Delegate Bill Janis

Major Tax And Spending Reform Once Dead, Now Alive And We Need Your Help!

Last Tuesday afternoon, the Senate Privileges and Elections Committee appeared to send a major reform to oblivion without having to go on record: Although it had jurisdiction of HJ 615, a proposed constitutional amendment to prevent tax increases from appearing in the budget bill, it decided instead to refer it to the Finance Committee. Such referrals this late in session normally are a quiet way of killing a bill without having to vote to do so. Furthermore, it was done without the notification of the resolution's patron, also a normal telltale sign of no good. However, today, the Finance Committee announced it would, in fact, hear the resolution Monday afternoon! There is no time to lose. Please contact members of the Finance Committee to vote for this resolution that will bring much needed reform to Virginia's budgeting process, slow down tax and fee increases, and bring some transparency to the way our lawmakers raise and spend our hard earned tax dollars. We need you to contact members of the committee, urgently, and encourage a vote for HJ 615!

HJ 615, patroned by Delegates Bill Janis (R-56, Henrico) and Bob Marshall (R-13, Manassas), will safeguard your tax dollars by banning tax and fee increases, as well as banning the termination of tax credits, in the budget bill. The budget bill is supposed to be a spending bill only. But in recent years, governors and legislators of both parties have stuck tax and fee increases in it (such as when Mark Warner pushed through his infamous tax increase). The budget bill, which contains more than $70 billion, is given to lawmakers on the last day of session and they only have a few hours to digest it. It is nearly impossible to identify tax increases of any type.

HJ 615 would subject the budget to the Single Object Rule, which prohibits non-germane amendments to bills, a rule all other legislation must live by in the General Assembly (unlike Congress where members attach pet projects to must-pass bills, such as funding military personnel). Unfortunately, the Virginia Supreme Court ruled that the budget bill, which takes precedence over all other laws once enacted, is not subject to the SRO.

This resolution passed the House 80-15. It even passed a Senate P&E sub-committee 5-1 before the full committee sent it to Finance. So there is widespread support for it, but that doesn't always translate into victory when a few people hold the fate of legislation in their hands. Let's not let this second chance go to waste.

If the General Assembly needs more revenue to fund its projects and programs, it should have the courage to propose and vote on ending tax credits and increasing taxes and fees separately, up or down, on the record. Increases in our tax burden should not buried in a must-pass budget with deadline pressure to approve so that state government can continue to function. But with transparent, separate tax increase bills and up-and-down on-the-record votes, we doubt lawmakers will be in any hurry to raise our taxes. So, this not only is a reform of the budget process that adds transparency, it's a step toward reducing the size of government.

Click here for links to contact information for Senate Finance Committee members.

Major Tax And Spending Reform On Verge Of Passing?

This Tuesday afternoon, the Senate Privileges and Elections Committee will consider an important constitutional amendment that will bring much needed reform to Virginia's budgeting process, slow down tax and fee increases, and bring some transparency to the way our lawmakers raise and spend our hard earned tax dollars.

Contact members of the committee, urgently, and encourage a vote for HJ 615!

HJ 615, patroned by Delegates Bill Janis (R-56, Henrico) and Bob Marshall (R-13, Manassas), will safeguard our tax dollars by banning tax and fee increases, as well as banning the termination of tax credits, in the budget bill. The budget bill is supposed to be a spending bill only. But in recent years, governors and legislators of both parties have stuck tax and fee increases in it (such as when Mark Warner pushed through his infamous tax increase). The budget bill, which contains more than $70 billion, is given to lawmakers on the last day of session and they only have a few hours to digest it. It is nearly impossible to pick out tax increases of any type.

This resolution passed the House 80-15. If it passes the Senate this year and both chambers again next year, Virginia voters will vote on it in November 2012. But we must start with a positive committee vote Tuesday so it can get to the Senate floor.

If the General Assembly needs more revenue to fund its projects and programs, it should have the courage to propose and vote on ending tax credits and increasing taxes and fees separately, up or down, on the record. Increases in our tax burden should not buried in a must-pass budget with deadline pressure to approve so that state government can continue to function. But with transparent, separate tax increase bills and up-and-down on-the-record votes, we doubt lawmakers will be in any hurry to raise our taxes. So, this not only is a reform of the budget process that adds transparency, it’s a step toward reducing the size of government.

This resolution received a positive vote in sub-committee this week (5-1 with one abstention), but some of the senators who voted for it and the abstention expressed reservations and said they may still change their vote in full committee. Your voice is crucial to ensuring this much needed open government resolution passes so that we voters eventually get a chance to pass our own judgment on it.

Your Constitutional Protections At Stake Tomorrow

The pace of the General Assembly moves very fast, especially during the short session when committee hearings are compressed into a shorter period. Just this morning we were notified that four important proposed constitutional amendments, passed last week by the House, already are scheduled for tomorrow morning in a Senate Privileges and Elections sub-committee. Usually, there is at least a day or two respite and time to regroup right before or after "crossover," but the pipeline is full of bills and the legislation continues to flow. We need your urgent help to contact members of the sub-committee and ask them to vote for these important constitutional protections. Only four votes stand in the way killing these highly popular and needed measures without the full debate of the Senate, much less the full committee. So, your action is needed now.

HJ 615, patroned by Delegate Bill Janis (R-56, Henrico) and Bob Marshall (R-13, Manassas), would safeguard your tax dollars by banning tax and fee increases in the budget bill. The budget bill is supposed to be a spending bill only. But in recent years, governors and legislators have stuck tax and fee increases in it (such as when Mark Warner pushed through his infamous tax increase). If those revenues are needed, delegates and senators should have the courage to vote on tax increases separately, up or down, not buried in a must-pass budget with deadline pressure to approve so that state government can continue to function.

HJ 539, patroned by Delegate Mark Cole (R-88, Spotsylvania), is another important safeguard to your hard-earned tax dollars. It would require a three-fifths super majority vote of the General Assembly to raise state taxes and the same super majority for your city, town or county governing body to raise local taxes.

HJ 593, patroned by Delegate Bill Carrico (R-5, Galax), would protect Virginians' right of religious expression by allowing prayer and the recognition of religious beliefs, heritage and traditions on public property, including public schools. This will safeguard from court action, for example, students who offer prayers at school assemblies.

HJ 614, patroned by Delegate Tag Greason (R-32, Potomac Falls) would allow the General Assembly to provide for loans and grants to, or on behalf of, candidates for the military chaplaincy who attend in-state nonprofit institutions of higher education whose primary purpose is to provide religious training or theological education.

Urgent action is needed since the sub-committee meets tomorrow! If these resolutions die in sub-committee, the opportunity to incorporate them into the Virginia Constitution will be set back three more years. Contact the members and ask they vote for HJ 615, HJ 539, HJ 593 and HJ 614 tomorrow morning in Senate Privileges and Elections sub-committee.

General Assembly Week In Review: Several Victories, Much Craziness (And More To Come)

Nothing adequately can explain the pace of the General Assembly. Especially the short session. More goes on that we can — and would love to — report. It is no exaggeration to say that we could employ an entire news team to cover all that we see (and hear). Lobbying and blogging is a killer. But here's a week in review of some significant legislation.  We had several legislative victories this week, including five resolutions to amend the Virginia Constitution this morning in the House Privileges and Elections Committee:

HJ 593, patroned by Delegate Bill Carrico (R-5, Galax), is a religious liberty amendment that protects public prayer. It passed by a 14-7 vote after some committee liberals raised several objections.

Also regarding religious liberty, HJ 614, patroned by Delegate Tag Greason (R-32, Loudon), which prohibits the state from blocking tuition loans and grants to students seeking theological education for the purposes of becoming a military chaplain. It passed with only three dissenting votes. This bill was debated thoroughly in sub-committee earlier in the week. The state already pays the salary of chaplains and Delegate Greason's amendment would allow for tuition assistance as well.

Three limited government resolutions also passed. HJ 539 requires a super majority vote by the General Assembly and local governing bodies to increase state and local taxes; and HJ 540 limits increased spending by the General Assembly and local governing bodies to the previous year's level plus the percentage increase in population and inflation. Both are patroned Delegate Mark Cole (R-88, Spottsylvania). HJ 539 survived a procedural vote to kill it, and then was reported by an 13-8 vote, while HJ 540 passed by a 11-9 vote. 

Finally, this morning, after extensive debate, HJ 615, patroned by Delegate Bill Janis (R-56, Henrico), the House Majority Whip, passed by a 14-7 vote.  This resolution precludes tax and fee increases in the state budget. Any revenue increase, including the termination of tax credits, would have to be introduced as a separate bill for an up or down vote. In recent years, governors and lawmakers have buried such increases within billions of dollars of spending in the budget. Even when promulgated, many lawmakers had no choice but to vote for such budgets or else precipitate a government shutdown.

The proposed constitutional amendments to protect property rights were carried over and will be heard a week from today. Yesterday, there was good news on taxes: The House passed by a 94-5 vote HB 1437, also patroned by Delegate Cole, which would allow localities the option of ending the BPOL tax. This tax, which was started 199 years ago to fund the War of 1812, is a job killer and well passed its own life expectancy. The same day, by a 97-2 vote, the House approved HB 1587, patroned by Delegate Sal Iaquinto (R-84, Virginia Beach), which would exempt start-up businesses from the BPOL tax for two years.

Earlier this week, the House of Delegates passed another Family Foundation priority piece of legislation:  HJ 542, The Repeal Amendment. Patroned by Delegate Jim LeMunyon (R-67, Chantilly), it would repeal any federal law if two-thirds of the states agree. The bill was hotly debated in both committee and on the floor of the House of Delegates, with opponents making subtle and not so subtle accusations of racism toward supporters.

Next week is the final week before "Crossover," and with many bills still left to be debated, almost anything imaginable will happen. Even some unimaginable.

Constitutional Protections At Stake Friday Morning In House P&E

Tomorrow morning, the House Privileges and Elections Committee will consider a number of important constitutional amendments. Please contact committee members at the link above and encourage a vote for all three resolutions. One, HJ 615, patroned by Delegate Bill Janis (R-56, Henrico), will safeguard Virginians' tax dollars by banning tax and fee increases in the budget bill. If those revenues are needed, delegates and senators should have the courage to vote on tax increases separately, up or down, not buried in a must-pass budget with deadline pressure to approve so that state government can continue to function.

Delegate Mark Cole (R-88, Spottsylvania) has two resolutions before the committee. One, HJ 540, will limit the amount state and local government can spend each year to the previous year’s budget, plus the percentage increase in population and inflation. This is a proven way to limit the size and scope of government. His second resolution, HJ 539, would require a super majority vote by the General Assembly and local governing boards to impose a tax increase.

The fourth resolution, and a major priority by several limited government advocates, is HJ 647, patroned by Delegate Rob Bell (R-58, Charlottesville). It passed sub-committee by one vote and its full committee vote was delayed a week. In committee and behind the scenes, local government interests, who use taxpayers' hard-earned money to lobby against their own citizens, and large utilities and telecoms, are throwing every resource they have to defeat this proposal. Afraid of allowing Virginians to vote on the issue of protecting their own property, these special interests think property is private only until such time as they need it for their redevelopment schemes or transportation boondoggles. No less than 10 government and corporate special interests testified against the resolution in sub-committee, with only The Family Foundation, The Farm Bureau and the Virginia Agribusiness Council speaking in favor.

When the U.S. Supreme Court issued its deplorable Kelo decision several years ago (see Examiner.com's Kenneth Schortgen for a new, heinous eminent domain case), it said federal courts could not protect property owners from local and state governments. But it did rule that states could protect their citizens and basically invited states to enact their own protections. Most states did. Why are Virginians still waiting for their legislature to act?

These much needed policies will protect Virginia families’ homes, farms and businesses; enact honest state budgets; and put a limit on out of control taxing and spending. Together, these proposed constitutional amendments form a unique opportunity to reform state and local government, limit its power and focus it on its proper role.

Quote Of The Day: Defining (And Repealing) Washington, D.C.

This morning the House Privileges and Elections Committee voted to report the Repeal Amendment (HJ 542) to the floor by a vote of 15-7. All 14 Republicans were joined by one Democrat, Johnny Joannou (D-79, Portsmouth). The resolution is patroned by Delegate James LeMunyon (R-67, Chantilly) and is heavily supported by House Speaker Bill Howell (R-28, Fredericksburg), did not go through sub-committee. It was the only legislation heard in the committee and discussion lasted more than an hour — some of it enlightening and, inevitably, some very disappointing, including opponents' injection of race into the debate. While opposition lawmakers tried to raise incendiary, irrelevant and inconsistent points, committee proponents and a plethora of witnesses (including The Family Foundationunderlined the necessity of rebalancing power with Washington, D.C., and the necessary re-establishment of our founding system of federalism. That's where we get our Quote of the Day, from Delegate Bill Janis (R-56, Henrico).

Responding to Delegate Mark Sickles' (D-43, Fairfax) contention that while Washington, D.C., doesn't do things efficiently, much less perfectly, it eventually gets it right, Delegate Janis replied, in part:

Washington, D.C., is 100 acres of fantasy land surrounded by reality.  

The Repeal Amendment should be on the House floor early next week. If passed, it will go to the Senate where a version there was defeated earlier this week. The amendment, if approved by three-fourths of the states, would authorize a constitutional convention to adopt the Repeal Amendment into the U.S. Constitution. The Repeal Amendment would, with two-thirds of the states concurring, repeal any federal law or regulation in U.S. Code.

Quote Of The Day

Today's QOD comes from the House floor where, after introducing students from a high school in his district, Delegate Joe Morrissey (D-74, Henrico), known for almost daily "Morrissey moments" of righteous indignation during the House's morning hour said, to a robust standing ovation:

Mr. Speaker . . . Would the Journal reflect that today, March 12, 2010, I did not make a motion of personal privilege.

To which Delegate Bill Janis (R-56, Henrico), replied:

Mr. Speaker, I move that a thousand copies of the gentleman's speech be printed.

But, not to be outdone, Speaker Bill Howell (R-28, Fredericksburg) said:

I would remind the gentleman the morning hour is not over yet.

For as much of the remaining proceedings as we could digest, it appears Delegate Morrissey held to it. However, with the budget vote looming, we don't envy his colleagues when that debate hits the floor tomorrow (or possibly Sunday or even . . . next week). Doubtless, it'll be a doozy.

Live From The GAB: TFF Asks Governor Kaine To Re-Look The Causes Of Poverty

We're live from the GAB's House Briefing Room where Delegate Bill Janis, The Family Foundation of Virginia, First Things of Greater Richmond and others are addressing the media and calling on Governor Kaine to add members to his poverty commission and look at different angles as to the cause of poverty, i.e., the governor thinks poverty is reduced by increased unemployment insurance. Family Foundation President Victoria Cobb is addressing the news conference: Solutions include more choice in education to give individuals a better chance. But the major factor is marriage! U.Va. sociology professor Brad Wilcox sent statistics that show clearly the major reason for poverty is lack of intact families. Childhood poverty could drop as much as 20 percent if we increased the marriage rate in Virginia. Each Virginia tax payers are on the hook for millions of dollars because of the results of family fragmentation.

Increasing the number of marriages and strengthening existing marriages is essential to decreasing poverty. Governor Kaine did not mention these at all when creating his commission. The Family Foundation sent the governor a letter yesterday asking him to make marriage a priority of his commission in its efforts to reduce poverty in Virginia.

The great thing about marriage is that it works and costs tax payers nothing! But divorce and illegitimacy does in crime, poverty and lack of education.

Now, Delegate Bill Janis is on: He starts by quoting then-candidate Barack Obama about the importance of fathers in children's lives. Hillary Clinton says, "It takes a village to raise a child." But it takes a dad!

The governor has set the table. We want a seat at the table and a responsible discussion. He now repeats stats from here. Two-thirds of poor children live in collapsed homes and results in higher proportions of poverty, teen pregnancy and crime. We spend a trillion dollars in means tested poverty programs every year. This doesn't count K-12 education, either.

This is not a Republican or Democrat issue. Forget about the Swine Flu, broken families are the real epidemic.

What can be done? First thing the government should do is do no harm. In 1996, the last time this country had a serious discussion on poverty was 1996 when President Bill Clinton signed the welfare reform act. The bill's language included as goals the stablization of families, promote marriage, encourage the maintenance of two-parent families and prevent and reduce out of wedlock families. We need to get back to addressing the goals.

We have $16 million in TANF funds in Virginia that was supposed to be earmarked for these goals, but are not being used for them. Why study the problem further when we know what the problem is? Even the Brookings Institute, a liberal think tank, says that a significant percentage of single moms and their families would be instantly lifted out of poverty if they were married to the fathers of their children.

We want to take this out of the realm of partisanship and politics. The governor has led. That's good. But if he wants to try to score political points, that's a shame. If not, we want to help him, those in this room. We started this in 1996, let's finish it now. There are federal funds available now, let's go get them.

News Conference Tomorrow On Poverty: Is It The Ecomomy Or The Family?

Tomorrow at 11:00 a.m. in the House Briefing Room, a coalition of organizations and individuals, including lawmakers, economists, academics, ministers, First Things of Greater Richmond and The Family Foundation, will hold a news conference on a new initiative on poverty and families. Among the individuals participating are Bishop E.W. Jackson, Sr. and Delegate Bill Janis (R-56, Henrico). Last month, Governor Tim Kaine created the Poverty Reduction Task Force commission (see Richmond Times-Dispatch) to look into the causes of poverty in Virginia. Sounds altruistic except that he seemed to speak not as governor but as Democrat National Committee chairman, and immediately blamed House Republicans for every ill from The Great Plague on.

That might be expected no matter who is governor or no matter how many extra jobs he has. However, incredibly missing was an acknowledgment of how broken families, single-parent households and the lack of mothers and fathers play a disproportionate role in creating poverty and dead-end lives. Put aside any economic, budgetary, tax or regulatory argument, no amount of extra unemployment insurance to part-time workers (as the governor lambasted Republicans for refusing to grant) will do anything to remedy the broken family and illegitimacy. 

Yesterday, at the Tuesday Morning Group Coalition meeting, Delegate Janis laid out compelling statistics. For example, in 1970, there were 200 million people living in the United States and there were 25 million two-parent families. Now there are 300 million living here and still there are 25 million two-parent families. In 1970, there were 37 million houses with three bedrooms or more. Today, there are 77 million, even though the number of two-parent families remains the same as in 1970. No wonder there was a housing bubble — single parents have enough challenges without trying to pay for a house much too large on one income. Delegate Janis lays out his entire case in this June 7 Times-Dispatch  op-ed.

So, is poverty an economic problem or a family problem? As much as economists and sociologists disagree with themselves, much less each other, a wide assortment will be present tomorrow in person or in citation who agree that strengthening the family must be the basis for any poverty reduction program. As Delegate Janis said, it doesn't take a village, Hillary, it takes a dad.

This coalition hopes to have a sincere partnership with the governor in shaping meaningful, non-partisan solutions to the related increases of poverty and broken families. Whether he and his commission are up to it may indicate whether Governor Kaine is more interested in lasting solutions for this serious problem or in concocting political blame on his opponents over a difference in a single, fleeting policy issue.

Breaking News: McDonnell Tells Fairfax Registrar To Count The Military's Votes!

The U.S. Military doesn't fight and die overseas to protect our freedoms so that unscrupulous people in power back home can deny them their own constitutional rights.

When the news first broke late last week that the grossly partisan Fairfax County registrar, Rokey Suleman (contact here), was not going to count absentee ballots by military personnel, we were livid. This same man registered Fairfax County Jail inmates to vote earlier this month. (Why not? Captive audience, right?) But he wanted to deny the votes of hundreds of Virginians who are abroad fighting for our (including his) security and freedom. The gall of this man!

From the D.C. Examiner:

Inmates at the Fairfax County jail were encouraged to register and vote last week by (Democrat) elections officials making what the county's (Democrat) sheriff called the first visit of its kind in his 30 years with the county. 

We were ready to blog about this absolute gross injustice — first brought to the public's attention by Delegates Bill Janis (R-56, Glen Allen) and Scott Lingamfelter (R-31, Woodbridge), both military veterans (Delegate Lingamfelter was a tank colonel in the Gulf War) — when we just received a news release from the office of Attorney General Bob McDonnell announcing that he has written and issued an opinion that tells Mr. Suleman to shape up and count the votes! (Norfolk Virginian-Pilot article, here.) Delegate Janis last week officially requested the opinion from Attorney General McDonnell — himself a vet and whose daughter has been deployed to Iraq.  

At issue was a minor technicality (Richmond Times-Dispatch article, here) that no Virginia registrar had ever considered an impediment to the counting of the votes of overseas military personnel, especially since a federal law allows military personnel a waiver for the particular circumstance in question. Yet, Mr. Suleman, the jailbird cherry picker, proposed to be the first to ignore the federal law. (Human Events article here).

Another irony: Fairfax County is the home to George Washington. Fine way of continuing the tradition, Mr. Suleman, of respecting the U.S. Military, which your county's most famous citizen did so much to form.

Meanwhile, where was Governor Tim Kaine on this issue? Not a peep. Isn't he Barack Obama's national co-chairman? Coincidence in his silence? We can tell you that besides travelling the country to campaign for liberal Democrats while the commonwealth's finances are falling apart, Governor Kaine was busy restoring felons' voting rights at such a dizzying rate that one wonders if he has diligently reviewed their applications. At this point last year he had restored a record 729 felons voting rights outdone only by this year's blistering pace of 758, per Delegate Janis on WRVA radio Friday afternoon.

The right to vote is a cherished value in our country. Actions by Mr. Suleman and the governor, not to mention renegade groups such as ACORN (see the CNN column of Tara Wall, deputy editorial page editor of The Washington Times), devalue the votes of all law abiding citizens and the brave men and women in uniform who constantly defend us and our freedoms.

Posted below is the news release issued by the office of Attorney General Bob McDonnell. The link to the opinion itself is at the conclusion of the statement. 

McDonnell Opinion: Count Absentee Military Ballots

Opinion Finds Federal Law Preempts State Law; Federal Ballots without Witness Address Are Lawful, Must be Counted

Fairfax — Attorney General Bob McDonnell released a formal opinion today concluding that federal absentee ballots from overseas military voters lacking the printed name and address of a witness must be counted. The opinion affirms that federal law preempts state law, thus clarifying the state and federal statutes regarding the issue. The confusion centered over whether a state law requiring a witness's printed name and address controls federal absentee ballots or the federal law governs this issue. The opinion was requested by Delegate Bill Janis (R-Henrico) and is attached to this release.

In the formal opinion the Attorney General finds, "It is . . . my opinion that the applicable provision of Virginia law, § 24.2-702.1(B), interpreted to require an overseas military voter submitting only a Federal Write-in Absentee Ballot to include the printed name and address of the person who signs the witness statement is preempted by the provisions of the (federal) Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act. Finally, it is my opinion that general registrars may not reject a Federal Write-In Absentee Ballot submitted by overseas military voters for the November 4, 2008 federal election that does not include a printed name and address for the person who signs the witness statement. ..."

Approximately 100 Federal Write-In Absentee Ballots have been set aside in Fairfax County pending a legal conclusion regarding the discrepancy between state and federal law. Additional Federal Write-In Absentee Ballots may also have been received in other jurisdictions. The Federal Write-In Absentee Ballot is most commonly used by members of the military who are stationed overseas and have not received a state absentee ballot. It is a means by which service members can be guaranteed a vote in federal elections.

A copy of this formal opinion was provided to the State Board of Elections this afternoon.

Click here for Attorney General McDonnell's official seven page opinion.

Is The Governor Fiddling, Part 2/Quote Of The Day

Two weeks ago we asked if Governor Tim Kaine was fiddling around with national politics while Richmond and the Virginia budget was burning (click here) because he was running around the country campaigning for Democrat presidential candidate Barack Obama. We're not the only ones who think so. Today, The Washington Times (click here) ran a feature on what the governor's schedule has been like in recent weeks. Among the states he's visited: Georgia, Iowa, Indiana and Texas, Colorado and Arizona. Which prompted this comment in The Times from House Majority Leader Morgan Griffith (R-8, Salem):

He clearly has spent almost as much time out of the state as he has in the state. I think we're going to find a lot of little things that he probably should have been on top of.

One of those "little things" is "chaplain-gate" which Griffith notes had been brewing for several weeks. The out of balance Virginia budget may be another. Although many claim the governor's budget was out of whack from the beginning or, at the very least, he wasn't paying attention to it because of his campaigning, he claims in The Times article that the national economy is to blame. (Funny how the national economy gets no credit when times are good, eh, governor?)

The governor says he has good people in place and gives them latitude to run the government. How does this explain Jody Wagner, his former finance secretary, who produced the bogus numbers upon which he based his budget? Also, if true, why elect a governor? Let's just keep these good people in place for life.

Delegate Bill Janis (R-56, Glen Allen), who has claimed that Kaine called this past summer's special session of the General Assembly to raise his national political profile in order to wedge his way onto Senator Obama's ticket, however, earns our coveted Quote of the Day. As he told The Times:

I think he's abandoned any pretense of trying to be the governor. At least Nero stayed in Rome and fiddled while it burned. He's out in Colorado.

Just as we said two weeks ago. The other difference Kaine has with Nero is that he not only fiddled during the fire, he started the fire as well. Now the question is, does the governor have the will, the poise, the sound judgement, the willingness to be bi-partisan — the time off the campaign trail — to grab a hose and put out the fire — not to mention tend to the other matters at hand?

Floor Fireworks

The General Assembly convened today for its special "tax session," and the rhetorical fireworks started flying right away. After Governor Tim Kaine urged passage of his $1 billion tax hike while he addressed a joint session of the House and Senate, members of the House Republican caucus went on the attack. Delegate Kirk Cox, the majority whip, (R-66, Colonial Heights) ridiculed the governor's defense of the Virginia Department of Transportation. Delegate Bill Janis (R-56, Henrico) criticized the governor for ignoring the financial difficulties of "average Virginians" while asking for higher taxes. He also kept up his attack on Kaine for being "absent" during this process, saying he is more interested in "campaigning for the Vice Presidency." 

House Majority Leader Morgan Griffith (R-8, Salem) ripped the Governor for failing to provide any leadership and bringing the GA back without having gotten consensus on a plan. Griffith was particularly critical of the governor's inability to find a Senate patron for his transportation bill (at least as of the beginning of today's session). "Normally we come to special sessions to close the deal, not start the debate," Griffith said.

Democrats supporting the tax hikes accused opponents of being "closed minded."

Consensus around the capitol is that no legislation will pass this week. Most believe that Kaine called the special session knowing the legislature would fail to pass his tax hike so he can use it as a campaign issue next year. That said, the debate should be interesting — and the rhetorical battle is probably just getting started.