ICYMI: Winchester Star – Our View: ‘Government Work’

chriswest2016 General Assembly, Op-Ed

Winchester Star – Our View: ‘Government Work’

May 13, 2016

We’ve all heard — and, more than likely, used — the term, “Good enough for government work.” In other words, the labors performed are of passable quality, but far from great.

Well now, the “analysis” released by the McAuliffe administration (i.e., the “government”) allegedly to buttress its restoration of citizenship rights to 206,000 convicted felons does not even satisfy that risible standard. It seems to us — and to many members of the General Assembly — to be slap-dash and sloppy. If we didn’t know this “project,” as it were, was six months in the making, we’d be tempted to think this “analysis” was cobbled together on the spur of the moment.

Then again, maybe it was.

If you recall, when Gov. McAuliffe made his grandiose restoration splash late last month, he said the actual crimes committed by these felons were “unknown” and “irrelevant.” Now, two weeks later, the governor is pushing the story that 79 percent of these “restorees” were convicted of non-violent crimes. That statistic seems neither “unknown” nor “irrelevant.”

Yet, even in this search for relevance (purported to be elusive), Mr. McAuliffe speaks with forked tongue. Whether out of sheer obstinacy or lack of documentation — the story varies — his administration will not produce a tally of the crimes committed by these ex-felons. And yet we and the General Assembly are expected to accept him at his word that 79 percent of these people were guilty of non-violent crimes.

This, of course, has prompted quick extrapolation on the part of state lawmakers — led by Republican House Speaker Bill Howell — opposed to this restoration of rights. If 206,000 ex-felons are to receive said succor, and 79 percent are considered non-violent offenders, then 40,000 (at the very least) must be termed violent criminals. This number boils the blood of Mr. Howell, who noted Wednesday that these ex-felons will now be allowed to serve on juries.

“To call this irrelevant is a direct insult to the victims of these violent crimes,” he said. “The governor needs to explain why he thinks violent criminals should have the right to serve on juries that have an obligation to uphold the law.”

Good luck with that, we say, as Mr. McAuliffe — citing an exemption in state open records law — is unwilling to release, even at the General Assembly’s request, any and all information about these offenders. Nonetheless, Republicans in the Legislature will continue to pursue a legal challenge to this restoration order.

Whether or not this challenge will bear fruit is questionable. But, rest assured, Virginia voters will have the final say in this matter, come November 2017. Mr. McAuliffe has left no easy electoral row to hoe for his potential Democratic successor, Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam. When it comes to willy-nilly restoring the rights of violent criminals — and then not being altogether forthcoming about it — Virginians may have long memories. But Mr. McAuliffe, constitutionally ineigible to succeed himself, will not suffer the consequences.