Jeff Schapiro's analysis of the week's Virginia political news.
National attention on Richmond courtroom in first legal test of Virginia's challenge to federal health care legislation.
Farrar: Jeff Schapiro joins us now from the Richmond Times Dispatch for his regular Friday morning analysis of Virginia political news. Good morning, Jeff.
Schapiro: Good morning, Wayne.
Farrar: As we were just hearing on the national newscast, a courtroom in Richmond was the focus of national attention yesterday as Virginia's challenge of the federal health-care reform law is the first to meet a legal test.
Schapiro: Yes, Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli has his first of perhaps many days in federal court, as NPR has been reporting, and certainly as the Virginia press has been reporting. Ken Cuccinelli is challenging what Republicans deride as Obama-care, attacking it as an overreach, as a power grab and just beyond the pale, the idea that the federal government could somehow compel people to buy health insurance, is anathema to Republican Cuccinelli, and his lawyers telling Federal Judge Henry Hudson that there is nothing in the Constitution that compels individuals to provide for themselves and their families health insurance; and the federal government countering that states simply can't pick and choose the laws they choose to follow.
Judge Hudson is going to have a decision on "standing" and that is one of those high-falutin' legal words that is all about whether Cuccinelli has the ability, the power, the actual prerogative to sue. Hudson will have a decision within 30 days, but there's a very good chance, regardless of what happens, that this matter is going to be going to the United States Supreme Court.
And I might add, that if you're a politician like Ken Cuccinelli, with perhaps ambitions beyond the Attorney Generalship, presumably one wins even by losing; taking on the Obama administration is one way to keep Republicans and Republican-leaning independents fully engaged.
Farrar: New laws took effect on July 1st, and uh, well, it was all about guns, speed and booze, if you believe the headlines.
Schapiro: Yes, particularly on guns, the idea that Virginians can now carry weapons, concealed weapons, into bars; of course, one suspects they probably have been doing so for years and presumably, or perhaps drinking without incident, and of course, this law goes on the books at the same time that the United States Supreme Court rules in a big Second Amendment case out of Chicago, saying that
there is nothing in state or local law that can impair an American's right to bear arms.
Farrar: And of course, the speed limit will be going up on certain stretches of highway, which is of interest to a lot of motorists.
Schapiro: Yes, for the lead-footed set, though there aren't too many stretches of highway that are going to be covered by this; initially, it'll be a strip of asphalt from Richmond south to Petersburg.
Farrar: Mmm-hmm. The legislative report card is out, kind of an inside-politics thing, but it's of importance to many Virginia lawmakers.
Schapiro: Yes, two this week, one by the League of Conservation Voters, the other by Virginia Free, the former group an environmental organization, the latter a business group; not surprisingly, the Democrats do better in the League of Conservation Voters' report card, Republicans in the Virgina Free report card.
This is all about fundraising, don't be, uh, don't be fooled. This is an opportunity for Democrats and Republicans to go back to their bases, their big supporters and say 'See? I'm in your corner,' and that will translate to grass roots support, presumably, maybe some technical support come campaign time, but particularly when it comes to Virginia Free and its business members' big checks, potentially from big business.
Farrar: One of the most contentious elections in Virginia and even nationally this year is likely to be the 5th district Congressional contest, and the ads are already appearing.
Schapiro: Well, "ad," more to the point, Democrat Tom Periello, the incumbent in that Southside anchor district, on the air first, facing a big challenge when Robert Hurt, the state Senator from Pittsylvania County, the other population center in the heavily-rural 5th; of course, Periello well-financed but also facing a tough campaign. Periello won the closest Congressional election in the country in '08, largely on Barack Obama's coattails; Periello defeated Virgil Goode, a seemingly indomitable Republican.
Farrar: Richmond State Senator Don McEachin seems to be posing himself for another state-wide run.
Schapiro: Perhaps, McEachin has announced the formation of a new political action committee; of course, he was clobbered for Attorney General in '01, but some folks are wondering if this PAC is a sign that he may be running state-wide again.
Farrar: Governor McDonnell announced some appointments, a couple of interest, and we have just about forty seconds to go.
Schapiro: One, a special interest, Sheila Johnson, the black businesswoman, co-founder of the Black Entertainment Television network, who backed Kaine, backed McDonnell, she's heading to the UVA Board; perhaps this is all part of kissing and making up. You'll remember that Sheila Johnson expressed considerable embarrassment over Governor McDonnell's Confederate History Month proclamation.
Farrar: Alright, well, happy Fourth of July to you and we'll talk to you next Friday morning here on Morning Edition at our usual time spot here.
Schapiro: Have a red, white and blue one!
Farrar: Okay. Thanks, Jeff. Jeff Schapiro of the Richmond Times Dispatch.