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My Vision, My Future – Workshop for teens and preteens

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When:
March 14, 2020 @ 1:00 pm – 3:00 pm
2020-03-14T13:00:00-04:00
2020-03-14T15:00:00-04:00
Where:
Ruby Yoga
17 A. South Royal Ave | Front Royal VA 22630
Cost:
$20 and includes all supplies
Contact:
Ruby Yoga
540-303-2182

Join Ruby Yoga and Healing HeARTS Mobile Art Studio for a fun and insightful workshop to help teens and preteens dream big and envision what the future could hold for them.

Set for Saturday, March 14, 1-3 p.m., we’ll start with an intro to yoga class that will allow participants to relax and begin to open to the possibilities in their life. Artist Diana Cercy of Healing HeARTS Mobile Art Studio will then lead participants in a vision board exercise, using images and words from magazines to create a journal book cover that is a powerful visual tool to connect with what they want in life, how they want to feel, who they want to become, and what they crave to experience. The inside of the journal will be a space that the participant can use to continue exploring dreams or goals with words, images or art. Cost is $20 and includes all supplies.

State News

Two former election officials file federal lawsuits against Nottoway County

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When:
March 14, 2020 @ 1:00 pm – 3:00 pm
2020-03-14T13:00:00-04:00
2020-03-14T15:00:00-04:00
Where:
Ruby Yoga
17 A. South Royal Ave | Front Royal VA 22630
Cost:
$20 and includes all supplies
Contact:
Ruby Yoga
540-303-2182

Nottoway County’s former election registrar and one of her assistants have filed separate federal lawsuits claiming they were wrongfully fired from the elections office last year and should be reinstated to their old jobs.

The pair of suits, which both name several county boards and local officials as defendants, were filed last week by Angela Stewart, who served as the county’s registrar for nearly three decades until she was terminated almost exactly one year ago, and Sharon Caldwell, a longtime Nottoway officer of election who served as an assistant registrar for two years.

The lawsuits — which include claims of due process violations, wrongful termination, free-speech violations, and defamation — are the latest development in a long-running fight over the rural county’s elections office. With two factions lodging broad accusations of skullduggery and illegality against each other, the litigation could shed more light on who has the law on their side.

The county has not yet filed a formal response, but an attorney said Nottoway expects the claims to be dismissed.

“The lawsuits have no merit, factually or legally, for many reasons,” said Andrew McRoberts of the Richmond-based Sands Anderson law firm.

In addition to asking the courts to give them their positions back, Stewart and Caldwell are both seeking back pay and damages. The two women have retained the same law firm for the litigation, Roanoke-based Williams & Strickler. Their attorneys declined to comment.

Under Virginia law, city and county election registrars answer to three-member boards controlled by whichever political party won the most recent gubernatorial election. Those boards, made up of local party activists selected by judges, are supposed to operate in a nonpartisan manner. But some election officials feel the state needs stronger laws to protect registrars from being fired for specious or political reasons, arguing the current system makes registrars susceptible to pressure from the party in power.

The court filings claim the Democratic-controlled Nottoway Electoral Board fired Stewart and Caldwell without sufficient proof they had failed to carry out their duties according to state law. The lawsuits also insist various local figures falsely accused Stewart and Caldwell of wrongdoing to support their termination.

Democratic members of the Nottoway Electoral Board have portrayed Stewart’s firing as justified and have defended the person hired to replace her, current Registrar Rodney Reynolds, against a backlash they say is unfounded and driven largely by Republican activists.

Stewart says she was given no “meaningful opportunity” to defend herself before last year’s meeting, where the board unanimously voted to remove her. She claims that the meeting violated state transparency laws because the agenda gave no notice the board would consider a vote to fire her.

The suit says Stewart was only served with a notice on the night of the meeting, and its official justification for her firing was inaccurate. The notice said Stewart had failed to post information about early voting locations in the county and failed to “apply for grant funding for Sunday voting in a manner that would permit the electoral board to adequately prepare for the upcoming election,” according to court records. Stewart says she posted the legally required notices of all voting locations and contends any dispute over how to handle Sunday voting can’t legally justify her firing.

Caldwell’s complaint is similar, claiming her removal was also unlawful because she didn’t violate her duties as an assistant registrar and election officer.

The defendants named in Stewart’s lawsuit are the county general, the Nottoway Board of Supervisors, the Nottoway Electoral Board and its members, and Nottoway Democratic Committee Chairman Thomas Crews, and Nottoway Supervisor John Roark.

The suit claims Roark attended a closed session of the Nottoway Electoral Board as Stewart’s job was being discussed and “has boasted that he played a role in the removal.”

Stewart’s complaint accuses Crews of spreading “false and defamatory” information about Stewart by claiming she created a bogus certificate of election for an unnamed Nottoway official. Crews declined to comment.

Early voting for the midterm elections began last week, but it’s highly unlikely the Nottoway lawsuits could advance fast enough to cause another leadership change in the county elections office before Nov. 8.

In 2019, when Democrats controlled all local electoral boards, the General Assembly passed a Republican-sponsored bill that would’ve given courts the final authority to decide when a registrar should be removed from office. At the time, supporters argued it would insulate registrars from political pressure.

Former Gov. Ralph Northam vetoed the bill, saying that “Virginia law already provides specific circumstances in which a registrar can be removed” and creating a lengthier court process would make it difficult to get rid of registrars who might be “egregiously breaking the law.”

“This legislation has far too many unintended consequences,” Northam wrote in his veto message.

by Graham Moomaw, Virginia Mercury


 

Virginia Mercury is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Virginia Mercury maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Sarah Vogelsong for questions: info@virginiamercury.com. Follow Virginia Mercury on Facebook and Twitter.

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State News

As early voting starts, Youngkin’s elections commissioner calls system ‘dependable’

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When:
March 14, 2020 @ 1:00 pm – 3:00 pm
2020-03-14T13:00:00-04:00
2020-03-14T15:00:00-04:00
Where:
Ruby Yoga
17 A. South Royal Ave | Front Royal VA 22630
Cost:
$20 and includes all supplies
Contact:
Ruby Yoga
540-303-2182

Virginia Elections Commissioner Susan Beals checks in at the Chesterfield County elections office on the first day of early voting. (Photo by Graham Moomaw/Virginia Mercury)

 

As a woman in a purple blazer lined up to cast a ballot on the first day of early voting in Chesterfield County, one election worker nudged another and said: “She’s the boss.”

It took less than 10 minutes for Susan Beals, Virginia’s new commissioner of elections, to vote early in Chesterfield, the Richmond-area suburb where she served as a local electoral board member before Gov. Glenn Youngkin appointed her to the state’s top election job.

There were no problems as she showed her ID, had a ballot made in front of her by one of the on-demand ballot printers many cities and counties are adopting for early voting, filled it out, and fed it into a scanner as one of the first few dozen midterm votes cast in her home county.

While a significant number of her fellow Republicans continue to stoke doubts about the 2020 election, Beals, a 47-year-old former GOP aide, said in an interview she’s confident in the election process she’s overseeing at the state level for the first time.

“We have a dependable system in Virginia,” said Beals. “We can always make process improvements, and that’s something that I’m committed to.”

Beals said “people are entitled to have questions” about the process, but the answers are readily available.

“Find somebody who knows the answer,” she said. “Seek out an election official and ask them how the process works. Because most of them would be very happy to tell you.”

Beals, who served on the Chesterfield electoral board for several years before Youngkin picked her in March to lead the state agency, has had other important business on her plate that doesn’t involve actual voting, like taking over an ongoing information technology project to replace the state’s voter system. She’s also been preparing an outreach campaign to inform voters about the impacts of redistricting, an initiative that will involve roughly 6 million voter notices that should hit mailboxes early this week.

But the start of the 45-day early voting window on Friday, in a year when Virginia will have at least two hotly contested congressional races on the ballot, will cast a new spotlight on how Youngkin’s administration will handle the work of running elections.

Beals praised the thousands of election officers across Virginia who are getting to work helping people vote, calling them “patriotic Americans” who are “committed to making democracy work.” Asked if she believes those sowing mistrust about elections is making that job harder, Beals said, “there’s a lot of scrutiny of elections right now.”

“But everything I have seen from election officials is that they are conducting themselves professionally,” she said. “I have faith in our election officials and their commitment to their profession and their commitment to their communities.”

Asked how she feels about the “election integrity” unit Attorney General Jason Miyares recently announced, which has drawn backlash from Democrats who say it feeds into conspiracy theorizing about stolen elections, Beals characterized it as fairly routine.

“To me, that’s a normal relationship that we have,” she said. “They provide advice. If there is something that needs to be investigated, our board will vote to turn it over to the AG and ask them to investigate it.”

Virginia Republicans failed to repeal or scale back voting reforms Democrats passed two years ago when they had full political control, meaning the 45-day early voting window and the law-making photo IDs optional will still be in place for Virginia’s midterms.

The major change to state election policy this year is same-day registration, a policy Democrats passed in 2020 with a delayed effective date of October 2022. The new policy allows people to continue to register and cast a provisional ballot after the regular voter registration period closes on Oct. 17.

Beals said she’s not encouraging potential voters to put things off to take advantage of that new law because registering in advance remains the easiest voting experience. Anyone casting a provisional ballot won’t be feeding it into the scanners as other voters do, she said, because election officials have to take time to research whether the person is a valid voter or not.

“I would very much prefer that everyone who wants to vote in this election try to get registered before October 17,” Beals said. “Because we want you to vote a regular ballot.”

Youngkin talks elections in Texas

As early voting got underway, the man who hired Beals was taking a stage in Austin at the Texas Tribune Festival, where the topic of Republican election denialism came up as Youngkin sat for an interview at the high-profile political event.

David M. Drucker, a political correspondent with the Washington Examiner, asked Youngkin about his planned campaign stops for Republican candidates like Kari Lake, the GOP nominee for governor in Arizona who insists, falsely, that former President Donald Trump won in 2020.

“You are comfortable supporting Republicans that have issues or dispute the outcome of the last election?” Drucker asked.

“I am comfortable supporting Republican candidates. And we don’t agree on everything,” Youngkin replied. “I have said that I firmly believe that Joe Biden was elected president.”

Closer to home, Sen. Amanda Chase, R-Chesterfield, who has spread 2020 conspiracy theories without producing evidence of widespread fraud in Virginia’s election, has called on Youngkin to suspend the use of all “voting computers” in Virginia and switch to hand-counting all ballots.

There’s been no sign that the Youngkin administration is taking her suggestion seriously, and the state usually avoids making major changes just as an election begins.

Paper ballots are used throughout Virginia after the state discontinued the use of touch-screen voting machines in 2017 due to security concerns.

Beals, who once worked as an aide to Chase, called paper ballots “one of the most secure ways to vote” and indicated she had no problem with the state continuing to use scanners that are routinely tested for accuracy.

“It is a counting machine,” Beals said. “It is not a voting machine. It is a machine that counts ballots.”

As Beals waited for a coffee at a Starbucks near the Chesterfield voting office, she got a text message from her predecessor. Former elections commissioner Chris Piper, whom Youngkin chose not to keep in the job, wished her well as her first election got underway.

“You got this!” Piper said.

by Graham Moomaw, Virginia Mercury


Virginia Mercury is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Virginia Mercury maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Sarah Vogelsong for questions: info@virginiamercury.com. Follow Virginia Mercury on Facebook and Twitter.

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Opinion

Dr. Petrolove or: How I learned to stop worrying and love fossil fuels

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When:
March 14, 2020 @ 1:00 pm – 3:00 pm
2020-03-14T13:00:00-04:00
2020-03-14T15:00:00-04:00
Where:
Ruby Yoga
17 A. South Royal Ave | Front Royal VA 22630
Cost:
$20 and includes all supplies
Contact:
Ruby Yoga
540-303-2182

We always knew it would come to this.

That it would start … out there. Out on the Left Coast where all the loonies live: California, the land of surfboards and wildfires; of Google, Apple and Microsoft; of swimming pools and movie stars. And godless liberals.

That’s the sort of place where wild-eyed, un-American ideas get seeded by some radical who dares to think beyond this decade and where it would take root and, before you knew it, creep across the purple mountain majesties and the fruited plain like kudzu.

Sure ’nuff, it happened: a sneak attack. OK … a sneak attack with 13 years’ notice, but that’s no time at all when you’re talking about ending the sale of new gasoline-powered cars.

Youngkin’s my name. Glenn Youngkin. I command this conservative outpost called Virginia, and if those granola-munching, tree-hugging, Birkenstock-wearing lefties are spoiling to go toe-to-toe over our precious petroleum fluids, well … hold my Chardonnay.

A slick-haired, tan-from-a-can dandy named Gavin Newsom, my counterpart in California started this dust-up. And I aim to finish it. It was his doing and that of the lefty legislature out in the so-called Golden State that flat-out dictated that come 2035, there would be no more brand-new cars sold that rely on internal combustion of petroleum distillates for locomotion. If you buy it new off a dealer’s lot or order it online factory-fresh, it’ll run off hydrogen fuel like some spaceship or you’ll have to plug it in like some lowly vacuum cleaner or washing machine.

That’s pretty rich, ain’t it? A state that barely a week ago was warning of rolling blackouts on account of a freak heat wave draining its power grid is going to force folks to buy cars that run off the very electricity that they already can’t make enough of.

Not that it’s any skin off ol’ Glenn’s hind parts if Californians won’t have the privilege of paying upwards of seven frogskins a gallon for regular gas – nearly nine bucks for high-test – as they did several weeks ago. What slaps my chaps is that what Newsom did means I’d have to do the same thing across the country here in god-fearin’, carbon-lovin’ Virginia, too.

Like hell I will.

The Biden administration’s goal to have half of all U.S. vehicles be electric by 2030, will require increased production of minerals such as lithium, nickel and cobalt used in batteries. (Sarah Vogelsong/Virginia Mercury)

I’m pulling Virginia out of this Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative and I’m asking the General Assembly to repeal this perfidious state law the Democrats passed in 2021 that requires us to follow California’s lead on emissions policy. Seventeen other states are part of this same devil’s deal, but I can only strike a blow for the good of our fossil fuels here in Virginia (unless I strike it lucky in the 2024 presidential primaries, but that’s another tale).

Here comes Lionel Mandrake, my somewhat uptight, British-born environmental policy wonk, walking into my office. Right on time.

“Mandrake, have a seat,” I said, motioning to the chair opposite my desk.

“Good evening, sir. Do I understand correctly that we’re threatening to leave the multi-state vehicle emissions compact and that you’ve placed the House of Delegates on Condition Red?” Mandrake said. “Good idea. Keep the lads on their toes.”

“I’m afraid this isn’t a drill, Mandrake,” I replied.

“Oh dear. Is California involved?”

“Looks like it. Could get pretty hairy.”

I took a sip of my preferred cocktail, an oaky Pinot Grigio and rainwater. “Mandrake, I can no longer sit back and allow leftist infiltration, leftist indoctrination, leftist subversion and the international leftist conspiracy to sap and impurify our precious petrochemical fluids!”

“But sir, might we be acting a bit … rashly? I mean, the whole bloody point will likely be moot by 2035 whether we act or not. The mass conversion to electric vehicles is well under way. Detroit and the world’s other automakers are retooling and switching entire model lines pell-mell from internal combustion engines to electric motors. Why, there’s even a new start-up right here in Virginia that’s in business converting big-rig tractors from diesel engines to electrical. Our own transportation department just announced plans for a major expansion of electrical charging stations along interstates across Virginia. And our friends at Dominion are ever so keen on the idea of vehicles that use electricity,” Mandrake said.

“Friends? Dominion?” I said, giving Mandrake the stink-eye.

“Dreadfully sorry. Habit from the not-too-distant past,” he said.

“Mandrake, do you realize that EV dominance is the most monstrously conceived, leftist/environmentalist plot we’ve ever faced?”

“Nevertheless, sir, carmakers are going where the money and incentives are, and if a market the size of Cali goes EV, so shall they. Were California, its own country, it would be the world’s fifth-largest economy ,right behind Germany and just ahead of the United Kingdom — God save the king. California’s almost $3 trillion annual GDP accounts for nearly 15% of the entire American economy,” he continued in a pleading tone.

“And sir,” Mandrake continued, “General Motors has already announced it will bring 30 new EV models to market in just the next three years and manufacture EVs exclusively by 2035. Ford has invested $22 billion into electric vehicles, and 40% of all that it produces will be all-electric by 2030. Besides, sir, this shan’t affect the sale of pre-owned petrol-powered cars by one tuppence.”

“Sit down and chill, Mandrake. I’ve already gotten the ball rolling with Todd Gilbert and our boys in the House. There’s no stopping it now,” I said.

“I beg of you, Glenn – politics aside — have you considered the climatological implications? It brings us incrementally closer to … the Doomsday Machine,” he said ominously. “It’s getting worse every year, sir: triple-digit temperatures in Portland, Oregon, and even Scotland, for goodness sake; a full-blown hurricane now forecast to blast the Canadian coast near Newfoundland; estuaries and reservoirs drying up in the American Southwest; hundred-year floods happening every year.”

“The libs have been using that global warming hooey to try to scare the bejeebers out of us for decades now. Every study the petroleum industry pays for proves the same thing: science can’t be trusted,” I replied.

“But you don’t have to believe me, Mandrake,” I continued, buzzing my receptionist. “Can you send in Dr. Petrolove?”

Petrolove sir?” Mandrake asked. “Wasn’t he …”

“Yeah. I put him on retainer after he made parole for his part in that Enron nastiness back in the 2000s. Knows every dirty secret in the oil and gas biz and some they haven’t even thought up yet. If your ‘Doomsday Machine’ exists, Petro will know about it.”

“’Sup, chief?” Petrolove called out in his Texas twang as he strutted into my office.

“Petro, Mandrake here tells me there’s the risk of some ‘Doomsday Machine’ that could plunge humanity into environmental oblivion if we keep standing up for our friends in the carbon-energy sector,” I said. “Go ahead and tell him how full of malarkey he is.”

“Um …,” Petro said, shuffling his cowboy boots, unable to look at me.

“Go ahead, Doc. School Mandrake for me.”

“Well, el hefe,” Petrolove said, haltingly clearing his throat, “the Doomsday Machine is real and terrifying, but completely credible and easy to understand. If we don’t decrease the carbon that we’re pumping into the atmosphere, it will create a doomsday shroud around the planet.”

Chills ran down my back. I swallowed hard. Suddenly I understood. Why hadn’t I seen the devastating truth of this all along? Why had I clung to naïve beliefs in the face of clear evidence? It was, indeed, an inconvenient truth, but it was high time I accepted it … and spoke it.

“Damn shame the libs got to you, too, Petro. You’re fired.”

by Bob Lewis, Virginia Mercury


Virginia Mercury is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Virginia Mercury maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Sarah Vogelsong for questions: info@virginiamercury.com. Follow Virginia Mercury on Facebook and Twitter.

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Community Events

SAR conducts ceremony to honor the memory of Daniel Morgan

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When:
March 14, 2020 @ 1:00 pm – 3:00 pm
2020-03-14T13:00:00-04:00
2020-03-14T15:00:00-04:00
Where:
Ruby Yoga
17 A. South Royal Ave | Front Royal VA 22630
Cost:
$20 and includes all supplies
Contact:
Ruby Yoga
540-303-2182

On September 17, 2022, the Colonel James Wood II Chapter of the Virginia Society Sons of the American Revolution conducted a ceremony to honor the memory of Daniel Morgan on Constitution Day. The ceremony was held in Mt Hebron Cemetery at Morgan’s grave site. The Shenandoah Christian Alliance and Boy Scout Troop #5 participated along with the SAR after a program to commemorate the Constitution.

Participants from the Colonel James Wood II Chapter and Boy Scout Troop #5. (Photos courtesy of Thomas “Chip” Daniel)

A combined color guard consisting of compatriots from the SAR and the Boy Scouts from Troop 5 marched to Morgan’s grave site for a ceremony to commemorate Daniel Morgan’s service during the Revolutionary War. In 1775, Morgan recruited a company called “Morgan’s Riflemen” who conducted the beeline march from Virginia to Boston in 21 days. His company was sent to Quebec where he was injured and captured, a POW until his release in early 1776. Morgan’s ability to think beyond the confines of the accepted standards of warfare led to his significant contributions throughout the war.

Thomas “Chip” Daniel presenting a wreath to Daniel Morgan.

While in command of light infantry, Morgan and his men used hit and run maneuvers, utilizing tactics that disturbed the disciplined British troops. As a commander, he made significant contributions to the victory at the Battle of Saratoga. In the south, his main adversary was Lieutenant Colonel Banastre Tarleton. In January 1781, Morgan lured Tarleton into a trap and utilized a double envelopment tactic that had not been previously used. With Tarleton’s aggressive behavior and belief the colonials were an inept force, Morgan had a complete victory which became the turning point in the Southern Campaign. This eventually led to the victory at Yorktown. For his efforts, Congress granted Morgan a gold medal.

The musket squad firing a salute, from left to right: Allan Phillips, Thomas “Chip” Daniel, Kelly Ford, Mike St Jacques and Sean Carrigan.

Compatriot Mike St Jacques gave a presentation on “Who is Daniel Morgan”. A prayer was offered by the Reverend Larry Johnson, a wreath presented to honor the Revolutionary War Hero by Thomas “Chip” Daniel and the musket squad fired a three round salute. Participating for the SAR were Brian Bayliss, Dale Carpenter, Sean Carrigan, Thomas “Chip” Daniel, Kelly Ford, Larry Johnson, Allan Phillips, Tom Reed, Mike St Jacques and Richard Tyler. Also attending from the SAR were Marshal DeHaven and Wayne Barringer.

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State News

Big Bon Secours profits from a bare-bones Richmond hospital and more Va. headlines

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When:
March 14, 2020 @ 1:00 pm – 3:00 pm
2020-03-14T13:00:00-04:00
2020-03-14T15:00:00-04:00
Where:
Ruby Yoga
17 A. South Royal Ave | Front Royal VA 22630
Cost:
$20 and includes all supplies
Contact:
Ruby Yoga
540-303-2182

The state Capitol. (Ned Oliver/ Virginia Mercury)

 

• A bare-bones community hospital in one of Richmond’s poorest neighborhoods has the highest profit margin of any hospital in Virginia. Its profitability comes from a drug program aimed at helping impoverished communities, but nonprofit health system Bon Secours isn’t reinvesting the money back into the facility.—New York Times

• An election fight between two Republican lawmakers from Southwest Virginia is getting physical, with Del. Marie March pursuing criminal charges against Del. Wren Williams over a collision at a GOP fundraising event. March says Williams intentionally pushed her. Williams says it was an accidental bump.—Cardinal News

• “Descendants of enslaved Virginians who worked in the Executive Mansion say they want their ancestors acknowledged during public tours at the home.”—Axios

• Former Virginia congressman Denver Riggleman is frustrating members of the congressional Jan. 6 committee he worked for by publishing a “behind-the-scenes” book before the investigation is finished.—Washington Post

• The percentage of Virginia students getting basic vaccinations required for school has been “steadily declining since 2008.”—Virginian-Pilot

• A judge admonished a former Prince William County election official for not quickly hiring a lawyer to defend herself against corruption charges.—WTOP

• Some NFL owners say they’re given increasing consideration to the idea of forcing Washington Commanders owner Dan Snyder to sell the team.—Washington Post

• U.S. Sen. Mark Warner got a can of tuna delivered via drone in Christiansburg. “Looks to me like I got lunch.”—Roanoke Times

• An Eastern Shore man carved a 1,600-foot chain out of wood.—WAVY

by Staff Report, Virginia Mercury


Virginia Mercury is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Virginia Mercury maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Sarah Vogelsong for questions: info@virginiamercury.com. Follow Virginia Mercury on Facebook and Twitter.

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Regional News

U.S. House GOP outlines agenda in bid for control in the midterms

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When:
March 14, 2020 @ 1:00 pm – 3:00 pm
2020-03-14T13:00:00-04:00
2020-03-14T15:00:00-04:00
Where:
Ruby Yoga
17 A. South Royal Ave | Front Royal VA 22630
Cost:
$20 and includes all supplies
Contact:
Ruby Yoga
540-303-2182

WASHINGTON — U.S. House Republicans gathered inside a warehouse in Southwestern Pennsylvania on Friday to outline the legislation they will try to enact if voters give them back control of that chamber following the November midterm elections.

Speaking from an HVAC factory in Monongahela, about an hour south of Pittsburgh, House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy said the first bill he’d bring to the floor if elected speaker would repeal part of a Democratic law that boosted funding for the Internal Revenue Service.

“On that very first day that we’re sworn in, you’ll see that it all changes because on our very first bill, we’re going to repeal 87,000 IRS agents,” McCarthy said, using a number Democrats have repeatedly said isn’t an accurate representation of what the funding boost would do. “Our job is to work for you, not go after you.”

None of the proposals that were sketched out came with a price tag showing how much a Republican House would change spending compared to current levels. Republicans also said they’d “protect the lives of unborn children and their mothers” but did not detail exactly what nationwide abortion restrictions they’d bring to the floor or how they’d address maternal mortality rates.

Louisiana Rep. Steve Scalise, who would likely move from whip to majority leader if his party regained control, said Republicans would put forward bills to reduce inflation and bring down energy costs.

“We wanted to lay out a bold, conservative vision to show the country there’s hope again,” Scalise said. “The commitment to America is going to show the country, if you give us a Republican majority in the House, these are the things we will do.”

Democrats broadly panned the Republicans’ rollout of their plan.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, a Maryland Democrat, said during a speech in Pittsburgh that the House GOP’s “new platform, which isn’t new at all, is long on slogans and short on details.”

Campaigns underway

Democrats narrowly hold the House, maintaining 221 seats to Republicans’ 212 members, with two vacancies.

Both parties are pouring millions of dollars into swing districts throughout the country, hoping to convince voters that their vision for the country’s future is the best path forward following a tumultuous few years that included a pandemic, a Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection by Donald Trump supporters hoping to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election and record inflation.

The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade this summer, ending half a century of a constitutionally protected right to an abortion, is also playing out on the campaign trail.

Democrats have repeatedly urged voters to reject GOP abortion policies by keeping them in control of both chambers of Congress, while Republicans have tried to sidestep the issue in some more contentious races.

Pennsylvania Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate John Fetterman has highlighted Republican candidate Mehmet Oz’s relative silence on a new bill from South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham that would cap most abortions at 15 weeks nationwide.

“Oz is a fraud who does not even have the guts to give a yes or no answer when it comes to how we would vote on the abortion ban bill that has been introduced in the U.S. Senate,” Fetterman said in a statement Friday. “He’s dodging this very real question and thinks Pennsylvanians won’t notice.”

That close race in the Keystone State and others likely drew the Republicans and Hoyer to its southwest corner on Friday.

Four planks

The Republicans’ Commitment to America has four broad planks. Three focus on economic issues, national security and crime, and government transparency. The fourth includes health care, technology, and education policy.

The economic category proposes a Republican-held U.S. House would reduce government spending, though it declines to say where lawmakers would cut federal funding. It also says the party would boost domestic energy production and expand U.S. manufacturing.

To address national security issues, the House GOP plans to “fully fund effective border enforcement strategies,” support 200,000 additional police officers through bonuses and “invest in an efficient, effective military.”

House Republicans say if voters give them back control of that chamber, they will create a “future built on freedom,” in part by preventing transgender women from competing in women’s sports and lowering health care prices by boosting competition.

The proposal also calls for the GOP to “save and strengthen” Social Security and Medicare, though it doesn’t provide details about how they’d change the longstanding popular social programs that primarily serve the elderly.

Those two entitlement programs and Medicaid are categorized as mandatory government spending, meaning they run mostly on autopilot and represent the fastest-growing section of federal spending.

Abortion bills

Under the section on government accountability, Republicans tackle abortion without specifics, though during this session of Congress, House Republicans have introduced more than 100 bills addressing abortion in some way.

One bill, from Pennsylvania Republican Rep. Mike Kelly, would bar abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected, typically about six weeks into a pregnancy and sometimes before a woman knows she’s pregnant.

The measure, which has 123 co-sponsors, has an exemption for abortions that are essential to save the pregnant patient’s life, but not for rape or incest.

Legislation from West Virginia Rep. Alex Mooney, backed by 166 co-sponsors, would “implement equal protection for the right to life” at the moment of fertilization.

The legislation doesn’t detail if or when women would be able to access abortions, including in cases of ectopic pregnancies, which are never viable, or miscarriages that sometimes require the same medications or procedures as elective abortions.

A 20-week abortion ban, sponsored by New Jersey Rep. Christopher Smith, has the backing of 173 House Republicans. The proposal includes exceptions after 20 weeks of pregnancy if it’s the result of rape or incest, but only if the patient “has obtained counseling for the rape” or “has obtained medical treatment for the rape or an injury related to the rape.”

A child whose pregnancy results from rape or incest would be allowed abortion after 20 weeks if the minor has reported the crime to a “government agency legally authorized to act on reports of child abuse,” or law enforcement, under Smith’s legislation.

Abortions after 20 weeks would also be legal if the pregnancy would endanger the patient’s life because of a physical illness or injury, but not “psychological or emotional conditions.”

Investigations promised

U.S. House Republicans at the rollout celebration Friday didn’t mention their abortion proposals but detailed many other aspects of their plan for a GOP majority, including investigations.

Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan pledged that various committees would hold investigations into the U.S. military’s withdrawal from Afghanistan, the origins of COVID-19, and various actions by the U.S. Department of Justice.

“We are committed to doing the investigations that need to be done,” Jordan said. “After all, that is part of our constitutional duty, to do the oversight and make sure you, the country, we, the people, have the facts and the truth.”

On education policy, Louisiana Rep. Julia Letlow said Republicans would bring up her so-called Parents Bill of Rights, which would impose new national regulations on state and local education bodies.

The legislation would require local education agencies to post curricula for elementary and secondary schools on a public website or widely disseminate them to the community if they don’t have a website.

Local education agencies would need to create annual report cards detailing all revenues and expenditures for the entire school system as well as each school.

“This is common sense legislation. It’s just about providing transparency for us,” Letlow said. “And so you, as a parent, should always — the first and foremost thing, be able to view your child’s curriculum.”

“And then secondly, if you don’t like what you find, if you don’t like what you see, you should be able to go to your school board and lawfully tell them this needs to change. You should have that right as a parent,” she added.

Parents would also be granted the right to know if states change their academic standards, to meet at least twice a year with their child’s teacher, to review the books and reading material in the school library, and to receive information about violence within the school.

Democrats push back

Hoyer, in Pittsburgh, said there were few specifics from Republicans “because the true details of Republicans’ agenda are too frightening for most American voters. Details matter, however.”

Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in a statement that Republicans’ policy goals threaten “to criminalize women’s health care, slash seniors’ Medicare and raise prescription drug prices, and attack our free and fair elections.”

“These appalling proposals have long been advanced by right-wing politicians and are widely supported by the dark money special interests who call the shots in the GOP,” the California Democrat said. “But this extreme MAGA agenda is way out of step with Americans’ priorities, who align with Democrats’ vision of putting people over politics: with lower costs, better-paying jobs and safer communities.”

President Joe Biden, speaking at a Democratic National Committee event at the National Education Association headquarters in Washington, D.C., rebuked House Republicans’ plan, saying it was “a thin series of policy goals, with little or no detail.”

by Jennifer Shutt, Virginia Mercury


Virginia Mercury is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Virginia Mercury maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Sarah Vogelsong for questions: info@virginiamercury.com. Follow Virginia Mercury on Facebook and Twitter.

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