One thing is for certain this session, there’s never a dull moment at the General Assembly!
As you’ve probably heard, yesterday, the state Senate stunned the political class by nominating former Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli to the state Supreme Court. This action came after months of political wrangling between the General Assembly and Governor Terry McAuliffe over a Supreme Court vacancy. Of course, within minutes of the nomination, the secular left triggered its packaged hysteria, including protestors outside and inside the Capitol (with additional security in place, just in case). Alas, late today the former AG declined the nomination, leaving the General Assembly to find the next potential nominee.
Amidst the upheaval over the judgeship, budget negotiators today quietly announced they had finalized their work on the Commonwealth’s two year budget.
The good news is a budget amendment The Family Foundation has supported for several years finally made the budget! Virginia’s foster care support system ends when young adults reach age 18. Unfortunately, because many of those who “age out” do not have any support in place, they end up fighting for survival and, in particular, a place to live. A federal program called “Fostering Futures” provides a federal matching grant for housing for foster kids age 18-21 who are either working or going to school. The states that have already implemented this program have seen good outcomes, with fewer of these kids incarcerated or worse.
The Family Foundation worked with a host of organizations, including Voices for Virginia’s Children, the Virginia Poverty Law Center, Virginia Catholic Conference and many others, and legislators across the political spectrum to get this done. There are many legislators who deserve thanks, and I’ll likely miss some (I apologize!), including Delegates Chris Peace, Scott Lingamfelter, Dickie Bell and Senator Barbara Favola, plus budget conferees who made this a priority this year. The budget amendment was first introduced several years ago by then Governor Bob McDonnell.
Two other important votes took place over the past two days. Yesterday, the state Senate passed HB 1090, patroned by Delegate Ben Cline (R-24, Amherst), legislation that begins the process of defunding Planned Parenthood! The bill would prohibit non-Medicaid funding of Planned Parenthood or any other abortion business. After last year’s baby-body-parts-for-profit-scandal, ten states have taken similar action.
Unfortunately, yet not surprisingly given the nearly $2 million in campaign donations he received from the abortion industry, Governor McAuliffe has indicated he will veto this common sense bill.
Today, the House of Delegates passed SB 41, patroned by Senator Bill Carrico (R-40, Galax), legislation that protects the religious liberty rights of religious organizations. When SB 41 passed the Senate earlier this session, it was limited to protecting just churches and pastors from being forced to solemnize a so-called same-sex wedding; a protection some argue already exists in the First Amendment and Statute for Religious Freedom. In a House committee, we worked with legislators to expand the legislation to also protect religious organizations. The bill now returns to the Senate and will likely be voted on tomorrow.
All in all, it has been a successful, if crazy, week at the General Assembly. And it’s only Wednesday!