What happened to all the campaign fire? The claims by both sides that Virginia’s problems were so pressing they needed urgent resolution? The crisis in education, health care, job creation, government ethics? The list as long as their oratory would allow?
Virginia stared into the abyss. Yet here were are, fully three months later, and there has been no sea change in Richmond.
Except, of course, for our leaders’ new foreign policy toward Northeast Asia. Maybe they are cleaning up the issues that former president, and Nobel Peace Prize winner, Theodore Roosevelt left unresolved after negotiating peace in the Russo-Japanese War.
Can 141 people — the governor and all members of the General Assembly — win the same prize? We checked on the Nobel Peace Prize Web site. The rules are not any clearer than the reasons Richmond politicians are seeking to dictate to textbook publishers the proper names for bodies of water 10,000 miles away.
What about the problems getting less attention here at home?
During the campaign, our educational system needed major improvements given all the highly educated competitors elbowing for jobs in the new world economy. During the campaign, the politicians had all the answers.
But now, safely elected, we have their solution: fewer Standards of Learning tests. Logically, therefore, if somewhat less testing is better, would it not be best to totally eliminate testing? If teaching to the test is our problem, eliminate the problem.
There. We solved that one.
Let’s turn to jobs. Where are all the promised blockbuster ideas to create the 21st century jobs our working families need? The only new proposal in Richmond happens to be from the mayor of the city, Dwight C. Jones, who recently told a mostly black audience that opponents of the plan don’t “look like us” and might not be putting the community’s interests first. Playing the race card is hardly a new idea. Nor is overstating the economic development benefits from a sports stadium. Jones is using money promised by state politicians to make it all but impossible for local taxpayers to oppose his $120 million publicly funded stadium project.
There. That one’s solved too.
Next, health care. During the campaign, Medicaid expansion ranked among the hottest issues. Proponents and opponents of the idea both said making the wrong decision would harm Virginia and its most vulnerable citizens. The election ended three months ago. But neither side seems to have done anything more than repeat their campaign talking points these 90 days.
Perhaps behind the talking points is a viable strategy. But right now, those more high-brow might describe the deliberations as “Much Ado About Nothing.” For us low-brows, it seems like something out of “Seinfeld” — a show about nothing.
What have our political leaders been doing all this time? They have fretted considerably over a leaky roof in the House chamber that forced them to put plastic over their desks. Fortunately for Virginians, there were no bills to consider underneath. At least the empty trash cans were handy to collect water.
When not busy converting their workspace into a cistern, legislators were hard at work debating other pressing matters, such as whether to bring back the electric chair or allow casino gambling in Portsmouth.
Lastly, we would remiss for not giving the General Assembly credit for putting Sunday hunting at the top of its agenda. We strongly support the 2000 constitutional amendment guaranteeing Virginians’ rights to hunt and fish.
But the many Virginians upset with hunting on the Sabbath have an important point. The woods are for everyone, not just hunters. Surely taxpayers deserve one a day a week to enjoy the woods without having to fear for their lives. While the law is limited now, if passed, history suggests it will be expanded over time.
This perennial bill passed the House for the first time this year.
Hopefully this isn’t the best the House or Senate can do in the 2014 General Assembly session.
Norman Leahy is an editor of the conservative Web site BearingDrift.com and producer of the political radio show “The Score.” Paul Goldman is a former chairman of the Democratic Party of Virginia. They are blogging together on All Opinions Are Local during Virginia’s 2014 General Assembly session.