FRIDAY, APRIL 6, SARAYA WINTERSMITH – Jeff Schapiro of the Richmond Times Dispatch joins 88.9 WCVE’s Saraya Wintersmith for this week’s political analysis. Topics include the upcoming legislative budget showdown over Medicaid expansion, Governor Ralph Northam taking actions reverberating through the environmental community, and U.S. Senator Tim Kaine kicking off his re-election campaign.
SW: From WCVE News in Richmond, I’m Saraya Wintersmith. Joining me now is Richmond Times Dispatch columnist and WCVE political analyst, Jeff Schapiro. Jeff, happy first Friday. We missed you last week.
JS: Nice to be back. Good morning, Saraya.
SW: Our first item this morning is actually a bit of a look ahead. Virginia lawmakers are going to return next week to try to work out a budget. Jeff, they couldn’t get together over Medicaid expansion the first time. Where do things stand now?
JS: This do-over I suspect is going to take a good deal of time. The legislature is coming back in session on Wednesday. That’s the 11th. The callback by Governor Northam, who is determined to see this Medicaid expansion is implemented. The real deadline, the really serious deadline of course is June 30 when the current spending cycle ends. But a lot of local governments and other entities that rely on the state’s largess are making it very clear that they would like the state to act soon. But this does not seem to have created an enormous sense of urgency for the legislators, particularly on the matter of Medicaid expansion. Now the House which of course had strenuously opposed the expansion during the McAuliffe years now supports it. The Senate is adamantly opposed, so we’re told, though the Senate Republican caucus, the majority caucus, includes at least one member who is likely to support expansion at some point and in some form still undetermined.
SW: Next up, a pair of actions by Governor Ralph Northam has the environmental sphere abuzz. On Monday he reappointed David Paylor as the Head of the Department of Environmental Quality, and on Tuesday he signed an executive order which kind of cracks the whip at this highly criticized agency.
JS: And I would argue that these are actions that need to be viewed as one. David Paylor is clearly generating a good deal of concern among Democratic Greens, large “G” Greens if you will, the environmental left. This is spotlighting a continuing problem for Governor Northam, and that is this suspicion of his environmental credentials by the environmental left. It is particularly incensed by the continuing sway of Dominion Energy. Northam, who fancies himself as an environmentally conscious Democrat, signed this executive order. . . to full enforcement of environmental laws, but it largely appears designed to calm his critics, at least among clean air, clean water, and clean soil advocates.
SW: Also this week Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring has joined a lawsuit that seeks to block the Trump administration from inquiring about citizenship on the upcoming census. Jeff, what do we know about this lawsuit, and what does Virginia’s inclusion mean?
JS: This is a federal action and Virginia would be among 18 states and 6 cities pushing this litigation, challenging this question for the 2020 headcount. It is the contention of Attorney General Herring and others, most notably Democrats, that this question is intended only to frighten illegal immigrants, and that it would diminish the accuracy of the headcount. Of course if that is not accurate, it could have profound consequences for how the federal budget is sliced, and of course how seats are determined in the U.S. House of Representatives. There is a larger element to this matter, and it is Virginia specific. And that is this is a reminder that Virginia is increasingly multi-hued, and that of course is contributing to the large “D” Democratic ascendency in this state, the evidence of which is last November’s Democratic sweep and the big gains the party made in the House of Delegates.
SW: And finally, U.S. Senator from Virginia, Tim Kaine has officially launched his reelection bid. Jeff, quite a bit has happened since the first time the junior senator ran for the seat.
JS: And of course that includes running for Vice President of the United States in 2016, a race he lost. Among the more interesting aspects of the continuing Kaine kick-off, he’s traveling the state; he has been spotlighting the importance of jobs and the economy, but to some degree crediting Trump for harnessing the importance of those issues in 2016. Kaine of course is not just looking for a win, but a big win to make up for that big loss two years ago. The Republicans are facing long odds to take back the Kaine-held seat, however they have three perspective candidates for their primary ballot. That includes Corey Stewart, the Trump sound-alike, Nick Freitas, the new delegate from the horse country of Virginia that caused quite a stir with some of his more provocative remarks about Democrats and race and other hot-button issues in the widely reported floor speech, and then E.W. Jackson who was the Republican nominee for Lieutenant Governor in 2013 and was soundly defeated by the man who would go on to become governor in 2017, Ralph Northam.
SW: Jeff Schapiro, our time is up. Always a pleasure speaking with you.
JS: Thank you, Saraya. Good weekend to you.