Wednesday, August 19, 2009

That ain't chicken feed

The Virginia General Assembly will hold a special session today to deal with the aftermath of Melendez-Diaz v. Massachusetts that will require Virginia to modify laws so that forensic analysts are available to testify about scientific evidence. The Senate Courts of Justice committee finished work on a bill that requires prosecutors give the defense 28 days notice of intent to use scientific evidence. The defendant would then have 14 days to decide if the analyst will be called into court. The change will place a manpower and cost burden on forensic labs, but that is often the situation when living up to the demands of our Constitution including the Sixth Amendment's Confrontation Clause.
Since that issue is likely resolved, the bigger story today will be Governor Tim Kaine's not-so-surprising announcement that the state's budget shortfall will be in the neighborhood of $1.3 billion. That ain't chicken feed. Kaine has told state agencies to make plans for spending cuts of 5%, 10%, and 15% by early September and those cuts, including elimination of some jobs, will likely roll into effect this fall. House Majority Leader Morgan Griffith and Governor Kaine find themselves in agreement - coming on top of previous budget reductions, these cuts "will be painful." The cumulative shortfall for the two-year budget is $3.7 billion!
Meanwhile, local school officials are saying federal stimulus funds helped them save jobs and programs and budget shortfalls won't be felt in classrooms. That's partly true but it is laced with chicken sh*t. I understand one smaller high school cut 11 sections of classes - and not because of declining enrollment. That translates into larger classes and some courses not be offered. Community colleges are looking at larger classes as well. Superintendents can talk, but talk is cheap. Those cuts will be paid for in the classroom.
Valley Republican delegates are going to push the General Assembly to find funding to reopen the interstate rest areas. They say delaying renovations at DMV headquarters will cover the costs of reopening and running the rest areas. Those renovations may be a wiser investment for long term efficiency of DMV, but they aren't as politically sexy for delegates facing challengers. Isn't it a bit hypocritical for the very delegates who blocked reliable funding for transportation to now be scratching through the grist and pecking at Governor Kaine over the rest areas?

No comments: