Weekly Digest – 12/16 to 12/22/19

December 16 to December 22, 2019

Summary

Clockwise from upper left:
“Northam proposes ending vehicle safety inspections, raising gas tax” – Graham Moomaw, Virginia Mercury

Northam’s budget: More expensive cigarettes, cheaper health care, an end to ‘tax relief’ and a $200-million olive branch – Ned Oliver, Virginia Mercury

“U.S. Workers Are Standing Up for Their Rights. A New Law Would Back Them Up” – Alan Barber and Liz Watson, Common Dreams

State of the Commonwealth 2020 Survey Report – Dr. Quentin Kidd, Director, Judy Ford Wason Center for Public Policy

More articles from past week inside post …

Federal

Like most of Congress, Va. delegation splits down party lines on impeaching Trump
By: Robin Bravender
Virginia Mercury – December 18, 2019

WASHINGTON — The U.S. House voted to impeach President Donald Trump Wednesday night, making him the third president to be impeached in U.S. history.

Trump was impeached on largely party line votes on charges that he abused power and obstructed Congress. The charges surround allegations that Trump improperly pressured Ukraine’s president to investigate his political rival in an effort to interfere with the 2020 U.S. presidential election.

State Executive

State of the Commonwealth 2020 Survey Report
By: Dr. Quentin Kidd, Director
Judy Ford Wason Center for Public Policy – December 16, 2019

Voters support gun control, ERA, redistricting reform, minimum wage hike and marijuana decriminalization, but oppose local control over Confederate monuments

Summary of Key Findings

  1. Voters strongly support requiring background checks on all gun sales (86%-13%) and passing a ‘red flag’ law (73%-23%); a slight majority (54%-44%) support banning assault-style weapons
  2. Voters strongly back the Equal Rights Amendment (80%-13%)
  3. A slight majority oppose giving localities authority to remove or alter Confederate monuments (51%-44%)
  4. Voters strongly support decriminalizing possession of small amounts of marijuana (83%-14%)
  5. Voters strongly support raising the minimum wage (72%-28%)
  6. Voters strongly support automatic voter registration (64%-31%), but slightly oppose no-excuse absentee voting (74%-23%)
  7. Voters strongly support second passage of the redistricting reform constitutional amendment (70%-15%)

Northam’s budget: More expensive cigarettes, cheaper health care, an end to ‘tax relief’ and a $200-million olive branch
By: Ned Oliver
Virginia Mercury – December 17, 2019

Gov. Ralph Northam has already sketched out some of his biggest budget investments in a series of announcements over the past week. Among them, $1.2 billion for K-12 education, $733 million for environmental initiatives like cleaning up the Chesapeake Bay, $92 million for affordable housing and eviction prevention, and $22 million to lower maternal mortality rates.

On Tuesday, though, we got our first look at the whole picture when Northam released the entirety of his two-year, $135 billion spending plan, which he called “one of the most progressive budgets probably that’s ever been presented.”

Issues

Worker Rights

U.S. Workers Are Standing Up for Their Rights. A New Law Would Back Them Up.
By: Alan Barber and Liz Watson
Common Dreams – May 31, 2019

The Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act would force employers to the bargaining table if the union has the support of a majority of employees and the employer interferes with the union election. If the National Labor Relations Board believes a worker has been illegally terminated for engaging in union activity, the PRO Act would require the company to reinstate the worker while the case is pending.

Under current law, bargaining for a first contract can drag on for years. To address this, the Act establishes a process for mediation and if necessary, binding arbitration, to reach a first contract.
The PRO Act would also prohibit employers from permanently replacing employees who strike, give stronger protections to contract workers, and provide compensatory damages for employees while penalizing employers that illegally fire or retaliate against workers. Among other protections, the Act would also ban captive audience meetings.

House Education and Labor Committee Chairman Bobby Scott (D-VA) introduced the legislation, which now has 141 co-sponsors, including Congressional Progressive Caucus Co-Chairs Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) and Rep. Mark Pocan (D-WI).

Fact sheet on the PRO Act

Commentary from the Economic Policy Institute

Our economy is out of balance. Corporations and CEOs hold too much power and wealth, and working people know it. Workers are mobilizing, organizing, protesting, and striking at a level not seen in decades, and they are winning pay raises and other real change by using their collective voices.

But, the fact is, it is still too difficult for working people to form a union at their workplace when they want to. The law gives employers too much power and puts too many roadblocks in the way of workers trying to organize with their co-workers. That’s why the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act—introduced today by Senator Murray and Representative Scott—is such an important piece of legislation.

The Virginia Plantation by John Flannery on Sept. 2, 2019

We “celebrate” Labor Day but it’s a false “celebration”– a sham.

In Virginia, you can be fired at will.

Commentary by Kim Bobo in the Virginia Mercury on Dec. 13, 2019

Over the last decade, Virginia’s House and Senate Commerce and Labor committees pretty much ignored the labor side of the equation. Ranked the top state for doing business, Virginia is also ranked the worst state for workers.

Addressing Virginia’s pitiful labor protections and raising a few core standards is long overdue. A recent study by Oxfam America named Virginia the worst state in the nation for workers based on three categories — wage policies, worker protections and workers’ rights to organize.

 

 

 

 

Auto Safety

Northam proposes ending vehicle safety inspections, raising gas tax
By: Graham Moomaw
Virginia Mercury – December 17, 2019

Gov. Ralph Northam wants to end state-mandated vehicle safety inspections and cut vehicle registration fees in half, proposals his administration says would eventually save Virginians more than $280 million per year.

But motorists would have to pay a few dollars more each time they fill up on gas under a proposal to increase the state’s motor vehicle fuels tax from about 22 cents per gallon to 34 cents per gallon over three years, putting Virginia more in line with Maryland and North Carolina.

By the third year, the gas tax proposal could generate more than $491 million in additional revenue for the state, according to projections released by the Northam administration.

The two-year budget proposal the governor unveiled Tuesday included significant transportation policy changes that Northam said would modernize an “outdated” funding system.

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