On the Run
Summers in Virginia are usually characterized by hot weather and slow political activity.
While the temperature has lived up to its promise, the political pace in the Commonwealth has been anything but sluggish.
In fact, political discourse has been hot and heavy throughout the state as voters have discovered these crazy “abuser fees.”
These are the penalties added to fines for traffic offenses that the Republican majority in the General Assembly embraced as a revenue raising tool.
The anti-tax GOP majority in the House saw it as a way to raise money for transportation without raising taxes.
Some in Richmond have even defended them as helping to punish and discourage bad driving.
But, the people of Virginian have not been fooled. They have rightly seen this as too cute by half.
While these fees have been marketed as only being applied to “egregious” behavior behind the wheel, some not so serious traffic infractions are included.
One of the architects of this plan says that this was a “drafting error” when the bill was drawn up.
No, it was an idea error. The error is in two parts. First, why use a narrow base of people to pay for infrastructure that everyone uses?
Next, why have these draconian fees – which have to be paid for three straight years – apply only to Virginians?
I do not know about you, but the fast drivers I see on Interstate 95 invariably have license plates from Maryland, New York, New Jersey, Florida, etc.
All of this heat and light focused on one issue has also allowed the Republican leadership to learn a new dance.
It is called the Backstep and it is being performed at a fast pace, indeed. It has also been accompanied by the Loose Lip.
Just witness the House GOP leadership saying that things will be fixed next year by applying the law to non-Virginians “as we had intended.”
Huh, that is news to me. I thought that the law is as it was intended now. If you do not believe me, just go to YouTube.
There you will see a video of the debate on this issue last year by the bill’s sponsor, Delegate Dave Albo of Fairfax.
As you will see, he addresses the fact that it will not apply to the speeder from New Jersey.
Well, I am afraid that the Backstep and the Loose Lip are about to be accompanied this November at the polls by the Backlash.
A Great Man Laid to Rest
Just a few months past his 100 birthday, Oliver Hill, Jr., of Richmond, who was raised in Roanoke, passed away last week.
Many people did not now of him, but we as Virginians and as Americans are a fuller people because of his efforts.
Working with Thurgood Marshall for the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, he battled segregation long before those more famous than he.
Throughout the 1940s and 1950s, Oliver Hill won small but significant victories against states for not giving equal treatment to all races.
This was the era of “separate, but equal” where facilities for non-white citizens was anything but equal.
He won his first civil rights case in Virginia in 1940, winning equal pay for black and white teachers.
He earned his law degree at Howard University, where he studied under Charles Hamilton Houston, the first African-American to win a U.S. Supreme Court case.
With his contemporaries Spotswood Robinson and Thurgood Marshall, Oliver Hill took cases throughout the South with a goal of ending segregation.
A Pioneering Effort
His most famous case came when he was asked to represent a group of black students protesting the conditions at their segregated school.
It was Moton High School in the town of Farmville in Prince Edward County, Virginia. Losing in state court, the lawsuit was appealed to federal court.
When it got to the U.S. Supreme Court, it was consolidated with four other cases and became known as Brown vs. Board of Education.
Oliver Hill assisted Thurgood Marshall in winning a unanimous victory in the case which ended school segregation forever in this country.
This past weekend, there was a state funeral in Richmond for this man whose impact on all of us is beyond measure.
On Saturday, 1,200 people paid their respects as his casket lay in the Governor’s mansion.
His funeral was attended the next day by thousands in the Richmond Convention center.
"No Virginian in the past hundred years has had as much impact," Governor Tim Kaine said as he eulogized this great man.
Oliver Hill did not invent anything new, said the Governor. “He simply challenged the nation to live up to the ideal of ‘loving thy neighbor’.”
The Governor added, "His life is a challenge: Are we up to it?" That is something that we all should ponder.