Centerville

Lobby Day Review: Big Numbers Of Values Voters Show Up At The Capitol Today!

This was a strange one: Lobby Day and I had nary a thing to do with it. My first two sessions, 2006 and 2007, I was knee deep in planning and executing the event. Last year, not so much. This year, virtually nada. That's what happens when you're trying to put coalitions together in support of various bills. Somebody had to mind the store and work on our legislative initiatives, research and make lawmaker contacts. Still, it's pretty impressive to see more than 250 people, with yellow "I Vote Values" stickers enter Mr. Jefferson's capitol. More people than last year, even. Who said values voters no longer matter? Here's how the day went:

More than 250 people from around the commonwealth met in the capital city today to support traditional values in Virginia this legislative season.  They were energized by elected officials such as Lieutenant Governor Bill Bolling, Senator Ken Cuccinelli (R-37, Centerville), and Delegate Bill Carrico (R-5, Independence), who spoke of the opportunities that currently exist to promote fundamental rights, such as chaplains being allowed to pray "in Jesus name," as well as seeing to it that Planned Parenthood doesn't continue to receive taxpayer funds.

These encouraging messages were followed by keynote speaker, Jordan Lorence, Senior Counsel at the Alliance Defense Fund, who affirmed the fact that by championing traditional values one also is championing the ideas believed in and sacrificed for by the constitutional framers. Attendees also heard from Adam Schaeffer (TQ Radio interview here) of the CATO Institute who addressed education freedom after also addressing the House Education Committee earlier in the morning.

After hearing from this great line up, citizens made their way to the Capitol where they observed both legislative bodies in action. While in the galleries and watching in other rooms they were introduced in the House of Delegates by Delegate Kenneth Alexander (D-89, Norfolk), who also is the new chairman of the Legislative Black Caucus, and in the Senate, by Senator Jill Vogel (R-27, Winchester).

Equipped and encouraged, these hundreds of grassroots conservative activists then went in small groups and met personally with more than half of the legislators in the General Assembly. Because of their efforts to make their voices heard we know that we will see victories in this year's General Assembly, and we are thankful for their time and commitment to traditional values.

Although you may not have been able to join us today, if you are reading this, you will have another opportunity to participate in a Family Foundation Lobby Day — on February 5 we will have a Virtual Lobby Day when we use the power of the Internet to promote our message. Continue to check back here and future e-mail alerts for more details as we make staying connected to your government and elected officials as easy as logging on and clicking a mouse. It may be short session, but we have a lot planned, both in person and online to make a significant impact on our elected officials. 

Speaking of which, pay close attention to our e-mail alerts throughout the session and be prepared to call, write and e-mail your legislators to remind them that Virginia is and should remain a great place to raise a family.

Family Foundation's 2009 Legislative Agenda: Budget Transparency

Yesterday, we posted information about our efforts to defund Planned Parenthood, and abortion in Virginia, through grants it receives through the state budget. One of the challenges we face is actually finding the expenditures. You see, there isn't a line item in the budget that says "Planned Parenthood." The money is distributed by local health clinics from money appropriated to the Department of Health. At least the money we know about. An example of the difficulty in finding the truth came just last year when we sent Freedom of Information Act letters to every school board in Virginia concerning contracts with Planned Parenthood. The City of Richmond schools responded that they had no contract with Planned Parenthood but, just days later, we learned from Planned Parenthood that they were holding workshops in Richmond City Schools. Who is paying for this has yet to be determined, but we're working on it.

Several years ago The Family Foundation introduced legislation that was an attempt at making state budget expenditures more available to citizens. The legislation, sponsored by Senator Walter Stosch (R-12, Glen Allen), resulted in Commonwealth Datapoint (click here), a Web site where one can look through every check written by the state.

But plan on spending a lot of time, because while everything is there, it is about as user-friendly as Windows Vista. 

Last year, Senators Ken Cuccinelli (R-37, Centerville) and Chap Petersen (D-34, Fairfax) and Delegate Ben Cline (R-24, Amherst) introduced legislation that would make the budget Web site more user-friendly, including a Google-like search engine. That legislation was killed in committe in both the House and Senate. Senator Edd Houck (D-17, Spotsylvania), a member of the Finance Committee, was particularly offended by the idea that taxpayers should have the right to hold him accountable for budget decisions. Similar legislation will be introduced again this year by those same legislators.

As the Commonwealth now deals with a spending surplus of at least $4 billion, finding where we can save money is extraordinarily important.  Most legislators will tell you that there isn't much waste in state government or any more "trimming of the edges" that can be done. While it would be great to take their word for it, the fact that we spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on Planned Parenthood gives us doubt.

The way to righting this large ship of state begins here: It cannot be done without knowing exactly where and how government spends our hard-earned money; it cannot be done if we continue to sit in darkness while extreme organizations, such as Planned Parenthood, are provided with taxpayer bailouts.

In short, online budget transparency is a just concept of open and good government; of sunshine; of the people having oversight of their government, as the Founders intended. This year's legislative battle will be one of the bureaucrats and politicians who put power (via the purse) over the people's right to know.

Who will win? Rather, who has the will to win?

Choose Life, Virginia!

One thing you can count on in the commonwealth is that when you go to the DMV to register your vehicle there will be a multitude of options available to you as to what kind of license plate you would like to purchase. We've got every type, ranging from whether you're a "Parrothead" to which state college you root for. But there is one we don't have.  We don't have one that says, "Choose Life." It's certainly not because it hasn't been tried. Legislation actually made it through the General Assembly to support such a plate in 2003, but ultimately met it's demise through the veto pen of then-Governor Mark Warner. But not to worry, it's back! This coming legislative session, with the support of The Richmond Coalition for Life, Senator Ken Cuccinelli (R-37, Centerville) will patron SB 801. Should the bill pass and be signed into law, it will provide for a "Choose Life" revenue-generating license plate, with funds raised going to "not-for-profit agencies . . . that provide counseling and other services intended to meet the needs of expectant mothers who are committed to placing their children for adoption." Lets see if certain special interest groups and quarters within the General Assembly really mean what they say about "choice," "safe, legal and rare," and providing funding for adoption. (For a commentary, see Cogito, Ergo Blog, here.)

If you would like to assist in seeing this bill succeed, please do the following:

  1. Sign the online petition supporting the Choose Life license plate legislation (click here).
  2. The DMV requires a significant number of pre-paid customers before they will produce the Choose Life license plates. Please support this effort by printing and submitting the DMV Choose Life license plate pre-application form, found by clicking here. Please read and follow the instructions on the form carefully. If the legislation is not signed into law, your application fee will be returned.
  3. Visit www.vachoose-life.org to learn about other ways to take action.

Should you have further questions concerning this process or how you can support this effort, please don't hesitate to contact Brian Mazanec of the Fairfax Family Forum (see its commentary, here) at brianmazanec@gmail.com.

Help encourage Virginia to "Choose Life" and provide a new mechanism to generate funds for adoption providing non-profits!