Our Exclusive Interview with Governor McDonnell Gale on Wind Power Weeks on Health Care Legislator Profile: Ron Villanueva
Volume 1, No. 1 / March 2010
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In This Issue Letter from the Editor....................................................4 Bearing Drift Exclusive: .................................................5 Interview with Governor Bob McDonnell By J.R. Hoeft Virginia’s Next Big Economic Boom Could be a Green One..................................................13 by Georgie Gale New Virginia Beach Delegate No Stranger to Richmond.............................................16 By Brian Kirwin Obama’s Health Care Plan: The Devastating Effects on Virginia..............................18 By Krystle D. Weeks The Final Ward.............................................................19
Bearing Drift J.R. Hoeft, Editor and Publisher - firstname.lastname@example.org Michael Fletcher, Design Editor - email@example.com Jane Dudley, Photo Editor - firstname.lastname@example.org Ron Ko, Copy Editor - email@example.com Contributors this issue: Brian Kirwin - firstname.lastname@example.org Georgie Gale - email@example.com Krystle Weeks - firstname.lastname@example.org Ward Smythe - email@example.com © Copyright 2010 Volume 1, No. 1 / March 2010
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Letter from the Editor Underway…shift colors! Several years ago, while Shaun Kenney was still working with the Republican Party of Virginia, he posed to me the question as to whether or not I thought it would be possible for Bearing Drift to eventually publish a magazine. Politely, I told him that it’s always been a dream of mine, but that he was crazy. After a few more years of hard work and growing our web site’s popularity and scope of coverage, I’ve realized Shaun is not so crazy after all. During last year’s hard-fought primary and general election campaign, I realized that what is truly missing in the Commonwealth is a solid, informative, and mildly-amusing conservative periodical that interviews and profiles the most interesting and dynamic leaders and generates thoughtful and provocative discussion and commentary on the important issues of the day.
designed to provide greater depth and insight into those issues facing Virginia’s families and voters. Take this edition. We have four articles that might, on the surface, appear unrelated, but there is certainly a tie that binds them all together. First, we have Georgie Gale’s piece on offshore wind energy production. Georgie correctly relates the benefits that come from such an expedition in creating jobs, providing renewable energy, and reducing our reliance on foreign sources. Second, Krystle Weeks examines what is on everyone’s mind right now – health care and the impact of a national system on the Commonwealth of Virginia. Of note is Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli’s discussion about how Virginia will react within the justice system to such a federal mandate.
So, we’re moving ahead with that idea. After all, with Virginia in a perpetual state of campaign, there’s more than enough to cover!
Third, Brian Kirwin interviews Delegate Ron Villanueva of Virginia Beach for our legislator profile. Villanueva was crucial in proposing legislation to open up Virginia’s coast to oil and natural gas exploration and drilling.
While the web site remains a fantastic place to go for interactive and near-real time information about what’s going on in the world of Virginia politics, this magazine is
Finally, our feature interview is with Gov. Bob McDonnell. The new governor made no exception that he is ultimately the decision maker when it comes setting the
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agenda, making amendments to bills, and leading the Commonwealth. He has been an outspoken advocate for making Virginia the “energy east coast capitol” of the United States and unequivocally will oppose the federal government when they do things contrary to their Constitutional mandate. In other words, the three articles relating to health care, energy, and the legislature all expand what the governor said in his interview. But what’s a political blog publication without a healthy dose of snark? It isn’t. So, we have Ward Smythe wrap it all up with humor only Ward can bring. For the next issue, I hope you’ll consider sending me an email with your thoughts on where you think we can improve and what features you might like to see added. Also, please comment on the articles. Next issue, we’ll have an “Inbox” section for these letters – a place where your voice can also be “published”. It has been a great deal of fun (and a long time coming) putting together this first issue. It’s about time we had a conservative publication in Virginia…what do you think, Shaun?
J.R. Hoeft firstname.lastname@example.org bearingdrift.com / Page 4
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Bearing Drift Exclusive: Interview with Governor Bob McDonnell Bearing Drift Editor J.R. Hoeft recently had the opportunity to sit down with Governor Bob McDonnell. We are pleased to offer this exclusive conversation in this first issue. Photos by Jane Dudley BD: What is conservatism? Gov. McDonnell: Conservatism is an understanding of the proper role between the state, the individual and the private sector, realizing that government has a limited role, as outlined in the constitutions of the state and federal government. Ultimately, it is a free people – the free individuals, the free church, the free family, the free business organizations, the free benevolent organizations – that ultimately are responsible for the prosperity of our state and our nation. So, that means keeping taxes, regulation, litigation low, while expanding freedom, but having the proper laws in place to restrain wrong-doers, to have uniform commerce and trade, laws to secure the national defense, secure constitutional liberties – life, liberty, property – but, beyond that, not overtaxing and regulating or legislating so that it inhibits freedom. To me, that is a conservative view of government and it starts with the idea that people should be individually responsible, should be individually accountable for taking care of themselves and their families. If we base our society on any other view that people are individually responsible for themselves, we are destined for a very different kind of America. I really think that’s the right view and any number of policy decisions can be made on that framework and that’s what I’m trying to do as Governor. BD: How does conservatism allow you to help and support your fellow man, especially while government is cutting spending for programs? Gov. McDonnell: You don’t want to create a system where people become dependent on government. That creates a situation where people are almost indebted or in bondage to a government, not one that should be the safety net in which …they count on government to create a level playing field so that people are free and protected to pursue their individual goals and liberties and pursue the American dream. I think conservatism also recognizes the incredible power of the church, of the private sector, of free people being willing to give of their time, talent and treasure because it is the right thing to do, because it is the responsible thing to do, not because government makes you do it through excessive taxation. So, I think that’s a much more noble view of society, realizing that we ought to promote and encourage good citizenship, benevolence, and charity – not mandate it through excessive government taxation and more government programs. I think so much good gets done by the private sector using the money as it sees fit for benevolent goals, particularly through the churches and the synagogues, as opposed to a secular government program that can maybe give out money but can’t give the values and the love and support and attention that people need to go with that fiscal help. So, I think that the conservative view of taking care of people in need is the best view. BD: What role does your faith have in your decision making? Gov. McDonnell: It influences me on a number of levels. One, it helps me keep a steady keel with tough decisions. Ultimately, as Governor, I am [a] person who is under authority. Secondly, I have a base of beliefs that I am carrying into the office about what the role of government is, what my obligation is to serve other people well with honesty and hard work. Thirdly, that it [my faith] has me try to be a bridge-builder and try to govern with civility – not to demonize people because they may have a different idea, but to be able to find ways to get people to ultimately do the right thing. So, faith affects my style of governing. But, finally, I think there are a number of trying times being in positions of responsibility – I’ve had a number in my career Continued on Page 7 Volume 1, No. 1 / March 2010 bearingdrift.com / Page 6
McDonnell Interview, continued from Page 6 – I was attorney general, a legislator, an Army officer, and now Governor – but I realize that ultimately I can lead, I can create a vision for Virginia, but just like the way our nation was born through “Divine Providence,” the way our nation and our state are going to get better and the way we’re going to get results is ultimately going to also be through “Divine Providence.” I think most people of faith in this country believe that as well. So, it gives me a lot more peace and comfort in how I govern. BD: Talk about your decision making style – how do you go about gathering information from your advisors, both formal and informal, and how do you formulate your decisions? Gov. McDonnell: First of all, besides faith and advisors, I rely on the Constitution and the law. I’m a Governor, but I’m not above the law. I always want to make sure we understand what the law and the Constitution requires. I’m a student of the Founders and I believe they had a whole lot to say about creating this very prosperous nation that we’ve been blessed to live in, so I try to read them from time to time. You know, I believe in addressing problems head-on. You analyze the problems that are presented to you – and there are many of them for every Governor – you lay out possible alternatives and you seek input on those possible alternatives – and I spread the scope of input into those people on my staff, and from the public generally that I think will have some input into a decision and then I get recommendations from the staff, but ultimately I know the buck stops with me in terms of what we actually do on any given policy issue. More often than not, if there is a consensus among staff and key advisors – I think there is a lot of wisdom; I hire people who I think are the best and the brightest, people who are honest, who are conservative, who care about Virginia more than themselves – and if I feel they have a consensus as a staff recommendation, more often than not it’s something that I’m going to follow. At the same time, I have been doing this for nineteen years now, and I’ve been in positions of responsibility for thirty-five years, so I have an innate sense for what I think I want to do on any given issue. But Scriptures do say that there is a wisdom in a multitude of counselors, so I try to get plenty of input before any particular decision is made. Even if people disagree with me, at least I will know clearly the repercussions of the decision and know what people may say if they get an adverse decision. BD: What special traits were you looking for in your cabinet members and what expectations do you have from them as independent advisors? Gov. McDonnell: The first criterion is that they have to be people that I believe are the best and the brightest people that I can find who want to serve in government. A lot of really great, bright people out there really enjoy being in the private sector and don’t want to take a pay cut and aren’t willing to come into government. So, you have to find people who you can convince to come into state government. But the first criterion was excellence. Secondly, was people who prescribe to my conservative philosophy of government. I want to have people that innately know that if I set a vision or an outline for how I want the cabinet to work that they’re going to be making the day to day decisions when I’m busy doing other things that are going to be consistent with that philosophy. Thirdly, I want people that really care; that have a passion about their area; that want to get things done. There are a lot of people that talk, but I have four years and I want action, I want to get results. I think conservatives sometimes get maligned for being good on the rhetoric but not good on actually delivering. And, sometimes delivering means cutting government. A lot of times it means restraining government, and cutting government, and reorganizing government and reducing taxes – but that’s action. And so, we’ve got to be able to get results. You know the liberals have unfortunately been able to try to define us as the “Party of ‘No’” or being obstructionists, which I think is false. But they have done that for ten years now and I’ve tried to change that view of what it means to be a conservative. It means to be actively looking to stamp that conservative philosophy in government and to be cutting back taxes and regulation, litigation, and strong right to work laws, strong values, reflected in our state government. So, I wanted to hire people that reflected those ideas of excellence and results and action. I think for the most part that’s the kind of cabinet that I’ve got. Volume 1, No. 1 / March 2010 bearingdrift.com / Page 7
I was very clear with them early on that I expected us to work together on economic development, on job creation, on energy, on education reform. I’ve got Republicans and Democrats carrying some of my big bills to show that I wasn’t just interested in making a partisan statement about these issues.
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BD: In the first few days of your Administration, you made a concession to Senate Democrats over your Secretary of Commerce nominee, Robert Sledd. Yet, in the first few weeks of your administration, it appears that Senate Democrats are making no concessions to you or your policies. Will you be able to work with Senate Democrats over the course of your term? Gov. McDonnnell: I think so. On many things, we’ve worked together well. They’ve made a couple political statements by killing a few bills, but there’s a long way to go in this session – and I have the final say when it comes to bills [that have passed the General Assembly]. We’re working together. Earlier in the session they killed our bill on off-shore drilling, yet, they’ve since reported out the House version of the same bill [ed. note: which eventually passed in the Senate]. Now, I’ve had a nice chat with the Senate Democratic leadership and, you know, I think some of the previous votes were based purely on political things as opposed to policy. Their vote [on drilling] I think reflects more clearly the will of the people of Virginia that want to see offshore drilling. So, I feel that we’ve made some progress already. About 90% of the bills that I’ve had introduced have been passed with broad bipartisan support among the Senate Democrats. I was very clear with them early on that I expected us to work together on economic development, on job creation, on energy, on education reform. I’ve got Republicans and Democrats carrying some of my big bills to show that I wasn’t just interested in making a partisan statement about these issues. There aren’t Republican or Democrat jobs – we either have them or we don’t. We either beat North Carolina or Singapore or we don’t. There aren’t Republican or Democrat schools, we either have really good schools that give every young person a chance to compete and pursue the American dream or we don’t. So, I’ve got everybody from Barack Obama to Bob McDonnell agreeing that charter schools are a good thing and we’re going to get some school choice in Virginia. So, I think by and large they’ve worked with us pretty well; I understand they had an objection to the nomination of a cabinet member – we worked around that. So, quite frankly, I got a two-fer out of it. I got Jim Cheng as Secretary and I’ve got Bob Sledd as Senior Economic Adviser. So I’ve got as a result of that previous controversy two great people to lead our economic development efforts along with Lt. Gov. Bolling [as chief Jobs Creation Officer]. So, it all worked out fine. We haven’t had any major issues. Now, we’ve had some challenges with the budget. There are some Senate Democrats that think we ought to raise taxes or cut the car tax and essentially raise two billion dollars on the backs of the citizens – I don’t agree with that. I told them that I won’t sign that. I won’t approve it. I think most of them are beginning to get that message that we have to find some common ground on these cuts and that they need to stop fighting the tax increase battle in the middle of this recession. But, I have tried to use a collaborative approach with them without compromising my principles and meeting with them regularly – individually and collectively. And, you know, so far I think the relationship is good. Continued on Page 9 bearingdrift.com / Page 8
McDonnell Interview, continued from Page 8 BD: What would you consider to be your first legislative victory? Gov. McDonnell: Well the first thing we actually got done was to reopen the rest stops, although all I needed then was a vote of the Commonwealth Transportation Board. We went from a negative vote to a unanimous vote favoring that, so we’re actually making some difference there. The first early victories are the number one thing the people hired me to do and that is to help to turn this economy around in Virginia with economic development and job creation. I outlined $50 million of incentives that I’ve asked the General Assembly to support, we had another $20 million in bills and I had a press conference during the first week of session with about 35 legislators – Democrats and Republicans – that came together that were sponsors of my legislation. And they said, “Yes, this is something that we all need to agree on to do.” So, I’d say that’s a theme that has brought people together. In every region of the state, people know that we’ve got to be more competitive. We’ve got to create jobs. We can’t just rely on our reputation. We may need more tools and if they equip me with those tools then we’ll get the job done. I think that’s a significant victory. I expect to see those things in the budget. And, I expect to use those tools to get things done over the next year. BD: Name three or four things that, during your time as Governor, you think you absolutely must accomplish. Gov. McDonnell: I want to create the most vibrant job creation apparatus in America here in Virginia, and make us the model for what the free enterprise system should look like. I want to have the very best school systems in America – I think we are already pretty close to that; we’ve got great public schools and great universities and good choices for private schools. But we’ve got forty schools that aren’t working that well and we’ve got some young people that don’t really have access to a great education. So, I want to have a vibrant school reform model, based on our legislation this year – more charter schools, more laboratory schools, more virtual schools for technology, more partnerships between our colleges and the private sector, to have more innovation in our universities, to have more focus on science, technology, engineering and math. I want to have a vibrant effort at school system reform. Also, I want to fundamentally reshape state government. I signed Executive Order No. 2 the day I got inaugurated which calls for a government reform task force to set up to look at every board, commission, every one of the 156 agencies, all of our organizational structure, to find out how we can reduce the operating costs of government by doing things smarter or eliminating duplication using more technology, using privatization, innovation, consolidation, to make things work better. I want Virginia to be the energy capital of the East Coast. We’ve got every possible God-given natural resource here but we’re not using them as well as we should. So, I want to see a dramatic expansion in the coal, nuclear and natural gas industries finding markets around the country. I want to be the first state on the East Coast to drill for natural gas and oil offshore. I’d like to see a commercially viable wind farm off the coast of Virginia Beach and have us be a leader in biofuels down in southside Virginia, so that we can achieve more energy independence, so we’re not worrying about fighting countries that don’t like us over energy resources. Those are just some of the things that I’d like to do and then ultimately I need to guide the General Assembly to make more investments in transportation. That’s going to be one of the toughest things I’ve got to do. I laid out a number of proposals during the election that we’ll take on no later than the next session to be able to build better infrastructure. If we don’t do that then we’re going to impact our quality of life and we’re going to have a hard time recruiting business here. So those are five or six top goals for me. We’re going to be extremely aggressive and energetic in getting these things done with the cabinet we’ve got in place and I hope that we can continue to report results along the way on how we’re doing. BD: Is being Governor, so far, everything that you thought it would be and are you enjoying the commute better than what you were used to in Hampton Roads? Gov. McDonnell: (Laughter) Yeah, it’s about a 37-second commute from the Governor’s house to the office and it makes me, obviously, much more productive. We’re still in a transition with my house in Henrico. We haven’t fully moved. The boys are still in high school out in Henrico in Deep Run – they’re seniors Volume 1, No. 1 / March 2010
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iin high school out there, so we didn’t want to move completely while they’re still in high school. But, no, it’s a magnificent job. I’ve said many times its still possible in America that an average middle class kid from Fairfax County like me to grow up to be Governor of Virginia, following in the footsteps of Jefferson and Henry, and I encourage young people to really pursue their dreams, work hard, and dream big and they can accomplish big Things. BD: Describe the mantle of leadership? How does it feel once you have taken the oath to be the sole decision maker? Gov. McDonnell: You’ve got to understand that the buck stops here. You’ve got to work in a collaborative fashion with the General Assembly. They’re a separate and independent branch of government that has their clear purview to make the laws. My job is to recommend and amend and also to lead with outlining vision that I hope that the General Assembly will adopt. As Attorney General, I was advisor to the Governor, now I take advice from the Attorney General and the legislators, but a number of decisions [come to] my desk. I feel very comfortable with making those decisions – for thirty five years in some public service position from the Army to business to the legislature, I’ve had to make those kind of decisions and these are just much higher-level decisions that affect real people everyday with the decisions I make, so I try to make them with the understanding that behind every one of those decisions there’s a name and a face and a family and a business that’s going to be impacted by those and it helps to put it in a better context for me. But I’m enjoying the job. I think we’ve gotten a lot done already and I’m looking forward to completing a successful General Assembly session so I can get out there and start turning our economy around. Continued on Page 11 Volume 1, No. 1 / March 2010 bearingdrift.com / Page 10
McDonnell Interview, continued from Page 10 If the federal government would focus on what’s clearly evident in the face of the Constitution – which is what it’s supposed to do – which is defending the nation, regulating interstate commerce, printing money, managing the national debt and deficit, and those sorts of things – I think we’d be much better off. BD: You spoke a lot in the campaign about mitigating federal overstretch. With the passage of Virginia’s health care independence bill and the overtures being made by the Attorney General with respect to the federal government, is this what you expected and desired to see as Governor? Gov. McDonnell: I think it is appropriate that we have a national discussion about federalism, and about the 10th Amendment, and about what the limits of federal power are. If the federal government would focus on what’s clearly evident in the face of the Constitution – which is what it’s supposed to do – which is defending the nation, regulating interstate commerce, printing money, managing the national debt and deficit, and those sorts of things – I think we’d be much better off. But they have over the centuries – primarily the last 50 to 60 years – both Republicans and Democrats, have continued to grow the size of federal government to the point that it is exceptionally expensive – an 11 trillion dollar national debt and growing. I think it’s absolutely unacceptable to levy that on our kids. And, so, I have long believed that the states are where the Founders’ thought most of these major decisions were to be made. And, in those limited areas where they expected uniformity, national defense being perhaps the chief one, they really ought to do that well and do that in a competent fashion. So, when I think that the federal government is doing things that I think hurt Virginians, our citizens, or impact our competitiveness, like card check, cap-and-trade, and unfunded mandates, nationalized healthcare, and deficit spending, I’ve spoken out against it and said, “Look, that’s not the right approach for Virginia and we’ll fight you on those sorts of things.” We’re going to speak out on those things. On the other hand there are some things that I think that they’re doing very well that we want to work together on, particularly on some of their education reforms – I’d rather have them not involved in education at all, but if they are, they ought to do it with block grants and incentivize states to do things like charter schools; I think the president’s programs on that are very good. So, we’re going to stay in close touch…I look forward to working with our federal representatives to do what’s right. I just want them to try to stay true to their limited Constitutional roles, so that I can do mine here in Virginia. BD: Thank you, Governor. Gov. McDonnell: Thank you, Jim.
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Virginia’s Next Big Economic Boom Could be a Green One by Georgie Gale
new industry is percolating in the United States, potentially coming to a boil in Hampton Roads and bringing huge possibilities for economic development in Virginia.
Offshore wind energy is a new and exciting industry popping up in state after state throughout the East Coast. Massachusetts has been working on the Cape Wind project for years. Rhode Island, New Jersey, Maine, Delaware and many other states have similar projects under development. Virginia is joining their ranks. Wind-farms mean clean energy and lower carbon emissions for the environmentally-minded. It also means helping Virginia decrease it’s consumption versus domestic production gap (Virginia is currently the secondhighest in the nation for importing power, surpassed only by California). Expanding into wind-turbine energy production means diversifying Virginia’s energy portfolio, helping the state meet 2007 Energy Plan goals and helping the Commonwealth go a little more “green.” Virginia is an ideal location for offshore wind-energy production. The Virginia Coastal Energy Research Consortium (VCERC) has done a thorough study of the wind resource in Virginia. VCERC mapped sustainable class Continued on Page 13
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Virginia’s Next Big Economic Boom, Continued from Page 12 5 and 6 winds, which are ideal for generating power. Although Virginia ridgelines have suitable locations here and there, necessary wind resources off the coast are massive with perfect, sustained winds in a thick band heading up the East Coast. VCERC projected that the area from about 12 miles out from shore (at the horizon where the turbines could barely be seen) to the 75.5 parallel (where the NASA Wallops Flight Path begins) would allow enough turbines to power 30% of the entire Commonwealth. Not only that, but with the largest electrical grid between Savannah and New York, Virginia Beach could easily handle the power produced from multiple wind-farm projects. As if that weren’t enough, sporting a long, shallow Outer Continental Shelf that stretches for miles, Virginia is ideal for such wind-farms. Wind developers say that wind-turbine costs skyrocket once water depths are greater than 80 feet, making shallower depths desirable. Conservation and environmental benefits are not the only up-sides to bringing wind-power to the Commonwealth, however. The Hampton Roads region is blessed, above any other region on the East Coast, with just the right mixture of amenities to serve the offshore wind industry. The Port of Virginia tops the list. No other port on the East Coast has the heavy-lifting capabilities and ability to expand on a par with the Virginia Port. Additionally, Hampton Roads has a huge manufacturing base. Many don’t realize just how massive wind turbines are. Each tower reaches up to 350 feet with 150-foot turbine-blades. The entire structure has the potential to be as tall as the Westin skyscraper in Virginia Beach’s Town Center (500 feet, if you do the math). Hampton Roads has the heavy steel fabrication plants to build the components, the deep water access necessary to transport them and the supply chain, logistics and installation expertise to actually build them out in the water. The region has the workforce, fabrication experience and maritime industry which are ingredients for success hard to beat in the region. These ingredients make for potent recipe for jobs and massive economic potential. If properly developed, Virginia could not only build turbines and install its own wind farms, but potentially have a major role in the manufacturing, installation, logistics and maintenance for all the wind farms up and down the East Coast. The Virginia manufacturing industry is foaming at the mouth to get a piece of the green action. According to the Virginia Offshore Wind (VOW) Coalition, estimates of the potential for this new industry are $80 billion in economic investment and at least 10,000 jobs over the next 20 years on the East Coast alone. Innovation has faced challenges, from the invention of electricity to the wonder of peanut-butter. Developing this renewable resource is no different. The short answer to the question of why Virginia is not already moving full-speed ahead in this sector is, surprisingly, the same federal government pushing for renewable energy. The offshore wind industry, being brand new to the U.S. (Europe has been building wind-farms for years), is going through the growing pains of developing the actual permitting process. The Department of the Interior is responsible for managing access to the entire Outer Continental Shelf. The area is divided into lease blocks and project developers apply for access. Filing the application and gaining a federal grant to the lease blocks is where the fun begins. The American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) recently broke down the entire regulatory process into a timeline and came up with 7.5 to 9 years span just to gain the go-ahead to start building. This is three times longer than a gas-powered plant. Surprisingly, it’s even longer than the timeline required for permits to build a nuclear power-plant. This timeline has European turbine-manufacturers who are ready to set up shop in the U.S. skeptical of the commitment to this business-sector. Volume 1, No. 1 / March 2010 bearingdrift.com / Page 13
The governors of several East Coast states, including our own Bob McDonnell, met with Secretary of the Interior, Ken Salazar last month to discuss their concerns over the bureaucratic delays. Apparently Salazar agreed and committed his department to doing something about it. Just what remains to be seen, however. The Department of the Interior is just one part of the equation, though. Military installations and the Federal Aviation Administration have issues with this development in Virginia. The FAA and Air Force have concerns about building and structural heights in Virginia Beach blocking the full scope of radars. They have concerns, too, about potential interference, or “shadows” created by wind turbines. There are creative ways to get around these issues, but they will require all sides to work through them. Additionally, the Navy is concerned with potential wind-farm locations. VCERC went to great lengths with the Navy to identify the “no-go” zones. Avoiding live-fire and other training areas as well as dumping grounds are in everyone’s best interests. While the Navy is never going to give blanket approval for offshore wind-farms, the service is interested in cooperating. An interesting element to this is that the Secretary of the Navy has established a service-wide goal of establishing a 50% renewable energy portfolio by 2025. Such a lofty goal is sure to make the Navy take a second look at the potential for offshore wind energy. Considering that offshore wind, and renewable energies in general, are a priority of the Obama Administration, it’s time for our President to tell his agencies and departments to get together and work out their differences. This past November, a group called the Virginia Offshore Wind (VOW) Coalition was formed to promote the offshore wind industry. Unlike most of these energy groups that have been popping up across the state, this one is not a “front” organization for any one company. In fact, just looking at their website, they’ve got some pretty impressive members, including Dominion, the Port of Virginia, Cities of Virginia Beach and Norfolk and some major hitters in the maritime and manufacturing industry. The Coalition wants to promote the development of offshore wind energy in Virginia, and promote Hampton Roads as the hub of manufacturing and supply for all offshore wind farms on the East Coast. They’ve already made some progress, promoting a bill in the General Assembly that would create an Offshore Wind Authority to help streamline some of these efforts at the state level. There’s so much potential for Virginia in this new industry. Governor McDonnell has said that he wants Virginia to be the energy capital of the East Coast. With the support of his administration and Virginia’s Congressional delegation, the offshore wind industry will help bring this vision into reality.
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New Virginia Beach Delegate No Stranger to Richmond By Brian Kirwin
early a million dollars had been spent by both sides and in the end it came down to a difference of 16 votes. Ron Villanueva, always tops in at-large City Council races with multiple candidates vying for multiple seats, spent 2009 seeking a higher office in a head-tohead battle against an incumbent delegate in a district favoring the opposition. After withstanding withering partisan attacks and a recount that lasted until mid-December, Delegate-elect Ron Villanueva finally set his sights on Richmond and representing the 21st District of Virginia Beach. A rising star in the GOP, this soon-to-be 40-year-old owns a small business and is a dedicated husband and father. Wasting no time, Villanueva has spent the first few months of the year in Richmond crafting legislation for the Commonwealth. Long ten- to eleven-hour days are the norm, Villanueva says.
“I wake very early, while it is still quiet outside. Typically I'll use this time to do some work related to my business. Then it’s off to a breakfast or committee meeting around 7:00 or 7:30. I'll catch up on the news and field some appointments in my office before heading to caucus, then to the floor for session. Afterwards there is usually another committee meeting, and then late afternoon it’s back to my office for more appointments…to write some letters or confer with my colleagues. Around 6 p.m., I may go back to my room to work, or attend one of the political events taking place in town.” The next morning he does it all again with a smile knowing that the rigorous schedule is common to many of the other delegates. Being a citizen-legislator means balancing commitments to family and career throughout the legislative schedule. “I have to maintain some responsibilities with my business and employees back in Virginia Beach,” Villanueva added, “I also have a wife and four small children…the kids aren't going to let a little thing like my being out of town keep me from hearing from them!” Though Richmond is not new to Villanueva (he served as Sen. Frank Wagner’s legislative aide when Wagner served in the House), there were still a few surprises. Leveraging technology, the Commonwealth has made every bill available on the General Assembly website, http://legis.state.va.us and provided live-streaming internet coverage of sessions from the House and Senate. Del. Villanueva explained that the improved public access to the legislative process is a refreshing aspect to the job. “I think it is a very positive thing when individuals and groups have a vested-interest in legislation and let me hear about it,” said Villanueva, “their input is invaluable. As a state representative, it’s vital that I hear from constituents as they are incredibly well-informed and extremely passionate about the issues we're taking up.” Volume 1, No. 1 / March 2010
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The delegate said ongoing communication with the residents of the 21st District provides perspective and highlights issues for his attention. He also noted the high commitment of his colleagues to representing their constituents as an important ingredient to cooperation across party-lines. “I see nearly every member -- from both parties -- sincerely committed to serving their constituents and trying to make a difference for their home [districts].” Those working relationships are crucial to a freshman legislator. “I couldn't be happier with the support I've received for my legislation, as well as the helpful advice I've received from some of the veterans here,” he commented. His reputation as a cooperative quick-study shows as Del. Villanueva’s record has already been exemplary. Most of his bills have passed successfully through both the House and Senate. “Whether asking for a co-patron or just support in general, my colleagues have been extremely responsive,” he added. Villanueva commented that the committee process can be complicated even for those with experience. “I've served as a legislative aide in the past and I am very familiar with their workings,” Villanueva said, “but one thing I have noticed as a member is how cooperative everyone is toward each other regarding one another's bills. The volume is tremendous, and to move all this legislation through subcommittee and then full committee takes a lot of coordination and cooperation.” The opposition is fair when dissenting, he said. “Even when fellow members are not necessarily supportive of something, they'll still give you a heads-up so you won't be in the dark as to what they're planning.” Working with the Senate is crucial to any House member hoping for success and Villanueva has the experience to understand that. “I worked closely with Sen. Wagner on the offshore energy exploration bill and on occasion I have sought out assistance and input on specific matters from others in the Senate,” he added. That knowledge and cooperation was key as Villanueva’s version of the bill sailed through the House and also passed the Senate, setting in motion a key plank of the McDonnell Administration: Making Virginia the “Energy Capitol of the East Coast.” Though the election went into overtime and the days in the General Assembly are long ones, Del. Villanueva keeps a healthy respect for the duty the citizens gave him. “This is an exciting job where I have the privilege of shaping the direction and priorities of our Commonwealth. It is extremely rewarding to have a job like this where one can truly make a difference in peoples' lives.” Volume 1, No. 1 / March 2010
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Obama’s Health Care Plan: The Devastating Effects on Virginia By Krystle D. Weeks Darlene Fisher* is a cancer survivor and Medicaid recipient living in Fauquier County. Her treatments for advanced stage breast cancer are costly, and she worries about whether the state-run insurance program will cover the chemotherapy treatments she needs to survive. Fisher’s story is not unlike many of the stories you will hear on a daily basis, and it is expected that more stories similar to this will be heard, especially if President Obama and Congress pass their version of mandated health care insurance. President Obama proposed a health care plan during his first year of office that has raised many contentions both on the Federal and state levels. The plan, according to the White House, will create a national health insurance program and mandate that everyone purchases coverage. If this legislation is passed, it will be damaging to individual liberties in terms of choosing whether or not to purchase health insurance, while placing an added strain on Virginia’s Medicaid and state insurance programs, like FAMIS (an insurance program available to Commonwealth residents who don’t qualify for Medicare). Additionally, the plan would produce numerous serious ramifications from the legal and budgetary fronts. According to the Kaiser Foundation, there are 862,400 individuals receiving Medicaid services in the Commonwealth of Virginia. Virginia’s enrollment requirements are among the most stringent in the United States. While the impact from Obama’s health care plan (if it is signed into law) will not have any significant impact on the Commonwealth budget immediately, this will contribute to rising unemployment figures (especially with those in the health care sector), as well as adding to the stress of the Medicaid funding in the Commonwealth. The projections for those using the Virginia Medicaid program will climb as the poverty level requirements shift, allowing more participation in this already overstretched program. (Source: Families USA Study). *Name changed to protect privacy. Volume 1, No. 1 / March 2010
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Governor Bob McDonnell has recommended cuts to Medicaid as part of his plan to address the current budget shortfall in Virginia. Any cuts will be exacerbated when the $1.47 Million the Commonwealth is expected to receive from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act runs out in the middle of the fiscal year 2011 budget. Deeper service cuts will be necessary to maintain a balanced budget. Both the House Appropriations Committee and Senate Finance Committee have reductions under the Medicaid program, to include reimbursements to hospitals and/or clinics for their services. While the cuts are essential, hospitals will experience direct impacts from the budget cuts. If the proposed federal plan becomes law, the hospital industry will be in extreme danger with many facilities being forced to close. Hospitals are required to see patients, regardless of their insurance coverage. The Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association, emphasized Mr. Obama’s plan would place dire stress on hospitals, pointing out the federal matching provision. “The payment shortfall factors in Virginia’s lost federal Medicaid match. For every dollar the Commonwealth spends on Medicaid, the federal government matches one dollar. When the Commonwealth cuts a dollar, hospitals lose two dollars,” an association statement said. Medicaid, as it expands on the federal level, will become more costly on the state level and there is no doubt that Obama’s overall health care plan will have a significant impact on Virginia’s programs in terms of the reimbursements. Aside from the pressures on the Commonwealth’s fiscal situation, there are also considerable concerns on the legal front. Currently, the Virginia General Assembly has four separate health care freedom bills that are most likely going to be signed into law by Governor Bob McDonnell. HB 10, SB 283, 311, and 417 were designed to enable Virginians the right to decide to choose their own insurance program and opt-out of President Obama’s health care plan. If Obama’s health care plan is signed into law, there are questions that arise; will these laws become null and void, and what will the Commonwealth do to combat this legislation? During an exclusive interview with Bearing Drift, Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli indicated if the Obama health care plan is signed into law that the Commonwealth of Virginia would have grounds to sue the federal government under the provisions of the Ninth and Tenth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution. According to Cuccinelli, these health care freedom laws would not necessarily become null and void; rather the federal legislation would be in direct conflict with the Virginia legislation. This would set the precedent for lawsuits to be filed on behalf of the Commonwealth of Virginia in Federal District Court, and they would most likely be heard under one case. Cuccinelli mentioned other states are considering similar challenges to the federal law if it is enacted. Overall, the national health care reform plan will have a devastating impact on Virginia’s budget and citizens’ liberties to choose their medical coverage. If this legislation is enacted, there will be more Darlene Fishers trying to access life-saving treatments for their illnesses. Fisher often asks if things would be different under a national health insurance program. If the federal reform plan (which includes recurring “end of life counseling”) follows the model of Oregon, Fisher need only look to the example of Barbara Wagner. Wagner is a 64-year old diagnosed with lung cancer in 2008 and denied expensive medication that would prolong her life. Instead, she was offered access to drugs to help end her life at a savings…the former would cost $2,000 per month while the latter was a $50 single-dose. After pausing for a moment, Fisher mentioned her fears of not having access to her doctors and being placed on a waiting list for life-saving chemotherapy treatments. Volume 1, No. 1 / March 2010 bearingdrift.com / Page 18
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Volume 1, No. 1 / March 2010
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Virginia Politics On Demand •VPOD 91: Del. Kirk Cox updates on Virginia House and Senate budget negotiations •VPOD 90: Del. Chris Jones on the budget •Exclusive:
Gov. McDonnell on the budget
•VPOD 89: Virginia Congressional Republicans respond to State of the Union •VPOD 88: Post-forum interviews with 2nd District GOP candidates
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