate bill passed 34-4 and now heads over to the House.
5.) The Parole Board, which has recently established a reputation for freeing dangerous prisoners convicted of heinous crimes, operates under a veil of secrecy … but the veil may be lifted a bit if two bills continue their progress through the General Assembly. Senator Mark Obenshain’s bill (here) requires the Parole Board, within seven days after making a decision about a prisoner, to notify the victims. It passed the Senate unanimously. Senator David Suetterlein’s (here), requiring the Parole Board to make decisions on a recorded vote, passed the Senate 33-6. The bills now go to the House.

6.) A bill introduced by Senator Jennifer McClellan expands the list of those covered by the Virginia Human Rights Act to those engaged in domestic work. Sounds good, but the expansion means that if you hire a nannie, caretaker, or potentially a tutor, your household is turned into an employer ... complete with the obligatory paperwork, Social Security taxes and payroll tax. SB1310 passed the Senate on a party-line vote. It now goes to the House.
7.) Permissive criminal justice reform remains high on the Left’s agenda, but one issue they won’t seem to touch is that of reforming collective bargaining agreements for police unions. Such agreements too often constrain department leadership and tilt the playing field away from accountability for officers’ misconduct, severely damaging community trust (here). Without reform, localities may be facing a new host of these issues come May 1, when collective bargaining will be permitted in Virginia for the first time.
8.) Governor Ralph Northam “expects” school divisions to bring students back for in-person learning by March 15 – roughly a full year after all schools were shut down. He also “encourages” schools to offer “additional learning opportunities” during the summer. Northam’s statement came three days after the State Senate passed on a bipartisan 26-13 vote Senator Siobhan Dunnavant’s bill requiring in-person or virtual schooling or any parents who want it (here). Northam’s letter (here) also contrasted vividly with Delegate Kirk Cox’s plan issued a day before to help schools and parents make up for a year of education lost (here). The Governor remains an official responding to events, not leading the way out of them.
9.) After ranking at the bottom of the list for weeks, Northam also finally responded to the vaccine crisis. Virginia is improving in its battle against COVID-19. The state now ranks 10 for percentage of Covid-19 vaccines administered (here). The White House Coronavirus State Profile Report (here), ranks Virginia #11 for highest number of new cases, #11 for highest test positivity, #11 for highest number of admissions per 100 beds, and #35 for highest new deaths per 100,000 residents.   Over at Bacon’s Rebellion, Jim Bacon dives deeper into the numbers (here). 
10.) One reason it has taken long to get here was observed by The New York Times, which pointed out progressive governments – internationally and in the United States – have fared worse (here). The point is echoed by The Washington Post, which notes that, in administering the vaccine, an axiom of conservatism works best: Keep it simple and without bureaucracy (here).

11.) President Joe Biden has moved quickly to bow deeply to the environmental special interests supporting his candidacy in ways both symbolic and serious. In the former category, his cancellation will lead to no measurable effect on the decarbonization of the U.S. economy, says Nate Hochman, and simply force us to enrich the pockets of freedom loving countries like Saudi Arabia, Russia, and Venezuela (here). In the latter category, says Jonathan Lesser, Biden's ban on federal land fracking will have a devastating effect on the economy and raise electricity rates (here). What is the ultimate goal? Virginia continues working with a coalition of states to end the use of gasoline. In a moment of candor, the Massachusetts coordinator makes the goal clear: "Turn the screws" and "Break your will." (here) Coming to Virginia?
Finally ... in England, Ben Marsh and his family remind us that however it feels here, it feels even worse in England.
Happy Sunday, Everyone.
We’re a bigger country. Get out from where you are.
Chris Braunlich
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The Thomas Jefferson Institute for Public Policy

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