Schapiro Analysis for 7/23/10
Jeff Schapiro gives his analysis of Virginia's politics for this week.
Farrar: Jeff Schapiro of the Richmond Times Dispatch joins us now by telephone for his weekly analysis of Virginia political news. Good morning, Jeff.
Schapiro: Good morning, Wayne.
Farrar: ABC privatization was on the headlines this week. Governor McDonnell, his administration at least, revealing some details of the plan to sell off the state's retail liquor stores.
Schapiro: Ah, yes, rolling out a plan that could be a source, a windfall source, of dollars for the transportation program, a cash-thirsty program, if you will. The governor says that by getting Virgina out of the liquor business, it's possible that there could be a one-time fix of cash for the transportation system of 300 million dollars to 500 million dollars. This would be among a dozen sources of funds for the transportation system. What's, I think, really important here, is having lost the longest of long shots on alternative roads funding, that would be off-shore drilling, this is all because of the Louisiana disaster, the governor is very much looking for a win on a way to underwrite transportation in the state and because, remember, he is not going to go along with higher taxes and so he has to find other ways to make good on his promise to jump-start the road program.
Now the Senate Democrats are pretty much against ABC privatization; House Republicans are not entirely convinced yet, and the reason for all of this is that there is a sense that the system isn't broken, it's a reliable source of 200 million dollars or more per year; and this opposition and uncertainty persists even though the state liquor system might seem somewhat anachronistic and something of a contradiction of Virginia's free enterprise tradition.
Farrar: Felons' rights also was a topic in the news; the governor, I believe late last week, announced that he was restoring the civil rights of several hundred convicted felons who have completed their sentences.
Schapiro: Ah, yes, the governor has acted on just over 500 applications; there were about 575 or so that the governor said were eligible for action; of course, the governor announced back in May that he would expedite the consideration of these rights restoration requests; this is an important symbolic gesture by the governor, it's an overture to those who are often disproportionately represented in the felons' ranks, if you will, the young minorities.
Virginia and Kentucky are the only states in the country that leave the decision of rights restoration entirely to the governor, and with the governor's move and this very substantial number of decisions, even organizations like the American Civil Liberties Union, not exactly a group that often heaps praise on Republican governors, suggests that the governor could very well set a record for the restoration of rights to felons, and of course, this means that felons could serve on juries, vote and run for office.
Farrar: We have just about a minute to go. The governor is on a trade mission to Europe; all governors do this, of course.
Schapiro: Ah, yes, all governors do this. Since Mills Godwin, this has become standard operating procedure. This governor, Bob McDonnell, would probably say this is of greater urgency given the state of the economy and his promise to create jobs. I think the bottom line on these sorts of trips is that they are largely exercises in cheerleading and that when it comes to helping the economy or promoting job growth, there's really very little a governor can do. There are, at work are forces beyond his control, exchange rates, market conditions, that sort of thing.
Farrar: Okay. In about thirty seconds, will you comment on a couple of Virgina congressmen in the news? 7th District Republican Eric Cantor said he would not join the Tea Party caucus in Congress, and 2nd District Democrat Glenn Nye voted 'no' on extending the unemployment benefits.
Schapiro: Ah, yes, Cantor's a pretty conservative guy, but he knows if he starts hanging around with these Tea Party people, it would affix to him the extremist label and there is also his concern about racism, perceived racism, within the Tea Party movement.
Glenn Nye, a freshman from Virginia's 2nd in south Hampton Roads, the only Democrat in the Virginia delegation to oppose the unemployment benefits extension initiative, clearly thinking about the consequences for November.
Farrar: Thanks to Jeff Schapiro of the Richmond Times Dispatch. Jeff's analyses are available at ideastations.org/archive. Click on 'analysis' under the category list or click on Jeff's picture in the array of WCVE's contributors. Thanks, Jeff.
Schapiro: You bet!