AFP Politics Blog – Monday, Feb. 9, 2009

– News: Voter-restoration bill passes Virginia Senate, Monday, 7:40 p.m.
– News: Shannon earns AG endorsements, Monday, 7:22 p.m.
– News: House GOP talks up transportation-funding plan, Monday, 7:22 p.m.
– News: Moran picks up endorsement of former Democratic Governors’ Association director, Monday, 2:45 p.m.
– News: Poll suggests support for stimulus, Monday, 2:45 p.m.
– News: Family Foundation statement on defeat of legislation on public prayers, Monday, 2:45 p.m.
– Video: President Obama talks stimulus, Monday, 12:55 p.m.
– Video: Gov. Tim Kaine on the stimulus plan, Monday, 12:55 p.m.
– News: Remarks of President Obama at Elkhart, Ind., town hall on stimulus, Monday, 12:55 p.m.
– News: Bowerbank gets more LG endorsements, Monday, 12:55 p.m.

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News: Voter-restoration bill passes Virginia Senate, Monday, 7:40 p.m.

The Virginia Senate today passed a bill that could be the first step in ridding the state of an antiquated constitutional provision that permanently removes the right to vote from individuals who have committed felonies.

Patroned by Senator Yvonne Miller, SJ 273 would allow the General Assembly to regulate the process by which voting rights are restored for non-violent felons who have completed their sentences. A House version of the bill, HJ 628, patroned by Delegate Onzlee Ware, was narrowly defeated on a 10-12 vote last Friday in the House Privileges and Elections Committee, which did not allow time for a public hearing on the measure. The House P & E Committee will now take up the nearly identical Senate bill.

“Now that the Senate has passed the bill, there are only two Delegates standing in the way of a vote of the entire Virginia legislature,” said ACLU of Virginia Executive Director Kent Willis. “We believe that the bill will get the support it needs if there is a hearing before the House Privileges and Elections Committee, in which the origins and objectives of the bill can be fully explained.”

Once widespread, Jim Crow era felon disfranchisement laws have all but disappeared in recent years. Only two states in the entire nation — Virginia and Kentucky — still permanently disfranchise all felons, requiring an act of the governor to have such rights restored.

Approximately 300,000 Virginia residents cannot vote as a result of this law. Only a few thousand have their rights restored in any year by applying directly to the governor.

“This is a fundamentally unfair law that denies hundreds of thousands of tax-paying Virginians of their right to vote,” said ACLU of Virginia Executive Director Kent Willis. “It is also the last formal vestige of Jim Crow in Virginia, a policy that, like poll taxes and literacy tests, was invented to prevent minorities from voting.”

Surveys show that former felons who register to vote are half as likely to commit crimes as those who do not vote. Surveys also show that a majority of Virginia voters favor automatic restoration of voting rights for non-violent felons who have completed their sentences. Most major newspapers in Virginia have endorsed reform of Virginia’s felon disfranchisement law. (For more information, go to www.restoreourvote.org.)

Reform of Virginia’s felon disfranchisement law requires a constitutional amendment, meaning a resolution must pass this year and again next year, followed by a voter referendum.

  

News: Shannon earns AG endorsements, Monday, 7:22 p.m.

Delegate Steve Shannon announced today that his campaign for Attorney General has earned the support of House Democratic Leader Ward Armstrong (D – Henry) and Caucus Chair Ken Plum (D – Fairfax).

“I’m proud that these great leaders have chosen to support me in my campaign to make Virginia a safer place for every family to call home,” said Delegate Steve Shannon. “Having the support of people like Ward Armstrong and Ken Plum will be a tremendous asset as we take our campaign to the people of Virginia for the next nine months.”

“I’m proud to support Steve because, when it comes to protecting children, Steve has been a leader since before his election to the House of Delegates”, Democratic Leader Ward Armstrong said. “As a former prosecutor and as a dad, Steve knows what it takes to keep our kids safe” Armstrong continued.

“Steve will be a terrific Attorney General because he has his priorities straight”, said Democratic Caucus Chairman Ken Plum. “I’ve known Steve a long time and I know that he will fight everyday to protect Virginia families. He’ll fight to protect children from gangs and predators, and he’ll also fight to protect our jobs and our savings from fraud”, Plum continued.

 

News: House GOP talks up transportation-funding plan, Monday, 7:22 p.m.

Recognizing the importance of improving Virginia’s transportation system to help stimulate economic recovery and restore economic prosperity across the Commonwealth, Virginia House of Delegates Speaker William J. Howell (R-Stafford) and Delegates G. Glenn Oder (R-Newport News), David B. Albo (R-Fairfax) and Delegate Phillip A. Hamilton (R-Newport News) today detailed an innovative, reform-oriented, and economic growth-drive transportation package that will create jobs, ease congestion and improve safety without raising taxes. The House today gave preliminary approval to the funding and reform package, with a final vote expected tomorrow.

Highlights of the 2009 House Republican Transportation package include:

– Accelerates the issuing of $570 billion in funding authorized by the Comprehensive Transportation Funding and Reform Act of 2007;

– Increases future transportation funding for Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads by dedicating a portion of growth in existing revenue sources;

– Improves the Public Private Transportation Act of 1995, providing a streamlined process to expedite eligible projects, including the Hampton Roads Bridge Tunnel; and

– Constitutionally secures the Transportation Trust Fund.

Major provisions of the legislative package are included in House Bill 1579 that expands a similar plan approved by the House of Delegates during last year’s special session on transportation. Other key components of this year’s transportation package are House Bill 2066, House Bill 2079, and House Joint Resolution 620.

“In proposing this practical solution to the transportation challenges of Virginia’s most congested regions, House Republicans are again demonstrating their commitment to improving our transportation infrastructure,” said Speaker Howell. “Combined with the ability to issue $570 million in bonds authorized as part of the $3 billion package I patroned in 2007, this package positions Virginia to make significant progress in delivering a 21st century network of roads, rail and transit. This transportation infrastructure funding plan, in partnership with efforts on the federal level and through the private sector, will stimulate our economy, create jobs and enhance mobility across the Commonwealth.”

In 2007, the General Assembly passed and Governor Kaine signed Speaker Howell’s House Bill 3202, which dedicated new and existing revenue for statewide transportation needs, implemented overdue VDOT reforms, granted expanded tools for localities to combat sprawl and, for the first time, tied land use and transportation decisions. Part of that landmark legislation authorized the issuance of $3 billion in bonds to highway, rail and transit projects. With the successful resolution of legal challenges and the conclusion of prior debt obligations, the first issuance of $570 million is on schedule to be released during Fiscal Year 2010 which begins July 1, 2009. The infusion of these funds will jump-start transportation projects across Virginia, improving transportation and providing economic stimulus.

House Bill 1579, patroned by Delegate Oder, dedicates a portion of future revenue growth from economic activity in regions of the Commonwealth with major import and export activity to regional transportation projects. Specifically, the plan calls for:

– 30% of future growth from the corporate and individual income taxes and sales and use tax in Planning District 8 to the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority to fund important regional road, rail and transit projects. The plan allows for the generation of up to $600 million annually in new funding for regional transportation initiatives.

– 30% of future growth from revenues generated by the economic engine of the ports in Hampton Roads for local and regional projects determined by the Hampton Roads Metropolitan Planning Organization. The plan allows for the generation of up to $300 million annually in new funding for regional transportation items.

– 30% of future growth from revenues generated by existing and future ports in Front Royal, Richmond and Ellison. The plan allows for the generation of up to $50 million annually for Staunton, Richmond, and Salem VDOT Districts, respectively, for transportation projects selected by the Commonwealth Transportation Board.

“Like businesses, Virginia needs to prudently reinvest in capital infrastructure projects to ensure long-term economic growth,” noted Delegate Oder, Vice-Chairman of the House Transportation Committee and patron of House Joint Resolution 620 to lock up the Transportation Trust Fund from raids for non-transportation purposes. “House Republicans are offering the only solution this session that utilizes this responsible approach to addressing our transportation challenges. As our economic engines in the Commonwealth expand and grow, as we anticipate with our ports and business activity, our most congested regions should be able to capture a portion of that future revenue to build the infrastructure necessary to sustain and maximize ongoing economic prosperity. And, Virginians should be confident that funds intended for transportation improvements are exclusively reserved for that purpose.”

“Our plan allows areas like mine in Northern Virginia to keep a piece of the money generated here to stay here to help solve our transportation problems,” remarked Delegate Albo, a member of the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission. “Families in my district are stuck in traffic every day and business cannot move goods and services in a timely manner. This plan would directly address those issues by reducing congestion, increasing safety, and creating jobs. I am hopeful that all delegates and senators representing congested regions and beyond will vote for this common-sense transportation solution that allows us to reinvest in our infrastructure.”

Delegate Hamilton’s legislation, House Bill 2066, streamlines and improves the provisions of the Public-Private Transportation Act of 1995. The bill would result in an increased number of opportunities for public-private transportation projects in Virginia as well as hasten the process of bringing those projects to fruition. Delegate Hamilton’s bill and Delegate Oder’s House Bill 2079 include provisions to expedite improvements and expansion of two projects critical to Hampton Roads, the Downtown Tunnel/Midtown Tunnel/MLK Extension project and the Hampton Roads Bridge Tunnel.

“House Republicans understand the need for practical and viable solutions to address Virginia’s transportation problems,” concluded Delegate Hamilton. “Utilizing future tax revenues generated from economic growth, improving efficiencies that encourage public-private partnerships, and protecting transportation funding for transportation-only uses are common sense initiatives that distinguish us from the failed tax and spend and inefficient policies of the past.”

  

News: Moran picks up endorsement of former Democratic Governors’ Association director, Monday, 2:45 p.m.

Former Democratic Governors’ Association Executive Director Chuck Dolan announced his support for Brian Moran today. Dolan was executive director of the DGA and is a long-time political activist. He was Virginia Chair of the Clinton-Gore campaign in 1992 and 1996.

“In every race there is one individual who stands out as the best in field,” Dolan said. “It is my judgment that in this election the candidate that stands out as the person who can win the nomination and the general election is Brian Moran.”

Dolan served as a presidential appointee during the Clinton Administration.

“Chuck Dolan knows what it takes to win a campaign for Governor and I’m proud to have him see me as the best candidate,” said Brian Moran. “Chuck has been fighting for Virginia Democrats since the early 1980’s, and I’m honored that he respects my service to the Democratic Party.”

Dolan joins other endorsers across the Commonwealth, including the majority of the members of the Democratic Party of Virginia’s Executive Committee.

“Brian has been working for Virginia for the last 20 years – winning elections, building bipartisan coalitions, and helping build a stronger Virginia for the next generation,” Dolan said.

  

News: Poll suggests support for stimulus, Monday, 2:45 p.m.

A Gallup poll released today shows slight majority support for the approach advocated by President Barack Obama and congressional Democrats to economic stimulus.

Fifty percent of those surveyed support government funding of infrastructure improvements and other projects as the better approach to relying on tax cuts for individuals and businesses.

The Feb. 6-7 Gallup Poll was conducted as the U.S. Senate neared a vote on a more than $800 billion economic stimulus package compromise, and after the federal government reported the highest unemployment rate in 16 years.

The stimulus package agreement hammered out in the Senate late last week contains much more government spending than tax cuts. Most (if not all) Senate Democrats and a few Republicans are likely to vote for that bill this week. Republicans have argued that economic stimulus legislation should place a greater emphasis on tax cuts than on spending, but Senate Republicans failed in an attempt to pass a much smaller stimulus bill that took that approach last week. However, the current Senate proposal does contain more tax cuts than the stimulus bill passed by the House of Representatives.

  

News: Family Foundation statement on defeat of legislation on public prayers, Monday, 2:45 p.m.

Statement by Family Foundation of Virginia president Victoria Cobb on the defeat of SB 1072 in the Senate Courts of Justice Committee:

“It is disappointing that this reasonable and constitutionally sound legislation was defeated. Unfortunately, legislators on the committee seem to be accepting inaccurate information presented by opponents. As was clearly stated by the Attorney General’s office, no court anywhere in the United States has compelled censorship of public prayers before government bodies. In fact, the courts have consistently stated that government cannot dictate the content of prayers at government sanctioned events.

“While some who oppose free religious expression have mischaracterized the position of the courts in this area of law, we will continue to educate members of the General Assembly on the actual position of the judiciary. Our efforts will now turn to ensuring the passage through the Senate of Delegate Carrico’s bill that specifically protects the free expression rights of state police chaplains.”

  

Video: President Obama talks stimulus, Monday, 12:55 p.m.

Remarks from President Barack Obama addressing Economic Recovery House meetings. Length: 4:36.

 

Video: Gov. Tim Kaine on the stimulus plan, Monday, 12:55 p.m.

Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine takes questions on the proposed federal economic-stimulus plan. Length: 13:07.

 

News: Remarks of President Obama at Elkhart, Ind., town hall on stimulus, Monday, 12:55 p.m.

President Barack Obama traveled today to Elkhart, Indiana for a town hall on the American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan. The President spoke directly with Elkhart residents about the impact the plan will have on their lives, and answered questions about the challenges that they face.

The President was joined today by Secretary Ray LaHood, Senator Evan Bayh, Representatives Joe Donnelly, Baron Hill, Brad Ellsworth, Fred Upton, and Andre Carson, and former Representatives Tim Roemer and Lee Hamilton.

Below are the remarks of President Barack Obama.

I want to start by thanking Ed for coming here today and sharing his family’s story with all of us.

You know, we tend to take the measure of the economic crisis we face in numbers and statistics. But when we say we’ve lost 3.6 million jobs since this recession began – nearly 600,000 in the past month alone; when we say that this area has lost jobs faster than anywhere else in America, with an unemployment rate over 15 percent; when we talk about layoffs at companies like Monaco Coach, Keystone RV, and Pilgrim International – companies that have sustained this community for years – we’re talking about Ed Neufeldt and people like him all across this country.

We’re talking about folks who’ve lost their livelihood and don’t know what will take its place. Parents who’ve lost their health care and lie awake nights praying the kids don’t get sick. Families who’ve lost the home that was their corner of the American dream. Young people who put that college acceptance letter back in the envelope because they just can’t afford it.

That’s what those numbers and statistics mean. That is the true measure of this economic crisis. Those are the stories I heard when I came here to Elkhart six months ago and that I have carried with me every day since.

I promised you back then that if elected President, I would do everything I could to help this community recover. And that’s why I’ve come back today – to tell you how I intend to keep that promise.

The situation we face could not be more serious. We have inherited an economic crisis as deep and as dire as any since the Great Depression. Economists from across the spectrum have warned that if we don’t act immediately, millions more jobs will be lost, and national unemployment rates will approach double digits. More people will lose their homes and their health care. And our nation will sink into a crisis that, at some point, we may be unable to reverse.

So we can no longer afford to wait and see and hope for the best. We can no longer posture and bicker and resort to the same failed ideas that got us into this mess in the first place – and that the American people rejected at the polls this past November. You didn’t send us to Washington because you were hoping for more of the same. You sent us there with a mandate for change, and the expectation that we would act quickly and boldly to carry it out – and that is exactly what I intend to do as President of the United States.

That is why I put forth a Recovery and Reinvestment Plan that is now before Congress. At its core is a very simple idea: to put Americans back to work doing the work America needs done.

The plan will save or create three to four million jobs over the next two years. But not just any jobs – jobs that meet the needs we’ve neglected for far too long and lay the groundwork for long-term economic growth: jobs fixing our schools; computerizing medical records to save costs and save lives; repairing our infrastructure; and investing in renewable energy to help us move toward energy independence. The plan also calls for immediate tax relief for 95 percent of American workers.

Now I know that some of you might be thinking, well that all sounds good, but when are we going to see any of that here in Elkhart? What does all that mean for our families and our community? Those are exactly the kind of questions you should be asking of your President and your government, and today, I want to provide some answers – and I want to be as specific as I can.

First, this plan will provide for extended unemployment insurance, health care and other assistance for workers and families who have lost their jobs in this recession.

That will mean an additional $100 per month in unemployment benefits to more than 450,000 Indiana workers, extended unemployment benefits for another 89,000 folks who’ve been laid off and can’t find work, and job training assistance to help more than 51,000 people here get back on their feet.

That is not only our moral responsibility – to lend a helping hand to our fellow Americans in times of emergency – but it also makes good economic sense. If you don’t have money, you can’t spend it. And if people don’t spend, our economy will continue to decline.

For that same reason, the plan includes badly needed tax relief for middle class workers and families. The middle class is under siege, and we need to give you more of the money you’ve earned, so you can spend it and pay your bills. Under our plan, individuals get $500 – families, $1,000 – providing relief for nearly 2.5 million workers and their families here in Indiana.

The plan will also provide a partially refundable $2,500 per-student tax credit to help 76,000 Hoosier families send their kids to college. This will benefit your household budgets in the short run, and will benefit America in the long run.

But providing tax relief, and college assistance and help to folks who’ve lost their jobs is not enough. A real recovery plan helps create more jobs and put people back to work.

That’s why, between the investments our plan makes – and the tax relief for small businesses it provides – we’ll create or save nearly 80,000 badly needed jobs for Indiana in the next two years. Now, you may have heard some of the critics of our plan saying that it would create mostly government jobs. That’s simply not true. More than 90 percent of these jobs will be in the private sector. More than 90 percent.

But it’s not just the jobs that will benefit Indiana and the rest of America. It’s the work people will be doing: Rebuilding our roads, bridges, dams and levees. Roads like US 31 here in Indiana that Hoosiers count on, and that connect small towns and rural communities to opportunities for economic growth. And I know that a new overpass downtown would make a big difference for businesses and families right here in Elkhart.

We’ll also put people to work rebuilding our schools so all our kids can have the world-class classrooms, labs and libraries they need to compete in today’s global economy.

Investing in clean alternative sources of energy and the electric grid we need to transport it from coast to coast, helping make Indiana an energy-producing state, not just an energy-consuming state. Weatherizing homes across this state, and installing state of the art equipment to help you control your energy costs.

Building new high-speed broadband lines, reaching schools and small businesses in rural Indiana so they can connect and compete with their counterparts in any city in any country in the world.

And there is much, much more.

Now I’m not going to tell you that this bill is perfect. It isn’t. But it is the right size, the right scope, and has the right priorities to create jobs that will jumpstart our economy and transform it for the twenty-first century.

I also can’t tell you with one hundred percent certainty that everything in this plan will work exactly as we hope. But I can tell you with complete confidence that endless delay or paralysis in Washington in the face of this crisis will bring only deepening disaster.

We’ve had a good debate. Now it’s time to act. That’s why I am calling on Congress to pass this bill immediately. Folks here in Elkhart and across America need help right now, and they can’t afford to keep on waiting for folks in Washington to get this done.

We know that even with this plan, the road ahead won’t be easy. This crisis has been a long time in the making, and we know that we cannot turn it around overnight. Recovery will likely be measured in years, not weeks or months. But we also know that our economy will be stronger for generations to come if we commit ourselves to the work that needs to be done today. And being here in Elkhart, I am more confident than ever before that we will get where we need to be.

Because while I know people are struggling, I also know that folks here are good workers and good neighbors who step up, help each other out, and make sacrifices when times are tough. I know that all folks here are asking for is a chance to work hard – and to have that work translate into a decent life for you and your family.

So I know you all are doing your part out here – and I think it’s about time the government did its part too. That’s what the recovery plan before Congress is about. And that is why I hope Congress passes it as soon as humanly possible, so we can get to work creating jobs, helping families and turning our economy around.

Thank you.

 

News: Bowerbank gets more LG endorsements, Monday, 12:55 p.m.

Forty Democratic Party leaders and elected officials on Saturday announced their endorsement of Jon Bowerbank for Lieutenant Governor. This large showing of support is reflective of the campaign’s rapidly growing momentum as Jon continues to travel around the Commonwealth meeting with voters.

“As a person who deals every day with the financial challenges facing our local governments, I know the importance of having a leader who knows how to run a business and balance the books. Jon Bowerbank has run an extremely successful business for twenty years. He knows how to create jobs with good pay and craft a common sense budget, and he is the best person to get Virginia’s economy back on track,” said F.D. “Frankie” Edmondson, Portsmouth City Commissioner of Revenue.

“There is no candidate more qualified for Lieutenant Governor than Jon Bowerbank. Jon’s business experience and expertise in the energy sector are unparalleled, and that’s exactly the experience and expertise that we need in Virginia’s government. If we want a Democrat in the Lieutenant Governor’s office come November, we need Jon Bowerbank as our candidate,” said Delegate Bud Phillips.

These forty endorsements follow a wave of prominent endorsements for Bowerbank, including U.S. Congressman Rick Boucher, three former Democratic candidates for Lieutenant Governor – former Congresswoman Leslie Byrne, State Senator Chap Petersen and State Senator Phil Puckett – Democratic Black Caucus of Virginia Chair Evelyn Morris-Harris, and many Democratic Party chairs and officials from a wide range of counties across the state.

“Today’s endorsements confirm the incredible amount of excitement and energy around this campaign. As more and more people hear our message of common sense solutions to our economic, energy, and infrastructure challenges, our campaign gains more and more momentum, and we will take this new energy all the way to Richmond,” Jon Bowerbank said.

“The momentum among the leaders of the Democratic Party for Jon Bowerbank is clear. Jon is the only candidate with endorsements from 3 former statewide Democratic candidates and Jon is the only candidate to be endorsed by a current member of Virginia’s congressional delegation. Jon’s support is far and wide, spanning the Commonwealth geographically and comprising every level of Democrat from activist to county leader to state legislator to Congress,” said Bowerbank Campaign Manager Jon Paul Lupo.

Jon Bowerbank is the owner of a successful energy services company that employs hundreds of people in Virginia and throughout the country. He has also served as an operations manager in a Fortune 10 company in numerous states, and has both a business and technical background. He currently serves as the at-large member of the Russell County Board of Supervisors.

Bowerbank has spent the last year traveling around Virginia spreading his message of change. As Lieutenant Governor, Jon will be committed to improving Virginia’s infrastructure, finding real solutions to our energy crisis, and using common sense business practices to create jobs and boost Virginia’s economy.

Saturday’s endorsements include:

Delegate Dan Bowling, Virginia House of Delegates
Delegate Bud Phillips, Virginia House of Delegates
Helen Baker, Russell County Treasurer
Arthur Bredemeyer, Suffolk City Democratic Committee Chair
Danny Brown, Russell County Board of Supervisors
F.D. “Frankie” Edmondson, Portsmouth City Commissioner of Revenue
Judy Feder, Former Candidate, 10th Congressional District
Mike Bush, Russell County Commonwealth’s Attorney
Andrea Miller, Former Candidate, 4th Congressional District
Kim Chiapetto, Floyd County Democratic Committee Chair
Ron Wolff, Accomack County Board of Supervisors
Norman Cook, Tazewell County Treasurer
David Midkiff, 4th Congressional District Democratic Committee Treasurer
Steve Dye, Russell County Sheriff
Richard Edwards, Dickenson County Clerk of Court
Danny Edwards, Dickenson County Treasurer
Emma Hagy, Tazewell County Commissioner of Revenue
Mike Hymes, Tazewell County Board of Supervisors
Bill Keene, Buchanan County Treasurer
Robert Keene, Russell County Board of Supervisors
Ernest “Shy” Kennedy, Russell County Board of Supervisors
Tommy Livesay, Lee County Commissioner of Revenue
Rita McCann, Lee County Treasurer
Jack McCrady, Washington County Board of Supervisors
Ann McReynolds, Russell County Clerk of Court
Larry Mosley, Lee County Board of Supervisors
Fred Newman, Washington County Sheriff
C. Michael Puckett, Russell County Board of Supervisors
Claude Ray, Lee County Board of Supervisors
Kenneth Reynolds, Washington County Board of Supervisors
Jay Rife, Buchanan County Commissioner of Revenue
Donnie Rife, Dickenson County Board of Supervisors
Ronnie Short, Wise County Board of Supervisors
Roger Stanley, Dickenson County Board of Supervisors
Franklin Delano Sykes, Dickenson County Board of Supervisors
Tom Taylor, Washington County Board of Supervisors
Billy Wayne Wampler, Russell County Board of Supervisors
Randy Williams, Russell County Commissioner of Revenue
Bill Wimmer, Tazewell County Board of Supervisors
Melinda Worrell, Pulaski County Treasurer


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