Commentary

A farce in one act: imagining a job performance review for Virginia’s policymaking elite

May 16, 2022 12:02 am
Tulips are blooming at the Virginia Capitol, but a budget deal remained elusive Monday. (Photo by Graham Moomaw)

Legislators were in session for less than two hours Monday, but said they would return when there was a budget to vote on. Fourteen legislators are negotiating the budget in private. (Photo by Graham Moomaw)

Setting: A large conference room somewhere in downtown Richmond. On one side of the table sits the representative from Human Resources who’s there to conduct the annual job performance review. On the other sit 140 members of the General Assembly and the head of the executive branch, his excellency Glenn Youngkin.

(Curtain rises. Scene opens:)

The Rep from HR: “Good morning. Thank you for your time this morning. We’re here to look at our important goals and objectives for the year and the extent to which your team has met, failed to meet, or exceeded expectations in regard to achieving them.”

(Across the table, heads nod. Throats are cleared. There’s squirming in some seats. Eyes shift nervously, but none look directly at the rep.)

Rep: “So, action item one: ‘Fill two vacant seats on the Virginia Supreme Court.’ I see from the form you’ve left your response blank. Can you bring me up to date?”

An unknown legislator (sitting low in his chair somewhere toward the back, wearing sunglasses and trying to disguise his voice): “Well, uh … see, we’re trying to, uh … figure out a way to talk about a … uh, deal so we can sort-of start considering … uh, you know – judges.”

Rep: “Not sure what that means but are we progressing toward a vote on nominees? Says here the court’s operating with just five of its seven justices and the workload’s getting, well … pretty steep.”

Gov. Glenn Youngkin (bounding out of his chair, red-faced, pointing): “It’s the Democrats fault! They started it!”

Rep (muttering): “Oh crap.”

Democratic Sen. Louise Lucas (takes a break from Twitter, rises defiantly facing Youngkin, eyes ablaze, arms akimbo): “Because we voted down the coal lobbyist who ran Trump’s polluter-loving EPA that you nominated as your natural resources secretary? What’s next: you plan to appoint Dr. Kevorkian to run the suicide prevention hotline?”

Rep (trying to interject): “Um, … if we can get back to the performance review …”

GOP House Speaker Todd Gilbert: “Yeah, Louise, and how’d that work out for Governor Northam’s Democrat Board of Education appointments in the House?”

Democratic Sen. Dick Saslaw (balefully eyeing Gilbert): “Uh huh, and you saw what happened to Glenn’s Parole Board and Safety Code Board appointments on our side of the Capitol, right?”

Youngkin (): “See! See! I told you! Democrats!”

Rep (raising her voice): “Take your seats, please! Everybody! OK, zero progress toward this goal. Moving on. Action item two: ‘Adopt a new two-year state budget.’ Another blank response. Are the money committee chairs here who can update me on this?”

(Silence. Crickets chirp in the distance.)

Rep: “Anybody?”

(More silence. More crickets. Someone coughs nervously.)

Rep: “Seriously? We’re midway through May. We went all the way through a regular session and now, since March, you’ve been in an open-ended special session because you blew right through your previous deadlines. We’ve got to have a new budget in place by July 1 or state general fund operations go into the toilet. And it’s not because we’re hurting for revenue. Last time I checked, you had a $2.6 billion – B as in Boy, billion! – windfall surplus to play with.”

Youngkin: “Again, it’s those gosh darn (forgive me, Almighty Creator) Democrats, I tell ya! All they want to do is tax and appropriate – every buck they can get their filthy hands on. Tax, tax, tax; appropriate, appropriate, appropriate! But me? I want to cut taxes.”

Saslaw (Sneering; not even trying to conceal his disgust): “You’ve never put together a public budget in your life. What you want to do is zero out things like Medicaid and give your gazillionaire hedge fund buddies so many tax breaks that you could run the Tax Department out of a Porta Potty.”

Fastidiously tailored and prolix GOP Leader Tommy Norment: “In my humble estimation, sir, that would be a most equitable outcome. I’ve always harbored a predilection toward parsimonious governance, and I …”

Democratic former Speaker Eileen Filler-Corn (bored, rolling her eyes): “Aw, shove it, Tommy. Miss, I’m no longer relevant to this clown show. May I be excused?”

Rep (hands trembling as she taps a Xanax from a prescription bottle in her purse and washes it down with stale, lukewarm coffee): “OK … governor, Mr. Gilbert, Ms. Lucas, Mr. Saslaw, Mr. Norment, the rest of you – can anybody tell me what’s being done to get this objective on-track for completion?

(Silence. Crickets.)

Rep: “You realize you’ve got just six weeks to fix this before the commonwealth starts bouncing checks. Capisce?”

(More silence. More crickets.)

Gilbert (upbeat): “So … who’s up for lunch?”

Lucas (stops tweeting again): “Oh, lunch sounds good!”

Rep (incredulous): “Really? Lunch?”

Saslaw (as people file out of the room): “Hey, I know this new Thai place close by with half-off Tuesday specials if you have a state government ID tag!”

Norment: “Remember, Dick, your turn to buy!”

Sawlaw: “I bought last time!”

Youngkin (texting his scheduler): GOING 2 LUNCH W/ THE COOL KIDS.

PLS CLEAR MY SKED REST OF AFTERNOON.

INFORM CHIEF OF STAFF TO FIRE H.R. REP.

Rep (scribbling notes longhand in red ink onto the job appraisal form): “Entire team FAILS to meet even baseline expectations; exhibits no accountability, no awareness of deadlines or consequences of missing them, takes no responsibility; dysfunctional team dynamic, members blame everyone else for failures and don’t work well with one another.”

Rep (flips to final page of form and, under the heading HR RECOMMENDATION, scribbles and underscores): Fire them; outsource the work; and may God have mercy on their souls.

Rep (using her smartphone email app): “Dear boss, 

We’re all SO screwed. I QUIT!!!

Best,

Virginia
(HR Rep #1021-13)

(Aaaaand scene!)

Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.

Bob Lewis
Bob Lewis

Bob Lewis covered Virginia government and politics for 20 years for The Associated Press. Now retired from a public relations career at McGuireWoods, he is a columnist for the Virginia Mercury. He can be reached at [email protected]

MORE FROM AUTHOR