December 2 to December 8, 2019

December 3 to December 8, 2019

Summary

Federal

Trade deal presents political conundrum for Democrats
By: Allison Stevens
Virginia Mercury – December 3, 2019

WASHINGTON — With only a few legislative days left before Congress adjourns for the year, House Democrats are eager to show that they can legislate while also pursuing an impeachment inquiry against President Donald Trump.

A massive trade deal represents their best shot at showing they can do so — but passing it would hand Trump a major political victory as he heads into the election year.

Blocking the deal, on the other hand, would also exact a heavy political toll. If Congress doesn’t ratify the “new NAFTA,” Democrats may not have a major legislative achievement to point to on the campaign trail next year — which could open them up to GOP charges of inaction and an “obsession” with impeachment.

As impeachment inquiry goes to Judiciary Committee, the only Virginian on the panel calls the process ‘patently unfair’
By: Graham Moomaw
Virginia Mercury – December 4, 2019

It might’ve been his Thanksgiving-themed quip about the impeachment report being a “half-baked bird.” Maybe it was his movie analogy, suggesting Democrats have reached the “Empire Strikes Back” phase of their efforts to oust President Donald Trump, but the rebels will win in the end.

Whatever it was that Rep. Ben Cline, a Republican from Western Virginia’s 6th District, said on Fox News this week, it earned him a fan in the White House.

State Executive

On redistricting reform, Democrats must not yield to temptation
By: Bobby Vassar
Virginia Mercury – December 2, 2019

In Virginia, and across the country, the Democratic Party is currently wrangling over a consequential issue — and it’s not about impeachment or the 2020 presidential candidates. It’s what to do about gerrymandering.

I have long believed in comprehensive redistricting reform in Virginia, and have admired the work of many organizations working toward this goal — including OneVirginia2021 (full disclosure: I serve on the board) and the group founded by former Attorney General Eric Holder, the National Democratic Redistricting Committee. The NRDC is billed as a centralized hub for executing a comprehensive redistricting strategy that shifts the redistricting power, creating fair districts where Democrats can compete.

From poll taxes to segregated train cars, Virginia panel recommends repealing 98 Jim Crow-era laws
By: Ned Oliver
Virginia Mercury – December 5, 2019

Gov. Ralph Northam asked state lawmakers Thursday to repeal 98 racist, Jim Crow-era laws that are still on the books in Virginia — legislation that charted the state’s policy of Massive Resistance to school desegregation, mandated segregated public transportation and blocked minorities from voting.

The legislation was identified by a commission Northam appointed in June as part of his efforts to make amends after a racist photo was found on his medical school yearbook page. The group formally presented their recommendations in a report released Thursday.

From poll taxes to segregated train cars, Virginia panel recommends repealing 98 Jim Crow-era laws
By: Ned Oliver
Virginia Mercury – December 5, 2019

Gov. Ralph Northam asked state lawmakers Thursday to repeal 98 racist, Jim Crow-era laws that are still on the books in Virginia — legislation that charted the state’s policy of Massive Resistance to school desegregation, mandated segregated public transportation and blocked minorities from voting.

The legislation was identified by a commission Northam appointed in June as part of his efforts to make amends after a racist photo was found on his medical school yearbook page. The group formally presented their recommendations in a report released Thursday.

Issues

Environment

What’s not to like about biomass? Deforestation, pollution and overpriced power.
By: Ivy Main
Virginia Mercury – December 2, 2019

What if you could get your electricity from a fuel that destroys forests, produces more air pollution than coal, and is priced higher than alternatives?

“Wow, sign me up!” you would not say, because as a sane person you don’t like deforestation, pollution and overpriced power.

Also, because you are not Dominion Energy Virginia. Dominion burned wood at one power plant from 1994 until last year; converted three small coal plants to wood-burning in 2013; and burns wood along with coal at its Virginia City coal plant. This “biomass” energy makes up about one percent of the electricity Dominion sells to Virginia ratepayers, according to its most recent IRP.

In Virginia, Union Hill and racial tensions have put environmental justice back on the map
By: Sarah Vogelsong
Virginia Mercury – December 5, 2019

In 1991, a federal court in Virginia found that in King and Queen County, local landfill siting “had a disproportionate impact on black residents.” Three years later, a General Assembly-commissioned study concluded that statewide, minorities bore “a disproportionate share of any burdens or risks” related to living next to a landfill.

They were unusual official acknowledgements from Virginia of what is today widely accepted knowledge: that minorities and the poor are much more likely to face environmental hazards than their white or wealthy counterparts.

Military Housing

The government isn’t ensuring safe housing for military families, watchdog report says
By: Allison Stevens
Virginia Mercury – December 3, 2019

WASHINGTON — The Pentagon is failing to ensure that all military families have access to safe, quality housing, according to a new government watchdog report.

The U.S. Department of Defense oversees private-sector developers who build, renovate, manage and maintain military housing.

But it doesn’t collect data about military housing conditions reliably or consistently and includes unreliable and misleading data in reports to Congress, according to the report, which was released by the General Accountability Office.

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