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Virginia Politics Blog: June 27, 2010 - July 3, 2010

McDonnell's jobs commission spurs complaints

With more than 60 members, Gov. Bob McDonnell likes to joke that his jobs commission is the biggest commission in Virginia government history. But it may not be big enough. Ever since the Governor's Economic Development and Jobs Creation Commission formed in April, people have complained that McDonnell left out representatives of key interests groups that should have been included. There was no one from the health-care industry. No local elected officials. No small retailers. Instead of adding members to the commission, which includes Cabinet secretaries, legislators and a variety of influential business leaders, the panel's chairmen, Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling (the state's chief jobs creation officer) and Bob Sledd (the governor's senior economic adviser), are forming small advisory groups. A health-care task force consisting of six hospital CEOs and Virginia Hospital & Healthcare Association officials met for the first time Thursday. A retailers group met Wednesday. And a representative...

By Anita Kumar  |  July 2, 2010; 4:00 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (1)
Categories:  Anita Kumar , Bill Bolling , Robert F. McDonnell  
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McDonnell's government reform commission seeks suggestions from public

Gov. Bob McDonnell's government reform commission is hitting the road. The Governor's Commission on Government Reform and Restructuring is holding a series of town hall meetings to seek input from the public on how to save Virginia money. The first one will take place at Capitol One headquarters in McLean Thursday. Five additional meetings will take place across the state -- Newport News, Verona, Abingdon, South Hill and Virginia Beach -- by July 19. See the full list. McDonnell has charged the commission with searching for ways to save hundreds of millions of dollars from the state budget and make government more user-friendly. The group will consider closing some of the state's 130 agencies, putting more forms online, eliminating annual reports and selling the state's 334 liquor stores. The meetings will be attended by some of the 31 members of the commission and McDonnell's staff, but not the governor himself....

By Anita Kumar  |  July 2, 2010; 1:30 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (2)
Categories:  Anita Kumar , Robert F. McDonnell  
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Sen. McEachin forms new PAC to help Democratic state candidates

State Sen. Don McEachin has launched a new political action committee, Believe in Virginia PAC, as he aims to help Democratic candidates running in legislative races next year. McEachin said in an interview Thursday that the PAC will help Democratic candidates supporting "progressive causes" including the environment, non-discrimination protections for state workers and insurance for children with autism. He also set up the PAC to support public education, devise a transportation plan, create jobs and provide equal opportunity and justice, according to the Virginia Public Access Project which reports the organization was registered Tuesday. Politicians considering a run for statewide office often form PACs. (Former Democratic Del. Steve Shannon launched a PAC, Virginians for a Better Way, just last week.) McEachin, who represents the Richmond area, ran for attorney general in 2001 but lost to Republican Jerry Kilgore. He's been a frequent critic of Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) this year....

By Anita Kumar  |  July 2, 2010; 11:30 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
Categories:  Anita Kumar , General Assembly 2010 , House of Delegates , State Senate  
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Former GOP congressman Davis calls Cuccinelli health care suit 'uphill case'

Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli believes his suit against the federal health care law has a "better than even" chance of success, but there are plenty of doubters. On NewsTalk with Bruce DePuyt Thursday, former Rep. Tom Davis (R) said he believed the "precedents are there" to support the law's constitutionality. "He's got an uphill case," Davis said. Less surprisingly, U.S. Rep. Jim Moran (D) called Cuccinelli's legal interpretation "nuts." "He's a radical in terms of his interpretation of the constitution. There's just so much precedent for doing the kinds of things that are entailed in health care reform," Moran said. But Cuccinelli does have some legal scholars on his side....

By Rosalind Helderman  |  July 2, 2010; 9:29 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (2)
Categories:  James P. Moran Jr. , Ken Cuccinelli , Rosalind Helderman , Thomas M. Davis III  
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NoVa transportation group defers decision on giving Virginia representation on Metro board

The Northern Virginia Transportation Commission postponed making a decision Thursday night on whether Virginia should get representation on the Metro board. The group, voting largely along party lines, deferred until September a resolution to "consider any possible change to Metro's Virginia's governance, including Commonwealth membership on the WMATA Board of Directors." Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) has repeatedly asked the NVTC to give two of its four seats to Virginia. The seats are held by elected officials from Fairfax and Arlington counties and Alexandria. Virginia officials have said that Virginia wants more accountability from Metro in the aftermath of last year's fatal Red Line crash, and they have noted that the state contributes more to Metro than jurisdictions in Northern Virginia. The resolution was introduced by Thelma Drake, director of Virginia department of rail and public transportation. But members quickly moved to defer it to the NVTC's September meeting. Virginia Transportation...

By Anita Kumar  |  July 1, 2010; 9:07 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
Categories:  Anita Kumar , Robert F. McDonnell , Transportation  
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Va. again asks for representation on Metro board

Transportation Secretary Sean Connaughton penned a letter to the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission on Thursday, reiterating the reasons that Virginia wants the group to give it two seats on the Metro board. "We must follow through on our commitment to the traveling public to provide better, safer transportation choices,'' Connaughton wrote to NVTC Chairwoman Catherine Hudgins. "Today, Virginia is a funding partner with no voice, and we cannot effectively follow through on this commitment without one." Connaughton and his boss, Gov. Bob McDonnell (R), want to appoint people to two of the four seats now held by elected officials from Fairfax and Arlington counties and Alexandria. State officials have said that Virginia wants more accountability from Metro in the aftermath of last year's fatal Red Line crash, and they have noted that the state contributes more to Metro than jurisdictions in Northern Virginia. But so far, the NVTC has resisted...

By Anita Kumar  |  July 1, 2010; 5:43 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
Categories:  Anita Kumar , Robert F. McDonnell , Transportation  
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Gay rights group "disappointed" in McDonnell college board appointment

The Chairman of the Board of Equality Virginia, the state's gay rights group, is taking issue with one of Gov. Bob McDonnell's appointees to the Virginia Tech Board of Visitors. McDonnell Thursday appointed John Rocovich, chairman of a Roanoke lawfirm, to the university's governing board. Rocovich had previously served on the board under Gov. Jim Gilmore (R), during a time when the board repealed the school's policy barring discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. That issue has returned to the forefront in recent months, after Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli (R) wrote a letter to each public university, asking them to rescind such policies. The universities have responded by reaffirming those policies, and McDonnell issued Executive Directive No. 1, prohibiting discrimination in the state workforce. Mark Board, chair of the Board of Equality Virginia, said the following about Rocovich's appointment in a statement: Equality Virginia is disappointed that the Governor...

By Rosalind Helderman  |  July 1, 2010; 5:18 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (1)
Categories:  James Gilmore III , Ken Cuccinelli , Mark Warner , Rosalind Helderman  
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McDonnell appoints supporters to universities's boards of visitors

Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) announced Thursday that he has appointed several of his biggest supporters and top donors to the board of visitors of four of the state's premiere universities. Sheila Johnson, co-founder of Black Entertainment Television and one of McDonnell's most prominent black supporters, was appointed to the University of Virginia board. R. Carter Pate, a partner with PricewaterhouseCoopers and a major Republican donor who was Sen. John McCain's Virginia finance chairman, was named to the George Mason University board. Suzanne S. Obenshain, a Virginia Tech graduate and the wife of Sen. Mark Obenshain (R), will serve on the Virginia Tech board. It's common for governors to use board of visitors appointments -- the most prestigious appointments they have to offer -- as a thank-you to longtime supporters and friends. See below for the full list:...

By Anita Kumar  |  July 1, 2010; 4:50 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
Categories:  Anita Kumar , Robert F. McDonnell  
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Penn State clears Mann in Climate-gate probe

On the Post Carbon blog, staff writer Juliet Eilperin reports that a Pennsylvania State University investigative committee has cleared a climate scientist of ethical misconduct in connection with an exchange of e-mails about global warming known as Climate-gate. Michael Mann, a meteorology professor at Penn State, came under fire after hackers broke into the server of the University of East Anglia's Climatic Research Unit in Britain and published thousands of e-mails and documents the center's staff had sent to other climate researchers. Mann is best known as the author of the "hockey-stick" graph, which showed there has been a rapid, recent rise in the Earth's temperature. His work has long been under attack by global-warming skeptics, but the criticism became more heated after an e-mail between scientists referring to a statistical "trick" used in Mann's research surfaced among the leaked e-mails. Mann said the e-mail was taken out of context....

By Rosalind Helderman  |  July 1, 2010; 4:15 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (12)
Categories:  Ken Cuccinelli  
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Judge to rule on Va.'s health-care suit by end of July

A federal judge said Thursday that he will decide whether to dismiss a lawsuit filed by Virginia challenging the constitutionality of the federal health-care law within 30 days, providing an initial legal test in the landmark suit.

By Rosalind Helderman  |  July 1, 2010; 2:18 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (1)
Categories:  Barack Obama , Ken Cuccinelli , Rosalind Helderman  
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Protesters gather outside federal courthouse to challenge health care lawsuit

Protesters oppose Virginia Attorney General's lawsuit against the federal government.

By Anita Kumar  |  July 1, 2010; 11:15 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (1)
Categories:  Anita Kumar , Ken Cuccinelli  
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Metro calls special meeting on Va. funding deal

Metro announced Wednesday night that its board of directors will meet Thursday morning to discuss Virginia's contribution to its Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act funding, the Post's Dr. Gridlock reports. Virginia Gov. Robert F. McDonnell (R) has recently balked at the commonwealth contributing funds because he wants the power to appoint two members to Metro's board. Virginia's two principal and two alternate members are currently nominated by local jurisdictions and appointed by the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission. The four seats are now held by elected officials from Alexandria and Fairfax and Arlington counties. Read the full post here....

By Washington Post Editors  |  July 1, 2010; 9:26 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
 
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Health care law faces first constitutional battle in Virginia courtroom

The legal challenge to the federal health care law will begin in earnest this morning, as Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli lobs the nation's first constitutional arguments against the law in a federal courtroom in Richmond. Cuccinelli and his team will get an hour to argue to a federal judge that the law is an unprecedented overreach by Washington that turns the Founders' intention for a limited federal government on its head. The Obama administration will likewise get an hour to argue Cuccinelli's suit is frivolous and should be tossed from court. The judge will weigh the arguments and decide in coming weeks whether to allow the case to proceed, the first skirmish in a legal war over the federal healthcare overhaul that will likely not be settled until a year or more from now, 110 miles to the north at the Supreme Court. The Virginia suit is one of...

By Rosalind Helderman  |  July 1, 2010; 6:00 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (11)
Categories:  Barack Obama , Ken Cuccinelli , Rosalind Helderman  
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Environmental groups ask Obama to permanently halt offshore drilling

A coalition of nearly 30 groups from New Jersey to Alabama is asking President Obama to permanently withdraw the Atlantic Coast and eastern Gulf of Mexico from offshore oil and natural gas drilling.

By Anita Kumar  |  June 30, 2010; 3:07 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
Categories:  Anita Kumar , Robert F. McDonnell  
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Localities want authority over liquor store locations if state privatizes ABC

As Gov. Bob McDonnell's administration continues to work on developing its much-anticipated proposal to privatize Virginia's 334 liquor stores, the mere possibility of such a radical change is prompting interest groups across the state to start preparing. In a recent letter to McDonnell, the Virginia Municipal League and Virginia Association of Counties are asking him to make clear that local government would have the authority to regulate the location of liquor stores. Currently, liquor stores are state facilities and are not subject to local regulation. "Virginia law recognizes the importance of local land use regulation of businesses and activities that impact a community,'' according to the letter. "Local governments must have zoning authority over the location of liquor stores or any establishment selling alcohol in order to help preserve and create 'convenient, attractive and harmonious' communities." The governor's staff expects to unveil the proposal in August. The government reform commission...

By Anita Kumar  |  June 30, 2010; 12:30 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
Categories:  Anita Kumar , Robert F. McDonnell  
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Perriello hits the airwaves with economic message

Freshman Rep. Tom Perriello (D) is ramping up his reelection campaign, putting a pair of television spots on the air touting his efforts to boost the economy in Virginia's 5th district.

By Ben Pershing  |  June 30, 2010; 9:45 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
Categories:  2010 Virginia Congressional Races , Ben Pershing , Election 2010 , Robert Hurt , Tom Perriello  
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Fimian advances in GOP candidate program

The National Republican Congressional Committee has promoted Keith Fimian to the top tier of its candidate training program, lending the Oakton businessman a vote of confidence in his race to unseat freshman Rep. Gerald Connolly (D) in Virginia's 11th district.

By Ben Pershing  |  June 30, 2010; 6:00 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (1)
Categories:  2010 Virginia Congressional Races , Ben Pershing , Election 2010 , Keith Fimian  
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U.Va. says Cuccinelli subpoena a sweeping demand that will imperil academia

The University of Virginia told a court today that Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli's request for information about a former university scientist is so sweeping that it bears no relevance to an investigation of whether the scientist violated a Virginia fraud statute Cuccinelli used to issue the demand.

By Rosalind Helderman  |  June 29, 2010; 3:04 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (4)
Categories:  Ken Cuccinelli , Rosalind Helderman  
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UPDATED: U.S. Navy Vets director's political donations result in boon for Virginia charities

The public exposure that has come to the U.S. Navy Veterans Association in Virginia after their founder Bobby Thompson made contributions to various elected officials has not worked out so well for the group. However, the group's loss has turned into various other charities' gain in the Commonwealth. The group is now under investigation by the Virginia's Office of Consumer Affairs, which regulates charities. Two state delegates yesterday asked the governor to direct the Virginia State Police to investigate as well, though a spokeswoman for the department said no such inquiry has so far been opened. After questions were raised about the group's activities--authorities have been unable to locate many of the officers and staffers listed on various official documents--several Virginia politicians who had received donations from Thompson pledged to contribute money in equal amounts to his donation to other charities. We've now got a listing of who gave where....

By Rosalind Helderman  |  June 29, 2010; 11:51 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (1)
Categories:  Ken Cuccinelli , Robert F. McDonnell , Rosalind Helderman  
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Va. gun rights group cheers high court ruling

A Virginia gun rights group cheered Monday's Supreme Court decision that the Constitution guarantees all Americans the right to own firearms, potentially opening the door to legal challenges of some state and local laws and regulations.

By Fredrick Kunkle  |  June 29, 2010; 9:07 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (9)
Categories:  Fredrick Kunkle  
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Updated: Man who threatened Kaine died after being held in jail

A 54-year-old man who threatened Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) former Gov. Tim Kaine (D) died after being held in the Richmond City Jail, Richmond Sheriff C.T. Woody Jr. announced Monday. Grant R. Sleeper, 54, was pronounced dead Saturday night at Virginia Commonwealth University Medical Center, Woody said in a statement Arlington County police had arrested Sleeper June 14 on an outstanding warrant from the Virginia Capitol Police. He was transferred to Richmond Jail on June 16. Two days later, because of a preexisting medical condition, he was transported to the VCU Medical Center for treatment, according to Woody. He was pronounced dead Saturday at 7:18 p.m. Details of the threat to the governor were unavailable. Calls to the Virginia Capitol Police were not returned. McDonnell spokeswoman Stacey Johnson declined to comment. The Richmond Medical Examiner's Office will conduct an autopsy later this week. The Richmond Sheriff's Office and the Richmond...

By Anita Kumar  |  June 28, 2010; 5:22 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (3)
Categories:  Anita Kumar , Robert F. McDonnell  
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Va. senators join colleagues in mourning Byrd

Both of Virginia's senators today have released statements mourning the death of their colleague, West Virginia Sen. Robert Byrd, joining much of the political establishment in noting the passing of the longest-serving member of Congress in U.S. history. Sen Mark Warner (D) said: I knew of Senator Robert Byrd and his work long before I ever met him. Senator Byrd understood that for the Senate to work effectively, members have to be willing to work together in a bipartisan way, treat their colleagues with trust and mutual respect, and always put the interests of the nation first. In a Senate career that spanned more than a half-century, I believe it can be said that few people understood this institution any better than Robert Byrd. Sen. Jim Webb (D) said: The impact Senator Byrd has had on the institution of the Senate will be felt for many years. He was an...

By Rosalind Helderman  |  June 28, 2010; 4:42 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (3)
Categories:  James Webb , Mark Warner , Rosalind Helderman  
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UPDATED: Virginia State Police should investigate charity, House Dems say

Democratic leaders in the Virginia House of Delegates want Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) to instruct the Virginia State Police to open a criminal investigation into the activities of the U.S. Navy Veterans Association, a charity whose activities are under scrutiny in four states. The Virginia Office of Consumer Affairs, which regulates charities in Virginia, has already opened an investigation into the group. But House Minority Leader Ward Armstrong (D-Henry) and House Democratic Caucus Chair Ken Plum (D-Fairfax) are asking McDonnell to get the state police involved to see whether the group was "truly engaged in charitable solicitation and whether any of their solicitations and activities in the Commonwealth may have been fraudulent or illegal." There have been serious questions raised about the group's activities. In Virginia, the charity has also become a sharp political stake Democrats are using to poke Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli (R), who received $55,500 in campaign...

By Rosalind Helderman  |  June 28, 2010; 3:44 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (1)
Categories:  Ken Cuccinelli , Robert F. McDonnell , Rosalind Helderman  
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SCOTUS ruling will guide Virginia gun law reviews, Cuccinelli says

Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli says he will keep in mind today's landmark Supreme Court decision, ruling that the 2nd amendment of the U.S. Constitution gives Americans a fundamental right to own guns wherever they live, as he reviews and offers opinions on Virginia law. In a statement, Cuccinelli said he was "pleased that the Supreme Court has found that Second Amendment rights are as deserving of respect from state and local governments as are other rights found in the Bill of Rights." He singled out for praise language from Justice Samuel Alito indicating that the right to keep and bear arms is "'fundamental' to America's 'scheme of ordered liberty.'" Cuccinelli said he will review cases and regulations dealing with guns on a case-by-case basis, evaluating them against today's ruling, as well as the Court's previous ruling striking down the D.C. handgun ban. Meanwhile, in a state where politicians on...

By Rosalind Helderman  |  June 28, 2010; 2:32 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (10)
Categories:  Eric Cantor , Ken Cuccinelli , Mark Warner , Rick Boucher , Rosalind Helderman , Tom Perriello  
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McDonnell makes list of 'Americans most hated' by the left

Gov. Bob McDonnell has arrived. He made Townhall's list of "The 100 Americans the Left Hates Most" -- coming in at #47.

By Anita Kumar  |  June 28, 2010; 10:58 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (7)
Categories:  Anita Kumar , Eric Cantor , Robert F. McDonnell  
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