Tea Party Redux

We were so overwhelmed by pictures and video of the almost two dozen official Tax Day Tea Parties last month, that we haven't been able to post all the great sights and sounds from them. We got some of them up — from Richmond, Woodbridge, Virginia Beach, and even Chicago. We pledge to get more highlights up as we approach July 4, when more are planned across the country, as a follow-up and a reminder not to let this fire die. Below is video of John Taylor, president of the Virginia Institute for Public Policy and Tertium Quids, at the Richmond Tea Party, where he addressed an estimated 5,000 people as one of the featured speakers. (He also spoke in Charlottesville that day.) A combination of intellect and inspiration, he covers a lot of ground. But it's well worth a look and listen. The applause at the  conclussion of his speech doesn't do justice to the actual level of noise and approving enthusiasm he received.

"In a sentence in a half . . . Jefferson . . . set forth a new world order for the ages. ... The role of the sovereign would be performed by the people." 

"We know what our Founders stood for. Do we know what we stand for?" Freedom is something "no good man surrenders but with his life."

BREAKING: Spending Transparency Approved In House Committee!

Just a few minutes ago, the House Appropriations Committee approved by unanimous voice vote, HB 2285, patroned by Delegate Ben Cline (R-24, Amherst). Were it so easy. This is the background: The bill wasn't heard until late in the process by its committee of jurisdiction and, with an unjustifiable price tag by the Department of Planning and Budget of up to $3 million, it was doomed for Appropriations.

Plan B: Scale it down. Instead of a new or rebuilt data collection system, both Delegate Cline and Senator Ken Cuccinelli (R-37, Fairfax), patron of the Senate companion, SB 936, worked with the Auditor of Public Accounts to improve current data collection and "retrievability" by the public, to go along with "searchability" improvements the auditor instituted since last year.

Problem: Despite all that, the jurisdictional Appropriations sub-committee had finished its pre-crossover meetings. Solution: Pressure and persuassion, and the chairman allowed for an additional meeting.

What just happened: After all that, and a glowing endorsement for two days running in Senate committees by the auditor, and Senate Finance taking the first step in the water, you'd think all was a slam dunk. More like those blooper reel missed dunks. At the sub-committee this afternoon, Delegate Cline was late and almost got passed over. Then, once he introduced the substitute, he and committee staff realized he had no substitute. Legislative Services, which drafts legislative language, and Delegate Cline had a failure to communicate, apparently, and either there was no substitute in front of the committee or there was, but with the original bill's summary attached. That meant is that the FIS was still in play. Not gonna pass in that posture. A sinking feeling if ever there was one.

What to do? Or is there anything to do? Delegate Scott Lingamfelter (R-31, Woodbridge) attempted to save it with a motion to report to the full committee with the understanding the Senate language would be introduced. Not what the chairman, Delegate Steve Landes (R-25, Augusta), wanted.

Delegate Landes then threw Cline a lifeline of sorts, agreeing to report with no recommendation if the proper substitute could be drafted by the full committee's last hearing, about a half hour hence. Proviso: Bills recommended in this manner only are brought up at the full committee chairman's discretion.

Scramble: Cline, committee staff and Legislative Services hustled to unravel the knots. Meantime, potential wolves at the gate: A guy from Virginia Enterprise Application Program showed up with questions and talked with yours truly and another pro-transparency lobbyist. Not against, but concerns, and concerns are enough for Appropriations to put the kibosh on apple pie and the flag. More: He tipped us off that General Services was against it. What a perfect Friday early evening.

Finally, full committee in progress and after a few bills were heard, and wondering exactly how many days it would be before I'd see family and friends, a mini-miracle. After a lengthy and contentious debate on transportation funding, where Democrats grilled Delegate Glen Oder (R-94, Newport News) on his innovative plan while Republicans grilled, in turn, Transportation Secretary Pierce Homer for not having a plan at all, the Chairman, Delegate Lacey Putney (I-19, Bedford) called up HB 2285, substitute ready and all!

Here's what I don't get: The committee has the correct substitute language, and during discussion of the bill several key members say they have had conversations with people who could be affected or must administer the bill if it becomes law, including the auditor and the Secretary of Technology,  and they report these people say there are no costs. (Question: How did they know what to ask if they didn't know what the substitute language was?) But they want the committee staff's opinion. Not that committee staff isn't great. They are. But how much vetting do you need when the members have gone to the top guys to begin with and they can see the difference in the substitute and original?

More discussion. Costs or no costs? How can we be sure? No one from Public Accounts to verify, but luckily the VEAP guy is silent and no one from DGS is around. Then, what's the purpose? If the information is out there, why do we need this? Is this about transparency? Is this about good government? Come clean Delegate Cline.

Finally, a motion and a second. Unanimous voice approval. I wiped the sweat off my brow and made the Sign of the Cross.

Quotes Of The Day

New Republican Party of Virginia Chairman, Delegate Jeff Frederick (R-52, Woodbridge) spoke at today's Tuesday Morning Group Coalition meeting about his efforts to revitalize the state GOP. On former governor and Democrat Mark Warner's claim the fiscal sky was falling as a pretense to go back on his campaign promise not to raise taxes and push through the largest tax increase in Virginia history, when in fact Virginia was running record surpluses, Frederick said:

If anything was falling from the sky it was money. 

Then, when asked about some Republicans who favor increased taxes, he said:

Some Republicans think it's okay to raise taxes because we're a "low tax state." We're a low tax country compared to Sweden. Does that mean it's okay to raise taxes and pay 56 percent of our money to make our government bigger?

Another speaker today was Paul Jacob (read about him here), who is president of the pro-initiative group Citizens in Charge and a senior fellow at the Sam Adams Alliance (we hope to blog about this new coalition, which seeks more open state government, soon). Jacob noted that while he and two others were indicted in Oklahoma simply for seeking petitions for a ballot initiative (read a Forbes editorial here), several states are seeking to grant convicts voting rights, including here in Virginia, as well as allowing phantom registrations.

Breaking News: Hager Interview Begins Here Monday!

Republican Party of Virginia Chairman John Hager's interview with familyfoundationblog will begin here Monday and continue on Tuesday. Mr. Hager's interview is one in a continuing series of party leaders. Previously, we interviewed — in his role as a legislator — Delegate Jeff Frederick (R-52, Woodbridge), who is challenging Mr. Hager for RPV chairman, which will be decided at the Republican State Convention at the end of May. You can read it by clicking here. Democrat Party of Virginia Chairman Dickie Cranwell also has accepted an invitation for an interview. We expect to post that one by the end of next week or early the week after.

Questions to both current chairmen examine their views on the role political parties play in advocating public policies which reflect and protect family values, their personal influences and general questions about the political climate in Virginia.

We hope you will read both and leave your comments on the corresponding threads. We look forward to the answers of the two chairmen, your feedback on them, and to bringing you other exciting interviews we have lined up in coming weeks.

Breaking News: RPV Chairman Hager Agrees To Interview Here

Republican Party of Virginia Chairman, and former Lieutenant Governor, Commonwealth Preparedness Director, Bush Administration Education Department official and future Bush family in-law John Hager has agreed to an interview with us. We are still finalizing details with Mr. Hager and will let you know when it all comes together. As a non-profit, non-partisan, faith-based public policy organization, we have extended a similar invitation to Democrat Party of Virginia Chairman Dickie Cranwell. Questions to both will examine their views on the role political parties play in advocating public policies which reflect and protect family values, as well as general questions about the political climate in Virginia.

Previously, we interviewed — in his role as a legislator — Delegate Jeff Frederick (R-52, Woodbridge), who is challenging Mr. Hager for RPV chairman, which will be decided at the Republican State Convention at the end of May. You can read it by clicking here.