Bob McDonnell

PolitiFact Or PolitiBiased?

In the summer of 2012, the Republican Party of Virginia issued a scathing 86-page critique of PolitiFact alleging bias against Republicans and conservatives. This critique was made in the summer leading up to the election of Tim Kaine to the U.S. Senate. PolitiFact's legitimacy is directly tied to the perception that it is providing an unbiased fact-check of politicians. As you would expect, PolitiFact swiftly responded to the complaint:

The party takes issue with the fact that 26 of our last 36 rulings have concerned Republican candidates and elected officials. But Virginia is largely controlled by Republican politicians. The governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general belong to the party, as do eight of the 13 members of Virginia's congressional delegation, including House Majority Leader Eric Cantor. Both houses of the General Assembly are run by Republicans. In addition, the GOP fielded four candidates in its primary for the U.S. Senate this spring and sponsored three debates between them. Democrats, in contrast, handed their nomination to an unopposed Tim Kaine.

Well, times are a changing. Virginia now is largely controlled by Democrats. The governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general belong to the Democrats. Pending the outcome of the 6th Senate District special election (currently in recount mode with Democrat Lynwood Lewis holding a 9-vote lead over Republican Wayne Coleman), Republicans may control only the House of Delegates. With the retirement of U.S. Representative Jim Moran, it seems that every Democrat in Northern Virginia has declared for his federal seat. Quite a different political environment from just eighteen months ago. It's time to put PolitiFact to the test and see how fairly they review and critique liberals and Democrats.

On Sunday, PolitiFact launched its "Macker-meter" to track whether Governor Terry McAuliffe keeps his campaign promises. PolitiFact is going to track 17 promises "the Macker" made on the campaign trail. Of course, they tracked 48 promises for former Governor Bob McDonnell. Don't worry, PolitiFact has an explanation for this discrepancy of what they will monitor:

McDonnell — a 17-year veteran of elective office when he ran for governor — put out more than a dozen nuanced policy papers during his campaign. We could not find the same level of detail from McAuliffe, a first-time elective office holder who was criticized during last year's campaign for being light on policy.

In other words,  Governor McAuliffe gets a pass because it is his first-time being elected to office. But he is not the political novice PolitiFact describes. They conveniently leave out his failed run for governor four years earlier and his decades of well publicized political experience.

PolitiFact also released its first promise check. Governor McAuliffe received a "promise kept" for signing an executive order putting restrictions on gifts, but because his executive order is only valid for one year, they will check back to see what happens next year. I may be mistaken, but I recall that promises Governor McDonnell didn't fully complete were given scores of "in the works" and PolitiFact checked back before determining if it was a promise kept. Double standard? Time will tell.

Regardless, this is great news for Governor McAuliffe. By failing to espouse specific, nuanced policy positions during the campaign, he will be lightly judged by PolitiFact. We'll leave the question of why the press corp did not call for the governor to task for failing to provide a detailed policy plan prior to the election for another day.

Commonwealth Of Opportunity? Virginia Falls In Freedom Rankings . . . Again

The Fraser Institute released its annual study of economic freedom among the 50 U.S. states and 10 Canadian provinces last week and our neighbors to the north seem to be learning lessons that used to be ingrained American principles that we recently, seemingly, have eschewed. That includes the Old Dominion which dropped in the rankings, again. This time from 19 to 21 out of the 60 jurisdictions. According to a Fraser Institute statement, released in conjunction with the study:

The average score for U.S. states has fallen to 7.3 (out of 10) in 2011 from 8.2 in 2000 at the all-government level. While the Canadian provinces have also seen a decline (down to 7.4 in 2011), on average they are now freer than U.S. states.

"The freest economies operate with minimal government interference, relying on personal choice and markets to decide what's produced, how it's produced and how much is produced. As government imposes restrictions on these choices, there's less economic freedom," said Dean Stansel, study co-author and economics professor at Florida Gulf Coast University.

The top of the freedom pecking order of freedom reads like this: The Canadian provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan, with Delaware third followed by Texas and Nevada. After that, the highest states are Wyoming, South Dakota, Colorado, Nebraska, Georgia, Utah and Illinois, which rank eight through 14, respectively.

Andrew Young, an associate professor of economics at West Virginia University, said the rankings were based on size of government, level of discriminatory taxation and amount of labor market freedom. Virginia's liabilities are the fact that government spending is a large part of the commonwealth's economy and its indirect tax burden on its citizens and businesses. Indirect taxes are property taxes, fees and such that are not spelled out directly, such as income or sales taxes.

Dr. Young told WRVA's Richmond Morning News yesterday (listen to the complete, and brief, interview below):

This is important because if you look at study after study . . . they consistently find that economic freedom — having smaller government, less regulation — this is linked to higher incomes and more job creation, just basically a more vibrant economy. ...

Virginia has been slipping over the years . . . and bloated government and onerous tax burden discourages businesses from investing in Virginia and creating jobs.

His solutions? Pretty basic and common sense, which many politicians in Virginia seem to have forgotten in recent years: 1. Reign in the amount of government spending. 2. Create less burden on businesses. You think that will happen in Virginia during the next four years if it didn't happen the last four? So much for the Commonwealth of Opportunity. Remember that? (Governor Bob McDonnell's outgoing budget, released yesterday, increases spending by $10 billion. See Norfolk Virginian-Pilot.)

Separately, a new study ranking the 50 states on opportunity also was released recently. Virginia ranked 15th. Vermont ranked first. Vermont? Virginia, first in freedom, now is easily outranked by states such as Vermont (home to the only publicly proclaimed socialist U.S. Senator, Bernie Sanders) and Canadian provinces in economic freedom and opportunity.

But there is good news: We're ranked higher than West Virginia, which is dead last in economic freedom, according to Fraser. In this day and age, take your wins where yo can get them.

Dr. Young's solution? 1. Reign in the amount of government spending. 2. Create less burden on businesses. You think that will happen in Virginia in the next four years if it didn't happen the last four?

Breaking News: Governor McDonnell Announces Total Repayment Of Money, Apologizes For "Embarrassment"

Governor Bob McDonnell released this statement within the last few minutes, under the subject line of "Important Statement from Gov. McDonnell," regarding the various financial gifts and loans he, his family and his family business have received from Star Scientific CEO Jonnie Williams:

Statement of Governor Robert McDonnell

Governor McDonnell announced today that loans made to his wife and small family business by Star Scientific CEO Jonnie Williams have been repaid in full.

Being Governor of Virginia is the highest honor of my 37 years in public service. I am deeply sorry for the embarrassment certain members of my family and I brought upon my beloved Virginia and her citizens. I want you to know that I broke no laws and that I am committed to regaining your sacred trust and confidence. I hope today's action is another step toward that end. Virginia has never been stronger and I plan to focus on creating even more jobs and facilitating greater opportunity during the last five months of my term as your Governor. Our work together on education, transportation, pension reform, voting rights, and economic expansion has produced great results for Virginia.

The repayments include $52,278.17 for a loan made to Mrs. McDonnell in 2011 and $71,837.00 for two additional loans made to the small real estate business owned jointly by the Governor and his sister in 2012. The payments include both principal and interest.

All monies used for repayment have come from the Governor, the family business itself, or his family.

An addendum to the statement from "the Bob McDonnell Team" reemphasized two points in the statement and added a third:

1. (He) has returned (with interest) the loans from Jonnie Williams;

2. (He) has apologized for the situation; and,

3. (He) stands by the Troy Report issued last Friday that stated unequivocally that neither Jonnie Williams nor Star Scientific received any benefit.

Update (at 3:00):

The "team," as it turns out, is Gov.McDonnell's legal team, not his political organization or his administration. Here's an article just posted by the Richmond Times-Disatch with more details.

What’s Up Doc, Liberal Style?

Liberals in Virginia are up in arms today over Governor Bob McDonnell's signature on a bill that forces doctors to . . . Oh wait, no they aren't. Never mind.

For over a year one of the secular left's narratives on abortion center safety standards and the ultrasound bill has been to bash politicians for "getting in between the doctor-patient" relationship. At a public hearing in Alexandria in March, Senator Barbara Favola (D-51, Arlington) lamented that such interference was a violation of all that Thomas Jefferson stood for in shaping the Commonwealth. Yeah, she really did. The doctor-patient relationship is sacred liberals claim, and no one without a medical degree should be involved, least of all elected officials.

Except, apparently, when the medical procedure in question isn't abortion.

What Senator Favola (and the majority of Democrats in the General Assembly) seems to have conveniently forgotten is that she supported the Lyme disease bill this year that, you guessed it, puts the government right in the ole doctor's office and forces doctors to tell patients that Lyme disease tests are not always accurate. (TFF took no position on the Lyme disease bill.)

So next time you hear liberals hysterically attacking those dastardly politicians for interfering with the sacred medical profession, just remember that they're talking about themselves.

An Outside Angle View Of The Gubernatorial Campaign

Often we can gain a perspective of something by taking a look at it from that of someone else's non-interested or, at least, limited-angle perspective. Michael Voris offers us that today in his daily video commentary, "The Vortex," about Virginia's gubernatorial candidates. Voris lives in Michigan and his interest here has nothing to do with campaigns, but rather a case study in how candidates who profess faith actually live up to what they say they believe.

A traditional Catholic, Voris draws the stark contrast between how Ken Cuccinelli and Terry McAuliffe, both of whom are Catholic, practice their faith and how they realize it in the public square. (Along the way, he skewers some prominent, national liberal Catholic politicians for their distorted public practice of the Faith.) To some degree, the same contrast Voris draws between Cuccinelli and McAuliffe can be made between current Governor Bob McDonnell and his predecessor, Tim Kaine, both of whom also are Catholic.

What's interesting is that, even for non-Catholics who may view some of this as intramural squabbling, from the parameters of one aspect of their lives — granted, a significant one at that — parallels to their public policy objectives and even their deportment and manner  of execution of official duties become clear. In a broader context some would call it their "worldview." But it's more than that. Pun or not, it gets to their souls — one who upholds his faith and one who conveniently bends and breaks it, and if one breaks his faith with God, it's a rather minor step to break faith with mere mortals.

Virginia campaign for governor is being watched around the country — and from many different angles.

A Perspective That Spans The Tiber To The James

It's about time! Finally, after years of encouragement to do so, today our friends at the Virginia Catholic Conference added a blog to its social media mix. (See its first post, by Associate Director Michael Lewis, on the adoption by the General Assembly of Governor Bob McDonnell's "Veto Session" "Hyde amendment" that bans taxpayer funded abortions in the Obamacare insurance exhchange). It's a good thing, too. There are few more passionately dedicated to the causes of Life, Marriage and Religious Liberty  than our colleagues at the VCC. They are an invaluable ally in the culture wars not only inside Mr. Jefferson's Capitol, but well beyond the gates of Capitol Square. It's an intelligent bunch, as well, and we look forward to their perspective on the crucial issues of the day. According to its announcement of the blog's launch:

Our goal for "From the Tiber to the James" is to provide engaging, thought-provoking posts — respectful of our reader’s busy lives — about why and how we do the work we do, and how our readers can become more involved in advocacy on behalf of the common good.

Attuned readers will not miss the symbolism of the blog’s name: our Faith traces its past, present and future to the Vatican on the banks of the Tiber River. Our daily work — living in the public square — takes us to Virginia’s capital, on the shores of the James.

We look forward to what From the Tiber to the James will add to the public policy debate in the already thriving Virginia Blogosphere. Another culturally conservative voice can always be useful but, in this case, we're confident it will far exceed that basic standard.

The fight to win souls precedes any legislative victory. In this new age of instant digital media, where information is spread at the speed of a few thumb presses, it's important for advocacy organizations to arm themselves with as many assets as possible — and our side has been behind. It's about more than "spreading the word" on Facebook and Twitter (as important as that is). After all, there must be compelling content to spread on Facebook and Twitter. So, it's really about thoughtful, grounded, rational perspective based in something considerably larger than human vanity that resonates even with hearts of stone well before the yeas and nays consistently affirm our foundational principles. 

Congratulations to the Virginia Catholic Conference. We hope you visit From The Tiber To The James as often as we will.

Stand For Life At Friday’s Board Of Health Meeting!

Join us this Friday at the Board of Health meeting in Richmond, where it will decide whether or not to adopt the abortion center safety standards made possible by legislation passed at the 2011 General Assembly and signed into law by Governor Bob McDonnell. Pro-life Virginians must attend and show that we are the voice of Virginia! There was, of course, a Board of Health meeting last September, where we mobilized a terrific turnout as the Board voted to pass the standards, so there may be some confusion as to why it is meeting again and why we another turnout of pro-life Virginians. Quite simply, the regulatory process is arduous, consisting of many votes, executive branch review, and public comment periods. So while we considered the September vote a major success, we cannot let up until the standards are completely finalized by the Board.

Showing up and voicing your support of these new standards is extremely important in the fight for life. It is crucial the Board see and hear from pro-life Virginians when deciding on final passage of the safety standards. We must show the Board of Health that we are pro-life and we are the majority.

Please plan to join us this Friday, April 12. Please forward this link to your pro-life friends and share it on your social media sites.

Plan to arrive at the Perimeter Center (9960 Mayland Drive, Richmond, Va. 23233) at 7:00 a.m. to prevent pro-abortion activists from filling the room and silencing your voice. Seating is very limited, so not everyone will be able to get into the meeting. That's why it's important to arrive early. We encourage you to bring a handmade sign showing your support for life. There is likely to be a public comment period, so if you want to speak in support of the regulations, please prepare a two-minute testimony. The meeting is scheduled to adjourn at 3:00 p.m. Depending on when the vote is held, it may become a day-long event.

For a list of answers to Frequently Asked Questions regarding the Board meeting, click here. Please contact The Family Foundation if you have additional questions (804-343-0010 or vafamily@familyfoundation.org).

The safety standards, as passed by the Board last September, would promote safer conditions in Virginia abortion centers, resulting in a higher level of respect and dignity for the women who make the unfortunate choice to get an abortion. Since the announced inspections of Virginia's 20 abortion centers — inspections that were part of the temporary rules passed by the Board, and the first inspections of abortion centers in decades — more than 100 health violations have been discovered. Some of these include:

» Blood-stained tables and vials

» Unsterilized equipment

» Untrained staff members

» Crucial parts missing from emergency life-saving equipment

The Family Foundation recently released new violations that have been found just since June. One report from the Roanoke Medical Center states that:

Staff used . . . a sponge to clean the procedure jars and failed to disinfect procedure jars and stoppers between patients . . . failure to disinfect three (3) of three recovery cots between patients and one (1) of one lab chair . . . observation revealed one of the vacutainer needle holders had visible dark red splatter within the hub, which attached to the needle to draw the patient's blood.

This is just one example of why these standards are needed more than ever. Americans expect to undergo a medical procedure in a sterile environment with trained doctors and nurses. Why is the same standard not met for women who choose abortion?

Voicing your support of these new standards is imperative! Please join us at the Board of Health meeting in Richmond on April 12. Do not let NARAL and Planned Parenthood speak for you in your silence!

Miraculous Success: Life And Conscience Protected

It was nothing short of a miracle yesterday afternoon: The General Assembly passed Governor Bob McDonnell's pro-life amendment to HB 1900. The amendment prohibits health insurance plans that are part of federal health insurance exchanges required by Obamacare from covering abortion services except in cases of rape, incest and life of the mother. With the passage of this amendment, pro-life Virginians will no longer be required to violate their consciences and fund the unethical destruction of human life. To put it precisely, as one legislator who voted for the amendment said:

I truly believe that this amendment will save more lives than perhaps anything we've ever done.

The amendment's passage was a tale more convoluted than the typical legislative labyrynth, complete with procedural moves unfamiliar to most, dramatic back room conversations and mistakes that turned into miracles. Suffice it to say, God was at work — mightily. He alone deserves the credit for this success. We'll tell the complete and detailed insider story in a later post.

Regardless of how legislators may feel about Obamacare health insurance exchanges, the vote on this amendment was solely about the taxpayer funding of abortion. Many who voted for this amendment oppose the concept of exchanges overall. Please note when checking how your legislator voted, that a vote for this pro-life amendment cannot be considered a vote against health care freedom. Some type of exchange must be created, by law, so this was to make the best of a bad situation.

Although many deserve thanks for this important victory, we would like to specifically thank Governor McDonnell for introducing the amendment, Lieutenant Governor Bill Bolling for ruling the amendment germane (click links for contact information), the 20 senators and 55 delegates who voted for the amendment (click links for names), national pro-life organizations for their assistance, such as the Susan B. Anthony List, and local pro-life groups — especially the Virginia Catholic Conference, the Virginia Society for Human Life, and the Virginia Assembly of Independent Baptists — for joining us in our advocacy on this amendment at Mr. Jefferson's capitol yesterday.

Conscience and life were protected today. Please thank God first, but secondly those above who deserve our gratitude for their principled stand for life. The complete details and inside story tomorrow.

 

Support Governor McDonnell's Pro-Life Amendment!

Last week Governor Bob McDonnell handed down a pro-life amendment that The Family Foundation had been strongly urging. This amendment prohibits health insurance plans that are part of federal health insurance exchanges required by Obamacare from covering abortion services except in cases of rape, incest and life of the mother. The amendment is to HB 1900 and SB 921, bills regarding state oversight of health exchanges. Without the governor's amendment, pro-life citizens opposed to abortion will be mandated to fund this unethical destruction of human life. The amendment simply continues what has been state law for the proposed exchanges since 2011 when the General Assembly adopted a similar amendment. Because the state has chosen not to create a state exchange but instead force the federal government to do so, the amendment is necessary. Twenty states have already taken this step and more are considering it. Despite the rhetoric of the abortion industry, private insurers can continue to offer elective abortion plans outside the exchanges if they wish.

Now the General Assembly must accept Governor McDonnell's amendment at tomorrow's Reconvened Session (i.e, the "Veto Session") where it considers amendments and vetoes by the governor. While we are confident that the House of Delegates will adopt the amendment, the 20-20 Senate is questionable.

So that is really where the battle lies. Over the last several days we have mobilized citizens across Virginia to contact their legislators — especially key senators — to make sure they know the citizens of Virginia want this amendment passed.

Please contact your delegate and senator and urge them to support Governor McDonnell's amendment to HB 1900 and SB 921. If you are not sure who they are, click here to find out. Then, or if you already know who they are, click here to look up your delegate's contact information and here to look up your senator's contact information.

Then contact the following key senators and urge them to vote YES on this important amendment as well:

Senator Harry Blevins: 757-546-2435 district14@senate.virginia.gov

Senator John Watkins: 804-379-2063 district10@senate.virginia.gov

Senator Charles Colgan: 703-368-0300 district29@senate.virginia.gov

Senator Phil Puckett: 276-979-8181 district38@senate.virginia.gov

Senator Frank Wagner: 757-671-2250 district07@senate.virginia.gov

Governor McDonnell Signs Into Law Religious Liberty, Parental Rights, Other TFF Priority Bills!

Governor Bob McDonnell on Monday signed several Family Foundation priority bills into law! One set of bills he signed comprised our top legislative priority in 2013. They protect the freedom of association and religious liberty rights of student groups on Virginia public college campuses. These bills, patroned by Senator Mark Obenshain (R-26, Harrisonburg) and Delegate Todd Gilbert (R-15, Woodstock), simply ensure that student groups can set their own criteria for membership and leadership and not be discriminated against simply because a university doesn't like the content of their speech. The bills include language ensuring that the groups cannot violate state or federal discrimination laws regarding race, religion, etc.

The governor also signed bills that affirm that parental rights are fundamental. The bills, patroned by Senator Bryce Reeves (R-17, Fredericksburg) and Delegate Brenda Pogge (R-96, Yorktown), elevate the common law understanding of parental rights in place in Virginia for 400 years to that of a fundamental right. While no rights are absolute, courts give special deference to fundamental rights, requiring the state's "compelling interest" to intervene. This is especially important since 24 other state courts have reduced parental rights to "ordinary" — a standard more easily trumped by government authorities that attempt to interpose themselves in family decisions. Distractors continue to make claims about the potential impact of this new law that are simply not accurate. The state's authority to protect children who need intervention doesn't change, nor will parents be able to disrupt public education.

In addition, Governor McDonnell signed into law HB 1871, patroned by Delegate Jennifer McClellan (D-71, Richmond), defining bullying in Virginia code. This will ensure that state education officials have clear guidance as they develop policies relating to the growing problem of bullying that needs to be addressed in an effective and reasonable manner. Having a clear definition of bullying will equip school leaders to develop the most effective strategies to keep children safe and produce an environment conducive to learning. The bill includes First Amendment protections to ensure that students cannot be punished for simply voicing an opinion that is unpopular.

Finally, the governor submitted clarifying amendments to another Family Foundation priority, a bill that removes a serious barrier to helping families in crisis limit the amount of government intrusion while providing opportunity for reunification. More and more, families are relying on close relatives to help take care of their children during a crisis, using what is called kinship care. But these relatives often face barriers when trying to enroll the children in their local school, as some school divisions require the relative caregiver to obtain legal custody of the child before enrollment is possible, which requires the action of a court. SB 960, patroned by Senator George Barker (D-39, Alexandria), allows for the use of a power of attorney, better enabling families to work together through a crisis. Once the governor's amendments are adopted, he will sign the bill into law.

We appreciate the Governor McDonnell's actions on all of these important bills. You can e-mail him to thank him for his support by clicking here.

 

Parents Rights Bill Clear Both Chambers, Goes To Governor To Be Signed Into Law

Yesterday, after weeks of numerous twists and turns and more edits and amendments than the Declaration of Independence, a simple two sentence bill guaranteeing parental rights cleared both chambers of the General Assembly by large majorities and are on their way to Governor Bob McDonnell to sign into law. Starting July 1, Virginia law will recognize that parents have a "fundamental right" to make "decisions concerning the upbringing, education and care" of their children. Short, simple and powerful.

The legislation, HB 1642 and SB 908, patroned by Delegate Brenda Pogge (R-96, James City County) and Senator Bryce Reeves (R-17, Spotsylvania), respectively, elevates the common law understanding of parental rights in place in Virginia for 400 years to that of a fundamental right. What’s in a word? Plenty. While no rights are absolute, courts give special deference to fundamental rights, requiring the state’s "compelling interest" to intervene.

These bills also codify the essence of the L.F. v. Breit Virginia Supreme Court decision in January that upheld parental rights. That’s especially important since 24 other state courts have reduced parental rights to "ordinary" — a standard more easily trumped by government authorities that attempt to interpose themselves in family decisions.

Even as the bills were being debated in recent days, evidence of the need for protecting parental rights came to light when we learned that the Obama administration is arguing in a federal court that parents do not have a fundamental right to home school their children (see TheGospelCoalition.org)!

We thank Delegate Pogge and Senator Reeves for their patience and skillful navigation through the often Byzantine legislative process, while negotiating over several amendments but not giving ground on the goal of reasserting the foundational principle parents by nature have to raise their children. We also appreciate the effort of the Home School Legal Defense Association who brought this bill to the General Assembly and worked tirelessly over the past several weeks to see it to completion.

Thank you for contacting your senators and delegates each time when called upon these last six weeks. In the end, many delegates and senators responded to the common sense of these bills as reflected in their constituents' beliefs.

Click here to thank Delegate Pogge and click here to thank Senator Reeves.

Student Rights Bill Goes To Governor!

The House of Delegates yesterday 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 religious and political organizations will not be discriminated against because of their beliefs and values. The bill passed 73-27. The bill already passed the Senate, so it is now on its way to Governor Bob McDonnell for his signature, along with its House companion, HB 1617. Participating in groups and organizations with missions that match their religious or political beliefs is a longstanding tradition for college students. Unfortunately, in the name of "tolerance," a few universities in Virginia have begun enacting so-called "all-comers" policies, which prevent these groups from being able to set criteria for members and leaders. Under these policies, student groups recognized by the university, receiving funding or using the facilities are prohibited from having any kind of requirement that members or leaders actually share the beliefs or believe in the mission of the group! Never mind that the funding comes from and facilities paid for their tuition, taxes and student fees.

Opponents to the legislation claimed that the bills allow student groups to "discriminate" using "taxpayer funding." Such a position implies that simply choosing to freely associate with people of similar ideas and beliefs is inherently discriminatory. Free association is a foundational constitutional principle but, as with other freedoms in recent years, have been reduced.

The House yesterday rejected an attempt on the floor to amend the bill with unnecessary language. Upon the governor's signature, Virginia will become only the second state in the nation to provide these protections for student groups.

Please e-mail Senator Obenshain to thank him for his leadership on this bill this year! His official Senate e-mail address is district26@senate.virginia.gov

Notice Those Gas Prices?

If you've filled up at the pump recently, you've noticed that it's costing a lot more. In fact, according to AAA, gas prices have risen 31 consecutive days. Unfortunately, if some members of the General Assembly have their way, the impact on your family is only just beginning. As we enter the final week of the 2013 session, the topic of funding transportation dominates. Currently, ten members of the legislature, five from each chamber, are meeting to work out a plan based on legislation introduced on behalf of Governor Bob McDonnell and several other proposals. If they can come to an agreement, the plan they concoct could be voted on very quickly, with little time for legislators or citizens to look at the details.

Some members of both parties want to hike the gas tax, either directly or through "indexing" it to inflation. The governor's proposal would eliminate the gas tax but replace the revenue with an increase in the sales tax. Other elements being discussed include giving local governments the authority to "raise revenue," i.e. raise your taxes, without having to do it through referenda. The price tag on the competing plans comes in somewhere between $800 and $900 million per year in increased funding for transportation, the majority of which comes from increased revenue.

While there is little doubt that transportation is an issue that needs addressing, we urge the General Assembly to keep in mind the devastating effect increased gas prices have had on Virginia's families and small businesses. Increasing that burden even more during a time where some are predicting $5 a gallon gas prices by the end of the year could have a disastrous effect on Virginians. We recognize that there are serious needs in the area of transportation and are hopeful a plan can be agreed to, but it cannot unduly increase the financial burden on our struggling families.

Please contact your Senator (here) and your Delegate (here) and urge them to not increase your taxes in the transportation plan!

Homosexual Activists Go On Offensive Against Conservative Legislator

Last week we reported that a House General Laws sub-committee defeated legislation that would have elevated sexual behavior to a protected class, led by the action of Delegate Todd Gilbert (R-15, Woodstock). Since then, the usual alliance of media and homosexual activists have ridiculed Delegate Gilbert for his stand. In the sub-committee meeting, Delegate Gilbert pointed out that no evidence of discrimination has been presented in the several years this bill has been introduced. Such a factual statement flies in the face of the illusion of discrimination that fear-mongering groups create with their claims. Proponents of the bill challenged Delegate Gilbert's statement by saying people are unwilling to come forward since they don't have legal protections, but their argument is nonsense. Equality Virginia for years, through its website and other means, has elicited people who believe they've been discriminated against. Yet no one has come forward to the sub-committee.

Let's be honest. If people had actual evidence of discrimination they would be filing lawsuits and holding press conferences every day, with the media falling all over themselves to "prove" the need for the law.

Even some of those who testified in sub-committee in favor of the bill admitted that they had moved to Virginia because of professional opportunities not available to them in other states! Clearly, they weren't so worried about being discriminated against that it kept them from relocating to Virginia.

Click here to view a video of the sub-committee.

Now, though, Delegate Gilbert has also been targeted for carrying HB 1617, the Student Group Protection Act, a Family Foundation priority, which simply ensures the free association rights of students on public college campuses. Incredibly, homosexual activists are claiming that the bill promotes discrimination! The bill already has passed both the House and Senate with bipartisan support and is on its way to Governor Bob McDonnell for his signature.

Delegate Gilbert has led on these and other issues in the General Assembly and, as a result, is being targeted by the secular left. We hope you will take a moment and e-mail your thanks to Delegate Gilbert for his strong stand this year. His official House e-mail address is: DelTGilbert@house.virginia.gov.

A Positive Proposal On Transportation

Much of the discussion and attention of this year's legislative session thus far has been surrounding how to fund transportation. Governor Bob McDonnell initiated the discussion with a bold plan to be the first state in the nation to eliminate the archaic gas tax and replace that revenue with numerous other tax and fee changes. Yesterday, Senator Steve Newman (R-23, Forest) introduced a plan that would replace the gas tax with a sales tax of 5.5 percent on gas, but keep the state sales tax at 5 percent. This proposal is a very positive development in the debate surrounding how to fund transportation.

To this point, we have been monitoring the various proposals and debates in committee, knowing that the initial offers from Governor McDonnell and others would not be the final package. Unfortunately, liberals in Richmond have their own plans — and they include massive tax hikes in the billions of dollars that would cripple our economy and rip money from our families, already paying at least $3.60 a gallon for gas in some parts of the state, during some of the most challenging economic times we've ever faced.

Senator Newman's plan offers legislators an opportunity to address the needs of transportation — and there are needs — without increasing the tax burden on Virginia families. There is no doubt that the General Assembly has an opportunity this year to address an issue that has been challenging our elected officials for years. Senator Newman's plan is the best proposal we've seen at this point.

The House and Senate will vote on various plans, have more committee meetings, amendments, floor surprises and, ultimately, conference committee process that will change its content faster than the twists in an Albermarle County back road. So no one knows exactly what the outcome will be until the final days of session. We do know that we will oppose any plan that taxes Virginia families' hard earned income and that Senator Newman's plan has provided a new, improved platform from which to continue the discussion.

White House Policy Mandating School Sports For Disabled At Odds With Left's Position On Abortion Funding For Disabled Unborn

Governor Bob McDonnell recently signed an executive order that seeks to promote the employment of disabled citizens. It reads in part:

It is the policy of the Commonwealth to encourage and enable persons with disabilities, including our wounded soldiers, to participate fully and equally in the social and economic life of the Commonwealth and to engage in remunerative employment.

Furthermore, the U.S. Department of Education has recently declared that students with disabilities also have a civil right to play sports in school. Schools now will be required to either make adjustments to allow for disabled students to join their sports teams or provide alternative, parallel options.

Kareem Dale, a White House official who deals with the administration's policies towards the disabled, said. "We know that participation in extracurricular activities can lead to a host of really good, positive outcomes both inside and outside of the classroom."

Casey Followay, who competes in track races in a wheelchair, told the Associated Press that this is "going to give me the chance to compete against kids at my level." It is wonderful that Americans with disabilities are being given more opportunities to engage in their communities.

However, why is it that homeschool students are being denied this same "civil right" of playing on a sports team? If a school can work out the logistics to allow wheelchair-bound students to compete on a track team, allowing a homeschooled student to do the same should not be very difficult. If playing sports is a civil right for one group, should that not be the case for everyone? For the past three years, Virginia lawmakers have continued to deny homeschoolers this very right by voting down what is commonly referred to as the "Tebow Bill." This year, we are urging legislators to realize this hypocrisy and extend the right to be on a sports team to homeschooled students by finally passing HB 1442. If it's not right to keep disabled students from participating, it simply does not make sense to discriminate against someone simply because they are homeschooled.

To extend the argument even further, it also does not make sense to claim that a person has a civil right to play sports and to hold a job, but no right to live. Currently, Virginia taxpayers help to fund the abortions of disabled children. But our friends on the left do not think that matters very much; because now, if that child is lucky enough to survive his or her mother's pregnancy, that child can join a school sports team!

That "logic" is baffling and it unfortunately played out at the General Assembly earlier this session when the Senate Education and Health Committee defeated SB 826 on an 8-7 vote. That bill sought to end state funding for those abortions. Its passage would have been one step towards granting disabled children the most important civil right: the right to life.

Admin's note: This blog post was written by Maggie McKneely, our 2013 General Assembly college intern.  

Sexual Orientation Bill Passes Senate Committee

In a surprise vote Monday afternoon, the Senate General Laws Committee, by a vote of 8-7, reported SB 701 to the full Senate. This bill would add sexual orientation to the state's hiring policy of non-discrimination. A similar bill died in the same committee last year, but Senator Jill Vogel (R-27, Winchester) changed her vote. If this bill is successful, it would be the first time in Virginia history that sexual orientation would be elevated to a protected class in the law. A vote is likely by the end of the week.

Please contact your senator today and urge him or her to vote NO on SB 701 when it comes up for a vote in the full Senate.

Debates over similar legislation during the last several legislative sessions revealed no evidence of widespread discrimination. In fact, according to The Washington Post, there are "thousands of homosexuals" working in state government. Both previous governors, Mark Warner and Tim Kaine, signed executive orders against discrimination, and Governor Bob McDonnell issued an executive directive stating that his administration will not discriminate against homosexuals. In fact, since 1992, a span of 18 years, an allegation of discrimination has taken place at a rate of just over one per year, and few, if any, have been found to be true discrimination.

This is a solution in search of a problem.

In addition, SB 701 will open the Commonwealth of Virginia to costly litigation by people who fail to qualify for employment but sue the state based on this proposal. SB 701 would open private businesses and faith-based entities to similar litigation. The words of an Equality Virginia lobbyist reveal the true intent of the legislation: she stated that voting for the bill that would add sexual orientation to the state government hiring policy was a "baby step."

A baby step toward what? In response, we presented the committee with the argument that passing the legislation is a "baby step" toward requiring private businesses, and faith-based ministries that receive state funding, to hire homosexuals. This has already happened in other states, including our neighbor Maryland.

Elevating sexual orientation to a protected class, despite the fact that homosexuality is not immutable, would create an entirely new level of protection — protection based on one's sexual behavior. Senators need to hear from you today!

Virginia Recognized For Pro-Life Laws: Ranked No.10 In Country, Named "All Star" State

Americans United for Life, one of the nation's most preeminent pro-life organizations,  today announced that it has ranked Virginia as the 10th most pro-life state in the nation, and recognized it as an "All Star" state for passage of important pro-life legislation. Family Foundation of Virginia President Victoria Cobb said:

A long time goal of The Family Foundation is to make Virginia the most pro-life state in the nation. We are honored by AUL's recognition, but the thanks goes to voters who continue to send pro-life legislators to Richmond, and pro-life elected officials who stand for the unborn despite hysterical and vulgar attacks from abortion industry supporters. We have advanced the cause of life in recent years, but we have a long way to go. We will continue to fight for the pro-life cause until Virginia is safe for every unborn child.

According to AUL, Virginia was recognized as an "All Star" state because:

Virginia enacted an ultrasound requirement that is based, in substantial part, on AUL’s model language. Recognizing that the performance of an ultrasound is the "gold standard" of patient care, the measure requires the performance of an ultrasound before an abortion and that the woman be given an opportunity to view the ultrasound and have it explained to her.

In 2012, with the approval of comprehensive health and safety standards for abortion clinics, Virginia continued progress toward protecting women from the substandard conditions and practices that are all-too-common at some abortion clinics. The state Board of Health, with input and support from AUL, had been working on the standards since 2011, when the enabling legislation was signed into law by Governor Bob McDonnell.

Finally, with the assistance of AUL, Virginia enacted a measure permitting a family to bring a wrongful death (civil) action in the death of an unborn child. Virginia joined 39 other states that already permitted such lawsuits.

Today, the Senate Education and Health Committee rejected attempts to repeal both the abortion center safety and ultrasound law, and a Health, Welfare and Institutions subcommittee defeated a repeal of abortion center safety. Cobb said:

Protecting these important women's rights laws and ensuring the health and safety of Virginians should be paramount. We applaud the majority of the Senate Education and Health committee and the members of the HWI subcommittee that, today, rejected bills that would have reversed these advances.

The full text of AUL's announcement can be found here.

Does Religious Freedom Matter Anymore?

On this date in 1786, the Virginia General Assembly enacted one of the most important initiatives in our nation's history — the Virginia Statue for Religious Freedom. Today, Governor Bob McDonnell issued a proclamation celebrating the Statute and Senator Bill Stanley (R-20, Moneta) and Delegate Chris Peace (R-97, Hanover) gave speeches in their respective chambers to bring attention to this day. This amendment to our state constitution was the foundation for our First Freedom as defined in the U.S. Constitution a few years later. Drafted by Thomas Jefferson — it is one of the three accomplishments for which he wanted to be remembered and engraved on his tombstone; the others being author of the Declaration of Independence and founder of the University of Virginia — the Statute recognizes that our right to exercise our faith

. . . can be directed only by reason and conviction, not by force or violence; and, therefore, all men are equally entitled to the free exercise of religion, according to the dictates of conscience.

It adds:

No man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place, or ministry whatsoever, nor shall be enforced, restrained, molested, or burthened in his body or goods, nor shall otherwise suffer on account of his religious opinions or belief; but all men shall be free to profess and by argument to maintain their opinions in matters of religion, and the same shall in nowise diminish, enlarge, or affect their civil capacities.

As attacks on the religious liberty of Americans continue to grow, it is important to remember the real meaning of the term and take the opportunity to educate our friends and neighbors who may be buying into some of the secular left’s notion of "separation of church and state." For example, we often call our First Freedom a "constitutional right to religious freedom," but the reality is that this freedom comes from God and is simply to be protected by the constitution; it doesn't come from our constitution.

It is important to note that we have the freedom to be involved in "civil capacities" and express our "opinions in matters of religion" in these capacities. This is particularly important to remember as the radical secular left in Virginia has attacked us for our support of pro-life and pro-family legislation as a violation of "separation," something that flies in the face not just of the Statute but over 230 years of American history. This is not only our right, it's our duty.

This year, we are supporting initiatives that we hope will restore the real meaning of Jefferson's Statute. One, an amendment to the state constitution by Senator Stanley — working with Senator Bill Carrico (R-40, Galax) — would seek to reestablish our rights as citizens to pray at public government meetings, a longstanding tradition that the secular left has sought to stop, successfully in many cases, throughout Virginia.

Of course, one major threat to the freedom of all Americans is the federal government's mandate that citizens fund the birth control of others through President Obama's health insurance scheme, a mandate that is currently being challenged in nearly 30 lawsuits across the nation. While the secular left and abortion industry call this mandate about "access" to birth control, the truth is that it requires a redefinition of the word "access" to mean "paid for by somebody else at the expense of their freedom of conscience."

Proposed Constitutional Amendments Killed Quickly In House Sub-Committee

In a kind odd of legislative twin-killing, the House Privileges and Elections Sub-Committee on Constitutional Amendments offed two proposed state constitutional amendments this morning. Governor Bob McDonnell's proposal to restore voting rights to certain felons, HJ 539, carried by Delegate Greg Habeeb (R-8, Salem), took the first hit, even with Ken Cuccinelli, making a rare Attorney General witness appearance before a sub-committee, in favor. The first hint that the resolution was going down, before a packed General Assembly Building Fourth Floor West Conference Room, with interested persons spilling well out into the hallway, was when the sub-committee rolled all proposed resolutions on the subject, including Delegate Habeeb's, into HJ 535, patroned by Democrat Delegate Charniele Herring of Alexandria — saving the large Republican majority from killing a Republican governor's legislation. ("Rolling" is a consolidation of similar bills into another existing bill to streamline a committee's meeting agenda.)

In this case, Delegate Herring's version became the resolution of record and, therefore, as the third ranking House Democrat, much more favorable to the sword. It died on a 6-1 vote to "pass by indefinitely" with one of the two sub-committee Democrats (Delegate Johnny Joannou of Portsmouth) voting with the GOP members. Sources indicate that many Republicans not only had serious policy questions about the content of the proposal, but took exception to a lack of notification by the governor — they heard about it for the first time Wednesday night during his State of the Commonwealth Address.

HJ 665, meant to repeal Virginia's Marriage Amendment, and patroned by Delegate Scott Surovell (D-44, Fairfax), met a similar fate, but for different reasons. On policy, the conservative sub-committee completely disagreed with Delegate Surovell's rationale, no amount of time for discussion would've mattered, and there was no need for parliamentary disguises. The people have spoken on this one and at least three-quarters of the states are in agreement — trying to portray maintaining the definition of traditional marriage as "extreme" is disingenuous at best. The sword fell swiftly via voice vote with only Democrat Algie Howell of Norfolk opposing the motion to pass by indefinitely.