Kaine takes his eye off the ball

Published 10:02 pm Friday, January 9, 2009

Gov. Timothy M. Kaine had an opportunity this week to set the tone for this year’s General Assembly session, when he announced his first legislative proposals. With less than a week remaining before Virginia’s delegates and senators return to Richmond for their short session, Kaine announced a couple of his priorities for the year.

As Virginia faces vast budgetary shortfalls and the economy of both the state and the nation remains mired in recession, citizens had reason to expect the governor’s priorities would reflect the need to arrest government spending, find new sources of revenue and dig the state out of the hole it finds itself in.

Instead, the governor’s first announced priority for the incoming Assembly was another attempt to resurrect his failed anti-smoking legislation, which would ban lighting up in most restaurants and public spaces.

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While such a ban has broad support in some circles and has arguable merits, what cannot be argued is that it’s not the most important issue facing Virginians today. With the economy in shambles, people are unlikely to be worried about whether smoking is allowed in restaurants; they’re more likely to be wondering if they can even afford to eat out at all.

The governor announced last week that he would go back on a promise he made to Virginians last year that he would not take the reins as chairman of the Democratic National Committee. Despite the governor’s recent assurance that the position would be one he could fill without it interfering with his duties in Virginia, his legislative announcements could easily lead Virginians to wonder if he still has his eye on the ball.