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Senate Democrats will fight efforts of GOP to organize as Senate majority

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Developing late Friday, the Virginia Senate Democrats have decided that they will not willingly allow the Senate Republicans to organize as the majority. The group unanimously decided to challenge the GOP effort during their caucus retreat in Fairfax.

“The Constitution of the Virginia is very clear,” said newly elected caucus chair Sen. Donald McEachin (D-Henrico). “The organization of the Senate is the prerogative of the elected members of the Senate and Lt. Governor Bolling is not a member of the Senate.”

Bolling and republicans have argued that having the tie breaking vote in the Lt. Governor’s chair entitles them to organize as a majority party. That power would allow them to set committee structure, appoint committee chairs and direct activity on the senate floor. It is a power Lt. Governor Bill Bolling has said he will use.

“While the Constitution does provide that the Senate and House Delegates shall ‘select its officers and settle its procedures’, this language does not prevent the Lieutenant Governor from voting on such matters in the event of a tie vote” said Bolling. “Should such issues come before the Senate and result in a tie vote, I will not hesitate to exercise my constitutional duty and cast the tie breaking vote on such issues.”

A similar 20-20 deadlock occurred in 1996 when George Allen was governor and democrat Don Byer was the Lt. Governor. At the time, democrats offered republicans the opportunity to share power.

“As George Allen, who was Governor of Virginia at that time said of the power sharing pact, “This is reflective of the balance and equity that should be accorded the election results.” McEachin noted.

Democrats have said that republicans should respect the will of the voters, half of which they claimed elected democrats. But would-be Senate Majoriy Leader Tommy Norment quibbled with the democratic math.

“According to the State Board of Elections, 768,545 Virginians voted for Republican candidates for Senate, while only 535,087 voted for Democrat candidates,” Norment said.

The big difference between 1996 and 2011 is the fragility of the potential majority caucus. In 1996, then Senator Virgil Goode threatened to bolt the democratic caucus if power was not shared. He later became a republican anyway and eventually ran and won a seat in congress. In 2011, republicans appear confident that their 20 votes will hold.

What is still an open question is exactly how the democrats plan to fight this organizational effort by the republicans. In most cases, the parties find a way to hash things out. Some liberal capitol watchers have suggested it is an issue that could be hashed out in court.

The full statement from the Senate Democrats and Republicans can be found after the jump:

(Interestingly.. the Dems have unveileld their leadership pics as well.. noting that Sen. Dick Saslaw is their “majority leader”.)

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Ryan Nobles

November 18, 2011 at 8:12 pm

Election 2011 settled, Houck concedes, GOP takes Senate

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It took a tad bit longer than we expected, but the republican party is now celebrating capturing the Virginia Senate. Party leaders have already said that they would take full organizational power, despite a 20-20 split.

Edd Houck officially conceded today, ending the speculation that he may ask for a recount of his slim loss to Republican Bryce Reeves.

Here is my story on Houck’s decision from NBC12:

The Senate of Virginia is officially in the hands of the Republican Party. 7 term senator Edd Houck announced that he was conceding his race to republican Bryce Reeves.

Houck deciding to forgo a recount, means a 20-20 split in the senate, with the GOP holding the tie breaking vote.

The numbers just weren’t on his side, and instead of a prolonged period of doubt over who would be governing Virginia, he ended the speculation. Houck stepped down from a nearly 30 year career in Richmond, the way any true statesman would.

He knew his time had come.

“He won it fair and square,” Houck said of his victorious opponent Reeves.

Faced with a deficit of more than 200 votes, and a long period of time before all the ballots could be counted again, Houck chose not to focus on what he didn’t accomplish this time around, and instead what his was able to do over the course of a 7 term career.

“I’m very proud of the service I’ve provided to the citizens of this district for the last 28 years,” he said.

Cut out of central casting, Houck looks the part of a Virginia gentleman, sent to Richmond to do the people’s business. He served as one of the principal architects of several state budgets, a role he loved in an institution he respected immensely. A respect he shared with the man who will replace him.

“You are about to enter one of the most sacred legislative areas in the entire country,” Houck told Reeves, “That is the Senate of Virginia.”

….read and see the full story on NBC12.com

An extended clip from Houck’s concession announcement can be found below:

Written by Ryan Nobles

November 10, 2011 at 11:55 pm

ELECTION DAY: The view from the ground

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Good Morning! It is election day. Perhaps the least dramatic of the four year election cycle, but there are still some important story lines.

Here is what we are following:

Control of the Virginia Senate: This is the story line that has the potential to have the biggest long term impact. A GOP flip in control gives Gov. Bob McDonnell‘s party control of all three layers of Virginia’s government. It will make his agenda much easier to push through, while at the same time giving him complete ownership of the Commonwealth’s success/failure for the remainder of his term.

If the flip happens it will also provide more evidence of McDonnell’s popularity in Virginia. He has campaigned heavily with republicans in tight races. Gaining the four seats necessary could send a powerful message to GOP Presidential candidates looking for a running mate that could help deliver a key swing state.

Henrico Commonwealth’s Attorney: This race took a sharp turn when republicans tried unsuccessfully to oust their chosen candidate Matt Geary. He wouldn’t go and that forced Del. Bill Janis to run as an independent and allowed democrats to field a strong candidate in Shannon Taylor. This race has had a little bit of everything and should lead to an interesting finish.

Voter turnout: With no statewide or federal candidates on the ballot, turnout is expected to be dismal. It could be 10% or less in some places. It will be especially slow in the Richmond metro, where there is not one truly competitive race in the General Assembly. In fact both parties rolled out their heavy hitters for statewide get out the vote efforts over the weekend, and they both ignored Richmond.

TELL ME WHAT YOU SEE: As always, I’m looking for the view from the ground. Tweet and Facebook me what you are seeing and I will post the dispatches below (pics too!). Then tune in tonight for the latest results on NBC12. Happy Election Day!!

From the ground…

Carmen Crater:  I voted in Cumberland about 10:30 this morning…was quite busy for that time of day…took 45 minutesof standing in line to vote, but well worth it……………anyone who doesn’t vote has absolutely no right to give their opinions or COMPLAINTS…be part of the system and maybe…just maybe we can make things better…

Vic Tench I just voted in PG not many people there just a few people in front and behind me we were all in line no more then 3 min.

Pat Coffey voted at Beaverdam Elementary – saw John Cox there about 9:30 this morning.

Brandon Satterwhite Voted here in Henrico, I was the only one there.

Erin Sutton I voted at pole green elementary in Hanover co. Sean Davis was shaking hands. Sadly there where not too many voters… I’m hoping I just came at a down time.

Janet Murphey I am in Charles City County — voted a little while ago..small county didn’t have to wait too long (1 person in front of me)

Mark Hopkins I voted. A good number of people at the Chesterfield polls.

Carole Whitley Wagner : Just before 10 this morning, my son & I were #287 & 288 at the Montpelier Center.

Andrea Stephenson Epps: Was # 488 at Swift Creek in Chesterfield 10 min. ago. Higher than I expected before the rush hour

Patty Hughes I voted at 1:30ish PM. I was number 376. I know there are more people out there in the Matoaca District. Remember voting gives you complaining rights, if you don’t try to make a change you can’t complain if there is none.

Lynn Davis Cranmer  Voted in rural King William County about 10:30 this morning. One person ahead of me, Two or three behind me. (Most people round these parts – vote before and after work, I think.)

Betty Paschall Tate  No one there but me and the poll workers this morning at Hening Elem. at 7:45am. Please everyone get out and vote …it is a privilege!!!!!

Classic: Governor McDonnell happens to run into former Governor Doug Wilder at their Richmond polling location.

@TheBenBrown: I voted absentee. Today is just another day…

From my polling place in Chesterfield, pretty slow I was voter 220


Robin Belcher Liesfeld Yes – pretty steady at the Centerville precinct in Goochland. I see that’s also been busy in Hadensville. I predict a pretty good turnout county-wide. I believe there may be some surprises, because many Goochland citizens want change!

Susan Coral Moss It was a bit quiet in Chester (Bermuda District-Wells). I was the 271th voter at 10:30. There wasn’t any problems. I was expecting more fireworks especially with the heated Supervisor race down here in Chester.

Margie Rutherford Gausby I voted in Ashland. They moved the polling place. It was difficult to find the correct room at the school to vote, I think it will impact turnout there. I was ready to give up and I ways vote.

Mary Eldredge Only had to wait about 30 seconds to vote this morning at Beaufont Towers (Precinct 412). There were only three voters when I was there about 9:15.

Ron Gallier i left my house at 10 am to vote and back home at 10:25 am i voted at donahoe elem school

@rosscatrow: I saw a big empty gymnasium.

@DaeHarris: I saw basketball hoops, a few volunteers and 1 other woman voting

@KDavisDesign: lots of signs, friendly people willing to help, and lots of people outside the library shoving information in your face.

@marioc: pretty quiet over at Clover Hill Elementary. At 6:30am I was No. 42.

Connie Warriner Mason I voted in PG. Steady flow. Nothing to exciting…did have a paper jam but was fixed quickly with no issues.pretty quiet over at Clover Hill Elementary. At 6:30am I was No. 42.

Al Neill In Hadensville (District 1 in Goochland) they were ahead of the count for the same time last election day. There had already been over 100 voters by 7AM. generally I think about 700 vote.

Tommi Brandt Just got back from voting in Powhatan. Not very busy right now.

@JaysonRachael Lots of fog when we voted @ 6am!

Decision Virginia Special Report: Battleground Uranium

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It could be one of the most important battles in the upcoming Virginia General Assembly legislative session. The Commonwealth has held onto a 3 decade old moratorium on uranium mining. Could 2012 be the year the moratorium is lifted? I examine the efforts being made on both sides in this debate and how Tuesday’s election could play a big role in the ultimate outcome.

CHATHAM, VA (WWBT) – It has been illegal in Virginia for more than three decades, but now a powerful push is on to lift the ban on uranium mining.

This Tuesday’s election could play a crucial role in deciding the future of that ban. Virginia Uranium has donated more than $100,000 to candidates across Virginia.

Their goal is to take a 35 hundred acre site in Chatham and turn it into a $10 billion mine.

Pittsylvania County is the next frontier in uranium. The element is the principle building block of nuclear energy and an incredibly valuable commodity.

“As a world we already operating at a deficit,” said Patrick Wales, a Danville native and the project manager for Virginia Uranium’s potential mine.

The company is stepping up their efforts to get that expensive material out of the ground and into the global economy.

“Creating energy independence, for this commonwealth, for this country,” said Wales. “And we can do it all by putting 325 people to work.”

Chatham native Walter Coles, the owner of Virginia Uranium has invested heavily in the idea that Virginia is up to opening up this mine.

Over the last three years his company has employed 15 different lobbyists from 4 different firms and has directly donated more than $116,000 to candidates in the General Assembly.

Chesterfield Senator John Watkins is one of them.

“I don’t stand to profit from Virginia Uranium,” said Watkins

…read the rest of the story on NBC12.com.

Written by Ryan Nobles

November 6, 2011 at 9:36 pm

McClellan not afraid to stand by President Obama

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In the wake of story after story of democrats fleeing President Barack Obama, I was able to find a state legislator unafraid to wave a flag of support for her Commander in Chief.

Granted, Del. Jennifer McClellan is running unopposed and is in a very solid democratic district but she was at one time a very vocal supporter of Hillary Clinton.  Today she made it clear that she has no problem getting behind the man in the White House.

You will notice, McClellan wasn’t willing to wade in too deep into the controversy surrounding House Democratic Leader Ward Armstrong.  She said that his decision to part with President Obama will not “impact the way they govern” in January.

Janis to run for Henrico Commonwealth’s Attorney

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By: Ryan Nobles – bio | email

NBC12 has confirmed through several credible sources that Del. Bill Janis (R-Henrico) will run for Henrico County Commonwealth’s Attorney.  Janis’ entry into the race comes in the wake of the county GOP establishment withdrawing their support from their original choice, former Richmond Deputy Commonwealth’s Attorney Matt Geary.

Janis is a popular and powerful member of the House of Delegates and scion of the Henrico GOP machine, created by former Congressman Tom Bliley and carried on through current Rep. Eric Cantor, the House Majority Leader.  Janis holds Cantor’s old seat in the House of Delegates and  (Cantor’s old seat in the 73rd district is now held by Del. John O’Bannon. Cantor currently lives in Janis’ 56th district which has changed over time through redistricting.) Janis is widely considered to have ambition beyond the statehouse.

Janis is expected to formally jump in the race within the next few days, perhaps as soon as tomorrow.  The question remains if he will run as an Independent, which could force him to leave the Republican Party, or if his entry will convince Geary to pull out of the race.

Yesterday on NBC12 First at 4, Geary told me that regardless of who decides to run, that he will continue his campaign.

Janis will now be forced to forgo a run for re-election to his seat in the House of Delegates. That will cause republicans to scramble to pick his replacement. I am told several names are already being considered.

Stay tuned.. we will update when we learn more.


*Bearing Drift has a look at what happens next in the wake of Janis leaving the House of Delegates.

*Janis has officially filed a “certificate for candidate qualifications” through the Henrico County Board of Elections. He still must submit petitions in order to get access to the ballot. Those are due by August 23rd.

*Matt Geary released the following statement in reaction to Janis’ entry into the race:

HENRICO – Matt Geary, Republican Nominee for Henrico Commonwealth’s Attorney issued the following statement today:

“I am disappointed that Republican Delegate Bill Janis has decided to circumvent our own party process to run as an Independent. He is violating the Republican Party pledge that states that members must support all Republican Nominees. All Republicans interested in running for the Henrico Commonwealth’s Attorney were required to file a statement of candidacy with the Henrico County Republican Chairman no later than 5pm on Monday, May 9, 2011 and pay a $500 filing fee. I did that. Effective July 1, 2011, I became the Republican Nominee for Henrico Commonwealth’s Attorney. Delegate Bill Janis missed the filing deadline. Hopefully he will reconsider. But if not, let the Henrico citizens decide on Tuesday, November 8, 2011 who is most qualified and experienced.

As the Chief Deputy Commonwealth’s Attorney of the City of Richmond, I managed the day to day operations of the second largest commonwealth attorney’s office in Virginia. That office consisted of 41 prosecutors, and approximately 50 staff members and victim witness advocates. Additionally, I helped manage a budget of approximately 5 million dollars and oversaw human resources training, grant applications and managed all intra-agency relations with local, state and federal law enforcement partners.
For three years, I served as special counsel to the Courts of Justice Committee for the Virginia House of Delegates. I am also honored to serve on the boards for the Richmond Police Foundation, the Advisory Committee for Juvenile Justice for the Commonwealth of Virginia, the Virginia Criminal Justice Services Board, the Commonwealth Public Safety Medal of Valor Review Board, and the Governor’s Advisory Committee on Asset Forfeiture. I have served as the President of the Richmond Criminal Bar Association, the Board of Governors of the Virginia State Bar, Criminal Section, and Chair of the Criminal Law Section of the Virginia Trial Lawyers Association. It would be an honor and a privilege to put this experience to use for the citizens of Henrico.” ###

Written by Ryan Nobles

August 11, 2011 at 5:27 pm

McDonnell to sign redistricting agreement

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Leaders in the House and Senate passed a new version of the Virginia General Assembly redistricting plan. This was their second attempt after the Governor Bob McDonnell vetoed their first proposal.

Here is the governor’s full statement regarding redistricting:

Statement of Governor Bob McDonnell on Passage of Redistricting Legislation

 RICHMOND – Governor Bob McDonnell issued the following statement regarding the redistricting legislation passed by the General Assembly this evening:

“I thank the General Assembly for passing this new redistricting plan. I will sign this legislation as soon as it reaches my desk. The plan as passed does address most of the criteria I outlined in my veto letter, and ensures that the elected members of the legislative branch fulfill their constitutional obligation to draw our electoral lines every ten years.

In my veto letter, I asked the Senate to send me a plan that was bipartisan and addressed potential legal issues.  The plan approved today is in line with those goals.  This plan retains more geographic and municipal boundaries, contains districts that are somewhat more compact, and passed the Senate on a strong bipartisan vote. In these aspects it is similar to the House plan. It is a great improvement over the previous plan that I vetoed, and which failed to gain a single vote from the minority party.  I applaud the Republican and Democratic members of the Senate who worked well together to craft this compromise plan.

At my request, the Attorney General’s office has reviewed the preliminary data regarding the plan.  Based on this review, they concluded that the plan meets the relevant legal requirements of the U.S. Constitution, the Virginia Constitution, and the Voting Rights Act.    I have asked the Attorney General to ensure that the legislation will be precleared in a timely fashion so that the 2011 election process can get underway.

While additional improvements in measures of compactness and preservation of communities of interest would have been ideal, and no plan is perfect, the Constitution of Virginia tasks the General Assembly with drawing lines, and further delay could have turned that authority over to the courts.  With state and federal lawsuits currently pending that request court-drawn lines, prompt action was required to preserve this inherently legislative function, and permit timely preclearance under the Voting Rights Act.

I also wish to thank the many groups that have been involved throughout the redistricting process, including the Independent Bipartisan Advisory Commission on Redistricting.  I am confident that their involvement and detailed report had a significant positive impact on the process by allowing members of the General Assembly to consider further options as they worked together to pass today’s plan. I look forward to continuing to work with the members of the General Assembly, and all Virginians, in our crucial ongoing effort to bring new jobs and more opportunities to every region of Virginia.”


Written by Ryan Nobles

April 28, 2011 at 9:18 pm

McDonnell vetoes mandatory physical education bill

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Just breaking from the State Capitol… Governor Bob McDonnell uses his veto pen for the first time in this session. He has rejected a plan by the General Assembly to require Virginia public schools to offer physical education.

The governor called the bill “an unfunded mandate”.

His full release can be found below:

Governor McDonnell Vetoes Unfunded Mandate on Localities

Mandatory Physical Education Bill Would Cost Local School Districts Millions; Take Time Away from Instruction in Other Subjects

McDonnell: “While I strongly agree that we must encourage exercise and physical activity, I oppose unfunded mandates, whether they come from Washington or Richmond.  In the fight against childhood obesity and preventable disease, we all have a role to play. Government cannot just pass legislation and make this problem go away. Kids need to get off the couch and away from the computer and onto a soccer field or basketball court.”

RICHMOND – Governor Bob McDonnell has vetoed legislation (SB 966) that would force local school districts to provide 150 minutes of physical education per week for all students in elementary and middle school by the year 2014. The state mandate was strongly opposed by local school districts and teachers concerned about the financial impact of its implementation.

Speaking about his decision Governor McDonnell noted, “In my Inaugural Address I stated very clearly that Washington does not always know better than Richmond, and, equally, that Richmond does not always know better than Fairfax or Galax. I have long opposed significant unfunded mandates passed from one level of government to another. Thus, I cannot in good conscience sign this legislation.”

“While the objective of this legislation is laudable, the proposed means of accomplishment is problematic.  Education officials advised me that this measure would cost them tens of millions of dollars. Fairfax County estimates the fiscal impact at $18-24 million; Chesterfield County places their potential costs at $6.9 million,” the Governor remarked. “In addition, this mandated time for physical education would exceed the time dedicated to any other subject in our public school system, and potentially cut into crucial time in the classroom needed for instruction in math, science, history and reading.  Our local school districts are facing tough budgetary times, and we simply cannot ask them now to incorporate an expensive new policy with no new funding.”

The Governor continued, “I am a strong proponent of the importance of exercise for our young people. My wife, Maureen, has made combating childhood obesity and inactivity, and promoting preventative healthcare, one of her chief issues as Virginia’s First Lady. However, we should not attempt to achieve important goals by disproportionately placing the burden of implementation on others.  While I strongly agree that we must encourage exercise and physical activity, I oppose unfunded mandates, whether they come from Washington or Richmond.  In the fight against childhood obesity and preventable disease, we all have a role to play. Government cannot just pass legislation and make this problem go away. Kids need to get off the couch and away from the computer and onto a soccer field or basketball court. We should look for every opportunity to encourage children to turn off the TV and go outside and play. Our young people should be taught by parents, teachers and mentors about the benefits of a healthy lifestyle and to pick active, rather than passive, recreational activities.  I have instructed officials in my administration to look for creative and innovative means by which we can promptly help get our children more physically active, and motivated to exercise on their own. One solution is to utilize mechanisms already in place – through our local School Health Advisory Boards – to create wellness policies for our schools.  This allows for local level decision making based on each localities needs.  I applaud both Senator Ralph Northam and Delegate John O’Bannon for their leadership on health care issues and commitment to improving the health and wellness of Virginia’s children. I have pledged to work with them on this issue as part of a comprehensive review of the curriculum priorities for our public education system over the next year.”

The General Assembly will consider the Governor’s veto when it meets the first week of April for the reconvened session.



UPDATE: A consortium of health care advocates just released the  following statement statement regarding the Governor’s veto.

The Virginia Chapters of the American Heart Association, the American Cancer Society, the American Academy of Pediatrics as well as the YMCA’s of Virginia issue the statement below regarding Gov. McDonnell’s veto of SB 966.


As Virginia’s leading public health organizations, we are deeply disappointed that Gov. McDonnell has vetoed SB 966 and missed an unprecedented opportunity to help address childhood obesity, a pressing and costly public health crisis.

This important legislation would have required 150 minutes of physical education each week, but did not require schools to hire additional instructors nor build new facilities.  Some school districts in Virginia, including Virginia Beach, have shown that they can offer even more than 150 minutes of physical education each week within their existing budgets and without a negative impact on education in other subjects.

Today, nearly one in three Virginia children is overweight or obese, and Gov. McDonnell has missed an ideal chance to show significant leadership on this problem by vetoing this legislation.

We are grateful for the strong bipartisan support this bill received in the General Assembly. In particular, Sen. Ralph Northam, Del. John O’Bannon, Del. Algie T. Howell, Sen. Louise Lucas, and Sen. John Miller showed strong leadership on this issue.

We will not give up on our fight against childhood obesity – and we will not give up on Virginia’s children.

Written by Ryan Nobles

March 24, 2011 at 3:45 pm

McDonnell reacts to landmark abortion vote

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Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell is pleased that the Virginia General Assembly passed legislation that will increase the level of regulation over first semester abortion providers in the Commonwealth.

The Governor supported the effort during during his time as a member of the House of Delegates. He said that as long as the bill has no legal or policy issues, he will sign it into law.

McDonnell, who has a pretty consistent pro-life voting record, but often attempts to not wade too deeply into volatile issues like abortion.  In a short interview this afternoon, he sold the legislation as one not designed to limit abortions, but to increase safety at clinics.

Tara Morgan is working on this story tonight for NBC12 News at 11. She will have more from both sides tonight.

The Governor’s full comments can be seen below:

Written by Ryan Nobles

February 24, 2011 at 7:50 pm

PolitiFact Virginia: Morrissey “mostly true” on DADT costs

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Henrico Del. Joe Morrissey is put under the microscope for a claim he made about the costs of  “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” on the floor of the House of Delegates.

You can read the full report on PolitiFactVirginia.com.

Our PolitiFact Virginia Report from NBC12 is below:

*Note.. A huge special thanks to one of my favorite web sites/resources Richmond Sunlight. They are in the process of archiving every second of the General Assembly session on video. They are posting it in an easy to use format on their web site. It is where I grabbed this video of Del. Morrissey’s floor speech. GREAT STUFF!

Written by Ryan Nobles

February 11, 2011 at 10:49 pm

Posted in General Assembly 2011

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