It’s the Shad Planking today …

Down in southeastern Virginia, a few miles from Rte. 460 (aka “the Peanut Highway”), they are laying shad on the wooden planks and rolling out the kegs of beer today.

Today is the Shad Planking, the annual celebration of the Southampton Ruritans and formerly the biggest day in Virginia politics.  Indeed, back in the day, the Byrd Organization selected their candidates at the gathering, which drew the attendance of every elected Democrat in the state.

Even as recently as 2005, the various statewide candidates would pack the piney woods with supporters, while posting thousands of yard signs on the road side between Petersburg and Disputanta.  (If you don’t know what I’m talking about, find a map).  My last trip down there was with Jim Webb, in fact.

The candidates themselves would go head-to-head on the stage, trading barbs, while beer-drinking onlookers roared their approval. I wrote my first post on this blog after attending the 2006 Planking.  Now, it’s all about wine and cheese receptions in Arlington or Charlottesville. Welcome to the Zinfandel Dominion.

God I miss those days.

Unfortunately, the Planking has been hexed over the past few years.  Most critically (and tragically), the event is held the same day as the anniversary of the Virginia Tech massacre of 2007, which is a date commemorated in Virginia.  Secondly, it’s often the same day as our veto session which pulls away at least 140 of the more dedicated politicos in the state.

(Note to the Ruritans:  the Virginia Tech Remembrance date will never change so you may need to plan around it.)

Finally, the Commonwealth has just changed.  The eastern population centers hold the key to electoral victory.  There is not a lot of incentive to attend a rural political gathering — especially when the participants are largely, perhaps exclusively, Republican.

But that’s political strategy, which is boring.  The Shad Planking is fun.

At some future date, it would be nice to see a statewide Democratic candidate who attends the Shad Planking in force, not to win votes or change minds but simply to enjoy the fresh air, the baked shad — and a cold beer.

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The “Murphy Challenge”

Today was the first real day of spring, a beautifully warm day.

I began the day with the Freedom 5K and “Murphy Challenge” at the NZone in Chantilly, on the western edge of the 34th Senate District.

The Challenge is named after Lt. Michael Murphy, Navy Seal, who was killed in Afghanistan in 2005.  The NZone is a fitness club in Chantilly which is sponsored by the New Christian church, which also uses the club for its worship space.  Cool.

The Challenge was this:  run a 5K course, then do 100 pull-ups, 200 push-ups and 300 squats.  All to be completed in one hour.

The run took place in two heats and wrapped around Westfield High School.  I finished in twenty-four minutes (not good but pacing myself).

However, my transition to the exercises was tragically waylaid, as I ran into a friend from High School in the parking lot and had to talk to her (the curse of the politician).

I got into the gym with about 25 minutes to go and started on the sequences:  10 pull-ups, 20 push-ups, and 30 squats.  The first couple were no problem.  After five sets, my upper body started to fall apart.

I was finishing the seventh set (70 pull-ups, 140 push-ups and 210 squats) when the time ran out.  Probably a good thing, as I was struggling.  I did go home and finish the rest of the exercises in my backyard.

The rest of the day was pretty easy after that.

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Senate Spares ODU Football, Issues “Call to Action” on Coverage Gap

The Senate convened at 11:00 a.m. today to review the Governor’s budget, with amendments from the Senate Finance Committee.

In this day and age of computers, the Senate budget — like the House — still works in 18th century fashion.  (And I’m fine with that.)  Essentially, we are given the introduced bill at the time it’s filed.  We are then given the amendments in a half-sheet summary form a day before voting on the budget.  There are typically 200-300 amendments to the original bill, so it takes time to read them.

On the day of the vote, the clerk will read the number of the amendments after the bill is introduced on the Senate floor.  After each amendment is “called,” any member can shout “Objection.”  At that point, the amendment is moved to the regular calendar for an explanation and then a vote.

In a regular session, the “calling of the amendments” takes about an hour.  Today, we shortened that process by putting all amendments on a consent basis, unless a member specifically pulled it out.  So we only had about a dozen contested votes.

One of the more interesting votes was a Senate amendment which states that Old Dominion University could only spend money for planning a new football stadium through privately donated funds.  (ODU started Division I football a few years ago and needs a larger stadium to accommodate the crowds).  In other words, you can’t use “activity fees” for a project of this scale, even the planning.

That amendment was rejected by football-loving Senators on a voice vote.  I actually voted for the amendment.  I don’t think we should use general fees or funds to build athletic stadiums, especially when we are freezing salaries for professors and raising tuition.  As for ODU football, I wish them great things — except when they play Virginia.

(FWIW, I also opposed using the Opportunity Fund money in 2011 for moving the Redskins’ summer camp to Richmond.

Later in the session, the Senate (re) passed Marketplace Virginia, which is our market-based alternative to Medicaid expansion and closes the “coverage gap” by providing coverage to 400,000 uninsured Virginians.  The vote was 22-15.

At the risk of rehashing earlier posts, it utilizes the Federal Medicaid funding to pay the health care premiums on Virginians who qualify for Marketplace, e.g. they work full-time, pay 5% of their own income to health care, and earn at or below 138% of poverty level.  This plan, of course, keeps our Virginia tax dollars in Virginia.

Basically, we’ve kicked the ball back over to the House.  Time for them to pass our plan — or come up with an alternative.  They will be meeting at 4 pm today.

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