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Virginia Politics Blog: April 11, 2010 - April 17, 2010

Cantor blames Democrats for excessive government spending in response to Obama's weekly radio address

Minority Whip Eric Cantor (Va.), the second-highest ranking Republican in the House, criticized President Obama and the Democratic-controlled Congress for "runaway spending" in his party's official response to Obama's weekly radio address. "The challenges and situations faced by families, small-business people and young workers have no doubt made this tax day particularly painful,'' Cantor said in recorded remarks. "But as painful as it was, the truth is that the actions taken by Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Majority Leader Harry Reid and the Obama administration are going to make the tax days of the future much, much worse." See the video of his remarks below or the full transcript after the jump:...

By Anita Kumar  |  April 17, 2010; 3:30 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (10)
Categories:  Anita Kumar , Barack Obama , Eric Cantor  
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Bolling forms committee to run for governor in 2013

Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling has formed a campaign committee to run for governor in 2013, sources tell us. We confirmed that information with the experts at the Virginia Public Access Project, a non-partisan tracker of money in politics. Bolling (R) quietly formed Friends of Bill Bolling on March 26, soon after the 60-day legislative session ended. The committee has not had to report what it has raised yet. In the spring of 2008, Bolling surprised many people, including then Attorney General Bob McDonnell, by deciding to seek re-election. McDonnell and Bolling ran as a team last year, and McDonnell has pledged to support Bolling for governor in 2013. Bolling, a former state senator who represented suburban Richmond, works part time as lieutenant governor and also is in the insurance business....

By Anita Kumar  |  April 16, 2010; 4:47 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (1)
Categories:  Anita Kumar , Bill Bolling  | Tags: Bill Bolling, Bob McDonnell, Candidates and Campaigns, Lieutenant Governor, Politics, Virginia  
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UPDATED: McDonnell rakes in hefty donations but trails Kaine's early record

A new report from the Virginia Public Access Project illustrates how statewide office holders have been affected by a change in the law that prevents them from rolling contributions collected for their Inaugural festivities into political action committees. VPAP, a nonpartisan tracker of money in politics, shows that Gov. Bob McDonnell's new political action committee Opportunity Virginia collected $266,155 in the first quarter of this year--from Jan. 1 to April 15. That means the PAC has taken in $429,500 since it was formed shortly after the election. Is that a lot?...

By Rosalind Helderman  |  April 16, 2010; 2:58 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
Categories:  Robert F. McDonnell , Rosalind Helderman , Timothy M. Kaine  
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McDonnell, Cuccinelli lead remembrance for Virginia Tech victims

Gov. Bob McDonnell led a solemn ceremony in memory of the victims of the Virginia Tech shootings at the Bell Tower in Capitol Square today, which marked the three-year anniversary of the event. Several dozen state employees joined McDonnell, some wearing Virginia Tech shirts, as he led a moment of silence, then read aloud the names of 32 students and faculty killed by student shooter Seung-Hui Cho. Wearing a red and orange ribbon on his lapel, McDonnell called on Virginians to remember the mass killing by being kinder to one another, looking out for neighbors and speaking up if they sense a colleague or friend is in mental distress. He praised state police for their work on campus and said he believed the state had made important changes to its mental health system and campus security since that day. He asked Virginians to "all do our part to create a...

By Rosalind Helderman  |  April 16, 2010; 12:12 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
Categories:  Rosalind Helderman  
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Hugo to be elected House GOP caucus chair

Del. Tim Hugo of Fairfax will be elected the House of Delegates GOP caucus chairman next week. Del. John O'Bannon of Henrico tells us he plans to send an e-mail announcing that he is dropping of out of the caucus election sometime today. Hugo and O'Bannon were vying to replace Del. Sam Nixon (R-Chesterfield), who resigned his seat to become Virginia's chief information officer under Gov. Robert F. McDonnell (R). Nixon took office April 5, and the governor will soon set a date for a special election to replace him. Hugo and O'Bannon had been working the phones and sending out e-mails trying to drum up support. Del. Kirk Cox, the House's GOP whip, backed Hugo, but Speaker Bill Howell and Majority Leader Morgan Griffith had stayed out of the race. Republican delegates will vote next week for Hugo by acclamation after the General Assembly returns to Richmond on Wednesday...

By Anita Kumar  |  April 16, 2010; 11:55 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
Categories:  Anita Kumar , General Assembly 2010 , House of Delegates  
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Cuccinelli files motion to force EPA to reopen global warming finding

Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli has filed a court motion attempting to use the Obama administration's new fuel standards for cars to force the Environmental Protection Agency to reconsider its decision to regulate Greenhouse gas emissions. Cuccinelli is attempting to get the EPA to undo a determination that it can regulate emissions because they cause global warming, which it ruled is harmful to human health. He believes the EPA's regulation of carbon dioxide will cost Virginia businesses money and cause energy prices to rise. His new motion, filed Thursday, argues that the new fuel standards show the EPA does not plan to reopen its hearings on the issue--essentially rejecting his petition that they do so--since the fuel standards were promulgated using the same logic that Greenhouse gases are causing the earth to warm and hurting human health. He asks the court to now compel the EPA to reopen the issue....

By Rosalind Helderman  |  April 16, 2010; 10:14 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (5)
Categories:  Rosalind Helderman  | Tags: Environmental Protection Agency, Global warming, Greenhouse gas, United States Environmental Protection Agency  
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Sierra Club calls on legislature to reject McDonnell amendment on air pollution bill

The Sierra Club is calling on the General Assembly to reject an amendment made by Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) to a bill dealing with air quality that has special import to Northern Virginia. McDonnell striped language from a bill that had been added by Democrats in the state Senate that was designed to force coal-fired power plants in Northern Virginia to meet certain emissions limits. For some time, Virginia has allowed coal-fired power plants that exceed the pollution limits allowed under their air permits to purchase pollution credits from plants elsewhere that were producing less than their limit. The cap-and-trade system is administered by the federal Environmental Protection Agency. In 2006, the General Assembly amended the rules to allow the the state's Air Control Board to prevent coal-fired plants from taking part in the cap-and-trade system if they were in parts of the state that had been labeled "non-attainment" zones...

By Rosalind Helderman  |  April 15, 2010; 5:52 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (2)
Categories:  General Assembly 2010 , House of Delegates , Robert F. McDonnell , Rosalind Helderman , State Senate  
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Republican activist accuses Bolling of 'political payback' in local endorsements

Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling (R) recently endorsed candidates in two Lynchburg area races for unit chairmen -- the lowest level Republican party post and one that a statewide officeholder would not normally involve himself with. Bolling endorsed Gene Smith in Campbell County and Dolores Switzer in Bedford County --the only two contested unit chairmen races he involved himself with this year. Tim Boyer, vice-chairman of the Campbell County Republicans, accused Bolling of endorsing in the local races to get back at him for working for Bolling's 2009 challenger Patrick Muldoon last year. Smith's and Switzer's opponents are close to Boyer....

By Anita Kumar  |  April 15, 2010; 12:30 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (3)
Categories:  Anita Kumar , Bill Bolling  | Tags: Bill Bolling  
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Virginia delegates sign letter supporting 10th amendment on states' rights

Fifty-four Republican members of the Virginia House of Delegates have signed a letter calling on the federal government to "cease and desist" from passing mandates that exceed its power under the 10th amendment of the Constution, which says that powers not delegated to Congress in the document are left to the states. "We on behalf of the Commonwealth assert that all compulsory federal legislation that directs states to comply under threat of civil or criminal penalties or sanctions or requires states to pass legislation or lose federal funding, violates the spirit and intent of the authors of our Constitution," the letter reads in part. The letter references "a number of proposals from previous administrations and other proposals that may be anticipated" as examples of "unbridled federalism." But a small knot of protesters who gathered on the states of the Virginia Capitol to receive a copy of the letter from Del....

By Rosalind Helderman  |  April 15, 2010; 10:17 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (13)
Categories:  General Assembly 2010 , House of Delegates , Rosalind Helderman , State Senate  | Tags: Constitution, Health care, Scott Lingamfelter, United States Constitution, Virginia, Virginia House of Delegates  
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Activists hold tax day tea party rallies across Virginia today

Today is tax day. And it promises to be a busy one -- not just because people are hurrying to turn in their taxes. In Virginia, as in many places across the nation, there will a slew of tea party rallies as activists try to send a message to lawmakers in Richmond and Washington to stop spending. The Virginia Chapter of the Constitutional Sovereignty Alliance will host a march from the state Capitol to the U.S. Capitol, stopping at tea parties in Fredericksburg and Prince William County along the way. Organizers have invited Republican U.S. Reps. Eric Cantor, Frank Wolf, Rob Wittman, Randy Forbes and Bob Goodlatte and Dels. Scott Lingamfelter and Rich Anderson to join them. Meanwhile, George Allen, former U.S. senator and governor and maybe statewide candidate, and Ben Marchi, state director of Americans for Prosperity, will be addressing three rallies in Woodbridge, Harrisonburg and Staunton. The state's...

By Anita Kumar  |  April 15, 2010; 8:00 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (10)
Categories:  Anita Kumar , Bill Bolling , Eric Cantor , Frank R. Wolf , George F. Allen , Ken Cuccinelli , Robert F. McDonnell  | Tags: Bill Bolling, Bob Goodlatte, Bob McDonnell, George Allen, Virginia  
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Cuccinelli opines that taxes and fees can be embedded in the state budget

Just in time for Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) to announce his 96 amendments to the state budget, Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli authors a legal opinion today indicating that he believes the Virginia Constitution does not prevent lawmakers from embedding taxes or fees into the budget. This has been a controversial issue in recent years, with many Republicans arguing that the General Assembly cannot write new taxes or fees into the budget without adopting a separate piece of legislation on the issue. They believe such tax increases violate the Virginia Constitution's requirement that legislation address only one topic. The budget, they reason, is a document that appropriates money. How could it legally also call for collecting revenue? Conservative Del. Bob Marshall (R-Prince William) had requested Cuccinelli's opinion on the issue, given that this year's budget does, indeed, include fee increases....

By Rosalind Helderman  |  April 14, 2010; 7:05 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (3)
Categories:  Rosalind Helderman  
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Virginia gun owners and gun-control activists plan opposing protests

This weekend is shaping up to be a big one in America's long-running battle over guns. The victims of the Virginia-Tech and Columbine High School massacres will be joining forces in a national protest against Starbucks' corporate policy of allowing lawfully armed gun owners to carry their weapons in its coffee shops. Abby Spangler, the founder of an gun-control organization called Protest Easy Guns, said in an email Wednesday that the protests planned for Saturday in Blacksburg and Sunday in Denver are meant to coincide with the anniversaries of two of the worst gun massacres in American history. April 16 marks the third year since 32 people were killed at Virginia Tech, in what is the largest mass shooting in U.S. history. April 20 will be the 11th anniversary of the rampage that took 13 lives in the suburban Denver high school. On the other side, gun-rights supporters are finalizing...

By Fredrick Kunkle  |  April 14, 2010; 6:52 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (1)
Categories:  Fredrick Kunkle  | Tags: Gun Control, Gun politics, Pro-Gun Rights, Starbucks  
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McDonnell accepts abortion 'choice' license bill, but blocks revenue from abortion use

Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) accepted a bill to create a "Trust Women/Respect Choice" license plate, even though he is a Catholic who personally opposes abortion. But McDonnell did propose amending the bill slightly to include language to ensure any money generated from the new plate is not used to "provide abortion services." "The Governor did not veto the specialty license plate bill requested by Planned Parenthood,'' McDonnell spokeswoman Taylor Thornley said. "His amendment to the legislation simply codifies Planned Parenthood's often-stated position that license plate proceeds will not be used for abortion services." In Virginia, the governor can amend all bills. Midnight was the deadline for him to amend, sign or veto bills. The General Assembly will vote on his amendments next week. After the first 1,000 plates, money from fees for the plate will go to Planned Parenthood. Almost 500 plates have already been sold. Last year, then Gov....

By Anita Kumar  |  April 14, 2010; 12:04 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (3)
Categories:  Anita Kumar , Campaign Ads , General Assembly 2010 , House of Delegates , Robert F. McDonnell , State Senate , Timothy M. Kaine  | Tags: Abortion, Bob McDonnell, Planned Parenthood, Pro-choice, Tim Kaine, Vehicle registration plate, Virginia  
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McDonnell's office says letters were sent to felons in error

As we reported this morning, Gov. Bob McDonnell's administration mistakenly sent letters to more than 200 felons telling them that they had to write a personal letter to the governor to get their voting rights restored. The letters sent to felons said that, "as a new requirement," nonviolent offenders must provide a "personal letter to the Governor explaining the circumstances of your arrest and conviction." They were also told to detail their efforts to get a job, seek education, and participate in church and community activities, and why they think their rights should be restored. The governor's letter went on to say that failure to do so would result in applications being closed "with prejudice." "The letter was sent without approval by a well-meaning staffer attempting to continue to process requests even while new procedures were being considered," McDonnell spokesman Tucker Martin said. The McDonnell administration is still considering whether...

By Anita Kumar  |  April 14, 2010; 11:08 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (13)
Categories:  Anita Kumar , Robert F. McDonnell  
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McDonnell urges Assembly not to allow local government employee pension shift

Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) is slowly releasing more information about amendments to the state's two-year budget that he will recommend to the General Assembly. He announced this afternoon that he will ask the General Assembly to revoke authority it had planned to extend to local governments to shift part of employee retirement payments to the employee. The state has long required that local governments pay the 5 percent payroll contribution to pension plans for teachers, police officers and sheriff's deputies, matching the state's practice for its employees. The General Assembly this year had agreed to allow local governments to shift some of those costs to their employees. The shift could have saved money for localities that elected to exercise the new option but would have hit their employees, many of whom are facing pay freezes and furloughs....

By Rosalind Helderman  |  April 13, 2010; 5:00 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (2)
Categories:  General Assembly 2010 , House of Delegates , Robert F. McDonnell , Rosalind Helderman , State Senate  
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Kaine: Most felons already write letters for civil rights restoration

Former Virginia governor and Democratic National Committee Chairman Tim Kaine appears to support a proposal by his Republican successor, Bob McDonnell, to require nonviolent felons to write a letter to have their voting rights restored. "Frankly, everyone wrote an essay because they wrote a letter asking for their rights to be restored, and most often in those letters they'd talk about what they had learned," Kaine said in an interview last night with CBS 6 TV in Richmond. Kaine's statement is surprising because most Democrats in the state, including the Democratic Party of Virginia, the Democratic leaders in the General Assembly and the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus, issued scathing statements in recent days. When Kaine was governor, felons convicted of nonviolent crimes were able to apply to have their voting rights restored by filling out a one-page form with information about their arrest and conviction. McDonnell wants to require offenders...

By Anita Kumar  |  April 13, 2010; 2:21 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (9)
Categories:  Anita Kumar , Robert F. McDonnell , Timothy M. Kaine  
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McDonnell proposes to reinstate business tax break

Gov. Bob McDonnell is proposing that the General Assembly retain a tax credit for Virginia manufacturers, a $10 million budget tweak that will please anti-tax activists and potentially spur economic development. Among the major employers who would qualify for the tax break is Northrop Grumman, which is weighing whether to move its corporate headquarters from California to Virginia or Maryland. McDonnell has until midnight to propose amendments to the state's two-year budget for consideration by the legislature at a one-day session next week. So far, he's announced only changes that will cost money; he will have to propose commensurate cuts as well. State manufacturers and others had been pushing hard for this tax change. The issue is a bit complicated. Here's how it works:...

By Rosalind Helderman  |  April 13, 2010; 1:05 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (1)
Categories:  General Assembly 2010 , House of Delegates , Robert F. McDonnell , Rosalind Helderman , State Senate  
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McDonnell blames 'political attacks' for firestorm over felons voting rights

Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell blamed "political attacks by Democrats" for the outcry that resulted from his decision to add another step for nonviolent felons to have their voting rights restored. We reported last weekend that McDonnell (R) will require the offenders to submit a letter to the governor outlining their contributions to society since their release, turning a nearly automatic process into a more subjective one that some say might prevent poor, less-educated or minority residents from being allowed to vote. McDonnell said today on his "Ask the Governor" radio show on WNIS in Norfolk that the media reports surrounding his proposal have been "largely inaccurate." He said the requirement is still in the draft stage, and that there is no essay, just a "simple statement." But dozens of the felons who have submitted applications since McDonnell's inauguration received notification that letters will be required with a deadline of April...

By Anita Kumar  |  April 13, 2010; 11:14 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (19)
Categories:  Anita Kumar , Robert F. McDonnell  
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Bolling jets off to Italy for economic development speech

Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling (R) leaves today for a weeklong trip to Italy to participate in an economic development symposium. The topic? The role of higher education in economic development. Bolling, the state's chief jobs creation officer, will also meet with several Italian officials, but does not plan on talking to any companies interested in relocating in Virginia. The City of Florence is picking up the travel costs of about $2,000, according to Bolling's office. James Madison University, which has a study abroad program, is housing Bolling. No state money will be spent on the trip. Bolling is being joined on the trip by his wife, Jean Ann. The Bollings will pay for expenses that are not related to the participation in the symposium....

By Anita Kumar  |  April 13, 2010; 9:00 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
Categories:  Anita Kumar , Bill Bolling  
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Virginia, McDonnell join West Virginia, Manchin in moment of silence for dead coal miners

Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) was joined by Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling (R) and Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli (R) for a moment of silence this afternoon in memory of the 29 coal miners who died in last week's explosion at the Upper Big Branch Mine in Montcoal, W. Va. McDonnell called for a moment of silence to be held in conjunction with the moment of silence observance led by West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin III (D). "Last week's tragedy cost 29 West Virginians their lives. It shattered families and communities, and our thoughts and prayers go out to all those who have lost loved ones,'' McDonnell said in a statement. "In the aftermath of this devastating event, West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin has led his state with courage and empathy. Now, he has called for a moment of silence tomorrow to honor the fallen miners. I ask all Virginians to...

By Anita Kumar  |  April 12, 2010; 4:59 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (1)
Categories:  Anita Kumar , Bill Bolling , Ken Cuccinelli , Robert F. McDonnell  
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UPDATE: McDonnell begins to show budget hand with funding restorations--cuts to come

Gov. Bob McDonnell announced late today that he is restoring $1.9 million in the state budget for a Virginia National Guard program based at Camp Pendleton that helps at-risk, middle-school-age children. McDonnell said the Virginia National Guard Commonwealth ChalleNGe Program "makes a remarkable difference in the lives of so many of Virginia's at-risk youth," and said he would restore $600,000 in the first year of the two-year budget and $1,335,213 million in the second to keep it viable. McDonnell has until midnight tomorrow to write amendments to the budget adopted by the General Assembly, which will gather for a one-day session next week to weigh whether to accept or veto amendments to the budget and other bills passed this winter. This is the second budget amendment McDonnell has announced. On Friday, he said he would restore $1.8 million for the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at the Children's Hospital of the...

By Rosalind Helderman  |  April 12, 2010; 4:49 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (3)
Categories:  Rosalind Helderman  
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Cuccinelli, gun rights advocates rally in Richmond

More than 100 gun rights advocates, many of them wearing handguns on their hips, rallied in Capital Square in Richmond today, urging expansion of gun rights in Virginia and beyond. Members of the crowd sported orange stickers that read "Guns Save Lives." A few held yellow "Don't Tread on Me" Gadsden flags that have become associated with the Tea Party movement. Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli addressed the crowd, praising them for their efforts on behalf of guns rights. Standing on a makeshift speaking platform, he opened with a joke: "We've been in office less than three months. It's been kind of boring." "Okay," he conceded, "Not so much." Cuccinelli has quickly become of the nation's best-known advocates for conservative activism, with pending lawsuits against the federal government over health care and the EPA's regulation of greenhouse gases, and his presence at the gun rally had drawn a bank of television...

By Rosalind Helderman  |  April 12, 2010; 4:17 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (10)
Categories:  Rosalind Helderman  
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UPDATED: Opposition builds to McDonnell's changes to felon voting rights restoration process

The ACLU of Virginia accused Gov. Bob McDonnell of reinstating a "literacy test" in Virginia when he decided to add another step for nonviolent felons to have their voting rights restored. "For persons with a limited education, the governor's requirement that they write an essay explaining their past and present actions and the rationale for why their rights should be restored is a nearly insurmountable obstacle,'' said ACLU of Virginia Executive Director Kent Willis on Monday. We reported this weekend that McDonnell (R) will require the offenders to submit a letter to the governor outlining their contributions to society since their release, turning a nearly automatic process into a more subjective one that some say might prevent poor, less-educated or minority residents from being allowed to vote. Update, 12:35: The Democratic Party of Virginia called on McDonnell to remove the requirement. "Governor McDonnell should immediately remove this costly and burdensome...

By Anita Kumar  |  April 12, 2010; 11:35 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (41)
Categories:  Anita Kumar  
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UPDATED: Mississippi Gov. Barbour defends McDonnell's Confederate proclamation

Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) might have gotten the exactly the help he didn't need from a friend this morning, as Republican Governors Association chairman Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour (R-Miss.) defended him for issuing a proclamation in honor of Confederate History Month that did not include reference to slavery. On CNN's "State of the Union," Barbour said people already know slavery was a bad thing and that the outcry over McDonnell's proclamation amounted to making "a big deal out of something that doesn't amount to diddly." Barbour's main point was that Mississippi's own Democratic-controlled state legislature has adopted similar resolutions in honor of Confederate soldiers, as have Mississippi governors of both parties. Asked by anchor Candy Crowley if McDonnell's resolution was a mistake, Barbour said, "I don't think so."...

By Rosalind Helderman  |  April 11, 2010; 12:26 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (424)
Categories:  Robert F. McDonnell , Rosalind Helderman  
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Democrats call on McDonnell to back off changes in felon voting rights restoration

After our story posted Saturday explained that Gov. Bob McDonnell plans to add another step for nonviolent felons to have their voting rights restored, the Virginia Young Democrats called on him to "to end his disenfranchising practices." "Gov. McDonnell and the Republican Party have time and again showed the public their disinterest in seeing those that have paid their dues welcomed back into society," said Sean Holihan, president of the Virginia Young Democrats, which has 10,000 members in the state. McDonnell (R) will require the offenders to submit an essay outlining their contributions to society since their release, turning a nearly automatic process into a more subjective one that some say may prevent poor, less-educated or minority residents from being allowed to vote. "Any Virginian who has committed a non-violent offense and has paid his or her debt to society deserves the basic right to vote," said John Chapman, national...

By Anita Kumar  |  April 11, 2010; 10:00 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (72)
Categories:  Anita Kumar , Robert F. McDonnell  
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