2013 General Assembly

Watch What The Media Doesn't Want You To See . . .

Yesterday was the midpoint of the 2013 General Assembly session, and a lot has happened so far this year. Some of it you may have read about in the newspaper or seen on the news, but a lot you have not. For several years, in an effort to bring you the most comprehensive information about what happens at the General Assembly, we have videotaped key debates in both sub- and full committee meetings (see our YouTube channel). At a meeting of the Senate Education and Health Committee earlier in session, at least one capitol reporter seemed a bit put off by our efforts. As one of our staff members set up our camera in the committee room, in the same place we've set it up for several years, one senior reporter asked her for whom she worked. Upon hearing that she was with The Family Foundation, he chastised her saying, "You can’t do that here. You aren't credentialed press." A quick conversation with a Capitol Police officer made it clear to the reporter that committee hearings are public meetings and we can videotape them if we want.

So, it would appear that either the reporter had forgotten that our government's actions are open to the public or, perhaps, he's a bit intimidated by the fact that the media narrative is going to be challenged by the video showing exactly what happened, not how he and his colleagues describe it in in their "stories" and "articles." Of course, maybe he just didn't want his view blocked (though our camera was right next to a large post so we wouldn't block anyone's view).

Perhaps some of the issue is that our video exposes their media myths. In a Richmond Times-Dispatch article about the Ed and Health meeting — and specifically the debate over abortion center health and safety standards — one reporter wrote:

Both sides in the abortion debate packed the hearing room with advocates of the same arguments they've used to battle each other for the past two years.

Except, that's not at all accurate. As you will see watching the video, we used material from Department of Health inspection reports that show wide spread health and safety violations at Virginia's abortion centers — something the Times-Dispatch simply refuses to cover — material that was available just this past summer. It is new evidence we obtained from the department this past summer and last month via Freedom of Information Act requests and proves why we needed the health and safety standards. It is evidence we didn't have prior to the regulations, so we couldn't have used it "to battle each other for the past two years."

Even if we obstructed some reporters' views, we didn't affect their hearing, yet the media reported we offered no new information on the abortion center safety standards debate. It is clear we had new evidence of numerous violations not previously available to the public. (The new evidence is presented at about 5:50 into the video.)

We've said for the past year that there are some capitol reporters who have exchanged reporting for opining and, in particular, have driven some of the hysteria surrounding pro-life legislation. They've ignored or dismissed the facts about what's happening in Virginia's abortion centers, and they have little interest in balance.

Many journalists in Richmond still do great work and are fair, balanced and hard workers, while several clearly have allowed their bias to affect their work. All the more reason for our being here — years ago we accounted for the reasons the changing media landscape demanded we be here — and for you to watch the video and to share it with others.

Student, Parental Rights Bills Advance!

Yesterday was "crossover," the mid-point of the 2013 General Assembly session and the day when each chamber must complete work on its own bills. It's also a day that saw two substantial pro-family victories. The Senate passed a priority for The Family Foundation — legislation that protects the free association rights of students on public college campuses. SB 1074, patroned by Senator Mark Obenshain (R-26, Harrisonburg), ensures that the current practice on the majority of our campuses will continue and that religious and political organizations will not be discriminated against because of their beliefs and values. The bill passed 22-18 with several Democrats joining Republicans to pass the legislation. The House companion bill, HB 1617, patroned by Delegate Todd Gilbert (R-15, Woodstock), passed 80-19 late last week.

In the House, legislation protecting parental rights as fundamental passed 70-30! The bill, HB 1642, patroned by Delegate Brenda Pogge (R-96, James City County), reflects a recent decision by the Virginia Supreme Court that recognizes parental rights as fundamental. However, 24 states have reduced parental rights from fundamental to "ordinary," making it easier for government bureaucrats to interfere with families. This is significant because courts give special deference to "fundamental" rights and putting it in the Virginia Code secures it from a future Virginia court from rewriting the recent decision. Currently, Virginia law is silent on the status of parental rights, instead relying on hundreds of years of common law, which has granted parents fundamental in principle.

A similar bill previously passed the Senate, but because the bills are slightly different, we will continue to work with the patrons and representatives of parental rights groups to bring them into "conformity" for final passage later this session. The Senate bill is SB 908 and is patroned by Senator Bryce Reeves (R-17, Spotsylvania) and will be in the House Courts of Justice Committee today.

In the past two days, other legislation supported by The Family Foundation also advanced, including bills that combat human trafficking, help ease restrictions on the creation of charter schools, and provide a definition of bullying for the Department of Education as it works on guidelines to help schools combat that serious problem.

Unfortunately, all news today wasn't good. The Senate decided to send SJ 287, a religious liberty constitutional amendment, back to committee, effectively killing the bill for this year. Based on an amendment that passed last year in Missouri, the amendment would have given Virginians the opportunity to vote to re-establish our right to pray at the start of government meetings and protect students' religious liberty rights. As we continue to watch the federal government infringe upon our God given right to express our faith in the public square, Virginians want to be able to respond. Our goal will continue to be to reinforce our First Freedom, through statute and, if necessary, a constitutional amendment. We thank Senator Bill Stanley (R-20, Moneta), the resolution's patron, and Senator Bill Carrico (R-40, Galax), the chief co-patron, for their very hard work and inspired and passionate words yesterday on the Senate floor.

In the coming days we will again notify you to take urgent action on key bills. Thank you to everyone who has contact their legislators so far! You voice does make a difference.