Ralph Northam’s lopsided victory in Virginia’s 2017 gubernatorial election, and the huge increase in the numbers of Democratic delegates in the Virginia House (up from 34 to a minimum of 49), have substantially changed the political dynamics in Virginia state government.
It’s too soon to tell by exactly how much things have changed, but this recent conclusion by Del. Marcus Simon (D) strikes me as reasonable for 2018:
This is not the year for really progressive reforms, but for a move of the House back to the middle from so many years being stuck in the mud.
Delegate Simon noted that among the areas in which some positive gains could come are Virginia government ethics and transparency. Governor-elect Ralph Northam is on record that “Virginians deserve to know that their representatives are held to the highest standards of ethics.”
Newly-elected delegates, including Chris Hurst (D) and Danica Roem (D), already have expressed support for legislative initiatives on transparency.
For the last four years, Virginia Republican state legislators repeatedly blocked reforms which would have made it illegal to divert campaign donations for personal use:
While almost every other state and the federal government have figured out a way to make it illegal for politicians to use campaign funds for personal use, Virginia lawmakers said … the issue remains too complex for them to find a consensus.
In 2017, a bill sponsored by Simon that would have made this practice illegal was killed by an unrecorded voice vote in a legislative subcommittee. That substance and process needs to change:
- Simon has again introduced his bill; it should be passed
- All committee and subcommittee deliberations and votes should be live-streamed
Other Ethics Reforms
Former Gov. Bob McDonnell’s (R) 2014 conviction for having violated a federal bribery statute spurred grudging reforms to Virginia’s state ethics laws in the next legislative session. The highlight of a Virginia law enacted in 2015 was the creation of a $100 annual limit on gifts from lobbyists to any single public official.
After the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that McDonnell’s conduct did not violate federal criminal law, some Virginia legislators who never wanted to reform Virginia’s ethical practices in the first place started dropping hints that they would like to loosen things up again. Instead, the 2017 election results should lead to further strengthening of these laws.
States retain the power to decide whether politicians who do what McDonnell did should be:
- excused for having done something that is just part of the normal political process (“they all do it”), or
- subject to significant penalties for doing something that the public has decided is wrong
In the wake of the Supreme Court’s McDonnell decision, Delegate Simon again drew the right lesson,”the fact that he didn’t break any laws doesn’t mean that our ethics laws aren’t broken.”
Virginia should create a new, independent Ethics Review Commission with teeth, including subpoena and enforcement power. A large majority of other states, including Massachusetts, South Carolina, and Pennsylvania have permanent ethics commissions.
Reforms in ethical practices and transparency are long overdue at every level of Virginia government. A welcome combination of energetic new delegates, joining seasoned leaders, should set the stage in 2018 for much-needed reforms in ethics and transparency.
American Legion Drama — “Bob Romano has been Post 139’s field manager and coach the last 13 seasons, leading the team to district championships and state-tournament berths. He has heard…
Good Wednesday evening, Arlington. Let’s take a look back at today’s stories and a look forward to tomorrow’s event calendar. 🕗 News recap The following articles were published earlier today…
An employee of a shop in Courthouse was beaten by a robber early Wednesday morning, according to police. The robbery happened around 3 a.m. at the Tobacco Vape Cigars store…
Police are investigating back-to-back reported armed robberies in the Arlington Mill neighborhood. The robberies happened around 2:30 p.m. on the 800 block of S. Frederick Street. Initial reports suggest that…
Children’s Weekday Program (CWP) is a non-profit preschool rooted in a play-based philosophy. We focus on developing a love of learning and exploration, cooperation, empathy, and independence.
Our caring and experienced educators create opportunities for children 16 months to 5 years old to play, learn, and grow in a nurturing environment of child-centered and developmentally appropriate experiences.
Initially established more than 50 years ago in South Arlington, CWP continues to be a lauded program in the Northern Virginia area. We are extremely proud to have been recognized as a Best Preschool in Northern Virginia Magazine for the last 4 years.
Located now in North Arlington at 2666 Military Road, CWP offers a part-time parents day out and preschool program with options to extend care both before and after school. We offer a supportive and inclusive school community for children and parents alike and welcome all families to join our school!
The Optimist Club of Arlington is holding its 77th annual Christmas tree sale!
This year, the tree sale will be held at the Knights of Columbus (5115 Little Falls Road). The lot opens for sales on November 24th. The Optimist Club is selling small and large trees ranging from tabletop size to 10 foot tall trees! Wreaths, garland, tree stands, and White House Christmas ornaments will also be for sale.
100% of all proceeds go towards helping Arlington County youth.
For more information, please visit the Arlington Optimists website at https://optimistclubofarlingtonva.org/.
Holiday Art Show featuring artists: Peter Fitzgerald, Claire Plante, Alanna Rivera, and Suzy Scollon. At the Barcroft Community House, 800 South Buchanan St., Arlington, VA. Dec. 8 from, 2 PM to 8 PM and Dec. 9 from 10 AM to
2023 Christmas Tree Sales Begin
Saturday, December 2
Get your holiday decorating off to the right start this year! We will be selling 150 Fraser firs, freshly cut and delivered from Sparta, North Carolina.