Maryland lawmakers vote to end the death penalty in the Old Line State. D.C. mulls whether to require “large retailers” to pay higher wages. And social issues take the spotlight in Virginia’s race for governor. Join us for our weekly review of the politics, policies and personalities of the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia.
Chair, Virginia Democratic Party; Member, Virginia House of Delegates (D-Alexandria)
Reporter, WAMU 88.5 News
Host of "NewsTalk," News Channel 8
Member, U.S. House of Representatives (D-MD, 4th Congressional District)
Politics Hour Video
Charniele Herring, Virginia delegate and chair of the state’s Democratic Party, talks about how to make the state an attractive place for families and business leaders. She said she hopes the state avoids divisive social issues, such as same-sex marriage and reproductive rights, and instead focuses more on job creation and economic development. This is an election year in Virginia, with voters going to the polls to select a governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general and delegates. “I love Virginia, I love my state. But I agree sometimes it takes us a little bit longer to step up and realize that life and society has changed,” said Virginia Del. Charniele Herring.
MR. BRUCE DEPUYTFrom WAMU 88.5 at American University in Washington, welcome to "The Politics Hour." I'm Bruce DePuyt from News Channel 8 sitting in for Kojo Nnamdi. Welcome to the Friday wrap-up of local and national news. It's "The Politics Hour," and it's a pleasure to be filling in for Kojo Nnamdi again.
MR. BRUCE DEPUYTIt's been a busy week, and we have got a great lineup for you today. Kojo, turns out, isn't the only person enjoying a well-deserved break. Resident analyst Tom Sherwood is also off this day, and WAMU reporter Patrick Madden is filling in for Tom. Patrick, it's great to be working with you again.
MR. PATRICK MADDENGood afternoon. I will do my best to fill in for Tom today.
DEPUYTNo talk of...
MADDENBig shoes to fill.
DEPUYTNo talk of security barriers and no mindless boosterism of Southwest D.C., not that we don't love Southwest D.C.
MADDENI'll just promote Adams Morgan today.
DEPUYTThere you go. I -- well, I -- sometimes, we want it -- depending on the route you take when you're walking your dog...
DEPUYT...and the route that I take when I'm walking mine. Sometimes, we bump into one another in the neighborhood. So good to be on air with you again. The 2014 race for mayor in the District, even though this is relatively early in calendar year 2013, 2014 is essentially upon us because tomorrow a member of the D.C. Council who's got a pretty high profile within the city I'm sure she'd like to grow that profile over time, but she jumps into the D.C. mayor's race with both feet about 24 hours from now.
MADDENThat's right. Muriel Bowser, the Ward 4 councilmember, sort of the protégé to former Mayor Adrian Fenty, and again, she sort of enters this race as some have said a front-runner, which is pretty remarkable when you think about that we already -- we have a mayor right now that hasn't said whether he is running or not.
MADDENBut I think Muriel Bowser is going to be a very formidable opponent. She's going to have support of former Fenty supporters. She's going to be able to probably raise a lot of money. I think that's going to be one of her -- one of the big benefits that she has actually spoke with a person who worked -- who was involved in raising money for the mayor's race last time around.
MADDENAnd he -- that person said that there's no way the sort of figures that occurred in 2010 are going to happen again. There's not going to be $4 million in the bank for one of the candidates just because of the environment we're in right now. It's just a much different field. But that being said, Bowser is going to be tough to beat.
DEPUYTShe enters the race and it will be amazing. It will be interesting to watch over the next coming months who enters the race alongside her. A lot of names have been floated. It takes a lot, though, to make the decision to actually run for mayor. It's a big deal. The Bowser candidacy has several inherent advantages built in. If she's not the only woman in the race, she'll be one of a very small number.
DEPUYTAnd I think the thinking right now is she may be the only woman among the named candidates. Ward 4 is a terrific base from which to run. We saw that seven years ago. And there are a lot of people who miss Adrian Fenty and think that, you know, Muriel Bowser is her own person very much. But to the extent that we can go back to that era of Fenty governing in the District of Columbia...
DEPUYT...she's a pretty good horse to ride.
MADDENRight, exactly. She sort of fills that role in this race. And when you talk about the other names that are out there right now, you've got Tommy Wells in Ward 6 who is on, I guess, a listening tour. He's an exploratory committee right now. He hasn't officially thrown his hat in the ring. You've got Jack Evans out there who Ward 2 councilmember. He's been around for a long time.
MADDENHe'll be able to raise a lot of money. And then, of course, the big question is what happens with Mayor Gray. Now, he's got the U.S. attorney -- this investigation, it's been going on for a long time. It may be starting to pick up again now that this looks like prosecutor has -- will have the ability to go through some of the computers and files of Jeffrey Thompson who is part of this whole investigation. So, again, if Gray runs again, I mean that changes the whole dynamic of the race.
DEPUYTAnd you get the feeling he very much wants to. He has this clout, and it would be very helpful for him, of course, if, A, U.S. Attorney Ron Machen's investigation was wrapped up in time for Mr. Gray to sort of move on to the stage in re-election mode clear of the questions that linger from the 2010 campaign but also if Machen does so in a way that says there was stuff going on at a lower level and Gray should have known about it.
DEPUYTBut we can't find his fingerprints anywhere, therefore we're going to consider this part of it closed with the actions we've taken against the underlings, but we're not going to go for the big kahuna.
MADDENExactly. I think if that's the case, if this investigation wraps up and Gray like you mentioned is seen as not being involved or is not indicted, then, of course, and he is running again, I mean he's going to be tough to beat. He's got all the advantages of an incumbent mayor. He will have a lot of support in his home ward of Ward 7 and another -- places around the city. So, you know, I think as people say he -- if he runs again and he's cleared in this investigation, he'll be tough to beat.
DEPUYTThe other news I want to touch on briefly before we go to our first guest, The Washington Post has endorsed Patrick Mara in the race for D.C. Council. There's a special election coming. It's a month from tomorrow, April 23. Voters will go to polls to fill the seat that's temporarily being occupied by Democrat Anita Bonds. The endorsement of Mara in today's paper is a plus for him at a time when he already seemed to have pretty significant momentum.
MADDENYeah. I don't think this was surprising to anyone that has been following this race, but it's nonetheless important. This is one of the few...
MADDENMoments that really can move the needle in this race. The Washington Post endorsement is important. Mara is a strong candidate. He's a Republican. I think he sort of knows who his voters are, so he has a sort of idea of what he needs to do. And obviously, this will help when he sends out mailers and talks at forums and whatnot.
DEPUYTAnd there's no primary. It's seven candidates, winner take all. The Democratic vote could split a bunch of different ways.
MADDENExactly. What I found interesting today was -- it would also -- a lot of kind words for Paul Zuckerberg, the attorney who's running as a Democrat. He's sort of made his name as sort of the pro-marijuana candidate, I guess you would say.
MADDENAnd this was interesting because I was thinking if you think about what The Post is looking for in their candidates, it's probably a pro-pot Republican and where, you know, where is Gary Johnson when you need him.
DEPUYTPatrick Madden is a reporter here at WAMU. He's our analyst today. I'm Bruce DePuyt from News Channel 8. I'm filling in for Kojo Nnamdi today. If you'd like to join the conversation at any point in the hour, we certainly welcome your questions and comments. Join us at 800-433-8850, or you can make a comment on our website, kojoshow.org.
DEPUYTJoining us now here in the studio is Maryland Congresswoman Donna Edwards. She's a Democrat from the 4th District, which now includes Prince George's and Anne Arundel County. Congresswoman Edwards, it's great to see you again. Thanks very much for being with us today.
REP. DONNA EDWARDSThank you. It's good to be with you all and just listen in on the conversation.
DEPUYTAs I said in the intro, it's been a very busy week, so lucky for me to be here on this day. It's been a long time since we've heard discussion of members of Congress working on a budget. We have been out of the normal cycle of budgeting in this country so long, one almost hates to use the term normal and budgeting in the same sentence. But the House approved a budget this week, and the Senate is said to be voting tonight. Give us a sense of where things are from your perspective and what can we expect going forward.
EDWARDSWell, in fact, I mean in the House and the time that I've been in the Congress, we actually have worked on a budget over on the House side I think some of that of discussion you talked about was over on the Senate side. We've been led by our ranking Democrat on the budget committee, Chris Van Hollen, who's from Montgomery County. And, you know, we approved a budget, and I think it's very problematic.
EDWARDSWe approved the Paul Ryan budget that came out that was supported by the majority, and it's very problematic, especially for women, for children, for a lot of our federal workers. And, you know, the House will have its budget. The Senate has its budget. They're different budgets, and then we'll go forward to the next discussions.
DEPUYTThe House passed a budget and left town.
EDWARDSWell, the House passed a budget. We're on our regular sort of spring recess. For me, you know, of course, I don't leave town because I'm here locally, and we have a lot of activities planned in our district to discuss these issues. People are very concerned about the sequester, about these fiscal problems that we're having, about the impact on our small businesses, on local communities, on our homeowners as they're under these constraints as well.
EDWARDSAnd we all have to analyze as well the continuing resolution which I think was more important to keep government operations going until September that we also passed yesterday.
DEPUYTDoes that mean we'll get through the next several months without this sort of drama and, you know, deadlines and sense of potential crisis that have marked our politics and our budgeting in particular so much of late?
EDWARDSI would like to think so, but, unfortunately, I don't think that's really true. I mean just yesterday Speaker Boehner talked about, again, using the debt ceiling that's coming up in mid-May as another leverage point on these negotiations. I think that's unacceptable. I think the president should send a really clear message to Republicans in Congress that we ran that movie. It failed. It's not helpful, and we're not willing to sacrifice the ability of the United States government to meet its obligations that we've incurred for a fiscal fight with Republicans.
MADDENAnd, Congresswoman, you mentioned sequester, sequestration. I know I was looking at one press release from your office talking about sort of oversight of NASA and, you know, it was talking about the threat of these asteroids and near-Earth objects. And, obviously, that's a far-off conversation, but in terms of more practical stuff, what are you hearing about the sequester cuts in, you know, from constituents in, you know, that you're representing right now?
EDWARDSWell, up until now, some agencies like NASA have actually been able to manage the constraints they're under, making cuts in other kinds of programs and not announcing furloughs. But in other agencies, people have received furlough notices. We've got to sort of balance that out with what was done in the continuing resolution, so I think a number of agencies are evaluating that now.
EDWARDSBut I'll tell you what I heard. I was out in Severna Park just last week, and one of the contractors who has contracts over at Joint Base Andrews said 50 percent -- we just lost 50 percent of our contracts because there's no new contracting going on. And so the impact in our communities is actually really significant.
EDWARDSHouseholds with two federal workers or a contractor and a federal worker and those are the people who are really impacted, and these are folks who ordinarily gotten up, you know, gone to work every day, paid their taxes, done what they were supposed to do, and they're under, you know, tremendous financial burden right now.
MADDENWhat do you think the tipping point will be in terms of when there's enough -- I don't know if it's anger or whatever the word will be when these cuts really hit home for people?
EDWARDSWell, I think it's coming, and I think it's coming soon because, you know, as I said, some agencies have already sent out furlough notices, but those have a 30-day and a 45-day window to them. And we're going to, you know, let the agencies figure out what the impact is of the continuing resolution with the sequester. And so maybe that it won't be 22 furlough days, but it's going to be something.
EDWARDSThe down, you know, sort of downstream impact are things like county government. We're in, you know, in our state, the county governments are having to face some of the same constraints because of you're cutting back on Title I funding for schools, if you're cutting back on school nutrition programs, on transportation funding, all of the things that in to the benefit from the federal government to local governments that's going to be felt at some point by everyone.
DEPUYTIs there a concern on the one hand that some of the worries that have been expressed, the gloom and doom as it were, that if folks don't see it, don't think you weren't being honest about what the impact of the sequester would be. So are you almost, on the other hand, in a foster of having to hope that people at the community level feel the impact so that pressure can build on your Republican colleagues to take what, maybe, the White House and some Democrats in Congress might describe as a more balance approach?
EDWARDSI think the short answer to that is no. I mean, I would prefer if there are agencies who can figure out a way to balance these cuts by not, you know, cutting in a really severe way personnel and other kinds of cost. I think that would be far better. We want people being able to make their mortgage payments and send their kids to school.
EDWARDSOn the other hand, I looked in my own offices because the legislative branch was also impacted by sequester. I imposed on our budget, because we had to, an 11 percent cut, in January, and then an additional 8.2 percent cut on March 1. And what that meant is that we sat down as a staff, and I said, well, I don't want to let anyone go.
EDWARDSBut in order not to do that, every single one of my staff got a 2 percent pay cut. That's real, especially for young people who aren't working for a lot of money anyway. And it cuts down on the kinds of things that we're able to do in the community, in the congressional district, at a time that people really need us. And so we were already feeling it on our end. And eventually, that's going to be felt across the board.
DEPUYTWe're talking with Maryland Congresswoman Donna Edwards here on The Politics Hour. I'm Bruce DePuyt, joined in studio by WAMU reporter Patrick Madden. Our number, 800-433-8850. You can make a comment on our website, kojoshow.org. We'll be going to the phones momentarily.
MADDENAnd, Congresswoman, I guess the -- one of the other big stories right now are the FBI headquarters. And I know there's a big fight right now between Prince George's County, Fairfax, even the District is sort of making an effort to say it wants to keep the FBI headquarters. You support the FBI headquarters moving to Prince George's County. Why does that makes sense?
EDWARDSWell, it makes sense for a number of reasons. First of all, the Hoover Building, where the FBI is located right now, is falling apart, and everybody recognizes that the FBI is actually conducting its operations in actually 21 different locations throughout the metropolitan region. That needs to be consolidated. That's been recognized over about the last decade. And so there is going to be a new FBI headquarters.
EDWARDSI think that my interests -- I said on the Economic Development subcommittee of our transportation committee, my interest is making sure that we have a set of guidelines that comes out that makes sure that there's fair fight among the jurisdictions. I mean, this is a good news fight, right, because I think, you know, Virginia, the District of Columbia and Maryland all want to put up a good proposal that the General Services Administration can consider. And I think that Prince George's County will make absolute sense.
EDWARDSWe've got our two senators and all of our delegation lined up behind that. Our county executive and county government is actually putting together a response that will be highly, highly competitive. And there are a couple of locations in Prince George's County that make absolute sense. We have 16 metro stops throughout the county that are, you know, fairly well undeveloped, and so it's not like there's not space. Actually, in some of the other areas...
DEPUYTAre you backing the Greenbelt side in particular that seems to have emerged as a favorite, or you were just saying come back to the county, I'm happy wherever it is?
EDWARDSI want to support the efforts of our -- as a team with our county executive and with our senators for wherever makes sense in Prince George's County. It's not my job as a member of Congress to pick out sites. I can barely do that for a home. So my job is to make sure that we have a prospectus that comes through GSA that says, here are what the requirements are. We want you to be near a public transportation.
EDWARDSThis is the amount of space we need, and we're going to offer -- and the competition will be fair. I think what is true is that years in past with federal tenants, I don't think that there's been a fair fight, and Prince George's County has not been fairly considered. And I think everyone acknowledges that, even independent analysts acknowledge that. And it's time for Prince George's County to be in the game, and this is a good fight for us. Eleven thousand employees consolidated at some campus in Prince George's County bringing...
DEPUYTWith the modern amenities and security covered.
EDWARDSExactly, and bringing economic development opportunities for our county, this would be a good get for us, and we're going to be prepared to compete competitively.
DEPUYTDo you expect this to be on the merits? Will it be a mix of merits and politics? How does something like this happen in the modern era...
DEPUYT...the decision about where to put a building?
EDWARDSI think where it starts is making sure that the guidelines are clean and transparent and that the process is open and that, you know, developers are able to compete. That begins and ends with the United States Congress. The House and the Senate making sure that we have a resolution that we agree on, that says, here what the perimeters are. GSA, these are what your marching orders are, and then the jurisdictions can compete. And I think one could argue that in times past, it hasn't been clear that that kind of transparency and fairness has been on the table
DEPUYTWe're going to go to the phones at 800-433-8850. Joy, you're first. Thanks for calling in. You're on the air. Go ahead, please.
JOYYes. Thanks for taking my call.
DEPUYTGo right ahead. You're welcome.
JOYI was listening to the comments about the FBI headquarters. And we in the District of Columbia, well, first of all, we don't have statehood, and we just keep getting things taken away from us, federal buildings. I mean, what's going to be next? I think that the FBI should stay right in the District of Columbia along with those other federal agencies. We don't need to relocate anywhere else other than in the District of Columbia.
JOYThat's my opinion on that. I just -- and also, in terms of the -- what's happening on the political scene in terms of people losing homes, a lot of people had already felt that, losing homes and taking cuts. So I think the government needs to freeze all those position and start from ground zero. I hate to see them share in some of the burden, but everybody has to share. And government workers, they are part of this, and they have to share also, unfortunately. We're all hurting.
EDWARDSJoy, let me just say, with respect to the District of Columbia, the property that's currently occupied by the FBI at the Hoover Building is actually prime real estate for the District of Columbia. And I think part of what's envisioned here is that that property would be part of the mix. And the District of Columbia actually could benefit tremendously if that is on the commercial -- the regular commercial marketplace where you develop something there and then they become taxpayers.
EDWARDSSo there is not a downside for the District of Columbia. At the same time, I think that we do need to have a prospectus that enables the District to compete, as well as Virginia and Maryland in the region, and I don't see a problem with that. But I have to tell you, if I were the mayor of the District of Columbia, I would want that spot on right at Pennsylvania Avenue because I think it's prime development for a commercial site that's going to result in tremendous revenue for the District of Columbia.
MADDENYeah. And I think that's actually the case. I mean, I think it's almost been a half-hearted effort by D.C. officials to sort of say they want to keep the FBI here 'cause as you point out, Congresswoman, that is prime real estate right on Pennsylvania Avenue. And right now, that money is not going to the District's coffers and also just the whole way the security apparatus around that building is -- just doesn't make sense.
MADDENAnd so, I mean, I know they've talk about Poplar Point is as perhaps a place where the District would like to see it. But again, that's land prime real estate out there that could be used for, you know, you get a lot more money if we weren't using the FBI building out there.
DEPUYTIt's hard to know what's going on behind the scenes, but I agree with you. To the extent that we can gain a sense of what's happening on the outside, it feels like in Virginia, there's incredible drive...
DEPUYT...push and are coming together among the types of federal officials you'd want to have making noises about this and the same thing in Maryland. So I'm inclined to -- I see things the way you do, Patrick.
EDWARDSWell, you know, and lastly on this point, you know, Bruce, there's probably not been a stronger supporter outside of the District for District of Columbia statehood than I've been because I really do believe that the District needs to have control over it's own revenue and it's own budget and make decisions where it's soft and that the people of the District of Columbia deserve a real vote in the Congress, you know, a member of the House and a couple of Senators.
EDWARDSAnd so I continue to work with Eleanor Holmes Norton on that and worked with our colleagues because it's something that I've been focused on for years. And at the same time, I know that when these federal opportunities come available, for me, the point is making sure that there's a transparency of process that enables all the jurisdictions to compete fairly. And I think that Prince George's County will offer up a great proposal.
DEPUYTDo you think the Senate's going to come up with a budget? And if they do, what's the likelihood of a conference committee like we use to see on an actual budget that gets through both houses?
EDWARDSWell, I think that is way above my pay grade, Bruce. I don't know and I think -- I don't think it is very likely, quite frankly, and I also think that it's important for us to move forward with some of these -- the larger issues that we have which is, you know, what is it that we're going to do overall about making sure that there is balance in the way that we approach government.
EDWARDSI'm very concerned about our federal workforce, about losing talent in our federal workforce because over and over again, the people who've actually paid the most were deficit reduction, or actually, federal workers sacrificing pay in benefits and all of the rest. And I just like to say well, when does everybody else get to sacrifice?
MADDENWould you support if there was a way to sort of stop all this gridlock, whether it's fights over the debt ceiling in terms of some, you know, so-called grand bargain that included, you know, big cuts to, you know, entitlement reform? Would you be able to get behind something like that?
EDWARDSWell, let me just say this, I mean, some big ideas, when it comes to things like extending, making sure that we protect the solvency of Social Security for the 75 years that's required that things, to me, that haven't been on the table or things like lifting the income cap on Social Security. That is a real easy fix to extending long term solvency, and yet that is -- that idea is completely set aside.
EDWARDSAnd so when House Republicans come to the table and want to have a discussion really about how you protect solvency, let's do that. But you can't be serious about protecting Medicare when you put forward a budget that gets rid of the savings from Medicare and the Affordable Care Act by seeking to repeal it and yet pretends to use those same savings in their budget.
EDWARDSThat's a non-starter. So if they want serious discussions, then let's go forward with that. But the fact is that when we passed the Affordable Care Act, the protections that we put in there, the savings that we glean from Medicare actually are beginning the reduce to bend that cost curve with Medicare. I mean, you can just look at the numbers that have come in over the last couple of years.
EDWARDSAnd so if they want to get serious about things like Social Security and Medicare, put some real things on the table that aren't about making people work until they're 100 years old. I exaggerate, of course. But, you know, making people work for a long time instead of saying, you know what, why is it that people only pay Social Security income taxes on $113,000 of their income? You know, Bill Gates does that, Warren Buffett does that. Let's lift that income cap.
DEPUYTOne of the things that's depressing to me is kind of a, you know, from an age prospective, there are a lot of people older than me, but there are even more people younger than me. And I'm depressed when I see polls that suggest that young people don't expect the programs that have been in place for a long time, part of the new deal, part of the safety net, making sure that our seniors have some level of life that's acceptable, you know, later on as they age.
DEPUYTYoung people don't expect you to be there for them. And I'll bet a lot of us -- and I'll put myself in this boat -- would rather work longer and maybe get less if it means the program is there as opposed to some sort of catastrophic, you know, to see any of these things go away or to see them bust the budget. I mean, none of those are really palatable.
EDWARDSWell, I think that what you've said, Bruce, is true and me too, except that we have alternatives to that. And one of those alternatives on this income cap, I don't understand it. I mean, if -- you know, even if you were protecting income up to, say, $500,000 and then, you know, lift the cap on income over 400,000 because we've set that as middle income these days, you would still preserve the solvency of Social Security for generations.
EDWARDSAnd so to me, something that is more -- that is a lot less complex fixes the problem gets set aside while these -- while, you know, seniors and others are made to pay the price for protecting, you know, tax cuts for wealthy people. I mean, the fact that Republicans say, well, we need to eliminate loop holes, but in their budget can't identify one single loop hole is very disingenuous.
DEPUYTBriefly before we wrap up, is there language in either the continuing resolution or the budget that the House approved that gives agencies more flexibility? So while we might see reductions in the amount of money that's available, they can be a little more intelligent as to directing the reductions, if you will, so that it's -- makes more sense and isn't stupid.
EDWARDSNot entirely, and I think, you know, part of the challenges that -- it's Congress's responsibility to go through our budget and to make decisions about what stays and goes. And so, you know, to say to the president, well, for this agency, we're going to allow you flexibility for the sequester, but for this agency, we're not -- or this program, we're not going to allow that kind of flexibility to me, doesn't even make sense.
EDWARDSAnd, you know, you're talking to somebody else who didn't vote for the sequester, so it's not as though I thought it made sense before either. And at the same time, I recognize that when we have to cut -- make cuts in government or change priorities, that those priorities ought to reflect our values, and what is being done now doesn't reflect values at all.
DEPUYTMaryland Congresswoman Donna Edwards represents the 4th district of -- in Maryland. She's a Democrat. She represents Prince George's and Anne Arundel. It's good to see you again. Thank you very much for coming by and have a great weekend.
EDWARDSThank you. You too.
DEPUYTI'm Bruce DePuyt here on the Politics Hour, filling in for Kojo Nnamdi today. Patrick Madden, a reporter here at WAMU, is filling in for Tom Sherwood on this Friday. Let's go back to the phones at 800-433-8850. Shirley, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
SHIRLEYYes. I'm signing in to say that I support the FBI remaining in the District and that it seems that there is an important issue called safety and security that no one has been discussing. That is that on 9/11, when 9/11 happened, we all know what happened in the District of Columbia in terms of mobility for people who live here and people who work here.
SHIRLEYWhere -- what is the FBI going to be able to do if it's in Prince George's County or Virginia if we have another? And how are they going to protect the Capitol building, the White House, the State Department, et cetera, when they're out of town? I would hope that our mayor would put the security of the nation's capital ahead of the idea of, you know, increased revenues.
DEPUYTThank you very much, Shirley. Of course, the Department of Homeland Security and a lot of the apparatus that does protect our buildings, our people, et cetera, will be, I think we can assume, where they need to be.
MADDENYeah, and I think the two other locations we're talking about, Fairfax and Prince George's County, are still pretty much within what we call the D.C. region, you know, and, of course, in 9/11, it was the Pentagon that was attacked, you know, which is outside of D.C. So, I mean, I think the caller's point about, you know, keeping all of these different agencies close makes sense. Whether or not it needs to be exactly in the District, I think, is up for debate.
DEPUYTThe Maryland General Assembly has about three weeks to go in the 2013 session, and lawmakers suddenly, Patrick, find themselves looking at a proposal from Prince George's County executive Rushern Baker to give him and the county council significantly more power in the area of education than they have now.
DEPUYTMr. Baker believes he should be able to appoint the superintendent. The council should confirm that person, have the opportunity to confirm that person or not, and that the superintendent should be a member of the cabinet. The school board would remain, but their portfolio would shrink.
MADDENYeah, I mean this is very interesting. Obviously, Prince George's County is following the District's lead here when we had mayoral takeover several years back, and I think when you just sort of look at some of the lessons from D.C., a couple of things stand out for me. One is that this is also a political move. I mean, you sort of own this decision once you as mayor take over the school system. You can just look at what happened to Mayor Fenty with Michelle Rhee.
MADDENThat's usually pointed to as one of the main reasons why he was not re-elected was sort of the blowback from that decision. So I think that's the first thing. The second thing is that it's whether that is the right -- what are the results from D.C.? Is that their solution for solving these really tough problems in the school systems like Prince George's County, like the District, and I don't know if the answer's out yet.
DEPUYTI had the opportunity to interview the head the Prince George's County school board this morning on News Channel 8 and she said, you know, it's funny because if the issue is educational achievement, how young people are doing in the classroom, it's interesting that the executive proposes leaving academics with us. So if we're the problem, why are you leaving the status quo intact on that score?
MADDENRight. I think, from what I've read, it's sort of like taking some of the-- at least trying to take some of the politics out of what the school board currently does. I mean, it's a hug budget, $1.7 million. It's a lot of decisions. I believe it's most like a part-time job for the school board members. So there's -- it's a lot of stuff for them that they currently have to do, and I think that's part of the reasoning behind this is to take some of those responsibilities away.
DEPUYTBriefly before we go to our next guest, this is already been a busy session for Maryland lawmakers. They have voted to repeal the death penalty. This is a bill that Gov. Martin O'Malley wanted very much. He put the full weight of his office behind it. He got both chambers to go along. He's sign the bill, I believe, the day after the session officially concludes. And this week, lawmakers voted to discriminative possession of small amounts of marijuana. This is a trend we see coming across the nation as well.
MADDENYes. Well, you can see it everywhere including, as we mentioned earlier, in the districts with one of the candidates who's made this the main feature of his platform. But you're right. I mean, you look at what Maryland is doing with the proposals to decriminalize marijuana. You look at the repeal of the death penalty, same-sex marriage from last year.
MADDENClearly, Maryland is becoming, you know, sort of the, one of the most progressive states out there. And, of course, to bring in the politics of it, what does that mean for Martin O'Malley, the governor, if he runs for president? It's definitely sort of, you know, putting up all of the things that he can say he did as governor, you know, whether it was these very progressive ideas.
DEPUYTWind power, gay marriage, the death penalty...
MADDENYeah. Exactly. Running to the left, which is what you want to do in a primary.
DEPUYTPatrick Madden, a reporter here at WAMU radio. Good to be with him in the studio this hour. It is The Politics Hour. I'm Bruce DePuyt from News Channel 8, happy to fill for Kojo Nnamdi. Kojo and Tom will be back next Friday, so do join them as always. With us now here in the studio: Delegate Charniele Herring. She is chair of the Virginia Democratic Party. She's also a member of the Virginia House of Delegates representing Alexandria. It is good to have you with us. Good to see you again. Thanks so much for coming in.
MS. CHARNIELE HERRINGGood to speak with you. And thank you for having me. I really appreciate it.
DEPUYT2013 is an election year in Virginia.
DEPUYTAnd it's going to be a good one. Voters will decide who the next governor will be because Gov. Bob McDonnell, like all Virginia governors, is term limited, one and done. So voters will elect a new governor. They will elect a new lieutenant governor. And we know how important that post is, given the 2020 split in the Virginia Senate. Attorney general up for grabs as well as Ken Cuccinelli seeks to move up the political ladder. Will -- are Democrats poised to have a better showing in '13 than they did in '09?
HERRINGWell -- oh, again, thank you for having me again. And I need to mention all the House of Delegates races are up as well in Virginia. So -- and that's very important for me 'cause we're talking about my caucus potentially growing. So how are Democrats? Are we poised? I think we are. We're poised to have success in Virginia.
HERRINGWe look at the results of the 2012 presidential campaign, and I think Americans and especially Virginia -- Barack Obama carried Virginia -- are ready for a change in governorship. We do have a progressive and a vibrant campaign actually starting on the ground already according to that campaign, and we were going to -- we're going to have 170 organizers on the ground. And we are starting to work early. We're starting to work now. So...
DEPUYTWith the assumption being that former DNC Chair Terry McAuliffe is your candidate.
HERRINGIs -- will be our nominee. So it's going to be an exciting year in Virginia. And our challenge, though, is to turn out those 2012 voters. That is our challenge. But it's possible, and I think we're going to do it.
MADDENAnd when you look, when you talk about turning out those voters, obviously it seems like that didn't happen in 2009 when you had president Obama win Virginia in 2008. But 2009, the Democratic Party was not as successful. What did you learn from that year and what do you plan on doing differently?
HERRINGWell, one of the things that we've learned is that people focus. And what happened in the Virginia legislature, starting in 2011 and then moving to 2012, more voters are focused, I think. They realized it was a wake-up call, especially with the bills that were filed to restrict women's rights to reproductive health care. That woke up voters, I believe, and they realized that, you know what, Virginia is becoming a testing ground on what's happening in national politics.
HERRINGYou saw bills in Virginia and then you realize that my goodness, all these bills that are restricting women's rights to choose are being filed all over the country. We're talking about birth control all over the country. But Virginia was testing ground. So our voters are starting to realize that, you know what, we're going to need to turn out, and vote and we're going to have to vote for the candidates that respect a woman's right to choose.
DEPUYTWith polls showing that 58 percent -- the most recent Washington Post poll show that 58 percent of Americans now support same sex marriage. They support marriage equality, the right of gay people to get married. Independents -- the number that jumped out at me from that poll was independents. They are now fully onboard. It going to be a long time, one would surmise, before Virginia goes down this road just as it's been a long time for Virginia to do a lot of things that progressives and others would want.
DEPUYTPoint to Delegate Adam Ebbin bill this year that got nicknamed the love shack bill that made it OK for people who aren't married to live together, for heaven's sake. Do you look wistfully across the border, around the country and say, man, I wish that was us?
HERRINGWell, let me first say I love Virginia. I love my state. I -- but I agree that sometimes it takes us a little bit longer to step up and realize that life and society has changed. But one thing, though, that I wish that our state would stop doing and that is to basically cast those out or try to pass bills, for example, the Marshall-Newman Amendment, now is part of our Constitution that prevents two people who love each other from marrying.
HERRINGBills and laws that we enact that alienate people that make people second-guess whether or not they're going to come to Virginia are serious. And I say that not only from a social perspective, but I'm talking about economic development.
HERRINGI am talking about we want the best in our state to live in our state, to work in our state, to bring businesses to our state. And we when we have an attorney general right now who in fact one of his first things was issue an opportunity that talked about the inability of colleges and universities to protect gays, you know, that they're stepping beyond their bounds, you know, that sends a bad signal and the business...
DEPUYTI mean if you're a CEO in a state that's either neutral or friendly towards gay people and you consider where younger people are in general on issues of this type to say to potentially stand up in front of your company, a meeting of your workers and say, hey, everybody, guess what, we're moving to Fairfax. Well, one of the first questions might be, oh, I hear it's great there, but they're in Virginia, right? I mean, it can be an issue.
HERRINGIt can be an issue, and it's, as I said, business leaders were concerned that what type of signal are we sending. We want families to come to Virginia. You know, under Gov. Kaine, we were the best place to do business. We were the best place to raise a child. Our numbers are slipping in that area, and it's time that we have a governor to lead us that we will not be talking about divisive social issues but on economic development, job creation, and that's what Terry McAuliffe has been doing.
DEPUYTCharniele Herring is a member of the Virginia House of Delegates. She's also head of the Virginia Democratic Party. If you have a question or comment for her, join us by calling 800-433-8850. Again, 800-433-8850, you can also make a comment or ask a question online at kojoshow.org.
MADDENOr you can tweet us.
DEPUYTYou can tweet us at ampersand, (sic) kojoshow.
HERRINGYou'll like Twitter.
DEPUYTLet's ask about the -- let's talk about transportation.
DEPUYTAfter years of inaction, the Virginia General Assembly approved a big transportation funding measure this time. Days after you voted, there was a pretty compelling, I thought, op-ed in The Washington Post co-authored by I think one of your predecessors as head of the party and a prominent Republican, saying this thing doesn't pass the legal litmus test. You can't have as a plain matter of law levels of taxation on a individual tax, if you will, that are unequal, uneven around the Commonwealth, and that's what this bill does. Can -- are you confident this bill passes legal muster if it's challenged?
HERRINGI do. I mean I -- that's -- I mean I -- that was a consideration, but, you know, our bills are vetted by lawyers. We were advised that this is constitutional, and that, you know, one of the things that we have to keep in mind, there's already been some regions are able to have taxing authority. For example, our localities are able to tax a certain rate for property taxes. What happened is that this year -- thank goodness -- the General Assembly, Republicans, Democrats, independents, we've got together, and we realized we've got to do something and it's serious.
HERRINGAnd this bill will allow Northern Virginia, my area, to raise the funds and keep in Northern Virginia. I understand that there's some people who think that that's not constitutional, and they may have a legal challenge. That's what our courts are for, but I feel comfortable that this will pass constitutional muster.
DEPUYTIsn't the issue of local officials setting individual tax rates at the level that they feel is appropriate? Isn't that separate from a state tax that has different impacts in one area versus another?
HERRINGIt is different, but remember...
HERRING...the authority comes from the General Assembly. We bit the bullet and decided what taxes were going to be raised. Now, if there's a legal challenge, so be it, but I feel comfortable that this will pass constitutional muster.
DEPUYTTo the phones at 800-433-8850. We begin with Alex in Warrington. You're on "The Kojo Nnamdi Show," "The Politics Hour." Go ahead, please.
ALEXYeah. I guess I just like the guest the comment on Virginia's most recent budget. There was a measure in the budget which limited state wage employees to 29 hours a week in order to avoid providing them health care under the Affordable Care Act. Now, Gov. McDonnell himself said this would save $110 million a year, but we are currently running a surplus of $1.4 billion.
HERRINGYes. That is true that there is this, I would say, a surplus. I'm not sure about the correct number. The reality is that we're still in a tough fiscal situation. And while our economy nationally in Virginia is improving, tough decisions had to be made. But I do expect that our economy will continue to grow and follow the national trend, so that was something -- that was the measure that was taken out as part of the budget.
MADDENSo just on the transportation question again. Obviously, you just have to drive to Northern Virginia to realize that it's a mess, that the traffic, the gridlock there is terrible, and it's just going to get worse. There's more people moving at the region. What can this money do? What can this fund do? What are solutions down the road to tackle this issue?
HERRINGRight. Well, there will be money, you know, for road improvements. I mean, we have a serious maintenance issue in the state when, you know, I've read about cars getting damaged actually toward the eastern part of the state, bridge repair. So we have a crumbling infrastructure. This transportation budget will help that. Also, there is funding for rail, which is important, the Dulles Rail project, I mean. And my region is very interested in Northern Virginia mass transit. So there is funding there.
HERRINGAnd what we -- why the bill was so attractive to so many legislators is that we're talking about a funding stream of approximately $880 million a year. And that is something that -- it looks like it may be sustainable. But I do caution. And one of the things that our legislators kept saying is that, we've done it, you know, this was good for a generation.
HERRINGWe can't repeat what we've done in the past. We've waited from -- it's 1986 since we took a measure on transportation that did something. We cannot wait. I think it's incumbent upon us as legislators to consistently look at our transportation plan, see what's working, see what's not working. I think it's like our Constitution, a living breathing document that we need to continue to look at.
DEPUYTYou mentioned that the entire House of Delegates is up in November. You've got two very different chambers in Richmond. The Senate is evenly divided, 20-20. And there have been times -- multiple times where, I believe, where the lieutenant governor uses his constitutional authority to break the tie, not, of course, on budget matters but on other matters where the parties divide evenly. Very different where you served. Are -- is there the potential to -- for Democrats to grow what is right now a relatively small minority within the House chamber?
HERRINGRight. There is potential. If we look at the -- and again, I'm looking at 2012 election results, you know, at least 16 districts went for Obama and Cain. So there is a potential for us to pick up seats. Now, I am a realist. I don't say that -- I'm going to sit here and say, hey, we're going to sweep and pick up 16 seats. No.
HERRINGI mean, we have incumbents in there who have served their communities, and it's going to be an uphill climb. But I do believe that we -- it is possible that we gain seats. We have good candidates out in the field. Within some areas, we do have primaries, but I think that we have a great crop of candidates, and it is possible that we can pick up seats.
MADDENIs this something that needs to sort of happen organically from bottom up? And how does -- how is fundraising play a part in this? I saw a statistic where the Republicans had a big edge in fundraising for these House races.
HERRINGRight. So Republicans do have a big edge. Democrats do need to fundraise. We all -- it's a incumbent upon us to fundraise and help our candidates. But also what's important is a strong ground game. There is nothing that replaces door-to-door contact with a voter, and that's something that we have started already.
HERRINGAnd it's -- that's really matters, you know, the voters, they -- it makes a difference to them that someone came to their door and talked to them versus a glossy mailer. It makes an impact. And we want to make sure that we reach not only those voters that turned out in gubernatorial years but, again, those voters that turned it out -- turned out for President Obama and Cain.
DEPUYTA perfect segue to our next caller. Lisa in Manassas, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
LISAHi. Thank you for taking the call. The comment that you made about knocking on doors, when I first moved to Prince William County over 10 years ago, first time that I moved here, a young man named Martin Nohe came and knocked on my door. I had never been here. I came from California. And he sat there, and he asked for my vote.
LISATen years later, Martin Nohe, plus the other people, are still on my board of supervisors. And my concern, well, I've noticed -- I'm an independent. What I've noticed about Prince William County Democratic Party is that they wait until the very last minute to put a candidate out.
LISAAnd it would seem to me with a county that is as important as Prince William County, the swings is Prince William County, that there would be a consorted effort to have people on the ground and candidates who's faces you'd see prior than a month and a half before an election. And there is no way that this county is ever going to turn from the iron fist of the Republicans that made this county from what it is to anything Democratic. And if you can't get people motivated with good candidates like yesterday, there's no way you're going to have -- Terry McAuliffe needs this county.
DEPUYTThere is no overstating the importance Prince William and Loudoun play in modern Virginia politics.
HERRINGAbsolutely. There is an understanding.
DEPUYTThank you, Lisa.
HERRINGLisa, thank you for your question. And on couple of things, the party I'm under -- you know, I just became party chair in December, but one of the things I'm looking forward is building that bench. You know, that's going to take time, but we -- you -- I agree with Lisa, that it's something that we should not have a candidate coming in at the last minute.
HERRINGSo this is long-term planning. The other thing, from just a personal perspective, once an individual thinks that they're going to run and then they realize the money that they have to raise, the work they have to put in, the sacrifices that are made for their family and the sacrifices that the families put in are -- it's amazing.
HERRINGAnd I have great respect for every family out there who -- who's part of this political process. But -- and so that could be some of the dynamics and the reasons. But as I said, going -- looking forward, building a bench, I think you're going to less likely see candidates jump in at the last minute. Yeah.
DEPUYTWe talked about transportation a moment ago. As soon as the session was over, it seemed -- and we understand that in -- big bills, compromised bills, there's stuff in there that people like and there's stuff in there people don't. If, you know, they get the good, you have to take the bad. But this notion of a hybrid tax really sticks in the craw for some of your colleagues even what we're trying to encourage in terms of energy use, fuel efficiency, et cetera.
DEPUYTDo you think Gov. McDonnell will use his power to strike that from the bill, and would it then survive the second round, you know, the subsequent scrutiny it gets under your system during the veto session?
HERRINGRight. So, first, I do hope that he does strike that provision. It does seem that we are punishing those who are trying to be stewards of our environment. But that does raise the question. Legislators tend -- and I agree that when we're going to cut something, we got to figure out how either to replace it, to raise it, to reach the levels that we have with the annual funding.
HERRINGSo then the question is, how are we going to meet the $880 million in annual funding? Where is it going to come from? So that I hope that he will and I hope that he had some creative ideas about replacement, and we'll see what will happen.
DEPUYTCharniele Herring is head of the Virginia Democratic Party. She's also a member of the House of Delegates from Alexandria. Thank you very much for being with us. It's great to have you here.
HERRINGThank you. Thank you for having me.
DEPUYTPatrick, we have about a minute left. Big discussion in the District this week about living wage and big-box retailers.
MADDENYeah. Pretty rambunctious hearing at the Wilson Building. The bill would essentially raise the wages for workers to $11.75 an hour for those working at big-box retailers, defined as, I think, 75,000 square feet. And supporters of it say, this is great. I mean, the city -- the cost of living in the city is just going through the roof. And this is one way to sort of tackle that issue to create a higher wage. Opponents -- you know, the business community obviously does not like this bill, and particularly they say that, you know, it's sort of capricious. It targets, you know, it sets this arbitrary...
MADDEN...threshold that, you know, how do you determine 75,000 square feet? Where do you come up with that number? And they say, that's not going to pass legal muster. So that -- that's sort of the big tension right now.
DEPUYTWAMU reporter Patrick Madden, our guest analyst this hour on the Politics Hour. Good to be with you again. Thanks very much for your time.
MADDENThank you, Bruce.
DEPUYTThanks to our guests as well, Delegate Charniele Herring and Congresswoman Donna Edwards. Kojo Nnamdi and Tom Sherwood back on the air next Friday at noon. Hope you'll join them. Hope you'll have a good weekend, too. Thanks for listening everybody. I'm Bruce DePuyt.
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