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Is the VDOT surplus Tim Kaine’s fault? Does it matter?

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It seemed to be the big elephant in the room throughout the day’s coverage of the release of a scathing audit on the Virginia Department of Transportation. (VDOT) More than $1 billion in state transportation funds were left on the table, while traffic remained bottled up, rest stops were closed and pot holes not filled. Someone had to be blamed, but was it former Governor Tim Kaine?

Kaine and his associates knew even before the audit was formally released that some of the blow-back would head in his direction. In an unconventional move, Kaine released a statement defending his guidance over VDOT as Governor. He claimed that the prudent use of the agency’s funds was in part because of the “toughest economic downturn in a generation.”

While the current Governor Bob McDonnell never mentioned his predecessor by name, despite direct questions from reporters, he made it clear that the team in charge during the previous administration did not make the best use of the taxpayer money.

“There was a bad set of management decisions made to be able to keep money in the bank that should’ve been spent,” McDonnell said.

Here is an extended clip of the Governor’s remarks on the topic from two different questions posed on assigning blame:


Kaine did get a boost from an ally in the State Senate. Dick Saslaw the Chair of the Senate Subcommittee on Transportation defended the prior administration by saying that Virginia carefully studies each and every transportation project and doesn’t spend a dime until they know it is a wise investment.

“I appreciate that the VDOT management employed a cautious approach during a period of great financial uncertainty,” Saslaw said. “And did not over-obligate funds, as we saw under the Gilmore Administration.”

Salsaw went on to say that as a Delegate, McDonnell supported reforms that forced VDOT to spend their money wisely.

Kaine himself is perhaps immaterial to the debate moving forward, but what he represents is key. During his remarks today McDonnell said he plans to cut down on the bureaucratic hoops that make getting road projects started difficult. Depending on exactly what he means, it could mean a more streamlined approach to completing road construction. An approach that while faster, will certainly have less checks and balances.

It presents an age old question in government. Would you rather have it done right or done on time?

Most voters would say both.

A huge challenge for McDonnell if he hopes to fulfill a major campaign promise.

Here is a rundown of today’s coverage of the VDOT Audit on NBC12:

*Andy Jenks’ intial report on the release of VDOT audit

*My report on the Democrats’ response

*The full report from Governor McDonnell’s office

The entire statements from former Governor Tim Kaine and Senator Dick Saslaw can be found after the jump:


Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Ryan Nobles

September 23, 2010 at 11:52 pm

House Democratic leadership won’t support ABC privatization

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He is a relatively new member of the Virginia House Minority Leadership, but Del. Joe Morrissey (D-Henrico) took the opportunity to speak out on behalf of his colleagues tonight on a key issue.  Morrissey revealed that he and two other key House Democrats will not support Governor Bob McDonnell‘s plan to privatize the Commonwealth’s ABC stores.

Morrissey declared their stance at a fundraiser tonight at the Boat House at Rockkets’ Landing. Just how many House Democrats he was speaking on behalf of is a little murky, but one thing is clear: Morrissey (the current Democratic House Whip), House Minority Leader Ward Armstrong and Democratic House Caucus Leader Ken Plum are all opposed to the McDonnell plan.

Armstrong’s Chief of Staff Claire Wilker confirmed to me tonight that Armstrong and Plum are against the ABC plan in its current form, but beyond that stance she said, Morrissey was speaking for himself.

“It’s a solution that the Governor is looking for to find a problem,” said Morrissey.  The Henrico Democrat said that the McDonnell plan forgoes a guaranteed revenue stream in the billions of dollars for one that promises hundreds of millions of dollars, but with no guarantees.  According to Morrissey, that is not enough to convince his House colleagues to buy into the plan.

“I don’t think there has been a tremendous amount of thought put into why this benefits the Commonwealth,” he said. “I have heard from several Republicans whispering, ‘why are we doing this?”

But opposition from Democrats in the House is not a great threat to the McDonnell administration because with only 39 members, the minority party would need several Republicans to break rank with their Governor to get the job done.

Morrissey hopes that the Governor will take their unhappiness with the plan and think twice about the way it is presented to the public.

“I hope they see, there is some discord to this, let’s put it to a referendum,” said Morrissey. “Let’s let the voters decide, that would be a perfect world.”

The McDonnell administration doesn’t seem all that concerned about opposition from the minority members of the House.

“Certain House Democrats are doing a great job of demonstrating why they are in the minority,”  said Tucker Martin, Communications Director to Governor McDonnell. “They are saying no to $500 million for roads, without a tax increase, while not advancing any transportation proposals of their own. That’s embarrassing.”

My entire, uncut  interview Del. Joe Morrissey on the ABC privatization issue, including his personal plan to fix the transportation problem, can be seen below:

Written by Ryan Nobles

September 16, 2010 at 9:27 pm

McDonnell vows to “answer every concern” legislators have on ABC privatization

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Democrats in the Virginia Senate are ruling out Governor Bob McDonnell‘s plan to privatize to ABC stores before he even unveils his formal proposal.

Following the Governor’s address on the state surplus, Senate Majority Leader Dick Saslaw said that he believes the concept will have no success in his house.

“I would say right now it would not pass the Senate, nor is it even close,” he said.

Thursday night Governor McDonnell held his third town hall on government reform where he built his case on getting the state out of the liquor business.  The Governor said that Senator Saslaw is getting ahead of himself.  “I don’t have a plan announced yet, so it seems to be a little premature,” he said. Adding, “All Senator Saslaw wants to do is raise taxes.” McDonnell said that he will answer every concern the legislature may have on topic.

You can see my complete report on the ABC debate on NBC12.com.

Also earlier that day on NBC12 First at 4 we welcomed two people with expertise on the topic of ABC privatization. Paul Goldman and Norman Leahy outlined arguments against and for the idea respectively. You can see their very interesting discussion below.

You can see a complete transcript from the Goldman-Leahy debate on NBC12.com

Written by Ryan Nobles

August 20, 2010 at 12:06 am

McDonnell prepares to tout hefty surplus

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The Associated Press’ Bob Lewis broke the news that Governor Bob McDonnell will announce on Thursday that the state has a surplus of more than $400 million. A surplus of almost a half a billion dollars after a difficult budget process that resulted in cuts of around $4 billion.

At this point McDonnell is staying mum on the issue, allowing the leak to do the talking and vested stakeholders to fill the void. NBC12’s Andy Jenks reported today about how some already making plans to spend the cash. You can see and read Andy’s report on NBC12.com.

It is shaping up to be a busy week for McDonnell.  In addition to his address to the General Assembly money committees where he is expected to outline the surplus, the Governor will hold his third town hall to pitch his ABC privatization plan. Both events happen on Thursday. The town hall will be held in Chester and will be the first in Richmond area.

Today (Tuesday), McDonnell made his opposition to the Pentagon plan to close Joint Forces Command Norfolk official, by sending letters to President Barack Obama and Defense Secretary Robert Gates.  McDonnell emphasized his belief that going outside the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) process was inappropriate. You can see my report on that issue on NBC12.com.

Finally,  McDonnell reached out to the minority community by gathering together his Supplier Diversity Advisory Board. It is a commission designed to provide better access to government contracts for women and minority owned companies. (The above photo is from that meeting provided by the Governor’s office) You can learn more about the board on the Governor’s web site.

We have a number of interesting things planned to cover some of these issues this week on NBC12. Here is what you can expect:


*Complete coverage of the Governor’s address to the money committees, including what his administration’s plans are for the extra cash. We’ll have reports at 5 &6.

*On First at 4- We’ll have our second “hot-topic” round table discussion. The topic will be ABC privatization. We’ll have two experts discuss the issue with perspectives for and against. (A full preview of that segment tomorrow)

*Complete coverage of the “Virginia Speaks”  Town Hall from Chester, where McDonnell meets with constituents to pitch his plan. We’ll have a report on 12 News at 11.


*On First at 4- Del. Kirk Cox (R-Colonial Heights), the Chairman of the House Appropriations committee and a key player in the State’s finances will be my live guest to discuss how the legislature will react to the Commonwealth’s new-found surplus.

Written by Ryan Nobles

August 17, 2010 at 9:24 pm

Guns in bars- constitutional right or dangerous situation?

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It has only been law for almost two weeks, but the debate over allowing concealed weapons in bars is still raging.  For defenders of the second amendment, allowing permit holders to bring their weapons into a bar or restaurant, without anyone knowing,  is a constitutional right. For gun control advocates it is a recipe for a dangerous situation.

Wednesday on NBC12 First at 4, we heard from both sides of this contentious issue. Both Phillip Van Cleave of the Virginia Citizens Defense League and Richmond bartender Jack Lauterback are on the front lines of this debate. Van Cleave leads an organization of 14 thousand Virginians who work to defend the second amendment. His group heavily lobbied the General Assembly to get the bill passed.  Lauterback tends bar at some of Richmond’s hottest downtown haunts and writes about his experience on his blog and for Style Weekly.

You can see our discussion below:

You can also read an entire transcript of the exchange on our main site, NBC12.com.

Written by Ryan Nobles

July 14, 2010 at 5:39 pm

Monday on NBC12 First at 4: ICE Director John Morton

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He is the top government official at the agency at the center of one of the biggest issues facing the United States.  Monday on NBC12 First at 4, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Director John Morton will be my live guest.

Morton, a graduate of the University of Virginia Law School, is the leader of what the ICE website describes as the second largest investigative agency in the federal government. He oversees 19,000 employees and an annual  budget of more than $5 billion.

Morton took over ICE at a critical time in the agency’s role in the country. Immigration has become a hot button political issue drawing heated opinions on both sides. Opinions that have only gotten more hot with the passage of a controversial law in Arizona that gives local law enforcement additional powers to reign in illegal aliens.

The passage of the law in Arizona has brought renewed focus to a similar law in Prince William County and calls from some Virginia officials to pass something along the same line, statewide.

We will discuss many of these topics, including some of the work ICE is doing in Virginia during our live interview.

The interview will take place on NBC12 First at 4 and will be streamed live on NBC12.com.

Written by Ryan Nobles

July 12, 2010 at 3:16 pm

Virginia’s new laws

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By: Ryan Nobles – bio | email

It was a busy legislative session at the State Capitol, and while all the debate is over and the bills have been passed, most of the new laws don’t go into effect until July 1st.

July 1st is right around the corner so here is a very abbreviated list of some of these new laws, particularly ones that could impact your day-to-day life.

(h/t to the incredibly handy RichmondSunlight.org website for their easy to use search mechanism. Richmond Sunlight is run by the Virginia Interfaith Center)


*DUI- if a bus driver possess or consume alcoholic beverages while operating a school bus that’s transporting children, they are guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor.

*Seat belts- Virginians age 17 and younger who ride in the back seat of a vehicle must wear a seat belt starting July 1, and violators face a $25 fine.

*Golf carts- golf carts may cross highways in certain circumstances. Golf cart owners in towns with a population of 2,000 or less may cross a highway at an intersection that is marked as a golf cart crossing with signs.  The roadway’s speed limit must be 35 miles per hour or less, and the crossing has to be the only way the golf cart may travel from one part of the town to another.


*Concussions– Requires the Board of Education to develop and distribute to local school divisions guidelines for policies dealing with concussions in student-athletes

*Excused absences for holidays- Provides that any student’s absence because of the observance of a religious holiday must be recorded as excused on the student’s attendance record and that no student may be deprived of any award or of eligibility or opportunity to compete for any award or of the right to take an alternate test or examination, for any which he missed because of such absence.


*Guns in restaurants- Allows a person with a concealed handgun permit to carry a concealed handgun onto the premises of a restaurant or club and prohibits such person from consuming alcoholic beverages while on the premises.

Charitable Giving-

*Bingo- Limits the number of bingo games per session to no more than 50.


*Communication- requires the Tax Commissioner to devise a method by which a taxpayer who files a state tax return, statement or document electronically, may decline to receive bulletins, publications, or other information provided by the Department electronically.

Government Sunshine-

*Public meetings- Prohibits any public body from conducting a meeting required to be open in any building or facility where any recording devices are prohibited.

Spam emails-

*Unsolicited commercial electronic mail- Narrows the scope of the existing spam statute to cover only those emails that constitute unsolicited commercial electronic mail (spam).


*Absentee ballots- expands scope of persons defined as members of voter’s immediate family.

-Increases the deadline for each electoral board to make absentee ballots available

Death Penalty

*Jury notification- Virginia law and allows judges to notify juries of the proper instructions for a finding of a sentence of death or life imprisonment.

*Expands who can get charged- expands the death penalty by allowing the death sentence to be imposed for the murder of auxiliary law-enforcement officers, fire marshals and EMS personnel.

This is by no means the complete list, so if I missed something you think is important let me know and we will add it to the list!

Written by Ryan Nobles

June 25, 2010 at 9:07 pm

Posted in General Assembly 2010

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Robinson handily wins special election

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Dr. Roxann Robinson has a new title, Delegate-elect. The Republican optometrist from Chesterfield easily defeated county Democratic party chairman Bill Brown, by capturing more than 70% of the vote in Tuesday’s special election.

Robinson outspent Brown by wide margins in the district that is traditionally Republican. Former Delegate Sam Nixon resigned the seat to become the head of VITA.

Democrats chose to not invest much in this race, despite some evidence that the district may be starting to lean to the left.  Democratic Party of Virginia Executive Director David Mills explained to the Washington Post why the party chose to push their candidate in the 26th District, which also had a special election tonight as well.  The Democrats ended up losing both races Tuesday night.

Here is the breakdown of the vote, including absentees via the Chesterfield County Government website:

House 27

William P. “Bill” Brown Roxann L. Robinson Write In
1295 3427 12

20 of 20 precincts reporting (includes absentee)

Pct Nbr Pct Name William P. “Bill” Brown Roxann L. Robinson Write In
201 Gates 52 146 0
202 Beulah 103 192 1
203 Bird 35 70 1
204 Jacobs 84 116 2
205 Falling_Creek 151 290 0
207 Chippenham 30 62 0
208 Meadowbrook 57 142 0
210 Five_Forks 78 200 1
212 St_Lukes 40 209 1
213 Southside 111 119 1
302 Deer_Run 28 65 0
307 Cosby 40 136 2
308 S_Manchester 13 84 0
316 Spring_Run 53 154 0
317 Birkdale 83 281 0
402 Genito 68 215 0
404 Providence 110 233 1
405 La_Prade 96 425 0
414 Crenshaw 42 111 0
701 Central_Absentee 21 177 2
702 Provisional_Votes 0 0 0
*Note- photo taken from roxannrobinson.com

Written by Ryan Nobles

June 15, 2010 at 9:13 pm

Chesterfield voters to pick replacement for Nixon

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Tuesday is election day in Chesterfield County. Voters in the 27th district in the House of Delegates will choose between two candidates to replace former Delegate Sam Nixon.  Nixon resigned his post after he was appointed the head of the Virginia Information Technologies Association.

Conventional wisdom would dictate that the Republicans should hold this seat without much trouble. That means Dr. Roxanne Robinson, a local optometrist is the favorite going into her race against Chesterfield Planning Commissioner and Democratic Party Chairman, Bill Brown.

While it would certainly be a surprise if Robinson were to lose, her victory is not a forgone conclusion. There are certainly more Republicans than Democrats in the 27th district, but up until 2009, the region was trending blue. Voters there chose Barack Obama over John McCain in 2008, but voted overwhelmingly for Bob McDonnell in 2009.

Robinson won the nomination over a crowded field of Republicans, while Brown ended up with the nod after statewide Democrats made a strong push for Dale District Supervisor Jim Holland and former Deputy County Administrator Pete Stith to run, but both declined.  Brown has received little to no support from the Democratic party after earning the nomination.

Robinson has raised a significant amount of cash compared to Brown.  She has raised a little more than $100,000 and has spent a little more than half.  Brown has raised just under $7,000 and has spent most of it.

The Chesterfield Observer has covered this race particularly well including some interesting stories about Robinson not showing up for a debate and admitting to the Times-Dispatch that she didn’t know very much about two important statewide issues, transportation and the budget (The TD editorial board has endorsed the Republican).

To see if you live in the district and to find out where you vote click here.

We’ll have coverage of the election Tuesday on NBC12 and Decision Virginia.

Written by Ryan Nobles

June 14, 2010 at 8:48 pm

Special Report: Tracking GA District Office Allowances

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By: Ryan Nobles – bio | email

In case you missed it Friday night on NBC12-TV. Here is my special report on the Virginia General Assembly’s District Office Allowances:

You can read the story on NBC12.com.

As a matter of record, each lawmaker that we spoke to on the record (several refused our request to speak on the issue) said that the system needs a degree of reform. That includes both Governor Bob McDonnell and the Lt. Governor Bill Bolling.

Arlington Delegate Bob Brink (D) has already offered several opportunities for his fellow lawmakers to offer more accountability in the system and his proposed legislation has gone nowhere.  In 2001, he proposed this bill, that was promptly bottled up in committee. He offered a different version of as late as 2006, that would allow current members to be grandfathered in, but then would apply levels of accountability to newly elected members.  That too, never even made it out of committee.

We will continue to keep up with the members of the General Assembly to see if they act to improve the system.

Meanwhile, we’d like to know what you think. Is this important to you, or is it not that big of a deal in the grand scheme of things?  Leave your comments below or on the story posted on our main site NBC12.com.

Written by Ryan Nobles

May 22, 2010 at 12:18 am