By Kaitlyn Speer | Watchdog.org, Virginia Bureau
ALEXANDRIA, Va. — Gov. Terry McAuliffe took the time to do a lot of things since last week. But none of them had to do with answering growing public concern about illegal immigration in Virginia and the nation. Here is your week in review.
STOPPED COLD: Gov. Terry McAuliffe vetoed a bill that would have limited campaign contributions to him from companies vying for a grant from his office.
Here are some of the things McAuliffe thought were important enough to take the time to do since last week:
1. Raise money out West.
2. Host a bluegrass event in London to promote Virginia tourism.
3. Visit China to meet with business officials to persuade them to set up shop in Virginia.
4. Make a public appearance with President Barack Obama in Washington, D.C.
McAuliffe also appointed Edgardo Cortes to be commissioner of the Department of Elections, a new sub-Cabinet post.
The position, authorized by the General Assembly, shifted powers from the three-member State Board of Elections to the Department of Elections on July 1.
Though the SBE still decides policy, much like a school board, Cortes is in charge of day-to-day electoral operations, training and rule enforcement. Cortes does not answer to the SBE, but to the governor’s secretary of administration.
Last summer, Politico recounted an interview on California public radio in 2007, when McAuliffe said, “I don’t care if you’re a Democrat or a Republican, we all agree you’ve gotta shut the borders down; people who are coming into this nation, taking our jobs.”
But he refuses to talk about the subject now. Watchdog.org has tried since last week to get the governor to respond to this issue, after having received reports about undocumented children being housed in some parts of the state.
Tired of being ignored, Watchdog.org’s Investigative Reporter Katie Watson spent a day at the governor’s office to get an answer to one very simple question: When will the governor be saying something publicly about the border crisis and Virginia?
Their response, so far? Crickets.
Unemployment numbers are a mixed bag right now in Virginia.
Virginia’s unemployment rate increased in June for the second month in a row, perhaps cause for concern. But one economist says there’s more to the story.
Virginia’s jobless rate stood at 5.3 percent in June, the Virginia Employment Commission reported last week, up from 5.1 percent in May. Virginia is one of only 14 states in which unemployment rose in June, while the rate declined in 22 others. It stayed the same in the remaining 14 states.
But Keith Hall, a senior research fellow at George Mason’s Mercatus Center in Fairfax, said the numbers reported by the Virginia Employment Commission are not a good indicator of the real economic situation. That’s because there’s such a high margin of error in the state unemployment rate — 1 percent, versus an error rate of 0.002 percent for national unemployment numbers, Hall said.
Elsewhere in Virginia, a battle over what constitutes a “valid” voter ID went online — and so far, the loosest interpretation is winning.
The public has until 11:30 p.m. on Aug. 4 to post comments online on the state Department of Elections website.
The State Board of Elections last month pulled back a controversial policy that would have allowed expired photo identifications to be accepted at polling places.
But since initial pushback from election-watch activists, some citizen comments have supported the SBE’s more open stance.
–Kaitlyn Speer is an intern for Watchdog.org, Virginia Bureau. She can be reached at email@example.com or on twitter at @KSpeer11.