With the first month of the new year in full swing, I decided to take some time and reflect on 2018 and the new year.
2018 was a good year overall. The economy kept humming along, and we had more money in our pockets, thanks to federal income tax relief. How that plays out in relation to our state income taxes remains to be seen, which is something the General Assembly will be tackling soon. This year’s legislative session began Jan. 9.
Concerns about tariffs and a “trade war” with China and other nations didn’t seem to have a negative impact on most citizens, and gas prices remain low, having recently fallen below $2 a gallon.
State Del. Kirk Cox, R–Colonial Heights, may be in his final year as House Speaker, given the possibility that a court-ordered special master will redraw state legislative boundaries. Cox’s district – which includes most of the Village News’ coverage area of eastern Chesterfield County – is part of several regions targeted by special master Bernard Grofman. Although I would expect Cox to be re-elected come November in Virginia’s off-year elections, how the redistricting process plays out could affect the election, and thus, whether the Democrats take over the House and Senate for a complete “trifecta” rule with Gov. Ralph Northam.
Also of note for local residents is what the Legislature will require Dominion Energy to do about its coal ash in the state, including the 14.9 million cubic yards at the Chesterfield Power Station, which represents 54.6 percent of the company’s coal ash at four power plants in the state.
According to a report that Dominion submitted to the Legislature in November, it would take 13 to 15 years to transport the product to market or waste to landfills by truck, rail or barge at a cost of $1 billion to $2.2 billion. And that’s just for Chesterfield’s upper and lower coal ash ponds.
Dominion received 12 proposals that ranged from $2.77 billion to $3.36 billion to either recycle or deposit all of the coal ash in a landfill.
Since state Sen. Amanda Chase, R-Chesterfield, has made cleanup of Dominion’s coal ash a top issue, it seems that Chesterfield’s state legislators will be at the forefront of the current session.
There are other issues that the Legislature will consider, to be sure, but the big two are income taxes and coal ash with an eye toward redistricting, which at this point may be out of the Legislature’s hands. The U.S. Supreme Court still could throw out a 2-1 lower court decision invalidating the bipartisan map currently in effect, which was challenged in court by a Democrat group led by attorney Marc Elias.
Diluting the percentage of blacks in 11 legislative districts that were drawn so as to not run afoul of the Voting Rights Act is the issue the courts will decide, and Elias is once again at the forefront of power in the Old Dominion. His lawsuit about racial gerrymandering in the state’s Congressional districts led to Democrat Donald McEachin picking up Randy Forbes’ old seat in November 2016. Will his efforts lead to Democrat control of the state Legislature?
Elias’ lawsuit – Bethune Hill v. Virginia State Board of Elections – and others were funded by a trust that was funded by George Soros, the Capital Research Center’s Christine Ravold states in “Political Law Personified: Marc Elias & Perkins Coie.”
2019 will likely hold big news that will impact our pocketbooks and the makeup of power in the Old Dominion going into 2020 and beyond. Happy New Year!