Friday, November 30, 2012

Cows, Corn and Uranium Don't Mix

One of the things you learn when you show up in Richmond is the way that laws can affect people you never even think about. 

For example, when I put in my legislation to raise Virginia's lowest-in-the-United-States misdemeanor-felony threshold from $200 to $500 I thought I was home free when the VA Association of Prosecutors supported me along with the Attorney General.  Then I found out that the large retailers didn't like the idea and I got one vote on subcommittee. 

Similarly, some people came to be about being allows to hunt on a Sunday.  Hunting during the week outside of NOVA is no big deal because you just drive 10 minutes and you're in the woods, but for Northern Virginians who need to escape traffic, it usually takes the better part of a day and weekends are more convenient.  Turns out the major antagonist is The Farm Bureau - farmers like to have one day per week they can go out on their farm and not worry about dodging bullets from stray hunters.

During that debate, I discovered how influential The Farm Bureau is in Virginia.  While the majority of Virginia's delegates now hail from the suburbs, they still have a ton of pull.  They also speak for a significant sector of the Virginia economy. 

Monday, November 26, 2012

History of U.S. 1: Introduction

Back in 2005, the Mount Vernon Gazette ran a series of articles by local author Michael K. Bohn on the history of U.S. 1.  They provide some interesting history and context to why U.S. 1 runs where it is today.

The following was written by Michael K. Bohn and ran in the Mt. Vernon Gazette in April, 2005:
Introduction to the Route One Series
Michael K. Bohn
Mount Vernon Gazette, April 2005  
Route One. To some, it’s just a road, a way to get home after work. Residents close by, however, view it as their Main Street, the commercial center of their community. Others use “Route One” as a pejorative term to describe an area that has been down on its heels—a place of strip malls, fast food joints, and yellow crime-scene tape.
However widely impressions vary of Route One in Mount Vernon, there is one perception of the highway that is rarely acknowledged—the history of Route One is the history of southeast Fairfax County. Travelers along what started as an Indian path have witnessed the spread of English settlements north from Jamestown, the construction of colonial churches and court houses, and the creation of the grand plantations owned by Virginia’s first families—Mason, Fairfax, and Washington. Known in Colonial times as the Potomac Path, the route served General Washington and his French ally, Comte de Rochambeau, during their march to destiny at Yorktown, just as the route carried both Federals and Johhny Rebs during the Civil War. The road’s ford at Little Hunting Creek--Gum Springs--became not only a key intersection on the way to post-war Mount Vernon, but also a growing refuge for African-Americans living in segregated Fairfax County. World War I saw the opening of Fort Belvoir, with the Army paving the section of the highway between the new installation and Alexandria. The onset of the automobile, and later the motel, made Route One a prominent feature of the county during the middle of the 20th century. The route is a four-hundred-year timeline, one that began when the forest knew only the Dogue Indians.

Monday, November 12, 2012

NOVA v. ROVA = Massachusetts v. Georgia?

Tom Jackman has an interesting analysis up on The State of NOVA blog comparing results in Northern Virginia v. the rest of the Commonwealth and looking at differences in Virginia exit poll results from 2008 and 2012.  Not Larry Sabato (Ben Tribbett) also recently started a series on his blog comparing House of Delegate electoral margins to different states to give some perspective to how different Virginia is.  I thought I'd take a shot at merging both.

Defining NOVA as Alexandria, Arlington, Fairfax, Loudoun, Prince William, including Fairfax City, Falls Church City, Manassas City and Manassas Park and using the Unofficial Results (not including the Fairfax County absentees & provisional votes (over 90,000 votes).  Here were the margins:
  • President Obama's wins NOVA by 21.4% (60.7% v. 39.3%)
  • Governor Romney's margin in the "Rest of Virginia" or ROVA was 3.4% (48.3% v. 51.7%). 
If you compare that to other states, NOVA's margin sits between Massachusetts and California and ROVA's margin sits between North Carolina and Georgia (see chart below from Nate Silver at the New York Times).  Well I knew that Massachusetts was a Commonwealth like Virginia, but I did not realize we also had that much in common politically.  Quite a juxtaposition which perhaps gives you some perspective about our challenges in Richmond.


Thursday, November 1, 2012

VA Leads the National Way Foreclosure Settlement Diversion

Sometimes I wonder why voters get so cynical about the government.  Then there are days that I join the chorus.

As a state with booming housing starts and population growth in the late 2000's Virginia was hit hard by the foreclosure crisis.  Prince William and Loudoun were hit hard.  It also hit the Route 1 Corridor.  When I knocked doors in new townhouses around Huntington in 2009, neighbors were complaining to me about people purchased claiming rental homes are primary residences, putting 10% down, and then bailing.  There have been other pockets of foreclosures along U.S. 1 as people over committed into homes they couldn't afford.

Last year, forty-nine attorneys general and the federal government announced a $25 billion settlement with five of the largest banks.  As part of that, $2.5 billion was paid to states.  The Court ordered the following regarding that money:

In Virginia. we took $66,525,233.00 and it initially went into the Attorney General's Regulatory, Consumer Advocacy, Litigation and Enforcement Revolving Trust Fund.   You can read the court order for yourself - it's pretty clear:

Each State Attorney General shall designate the uses of the funds set forth in the attached Exhibit B-1. To the extent practicable,such funds shall be used for purposes intended to avoid preventable foreclosures, to ameliorate the effects of the foreclosure crisis, to enhance law enforcement efforts to prevent and prosecute financial fraud, or unfair or deceptive acts or practices and to compensate the States for costs resulting from the alleged unlawful conduct of the Defendants. Such permissible purposes for allocation of the funds include, but are not limited to, supplementing the amounts paid to state homeowners under the Borrower Payment Fund, funding for housing counselors, state and local foreclosure assistance hotlines, state and local foreclosure mediation programs, legal assistance, housing remediation and anti-blight projects, funding for training and staffing of financial fraud or consumer protection enforcement efforts, and civil penalties. Accordingly, each Attorney General has set forth general instructions for the funds in the attached Exhibit B-2.