The Weekly Diplomatic Reach: March 2-8, 2023

Saslaw Adjourns Senate

The Virginia General Assembly adjourned last weekend, with Senator Dick Saslaw (D-Falls Church) making the motion — for the last time. Saslaw is retiring after 48 years in the Virginia Senate.

A Wave of Departures

With the entire Virginia House and Senate up for election this year, many other leaders have also announced their retirements. Sen. Janet Howell (D-Fairfax), Senate Finance Co-Chair, announced she will not be seeking re-election for her seat. Del. Ken Plum (D-Reston) also announced his retirement after 44 years of service.

Del. Kathleen Murphy (D-Vienna) announced her retirement as well, leaving Del. Rip Sullivan (D-McLean) as the only “incumbent” seeking to represent the newly-drawn 6th district.

Redistricting Incumbency

Murphy and Sullivan were not the only local incumbents pushed into the same districts after redistricting. Unless more retirements are announced, Del. Marcus Simon (D-Falls Church) and Kaye Kory (D-Annandale) will face off for new House District 13. Two incumbents will also compete in four districts elsewhere in the Commonwealth.

Youngkin’s “Math Error” Corrected

Governor Youngkin (R-VA) has been the source of criticism after miscalculating over $200 million out of school funding — allegedly a result of the administration’s elimination of the state grocery tax. The Virginia House of Delegates passed a resolution to fix this error.

Virginia Superintendent Resigns

On Wednesday the Virginia Superintendent of Public Instruction, Jillian Balow, resigned in a letter to Governor Youngkin. Balow moved to Virginia from Wyoming to join the Youngkin administration in her role.

Balow has been very involved in the attack on transgender students in the Commonwealth, having released “model policies” last year that would require trans students to use the wrong bathrooms and force them to use the wrong names.

“Wrong” Bathrooms/Names

Coverage from most news outlets fail to use truly trans-affirming language. Trans individuals have current, valid, identities and genders. Forcing them to identify otherwise is intentionally using incorrect words to refer to them, and forcing them to use a corresponding bathroom is just as aggressive and misguided as forcing a cisgender student to use the wrong bathroom.

Trans individuals refer to their prior name as their “dead name,” and using it knowingly is a malicious act. We hope other news outlets stop allowing abusive language to invade their chyrons and headlines.

Youngkin’s Ironic Media Blitz

Our readers will recall several recent issues where the Republican attack on schools was referenced — from hateful legislation targeting LGBTQ+ students to attempts to overthrow school board races, not to mention the terrorizing of existing school board members.

From fighting masks to censoring books to whitewashing history, the past few years have been a total nightmare in Virginia.

Regardless of the horror of his track record on education after just over one year in office, Youngkin is rumored to be eyeing a 2024 Presidential run — using education as his topic of choice.

Today CNN announced that Jake Tapper will be moderating a Town Hall. It’s called — I highly recommend taking a deep breath if you’re passionate about these things — CNN Town Hall: Governor Glenn Youngkin And The Battle Over Education. Hopefully he has some time left over to replace the Superintendent.

COVID Emergency Ending

As of March 1, 2023, the Covid-19 Emergency Declaration for Virginia has been lifted, and the Biden administration has announced the National declaration will end May 11, after more than three years. Remember when it was supposed to be a two week lockdown, and we all thought we were losing it after it turned into a month? That was cute.

Anyway, Covid-19 is about to graduate from pandemic to endemic, largely because some folks just really hate following instructions. Regardless, it’s important that we all take a minute to be grateful, even if we may never be entirely rid of the virus.

Also, as a result, Falls Church is working toward making outdoor dining accommodations permanent, many events are starting to pick up, and a lot of organizations are comfortable planning their annual events again.