Protecting Life At Every Stage: Another Day At The General Assembly

While we post a lot about the goings on at the General Assembly, and try to keep you informed of what is happening in Richmond, there is far more going on each day than we could possibly tell you about. Yesterday was a day, however, that I think tells a little bit of the story of what we do to protect our values and your family on issues that don't normally grab the headlines or get a great deal of attention. Late last week we were notified of a bill regarding advanced directives (legal documents that that communicate your desires regarding end-of-life care) that was not as innocuous as it seemed. Often complex in their make up, bills that deal with these types of situations can be confusing and sometimes have unintended consequences. After our policy team reviewed the bill, we determined that the bill made it much easier for hospitals to stop end-of-life treatment on an incapacitated patient who has no advance directive and no family member advocating on their behalf.

We then contacted lobbyists representing the groups promoting the legislation to let them know of our concerns. The bill already had passed the Senate 40-0 and was assigned to a House Health, Welfare and Institutions sub-committee. So we had to stop its momentum.

Yesterday morning, just as the sub-committee began, we negotiated a series of amendments to appease our concerns. The nine page bill was debated for an hour and a half as our concerns and those of several sub-committee members came to light. Because of the problems, in an unusual move, the sub-committee met again last evening. Again, we were in the room to ensure that the end-of-life issues we were concerned about were addressed.

Even as we kept a watchful eye on the committee, a sub-committee member attempted to elevate the role that a "life partner" might play in end-of-life decisions. While the committee had little appetite for introducing new controversial issues into the mix, had they seriously considered this notion, we would have stepped in to ensure marriage continues to be an elevated institution in our public policy. After another hour of debate and discussion, a much improved (at least where we were concerned) piece of legislation — that included amendments fixing the issues we were worried about — passed onto the full committee.

Again, there were no TV cameras in the room and odds are the bill will never be noticed by the general public. But it is these bills that often times go unnoticed that can be most damaging to our values even if the intent of those involved isn't bad. We try to catch every one, but with more than 2,400 bills in the system, we miss one now and then.  However, when we don't catch them often times legislators or other lobbyists will let us know because they can count on us to stop a bill in its tracks and ensure it gets fixed.

At our Richmond Gala last fall, Mike Huckabee noted that it is the staff at The Family Foundation that does the work that few want to do. We read and review hundreds and hundreds of bills. We sit in sub-committee and committee meetings that can run for hours, negotiating and lobbying to make sure the bills do no harm to our values and our families. Not very glorious, but the reason we exist as an organization.

Yesterday was a day where we were successful in our mission. Today is another day.