Friday, December 22, 2023

Best of 2023

 My December column comes so late in the year I decided to make it a “Best of 2023 Edition.”

Here are my favorite lines from my 11 monthly Richmond Reports here in the Falls Church New Press.

In January, I wrote about having to participate in the opening days of the new legislative session remotely because I’d finally contracted COVID-19. My favorite line:

While I was out, I missed the kerfuffle that occurred outside my office in the Pocahontas Building over my Little Banned Book Library. 

Fortunately, it was just a kerfuffle and the library will return in 2024.

In February, I was already writing about the waning days of our short session. My favorite line described the developing budget impasse:

Unfortunately, the House budget, crafted by Republicans, falls short in meeting the needs of hardworking Virginians. At the heart of the budget are over $350 million in corporate tax breaks, which disproportionately benefit big businesses rather than the average Virginian.

By March the short session was over, and I dedicated this column to shouting out retiring legislators while predicting November’s election would focus a on a very small number of seats:

By packing us all into nice, geometrically pretty districts, we’ve created 46 or 47 safely Democratic districts where you can win without a single Republican or independent vote, and about 42 or 43 on the Republican side. This leaves maybe 10 -12 competitive seats up for grabs in November. 

In April, I reported on the retirement announcement of Kaye Kory, with whom I’d been drawn together in redistricting, and the results of our reconvened session, which ended without a budget deal. We’d also learned that Governor Youngkin had stopped restoring the voting rights of former felons who had completed their jail sentences, and I wrote:

I urge the Governor to return to the automatic restoration of voting rights, as it's a crucial step in promoting a more inclusive and just society.

In May, I took the gloves off with the Governor and his administration over another issue involving voting rights:

As the parent of two very young adults who are coming of age at a time when social media is often their primary source of news about current events, I’ve had to spend a lot of effort teaching my kids how to be smart and discerning consumers of quality information. How to tell facts from fiction and identify intentional disinformation campaigns.

Unfortunately, that skill set doesn’t seem to be a prerequisite for employment in Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin's Administration.

In June of 2023, Donald Trump was indicted and our Governor tweeted in support of the former President. I took him to task for it:

Youngkin couldn’t be more wrong about the nature of the charges against the former President. I wonder if he regrets his decision to tweet before the indictments were unsealed.

In July, we still didn’t have a state budget and I wrote about what that would mean to our local school systems here in Falls Church City and Fairfax:

Unfortunately, when the kids do go back to school in just a few short weeks, public school students here in Falls Church and Fairfax will be in classrooms staffed by teachers who are once again being asked to do more with less.


Because Governor Glenn Younkin’s Department of Education flunked math last semester and miscalculated the state’s share of education funding by about $201 million.

August’s column was written after Ohio proponents of abortion rights won the day passing a referendum to enshrine abortion access in their state constitution. I made this promise:

With control of both the House and Senate, we can pass a resolution to put a Constitutional Amendment on the ballot that would make access to abortion a constitutionally protected right in Virginia, just as it was at the federal level before the Dobb’s decision.  

By September we finally had a state budget:

The Governor’s agenda of giving big tax breaks to corporations at the expense of public education funding was soundly defeated as the conferees’ budget largely resembled the draft put forth by Senate Democrats at the end of February.

In October, I made some dire predictions about what would happen if Republicans gained majorities in both houses of the General Assembly giving the Governor’s party total control of state government:

Frankly, I’d rather not find out if these predictions come true.

Fortunately, last month I was able to report back that Virginians had given Democrats a majority in both houses. The takeaway:

This was a major rebuke to Governor Glenn Younkin and a setback for his presidential ambitions. Hopefully he’ll be humbled by the result and step back from some of the incendiary actions he took during his early years, with executive orders establishing a teacher snitch line, and attempting to limit teaching of history under the guise of a ban on divisive concepts in the class room.