Jaffe: In Virginia, signing on to Earth Day

On Earth Day, Gov. Terry McAuliffe signed a package of six clean-energy jobs bills carried by a bipartisan group of legislators (six Republicans and six Democrats).

These new laws – focused on solar energy and energy efficiency – have the potential to create thousands of jobs in Virginia. They leverage advances in renewable energy and efficiency to increase consumers’ carbon-free choices.

That should also help bring us closer to meeting Virginia’s goals under the Clean Power Plan – the federal draft rule for reducing carbon pollution linked to climate change and rising sea levels.

Based on decisions that utilities have already made, we are nearly 80 percent of the way to meeting the state’s goal under the federal plan.

These decisions include retiring some of the oldest and dirtiest coal-fired power plants in the commonwealth, like Dominion’s Chesapeake Energy Center.

Under the Clean Power Plan, Virginia will get 100 percent credit for the pollution reductions associated with the Chesapeake retirement, even though it was planned long before a draft of the rule was even published.

Virginia is now starting out on a path to replace aging coal plants with better options. With expanded commitments to clean energy coming out of this year’s legislative session, we are positioned to meet the remaining 20 percent of Virginia’s Clean Power Plan target through investments in renewable energy and energy efficiency.

Virginia’s clean-energy package includes legislation championed by Newport News Republican Del. David Yancey, which declares up to 500 megawatts of solar energy projects to be in the public interest. Dominion has highlighted this legislation to support its proposal to build a new solar farm in Fauquier County-a project that the company says will create 350 construction jobs.

The new laws also include expansion of Virginia’s solar net metering program and the creation of a Virginia Solar Development Authority, both aimed at reducing barriers to solar in the commonwealth.

The opportunities here are clear when comparing the paltry 15 megawatts of solar currently installed statewide-enough to power just 2,500 homes-to the 950 megawatts in North Carolina, sufficient to power 156,000 homes.

On the efficiency front, legislation sponsored by Fairfax Democratic Sen. Chap Petersen paves the way for greater investments in programs from the state’s natural gas utilities to cut waste and reduce bills.

That means funding for programs to retrofit buildings with better insulation or to install high-efficiency water heaters. These improvements not only reduce global warming pollution, they also save money. After all, the cheapest kilowatt-hour of electricity or cubic foot of natural gas is the one you never have to purchase in the first place.

Two additional bills will help Virginia meet targets while also supporting a clean-energy economy. The first extends a green job creation tax credit through the end of 2017, while the second allows localities to create loan programs to finance energy efficiency, water efficiency, and renewable energy projects for commercial buildings.

Altogether, this suite of clean-energy jobs legislation represents a remarkable turn in the right direction for a General Assembly that, back in 2007, declared a heavily-polluting, 585-megawatt coal-fired power plant to be in the public interest. This turn-around is best explained by a growing recognition of the immense job-creation potential with energy efficiency and renewable energy.

A recent report from the Advanced Energy Economy Institute and the Virginia Advanced Energy Industries Coalition finds that leveraging green industries to meet our goals under the Clean Power Plan “can lead to substantial direct job creation in Virginia.”

The report cites the creation of “more than 54,000 cumulative added job-years” over the life of the Clean Power Plan, even accounting for labor lost from the retirement of our oldest coal plants.

That job-creation message has struck a chord with the legislative leaders on both sides of the aisle who patroned these bills. It is also resonating with McAuliffe, who recently said he “fully supports” the Clean Power Plan.

Cale Jaffe is director of the Virginia office of the Southern Environmental Law Center.

By Cale Jaffe, Virginia Pilot

Virginia needs to listen to Newport News, Yancey says

Newport News has things to tell the rest of the state, Del. David Yancey says, reflecting on the General Assembly session just past.

Take, for instance, his proposal to give police a hand making cases against those who coerce others into prostitution or forced labor.

Yancey was shaken last year when Newport News police officers detailed the scope of human trafficking and the challenges they face making cases. So he proposed a bill this year making it a class four felony to receive money for leading others into selling their bodies.

Problem is, he quickly learned, that his measure would boost the cost of running prisons by an incalculable amount. Fellow Delegates Rob Bell, of Albemarle County and Tim Hugo, of Northern Virginia, also wanted to tackle the issue, and were trying to find a good balance because the cost of locking up more human traffickers with the obvious benefit of getting those lowlifes off Virginia streets.

At a critical point, when legislators huddled trying to find that balance, Yancey brought two Newport News detectives and an assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney from the city to a General Assembly hearing room. They waited out a long afternoon (more than three hours worth) of committee deliberations on other bills, in order to make their case for what police officers and prosecutors really need. And they got much of what’s necessary in a bill that sailed through.

That it wasn’t his bill?

Doesn’t matter, he said.

“When it came time, it was Newport News law enforcement in the room,” Yancey said. “We came out with something they can work with.”

One Yancey bill that did make it opens the door for people with technical and scientific skills to get provisional teaching licenses.

It grew out of an unsuccessful effort of his a few years back to get the General Assembly to launch summertime science, technology, engineering and math programs, an idea the Newport News Public Schools had urged.

When it didn’t work, “I thought we’d try from the other side — the people with those skills who might want to teach,” he said.

Although any issue touching on licensing can be difficult, Yancey got state Education Department and city school officials sitting down in the same room, worked out some changes to make the state people happy, and had a bill. Basically, his measure gives would-be teachers a chance to teach while they get the certifications needed for a full license.

“We’ve got people here who know how to make things with their hands. We’ve got a lot of pride in what we make,” Yancey said. “Newport News can be a beacon for the rest of the state.”

Yancey, a member of the House Education Committee hopes to keep pushing next year, if he is re-elected, on career and technical education, to better match what students learn in school with work that can give them a good living and companies with hard-to-fill needs.

He wants to push in another area, too.

Door-knocking in Newport News, he keeps hearing about people overwhelmed by the high interest rate loans that target working people and the poor. That’s why he keep trying to tighten Virginia consumer protection laws, despite the opposition of one of the free-est spending lobbies in Richmond.

It’s also why he wants to take a look at math and financial literacy education — and to urge an approach he tries when he coaches rugby players in a club team based at Heritage High School.

“Sometimes, you’re working on something … and there’s someone who’s not getting it,” he said. “What you want to do is focus on that, maybe change your next practice, until they do.”

By Dave Ress, Daily Press

Couple of surprises as Peninsula House, Senate races shape up

The local elections slate for General Assembly seats is coming together, and it looks like there won’t be many contested races.

Folks may still get in under the wire (all they had to do was have completed campaign forms postmarked by Thursday at 5 p.m.) to run in the Republican or Democratic parties. Plus, third party candidates and independents don’t have to join the race until June.

But as of Friday afternoon, no one but Marcia Price had told the state Board of Elections they want to run for retiring Del. Mamye BaCote’s seat. That’s a bit of a surprise. If it holds then Price, Newport News McKinley Price’s daughter, will get the seat without a race.

The other interesting tidbit from Thursday’s close of filing is that state Sen. John Miller, D-Newport News, picked up a Republican challenger, and it’s not John Bloom. Newport News DUI attorney Mark Matney filed to run against Miller, and Bloom’s name doesn’t appear on the Board of Elections’ Senate candidate list.

Shad Plank has an email out to Bloom seeking confirmation, but he’s said before that he was running because voters needed a GOP option in the race.

Miller’s district leans Democratic, and it won’t be in the top tier of Senate races as the parties fight for what’s likely to be narrow control of the chamber. Still, it could draw some funding and attention if things break the right way.

Miller’s certainly not taking too many chances. He released a list of 38 campaign steering committee members Friday, a list that includes a number of area business and political leaders.

An attempt to reach Matney by telephone Friday wasn’t immediately successful. He has a YouTube channel.

Significant attention will be paid to the Peninsula’s two swingy House districts. Del. David Yancey, R-Newport News, had the most expensive House of Delegates race in the state two years ago. He’s got a challenge this year from Newport News School Board member Shelly Simonds, a Democrat who joined this race late last summer.

Freshman Del. Monty Mason, D-Williamsburg, will defend his seat against Lara Overy, a first-time candidate with a compelling back story. Mason’s seat has gone back and forth between Republicans and Democrats over the last several cycles. Phil Hamilton was the last person to hold it for more than one term.

None of the Peninsula’s other House or Senate seats were contested as of Friday afternoon

By Travis Fain – Daily Press

In Newport News, looking at the money in a competitive House district

So far, the Peninsula is seeing only two contested races for the General Assembly, now that Lara Overy has announced she’ll challenge Del. Monty Mason, D-Williamsburg.

But Shelly Simonds threw her hat in the ring back in September to challenge Del. David Yancey, R-Newport News, so Shad Plank decided to take a look at what’s been happening in the earliest phases of campaigning — which, of course, is all about fundraising and organization building.

Simonds raised $25,120 since announcing. Considering that the Newport News district is one of the most competitive in the state, there’s not been a lot of big party money flowing in yet.

In fact of the 14 donors who have kicked in $500 or more to her race, the only  big Democratic donors are Newport News layer Bobby Hatten, who gave $2,500, Virginia Beach investor Paul Hirschbiel, who gave $1,000, former Newport News Mayor Joe Frank, who gave $500, and the Virginia League of Conservation Voters, which gave $500.

With the exception of attorney Lynne Fiscella, all the rest are making their very first donations to any campaign, according to the data compiled by the Virginia Public Access Project.

Yancey, meanwhile, raised $90,766 during the last six months of 2014. His biggest donor is Speaker Bill Howell’s political action committee, which gave $7,500. House Majority Leader Kirk Cox’s PAC gave $4,000. His biggest local donor was the nursing home group Virginia Health Services, which gave $3,000.

Like many incumbents, he’s also received donations from interest groups, including the bankers (for $2,500), wine and beer wholesalers ($1,500 each) and Dominion Resources ($1,000).

Yancey this year joined the Commerce and Labor Committee, which handles a wide range of business issues — and whose members are generally among the legislature’s top fundraisers.

Going forward, once the General Assembly session ends and it is legal to give donations to legislators, watching how and from whom the money this summer could give an early hint as to how hard this year’s race will be run.

By Dave Ress, Daily Press

School calendar bills crop back up in Virginia House

The House of Delegates resurrected a pair of bills Thursday meant to strike down Virginia’s no-school-before-Labor-Day policy.

Both bills would give local school systems far more power to set their own calendars. They died temporarily Wednesday in the House Education Committee on a pair of tie votes.

Supporters brought them back up Thursday afternoon during a called committee meeting that was also used to vote on a major campus sexual assault bill. House bills 1550 and 1838 made it through, surviving an undermanned effort to block the new votes.

Del. Brenda Pogge’s office said the bills weren’t mentioned in a emailed meeting announcement that went out about a half hour before the meeting.

Del. David Yancey, R-Newport News, left another committee meeting to be among the “no” votes on these bills. He sprinted back after the education meeting.

It’s crunch time at the General Assembly, and a number of other legislators who voted “no” Wednesday were elsewhere during Thursday afternoon’s meeting, including Pogge, R-Norge.

Del. Glenn Davis, a Virginia Beach Republican who voted against these bills Wednesday, came from his Richmond hotel room, where he had been home sick, to vote.

He was too late, he said, by minutes.

Advocates for the calendar change have argued for years that local schools should be able to start earlier. Current law requires them to get a waiver from the state to do so. The tourism industry has resisted, and these sort of bills have traditionally passed the House, only to be killed in the state Senate.

Del. Tag Greason, the sponsor on House Bill 1550, said the bills only failed to clear committee Wednesday because several supporters were absent, victims to “the pace of the day.”

“The other day was the fluke,” said Greason, R-Lansdowne. “For six years it has passed the House.”

Last year the measure passed the House 75-24, only to sit the rest of the session without a vote in a Senate committee.

A spokesman for Busch Gardens, which has opposed the change, said the park is “concerned about this legislation’s impact on state and local revenues.” Family vacations at summer’s end would be threatened by earlier school starts, the argument goes.

“We look forward to working with Gov. (Terry) McAuliffe and the General Assembly to ensure Virginia’s economic engine remains strong,” Busch Gardens Communications Manager Kevin Crossett said in a recent email.

Yancey put the tax hit from starting school earlier at nearly $369 million.

“I voted against the bill today because I consistently hear from the public schools in my district that they need more money, so I think it would be irresponsible,” he in a late-evening email

By Travis Fain, Daily Press

Virginia panel quickly kills proposal to limit high-rate loans

It took less than five minutes for a House of Delegates committee to kill a bill to shut down a kind of high interest rate loan that keeps piling on debt even when borrowers make their basic monthly payments.

The sponsor, Del. David Yancey, R-Newport News, figured that was progress.

“The first time I tried, I couldn’t even get a motion. Last year, I got a motion, but no second. This year, at least they voted,” he said after the House Commerce and Labor Committee killed his measure to crack down on triple-digit interest rate lines of credit.

“I’m just going to keep on trying,” he said.

His was the last of seven measures meant to tighten rules for high interest rates, such as payday loans and car title loans, that the committee disposed of in less than half an hour.

Lobbyists for the lenders didn’t even bother to step up for the first six when committee Chairman Terry Kilgore, R-Gate City, who at a couple points noted that the committee was familiar with the arguments for tighter rules for payday and title loans, asked if anyone wanted to speak against the measures. One lobbyist did step up to answer a question from Del. Peter Farrell, R-Henrico, about a car-title loan bill that Farrell didn’t like.

But Yancey’s bill did draw one of the most high-powered lobbyists in Capitol Square to briefly speak.

Robert Baratta, representing the lender Check Into Cash Inc., said Yancey’s bill was anti-consumer and would reduce options for borrowers.

Yancey wanted to rewrite a three-decade-old tweak to the even older piece of state law that originally authorized stores to issue charge cards.

That loophole was meant to let big loan companies compete with banks by offering credit cards.

After legislation five years ago tried to set tough new rules for payday lenders, a number of firms in that business dropped their state licenses to make those high-interest-rate, short-term loans meant to cover people until their next paycheck. Instead, they went into the line-of-credit business.

Like a credit card, but unlike other loans – from mortgages to car loans to payday loans – these so-called open end credits don’t have a set repayment schedule. They require minimum monthly payments, often equivalent to a large fraction of the amount borrowed. But those minimum payments all go to interest and service charges and do not pay down the principal amount borrowed.

Dana Wiggins, of the Virginia Poverty Law Center, told the committee of one Northern Virginian who faced paying a $250 a month minimum on $1,000 loan. That monthly payment just kept her current, but did not reduce the amount owed. She was able to repay the lender when she borrowed the sum from a church-affiliated group that asked her to make monthly payments of $30. She has since repaid that sum in full, Wiggins said.

The center also represented James Lam, a Hanover County resident, when he sued Allied Cash Advance in federal court over his line of credit. Lam complained he had borrowed $2,000 from Allied, paid the company $16,000 and still owed the $2,000 sum he borrowed in the first place. The company settled out of court and terms are confidential.

Later, the committee moved on to kill Yancey’s bill to bar employers from firing or demoting victims of domestic abuse if they take time from work to talk to police, prosecutors, a lawyer or a counselor about their case.

There was no discussion, just a motion to kill the measure and a voice vote, while Yancey was at another committee meeting.

The committee also killed two bills that would have set higher minimum wages for Virginia, a measure requiring employers give people paid sick days — about 1.4 million Virginians work for firms that do not — and one that would have increased the damages people can claim if they can prove they were paid less than others because of their sex.

Del. Greg Habeeb, R-Salem, said the measure would have no effect because such discrimination cases are covered by federal law.

He said the aim appeared to be to embarrass Republican legislators when they run for election in November.

By Dave Ress, Daily Press

Wide range of bills from Del. Yancey

What do would-be math teachers, new moms and victims of domestic violence have in common? Turns out, Del. David Yancey, R-Newport News, has proposals to make their lives a bit easier.

But there are some people – human traffickers, gang members who deal in drugs and small time crooks who steal copper pipes and other building material from houses and building sites – on whom Yancey wants to crack down harder.

Much of his legislative list has just landed, and it ranges more widely this year than in the past

One bill would ban employers from firing or disciplining employees who are victims of domestic violence or sexual assault and need to take time from work to get help from police, the courts or health care providers. You can read the bill here.

Another says employers should set aside a reasonable amount of break time for employees who need to express breast milk for their infants. It’s here.

One bill would allow people with a variety of technology and science degrees or with several college courses in math to qualify as career and technical education  or math teachers, to provide an alternative to the standard way of getting a teaching license. It’s here.

Yancey has a measure that would send anyone convicted of taking money to push another person into prostitution, forced labor or porn to prison for a stretch of two to 10 years.

Another would boost penalties for drug dealers when a user dies, as well as saying two convictions, rather than three, for street gang offenses triggers an enhanced penalty of five to 20 years in prison. It’s here.

Yancey’s also got a bill that says if scrap dealers that buy second hand building material – like the copper pipes or plumbing fixtures so often taken from unoccupied houses – can do so only from collectors who hold a salvage license from the local police.

By Dave Ress, Daily Press

Yancey moves to key House committee

January 14, 2015 –

The Peninsula has gained a voice for the first time in a while on one of the most important General Assembly committees of all, now that Speaker Bill Howell named Del. David Yancey, R-Newport News, to the Commerce and Labor committee.

That body deals with a wide range of business issues — everything from banking and insurance to workers compensation and energy.

One of Yancey’s legislative priorities in past years — an effort to stop a kind of triple-digit consumer loan — keeps dieing in that committee.

The committee is also a great place for fund-raising — the businesses its legislation affects are big, big campaign donors. And Yancey represents one of the most competitive districts in the state. In 2013, Yancey and his Democratic challenger together raised $1.8 million to battle it out.

By Dave Ress, Daily Press


Sierra Club Honors Delegate Yancey

Virginia Chapter Sierra Club honors Delegate Yancey with Award

Richmond, VA — For the first time, the Virginia Chapter of the Sierra Club voted to recognize members of the General Assembly with awards lauding their work in the Legislature. The Chapter’s Legislative Committee voted unanimously to honor Delegate David Yancey with the Energy Freedom Award to recognize his work on energy policy.

On receiving his award Delegate Yancey offered the following quote, “I’m appreciative of this recognition by the Sierra Club,” said Delegate David Yancey, representative from the 94th House District of the Virginia General Assembly. ”My legislation helps us move forward with clean energy, like solar power, and does so in an economically viable way.”

The Delegate from Newport News patroned a bill in 2013 that allows customers of Dominion Virginia Power to install solar projects as large as 1 megawatt using a Power Purchase Agreement financed by private companies. The law’s significance cannot be understated, as the power purchase agreement model has been the driver for most solar projects around the country in recent years, making solar energy available with low risk and minimal upfront cost.

“Delegate Yancey’s leadership on solar and wind energy is just what Virginia needs to grow the industry and create jobs. The legislation introduced by Delegate Yancey paves the way for small clean energy businesses to get a foothold here in Virginia, and to grow.” said Corrina Beall, Legislative Coordinator for the Virginia Sierra Club.

“Our future energy needs will require employing creative approaches like this,” Yancey said. “I look forward to working with the Sierra Club on developing these solutions as we strive for energy independence.”



Business Owners and Realtors Endorse Yancey

NEWPORT NEWS, VA — The National Federation of Independent Business and the Virginia Peninsula Association of Realtors have endorsed Republican David Yancey in his bid for election to the 94th House of Delegates seat.

The endorsement was made by NFIB/Virginia SAFE (Save America’s Free Enterprise) Trust, which is comprised exclusively of NFIB’s 6,000 members and the Virginia Peninsula Association of Realtors which represents over 1,000 real estate professionals locally on the Virginia Peninsula.

David Yancey understands the challenges facing Virginia’s small, family businesses and is the clear choice in House District 94,” said Nicole Riley, state director of NFIB/Virginia.

Thomas Sullivan, Chairman of the Public Policy Committee at the Virginia Peninsula Association of Realtors said “Mr. Yancey has a clear knowledge of the many issues we face. Not only does he understand the needs of the real estate business from a practical perspective, but also he appreciates the impact that the housing market has on our local and state economies. On behalf of the 1000-plus members of the Association, we are pleased to extend our endorsement and support to David Yancey.”

David Yancey is honored by the support of job creators and professionals.

My focus in Richmond will be job creation and the stability and growth of our local economy. The NFIB and VPAR both understand these pressing needs and I will work side by side with them to ensure prosperity for citizens in the 94th District,” said Yancey.