General Assembly

Unprecedented Action: McAuliffe Rejects Day Of Prayer Permit In Capitol Square

For as far back as anyone can remember, well over a decade at least, many of us who work in downtown Richmond have taken part in the National Day of Prayer service on the grounds of the Mr. Jefferson's Capitol. It is always held at noon, as are the overwhelming majority of services nationwide, so that office workers can participate during the lunch hour. That was the case anyway, until this year. We've just learned that for the first time ever, a governor's administration has declined Day of Prayer organizers the noon hour for the service, saying that it is a time when people eat their lunch on capitol grounds.

No, really, that's what they said. Not only is that a remarkable statement in and of itself, but the part of Capitol Square used for the service — the Bell Tower — is not in the area brown baggers use for lunch as the park benches are on the main walk way through the middle of the square.

A photo earlier today shows that, despite the pleasant weather, lunch eaters in Capitol Square aren't all that numerous.

While the administration has been nice enough to offer the grounds for a service at 1:00, the decision sends the clear message that religious Virginians are going to continue to be treated as second class citizens by this administration. This should come as no surprise in the aftermath of Governor McAuliffe's vetoes of two common sense bills concerning religious liberty passed overwhelmingly by the General Assembly. Surely, in only four short months, no governor in Virginia history has displayed such disdain for religious expression.

As for the administration's concern for people who eat their lunch at noon on the capitol's grounds, they certainly can do so while a relatively small group of folks gather for a Day of Prayer service. The grounds are, after all, not very small. There's not been a problem in the past, so why the sudden change? Day of Prayer organizers were told that the policy regarding the noon hour has been in place for some time but that they had been "grandfathered in" in recent years, but not anymore. We are sending a Freedom of Information Act request to the Department of General Services to find out just when this policy was put in effect, by whom, and why.

Regardless of this administration's hostility toward faith, we will continue to fight for our religious liberty. It is foolish if it believes its childish antics are going to stop prayer.

Pass A Clean Budget! Sign The Petition.

As was predicted for weeks, the General Assembly was not be able to come to an agreement on a state budget prior to leaving Richmond on Saturday. Governor Terry McAuliffe and a majority of senators have made adopting a budget contingent on expanding Obamacare, putting Virginia's economic well-being at risk. Already, far-left organizations like moveon.org are spending millions of dollars to rhetorically assault legislators taking a stand against Obamacare. We need to counter the Left's efforts by doing all we can to stand with those lawmakers who are standing for us!

One simple way you can make your voice heard is by signing the petition at www.passthebudgetterry.com/.

Even many of those who support the expansion of Obamacare, such as the Virginia Chamber of Commerce, have urged the governor and senate to decouple the budget from that debate. Holding state government, local governments, schools and, more importantly, the taxpayers of Virginia hostage because they know they don't have the votes to expand the failure that is Obamacare places an already fragile economy in peril.

Sixty-four members of the House of Delegates and 17 members of the Virginia Senate rejected the expansion of Obamacare. They need to know that we stand with them! Please sign the petition at www.passthebudgetterry.com/ so that they know you want a clean budget with no expansion of Obamacare.

It's unfortunate, but we are seeing more and more of Washington, D.C. style politics coming to Virginia. If the Left can't win the debate with facts and reason — which aren't on its side — it resorts to politically motivated scare tactics and rhetorical bludgeoning. Those who understand the dire straits our Republic is in because of our ever growing $17 trillion debt are painted as "uncaring" and not in favor of health care for those who are disadvantaged! The truth is that Medicaid is the least effective way of providing care to those in need and Obamacare has prevented us from having a real debate over how to fix our health care system.

The first step is to sign the petition. We are currently planning other ways by which you'll be able to make your voice heard regarding this important issue. Stay tuned for more details in the coming days!

Urge Governor To Protect Student Free Speech Rights!

The General Assembly recently passed SB 236, a priority for The Family Foundation that protects the rights of public school students to express their faith at various school events. The House of Delegates passed the bill by a vote of 64-34.  Earlier this session the bill passed the Virginia Senate 20-18. The bill is now awaiting action by Governor Terry McAuliffe. Unfortunately, the governor has indicated that he is likely to veto this reasonable legislation that simply ensures that religious speech is treated by our public schools exactly like any other type of speech.

Please contact Governor McAuliffe and urge him to sign SB 236, protecting the free speech rights of public school students!

Hostility to simply expressing one’s faith in the public square is becoming more and more prevalent. A student in our public schools shouldn’t be treated as a second class citizen simply because their viewpoint is motivated by their faith, regardless of what faith perspective they have. And while some opponents to the bill argue that such speech is already protected, they also argue that allowing students to express their faith could be seen as "coercive" and "offensive" to those who don’t share that faith. In such cases, the government is supposed to be "neutral," but those who oppose bills like SB 236 desire no such neutrality. They desire silencing of faith perspectives and adherence to secular dogma.

Recently, my piece explaining why SB 236 is necessary and what it actually does appeared in The Norfolk Virginian-Pilot.

The bill, patroned by Senator Bill Carrico (R-40, Galax), is based on federal court precedent and existing law in at least two other states. Opposition comes primarily from the ACLU and the education establishment.

Please contact Governor McAuliffe and urge him to sign SB 236, protecting the free speech rights of public school students!

Will Session End On Time?

When the House of Delegates and Senate passed their respective budgets several days ago, the most glaring difference between the two, as anticipated, was the two chambers' approaches to Medicaid expansion. To wit, Obamacare in Virginia. The Senate included expanding Obamacare in its budget despite agreement last year with the House that the issue would be kept separate from the budget so it wouldn't become a stumbling block to passing a future budget. The agreement consisted of the creation of the Medicaid Innovation and Reform Commission, which has the authority to make recommendations to the General Assembly concerning expansion. Its charter is to formulate necessary reforms for the abuse- and fraud-ridden program that state and federal governments must accept before Medicaid expansion gets anywhere near a floor vote for approval.

MIRC has yet, after almost a year's work, to draft its recommendations for reform. Instead, it continued its efforts for another year. Despite last year's agreement and MIRC's continuation, three Senate Republicans — John WatkinsWalter Stosch and Emmett Hanger — joined all 20 Democrats to passing the Senate budget with Medicaid expansion in it. The Senate and Governor Terry McAuliffe want to backtrack on last year's arrangement and want Obamacare expanded immediately.

To emphasize its position, House Republicans offered a budget floor amendment, modeled after the Senate expansion plan. It promptly went down 67-32. House Republicans have maintained that it would be irresponsible to expand Obamacare because future costs would be so great that it could cripple the state budget.

They also argue that the program is wrought with inefficiency and fraud and have proposed a first-ever outside audit before any expansion can take place. By example, former Governor Tim Kaine refused a VDOT audit for his four years and closed rest stops and other unnecessary cuts. After he left office, the audit House Republicans sought finally took place and revealed more than $1 billion in waste. There's no telling how much waste an audit of Medicaid would uncover since it is much larger than VDOT — about 21 percent of Virginia's budget and growing fast.

Most insiders in Richmond believe that the battle over Obamacare expansion will leave the state without a budget well into spring, if not longer. A new budget must be adopted by June 30 or state government could theoretically "shut down" July 1. Governor McAuliffe has stated that he intends to veto any budget sent to him that does not include Obamcare expansion and willingly shut down state government in order to get his way — not this session's much referenced, bipartisan-and-honor-your-agreements buzz phrase, "Virginia Way." That means police and fire departments without funding, teachers without pay and roads unpaved, among other disruptions.

A few days after the House passed its budget, reports surfaced that that Governor McAuliffe threatened vetoes of legislators' unrelated bills if they didn't go along with expansion,  something his office quickly denied. But delegates took to the floor later to recount the governor's bullying tactics and threats.

The House and Senate remain in conference in an attempt to settle their budget differences. But if conferees cannot come up with a solution before March 8, the General Assembly will have to adjourn without a budget — an unprecedented scenario that is growing more likely by the hour during this last week of session. Also, should a budget not pass, or a budget pass without the continuation of the MIRC, some believe that the governor will unilaterally expand Obamacare. That action could result in litigation, leaving it up to Attorney General Mark Herring to choose sides on the issue.

If it all sounds like Washington style politics and not "The Virginia Way," you're right. It's what many predicted during the campaign if Governor McAuliffe was elected. Be prepared to watch this battle go on well into the spring, and beyond.

Virginia, and "The Virginia Way," isn't for shutdowns. But it may come to that. 

Vital Vote Tomorrow To Prevent VDOT Abuse Of Virginia’s Property Rights Amendment!

Your urgent action is needed! Yet another amendment to our state constitution is under threat!

In 2012, after eight long years of inaction, the General Assembly passed, and 75 percent of Virginians ratified, an amendment to the Virginia Constitution to prevent eminent domain abuse. Now, VDOT has found a way around the fundamental right of property ownership enshrined in constitutional law!

A key House sub-committee tomorrow afternoon will consider SB 194, a bill to prevent VDOT from practicing in certain cases a process called inverse condemnation, which it has found to be a back door way to take property without just compensation to the owners. Doing so amounts to a backdoor subsidization for VDOT from already stressed Virginians whose taxes were raised last year to pay for new roads.

The bill is patroned by Senator Dick Black (R-13, Leesburg). For more information on how VDOT practices this shameful tactic to cheat people out of their land, see a blog post I wrote here. To understand the long train of abuses by VDOT on Virginia taxpayers and property owners, and to see a video of a VDOT official lobbying the General Assembly against your rights while being paid by your tax dollars, please click here.

Please click here to contact members of the House Courts of Justice Civil Law Sub-Committee and urge them to vote YES on SB 194 Monday!

Hands Off My Home-Church-Business

Correcting The Left's Vocabulary: It's Really A War On Babies

The so-called "War On Women," as most contrivances from the Left, is more aversion to the truth than reality. That is to say, when it finds itself losing an issue among the public, it resorts to straw men, fallacy, fantasy, demonization and redefinition. As the great Walter Williams would say, let's look at. First, what war? Are women being killed, beaten or even imprisoned? To call a policy difference a war disrespects all those who wear the uniform, many of whom are women. Straw men, fallacy and demonization: Check.

Second, it degrades the very people they say they represent (as if all women think the same way): Fallacy: Double check; fantasy, check.

Third, and most important, it redefines the issue. Just as the Left has redefined the 6,000-year-old meaning of marriage, it has redefined war. War, of course, implies death. Yet, who dies during an abortion? The baby! Redefinition: Checkmate!

Surely, a bit of a woman's soul dies as well, as women who have come to regret their abortions universally testify. That is undeniable, but a different story, and one the abortion industry won't ever tell or address. Ignore rather than redefine. Ignore: add to the list.

How about irony? This really comes under fallacy, but let's be charitable. One statement you hear at pro-abortion rallies or during testimony at General Assembly committees is that "we need to follow the science," implying that conservatives are rubes who don't understand or believe in scientific evidence. Huh? Then why exactly is the Left against ultrasound bills? Oh . . . wait . . . oh! It's because the science proves that it is a living baby! Irony: Game, set and match.

Speaking of science, here's the truth about who this war is being waged on. To them — the unborn babies, some 16 million in the U.S. alone since the deplorable early 1970s Roe v Wade decision — there really is death and destruction, and the truth is spoken by a doctor of all people, someone who knows science:

BenCarson War On Babies

 

The real war is on babies. #WarOnBabies!

 

Senator Colgan Dissed By Fellow Dems On Abortion Vote

On a 22-18 bipartisan vote today, the Senate of Virginia defeated a bill that would have removed language protecting taxpayers from funding abortion from Virginia's law regarding Obamacare. The bill, SB 618, was patroned by Senator Mamie Locke (D-2, Hampton). At the same time, the Senate passed SB 617, also patroned by Senator Locke, a bill that would repeal the sonogram requirement in Virginia's Informed Consent Law, on a 21-20 vote, with Lt. Governor Ralph Northam casting the tie-breaking vote. Tie votes aren't always that straightforward and this was anything but, with a controversy that may have ramifications well beyond even this session, ripping at the already stressed traditional Senate collegiality due to the unprecedented mid-session power shift. What followed left experienced General Assembly watchers saying they thought they "had seen everything until today."

After lengthy debate the bill initially went down to defeat 22-18, with Republican John Watkins (R-10, Powhatan) voting with the pro-abortion side, while the pro-life side picked up three Democrats: Senators Charles Colgan and Phillip Puckett (D-29, Tazewell), both generally pro-life, as well as, surprisingly, Toddy Puller (D-36, Mount Vernon) — a reliable pro-abortion vote. 

The Puller vote shocked everyone and, accordingly, observers expected a motion for a reconsideration vote — a procedure that allows someone from the prevailing side to ask for another vote, done as a courtesy for someone who accidentally voted the opposite of his or her intention. It can only be done once per bill unless the chamber gives unanimous consent to suspend the rule. After a few more bills were voted on, Senator Puller made the motion. A one vote flip would preserve the defeat of the bill, so no one expected the vote board to flash what, in fact, shockingly became a 20-20 tie. 

As it turned out, Senator Colgan (D-29, Manassas) the senior member of the chamber, and its President Pro Tempore, accounted for the second flipped vote when he accidentally voted "yes," even though Republican Leader Tommy Norment (R-3, Williamsburg) briefly rose prior to the vote to remind senators which bill they were reconsidering. Before long the Senate was in recess with each side plotting its floor tactics. Senator Watkins, being on the prevailing side now, made a motion for the suspension of the rules in order for Senator Colgan — who, by all accounts, was visibly distressed by his mistake and asked for another chance — to vote his conscious.

The vote to suspend the rules was 37-1, with Senator Locke providing the solitary vote necessary to prevent the third vote which would have sunk her bill for good. But make no mistake: The entire pro-abortion Democrat bloc was against the motion, allowing Senator Locke, as the bill's patron, to take the hit in order for the other pro-abortion Democrats to affect the appearance of bipartisanship.

Senator Norment took the floor again. Some anticipated that he would take advantage of Senate rules to kill remaining Democrat bills on the calendar. That is, as today was "Crossover Day" (when all bills originating in the Senate and House must be dealt with by those respective chambers) bills that had not been on the floor for three days needed unanimous consent to get their final up and down votes, or automatically die. He told Democrats that was not the GOP plan, but reminded them in no uncertain terms of the unprecedented nature of their actions. Some took that as an implied threat. We shall see what, if anything, GOP senators have in mind. Some suggested that he should have used that leverage to get a new vote.

TFF President Victoria Cobb issued this statement:

The evidence continues to mount showing that liberals in Richmond are interested only in power and bludgeoning even their own members to deny their consciences. Make no mistake — there were more members of the Virginia Senate today that opposed both abortion bills than supported them. It was only by mistake that one passed. Clearly, among Senate Democrat leaders, orthodoxy to the abortion industry takes precedent over the consciences even of their own members.

SB 617 would remove Virginia's requirement that a woman receive an ultrasound and be offered the opportunity to view it prior to an abortion. SB 618 would have removed the "opt-out" language allowed by Obamacare that protects taxpayers from subsidizing abortion in Virginia's federal health care exchange.

 

 

With Control Of The Senate At Stake, Over The Top Wexton Ad May Cause Blowback For Dems

As control of the Virginia Senate continues to hang in the most precious of balances — Democrat Lynwood Lewis' lead dropped to nine votes over Republican Wayne Coleman earlier today during the 6th district special election's certification, which should trigger a recount (see Norfolk Virginian-Pilot) — a new controversy has emerged in 33rd Senate district special election (necessitated by the election of Attorney General-elect Mark Herring). There, Democrat Jennifer Wexton, who has a history of slash and burn campaign tactics, released a television ad comparing Tea Party members to rapists (see Washington Post). While it's shocking that a "tolerant" liberal would be so vile (yeah, right), Wexton may have done more damage to Democrat hopes than releasing an obnoxious ad that is nothing more than a typical campaign misstep. It may just blow up in her, and her party's, face.

First, it shows desperation in what should be a fairly safe Democrat district. The Dems need to hold on to Lewis' Hampton Roads-area victory and lock up the Northern Virginia seat as well to get to a 20-20 split in the Senate where Lieutenant Governor-elect Ralph Northam would be the tie-breaking vote.

More than that, though, it moves the conversation away from which party should control the chamber, which would favor the Democrats and motivate its majority in that district, to one about personality and proper senatorial demeanor. A lot of the 33rd is genteel horse country and the ad (below) blows the lid off the mainstream media contrived stereotype that conservatives are the brass knuckle, street brawler campaigners.

Left wing Virginia Senate candidate Jennifer Wexton thinks comparing Tea Party members to rapists is no big deal.

Now, some might say that liberal base voters won't mind an ad like this and, besides, what else are they going to do on election day? Of course, it wouldn't be Virginia politics if anything about this was straightforward. Running against Wexton is not only conservative Republican John Whitbeck, but former Delegate Joe May, another liberal and recently turned independent. That gives district liberals, turned off from Wexton, an outlet.

Compounding the controversy is Wexton's obnoxious unrepentance. In typical leftist fashion, she has created an evil straw man that she, simply, is standing up to. Her spokesman told the Post:

 (GOP) charges(s) are ridiculous. The real outrage here is that both of Jennifer's opponents have voted for these types of laws that would have prevented victims of rape and incest from seeking quality health care or exercising the right to choose.

Seriously. That is the level of intellectual honesty that regularly emanates from the Left.

Nothing is ever for certain in politics, especially in the commonwealth. A January special election with the General Assembly in mid session makes it as murky as the James near Hopewell. But when the waters do clear, it may because of the self-inflicted blowback from Wexton's bomb.

McAuliffe Opposes Abortion Center Safety Measures Supported By Gosnell's Lawyer!

Hand it to Terry McAuliffe. He won't back down. Not to the abortion industry. Not even to the point of being more pro-abortion than convicted baby murder Kermit Gosnell's lawyer. Even former President Bill Clinton, of whom McAuliffe is one of the biggest of FOBs (Friends of Bill) wants abortion "Safe, legal and rare." But McAuliffe has drawn a stark contrast between himself and a super majority of Virginians and Americans at large — even those who support abortion, but recognize the abomination it has become in abortion centers, such as the "Houses of Horrors" run by Gosnell and others. Last week, the Susan B. Anthony List released a statement describing the extreme position McAuliffe has taken on abortion center safety standards and how even Jack McMahon, the defense attorney for the recently convicted Gosnell, who said his client suffered from the "baby factor," supports oversight of abortion centers and certain restrictions on their procedures. Here is the entire news release:

Terry McAuliffe Opposes Abortion Clinic Regulations Supported by Gosnell Attorney

Jack McMahon Says He Supports Increased Regulation of Clinics, Late-Term Abortion Limit

WASHINGTON, D.C. – This week Jack McMahon, defense attorney for convicted murderer and late-term abortionist Kermit Gosnell, told FOX News' Megyn Kelly that he supports increased regulation of abortion clinics as well as a ban on abortion past 16-17 weeks in order to forestall crimes like those Gosnell committed. In light of McMahon's statements, Susan B. Anthony List (SBA List) President Marjorie Dannenfelser blasted Virginia gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe's opposition to increased health and safety standards for the Commonwealth's abortion facilities.

"Weeks of graphic testimony detailing the horrors and conditions inside Kermit Gosnell's Philadelphia abortion clinic was enough to sway even Gosnell's own attorney,” said SBA List President Marjorie Dannenfelser. “If McMahon can agree that women going into abortion facilities must be treated with basic dignity and respect, why can't Terry McAuliffe? Virginia women are increasingly disturbed that a politician who seeks to represent women would oppose such elementary efforts to protect our health and safety.

“Kermit Gosnell isn't alone. More than 80 violations were discovered inside Virginia abortion facilities last year. Unsafe, unsanitary conditions — not to mention barbaric abortion practices — continue to be exposed nationwide. Shame on McAuliffe for refusing to join the General Assembly and Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli in standing up for Virginia women. Women deserve better than his extreme abortion ideology.”

Last month, McAuliffe's campaign was asked by the Washington Post to confirm or deny that he supports “a platform of abortion on-demand at any time, for any reason, paid for by Virginia taxpayers,” including “sex-selective abortion, late-term abortion, partial-birth abortion, and abortions on teenage girls without parental consent — all paid for by Virginia taxpayers.” McAuliffe spokesman Josh Schwerin declined to comment to the Post.

The SBA List has compiled an ever-expanding fact sheet on abortion industry negligence and brutality toward women and children occurring nationwide.

Terry McAuliffe: Too extreme for Bill Clinton; too extreme even for convicted killer Kermit Gosnell's attorney!

Gosnell: Exception Or Rule?

Twelve Philadelphians are now meeting to determine the fate of America’s most notorious abortion "provider," Kermit Gosnell, after weeks of hearing evidence alleging he murdered hundreds of born-alive babies and at least one woman. As we await the verdict, the conversation surrounding his "house of horrors" has centered around the question of whether or not Gosnell is an anomaly in an otherwise safe and health care-focused industry, or if the abortion industry has more Gosnells that simply have yet to be discovered. Obviously, the abortion industry and most in the mainstream media would have us believe that Gosnell is an aberration caused more by the lack of government (taxpayer) funding than unmitigated inhumanity and evil (what, you thought they'd actually admit the guy is evil?).

But facts surrounding that case, and the pattern that is developing in many states regarding the abortion industry's lack of concern for health and safety, not to mention its utter lack of recognition of human dignity and worth, have to lead any reasonable, thoughtful American to wonder just what the truth might be. Given that representatives of Planned Parenthood and the National Abortion Federation knew what was happening inside Gosnell's clinic, knew of the despicable conditions and rumors of the murders, and did absolutely nothing about it, reasonable people should be questioning the abortion industry's claims.

We certainly know the media isn't going to do it for us.

Yesterday, the pro-life group Live Action released videos from two abortion centers, one in Washington, D.C., and one in New York City, that show doctors at those facilities admitting that they would do nothing to save the lives of born-alive babies, babies who are living, breathing human beings. This comes on the heels of disturbing testimony by a Planned Parenthood representative in Florida who, before a legislative committee, essentially defended euthanasia on the basis that the decision to keep a new born baby alive is "between a woman and her doctor."

Do these incidents represent the true philosophy of the entire abortion industry? Are they so callous to all human life that even those babies already born are viewed as disposable waste, nothing more than "products of conception" that can be flushed down a toilet or run through a garbage disposal? Do they care so little about the women that enter their facilities that they will keep quiet even when they know about horrifically unsanitary conditions that put lives at risk?

And perhaps worse, how can these incidents not elicit any kind of outrage from the public, let alone politicians? Or is it that the reality of what the abortion industry is really about forcing people to ask questions about their own "pro-choice" attitudes that they really never wanted to have to ask? Uncomfortable yet?

In Virginia, the abortion industry has been quick to dismiss Gosnell. Mind you, we have yet to hear anyone within the Virginia abortion industry, its defenders in the General Assembly, candidates for statewide office, or editorial pages utter a single word of criticism. Hysterical in all other ways, the Virginia abortion industry's silence on Gosnell is deafening. But maybe they know something we don't. After all, abortion operators like Steven Brigham and Diane Derzis — both of whom operate facilities in Virginia — have long records of health and safety violations in other states, and have had abortion centers closed by public health officials and their medical license revoked or suspended. Their abortion centers here, under inspections that were part of the emergency safety standards under the 2011 abortion center legislation, were found to have dozens of health and safety violations.

Are there Gosnells in Virginia? No one outside the abortion industry really knows. Virginia's facilities had weeks to clean up their act before announced inspections last year, after going two decades with no oversight at all. Despite the warning, nearly 300 deficiencies were found. And while the media continues to whine about construction standards, it remains silent on the blood stained patient tables, unsterilized equipment, expired drugs and untrained staffs. What was happening in those places before health inspectors gained access is anyone's guess.

Earlier this week the editorial writers at the Washington Post put to ink their tears over the closing of one abortion center in Virginia, allegedly because its owners don't have the money to upgrade the facility to meet Virginia's new health and safety standards. They were horrified at the thought that one out of 20 abortion centers is closing. Incredibly, the Post labeled the clinic a "victim," while the same newspaper for weeks did all it could to intentionally ignore the hundreds of true, human victims of Kermit Gosnell. The disconnect from basic humanity rendered in that dichotomy tells us all we need to know about how incapable too many in the media are at recognizing evil, at seeing human victims in the faces of tiny babies murdered at the hands of a profiteer.

God help us if the public feels the same way.

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.

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.

Transportation Tax-And-Spend Quote Of The Day

Our Quote of the Day comes from one person from two sources, citing two movies, on one topic. One, and old school release. The other, social media, where we're finding more and more of our QODs. In a news release from Delegate Ben Cline (R-24, Rockbridge), co-chairman of the General Assembly's Conservative Caucus, regarding the House-Senate tax-increase-and-spend transportation plan:

In an attempt to cobble together enough new tax revenue to satisfy the demands of Senate Democrats, this has become a Frankenstein’s monster for Virginia taxpayers.

Furthermore, he tweeted this yesterday:

Here's hoping members of the Conservative Caucus stick together as the formidable bloc they can be, keeping in mind that nothing good comes from haste — and that do no harm is a creed not only for doctors. Lawmakers do well to heed it too.

Inside The Tax Increase Numbers: The Laundry List Of What Will Be Taxed And By How Much

Here's the list of what will be taxed and by how much in the proposed "transportation tax increase" now before both chambers of the General Assembly. Not angry yet? Read on:

» A 3.5  percent wholesale sales tax paid by distributors would replace the current 17.5 cents per gallon flat tax on gasoline. The new tax, though, will be passed on to consumers, along with a 6 percent wholesale sales tax on diesel fuel.

» The 5 percent retail sales and use tax paid statewide on most purchases will increase to 6 percent in Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads, and to 5.3 percent in the rest of the state.

» A $100 annual fee will be levied on alternative fuel vehicles, including hybrids.

» The sales tax on the purchase of cars (new or used) will increase from 3 percent to 4 percent.

» In Northern Virginia, the tax on house sales will increase by 40 cents per hundred dollars. That's an extra $1,600 on the sale of a $400,000 home.

» Also in Northern Virginia, the occupancy tax for hotels will increase 2 percent.

» If Congress passes the Marketplace Equity Act (which requires online businesses to collect sales taxes) the proceeds will be distributed as follows: 55.55 percent for schools; 22.2 percent for local governments with no restrictions; and 22.2 percent for roads and transit.

» If Congress does not pass the Internet sales tax collections act, an additional 1.6  percent tax will be added to the wholesale gas tax.

» There is no guarantee that these new revenues will be spent entirely on transportation since the Senate, twice this session (including today) defeated a proposed constitutional amendment to lock away transportation funds from general fund spending. The Senate has defeated this needed reform for years.

» There is no guarantee that the General Assembly or a future governor won't come back for more tax increases.

» All of these tax increases are on top of the newly increased "fiscal cliff" tax increases by Congress and President Obama and pending local tax increases many Virginia jurisdictions are looking into, such as meals and property tax increases.

If all this isn't enough, there has not been a good faith effort to cut spending in other areas and reapportion it to transportation. Now are you angry?

Please immediately contact your Delegate (click here) and your Senator (click here) and urge them to vote against this massive tax hike scheme!

Urge Defeat Of Massive Tax Increase!

Yesterday, ten members of the General Assembly presented a "compromise" tax and spending proposal that includes a substantial increase in taxes and fees for a large portion of Virginia, particularly residents of Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads. Facts about the plan reveal that not all the new revenue is even going to transportation.

Please immediately contact your Delegate (click here) and your Senator (click here) and urge them to vote against this massive tax hike scheme!

Among the taxes that will increase are the state's sales tax, the sales tax on car purchases, and local taxes in Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads. Worse, not all the new revenue will be spent on transportation. According to today's Richmond Times Dispatch:

Not all of the 0.3 percent increase in sales tax goes to transportation. Part of the overall revenue generated by the increased tax would go toward an increase in education funding and other general fund priorities.

The fact is that outside of a constitutional amendment, how Virginia spends our tax dollars can be changed every year through the budget and budget amendments. This plan is no different. In fact, the Senate today again killed, for the second time this session (as it has for years), a proposed constitutional amendment to keep transportation funding off limits to future non-transportation spending whims. So while the fiscal needs for transportation are obvious, those who argue that this plan is going to "solve the problem" of transportation in Virginia are fooling themselves.

This plan is not just a tax increase, but new across the board spending. Make no mistake, if you live in the urban crescent or plan to or need to purchase a new or used car in the future, you are going to pay higher taxes. The idea that our gas prices are going down as a result of replacing the antiquated gas tax with a wholesale gas tax are, honestly, foolish. The plan calls for the elimination of the gas tax (17.5 cents per gallon) with a wholesale gas tax increase, which proponents of the plan indicate will be the equivalent of a 10 cent per gallon tax. The consensus, however, is that the "savings" will not be passed on to the consumer, so we will continue to pay higher prices at the pump.

It's disappointing that those involved in the negotiations of this plan couldn't come up with a solution to our transportation needs that didn't include placing even more financial burden on already struggling families and small businesses in the face of even more national fiscal uncertainty. Unfortunately, there is a lack of political will in Richmond to fix one of the biggest problems we face (outside of federal mandates that continue to destroy our state economy) — an antiquated and irresponsible public school funding formula that costs billions of dollars for more and more administration and fewer teachers. There's no doubt that the issues faced are complex and difficult, but this plan is simply not the best solution for Virginia's families.

Please contact your Delegate (click here) and your Senator (click here) immediately and urge them to vote against the tax increase!

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.

Surprise! Washington Post Endorses "Tebow Bill," But Says Dems Control Va. Senate; Bill In Ed & Health Thursday!

Miracles do happen. Witness this: The Washington Post this morning editorialized in favor of the "Tebow Bill" after years of opposing it. Coincidentally, the bill, HB 1442, patroned by Delegate Rob Bell (R-58, Albermarle), will be in the Senate Education and Health Committee this Thursday (follow the link for committee members and their contact information). The committee vote is expected to be close. Will the Post's endorsement help the cause? Anything can happen at the General Assembly and it usually does. In fact, surprises are the norm. Not to have one would be the surprise.

Here's the telling sections from the Post's editorial:

It is clear, though, that the group entrusted with helping to make those determinations needs to revisit rules that have become too rigid. Local school districts that want to include home-schooled students are barred from even trying. ...

The bill . . . was improved this year to spell out that any decision about the participation of home-schooled students would be left strictly to local school boards. Even with that local option being made clear and other provisions to guard against abuses, the bill, faces an uphill battle in the Democrat-controlled Senate.

The current ban against home-schoolers is the result of long-standing policy set by the Virginia High School League, which governs interscholastic sports and other activities in Virginia's more than 300 high schools. ... No doubt the issues are complicated and, for many, emotional. But 26 other states have managed to allow home-schoolers to play sports, either by right or through local option, with apparent success. In Virginia, elementary and middle school students participate in public-school activities with no problems.

Alas, even as the Post, finally sees the merit in a common sense bill that we support, it engaged in wishful thinking, stating that the Democrats control the Senate.  But we'll trade that for another miracle Thursday.

Important Proposed Constitutional Amendment To Limit Taxes And Size Of Government In Senate Committee Tomorrow!

Tomorrow at 4:00 p.m., the Senate Privileges and Elections Committee will consider a proposed constitutional amendment to limit government growth and taxation. HJ 594 is a taxpayer bill of rights that limits the amount of money the state government can spend in a year to the preceding year's total, plus no more than a percentage increase based on the rate of inflation and population growth. Patroned by Delegate Manoli Loupassi (R-68, Richmond), the resolution cleared the House earlier this session, and is a vital measure to limit the size of government. Although the Virginia Constitution requires a balanced budget, it does not prescribe certain methods that the General Assembly may use to achieve it. Politicians in years past, as well as this year, have pushed hard for big tax increases to cover their even bigger spending ideas. The annual transportation debate is a perfect example. A constitutional cap on how much of our money they can spend will force them, finally, to prioritize their spending decisions each year instead of going to the well of Virginia families' hard-earned money.

When general fund revenue rises 19 percent, as it did in January, and we are running annual surpluses, there should not be a need to raise taxes for core functions of government. Governments rarely have revenue problems. They have spending problems. If they can’t draw the line on what's too much, we taxpayers, their bosses, will do it for them.

Please contact your senator on the Privileges and Elections Committee and urge him or her to vote yes on this important constitutional reform to limit the size and scope of state government.

Budget-Making Transparency Bill May See Light Of Day, Finally

Persistence is one of the most important ingredients in the legislative process. Defeat of a bill cannot deter a lawmaker, nor even people who support the idea. Some laws languished as remains in the sausage grinder for years before they met a governor's signature, shred to bits by designated "kill sub-committees" designed to ensure they would never see the light of day (i.e., a floor vote). But a good and just idea won't die, at least not quietly, especially if its patron carries on the fight session after session. One such bill, a perennial budget-making transparency bill from Senate Majority Leader Tommy Norment (R-3, Williamsburg), may earn its long overdue status as a law this year. That is, may, as in there is a potential sliver of a window crack of opportunity for SB 1129, a bill that would require some disclosure during the crafting of the state budget by the House and Senate conference committee. It passes the Senate year after year but meets its fate in a House Appropriations sub-committee. One can tell the disposition of the respective chambers toward certain bills by the committees to which they are assigned: The Senate sends this bill to Rules each year; the House to Appropriations — a committee more keen to efficiency than eyeballs.

This glimmer of hope comes from a noticeable change in the fiscal impact statement attached to the bill.  Originally a terrific stab at legislative reform, fiscal impact statements were designed to show lawmakers how much a bill would cost so as to reduce the likelihood of pork barrel spending. But years ago they evolved into weapons by the bureaucrats who compile them to kill off needed reforms by placing contrived and/or vague figures on the alleged added cost the bill would incur to government.

They were used in past in attempts to scuttle property rights legislation and transparency for payments to state contractors, both of which eventually became constitutional amendments and/or statutes — and never mind that tax increase bills never have attached to them the impact they would have on families (so we did it for them on these bills as well as on this infamous proposal), while tax reduction bills must have impact statements showing the "cost" to government. A double-double standard.

The bill itself requires the chairmen of the House Appropriations and Senate Finance Committees to issue a listing with the budget that provides "a narrative description, dollar amount, and name of the member of the General Assembly who inserted" . . .

» any non-state agency appropriation (supposed to be illegal, anyway),

» any item in the conference report that was not included in a general appropriation bill as passed by either the House or the Senate, and

» any item that represents legislation that failed in either house during the regular or a special session.

Doesn't sound like a big inconvenience, does it? Over the years, however, the impact statements made it sound as if this simple disclosure would bring the entirety of state government to a halt. From the same bill last year (SB 267) the impact statement said:

This legislation could potentially increase the workload demands on House Appropriations Committee and Senate Finance Committee staff and may require changes to existing systems to provide this information.

In other words, "time and money, and we have neither," even though specific numbers were not provided. We didn't know taking hand written notes of line item insertions and typing them up required new systems. But this year, the exact same bill offers this backtrack on the impact statement:

This bill would require additional work by the staff of the House Appropriations and Senate Finance committees. The staff time would be needed to generate the reports required by the bill. Both committees staff leadership have indicated that they can absorb the extra work and any additional costs within their existing operational budgets.

Why the change of heart? Does it portend passage? In the past, the potential cost and time have been the excuse for the House Appropriations Sub-Committee on Technology Oversight and Government Activities to table the bill on unrecorded voice votes. But this seems to signal the all clear from the money committee staffs, which have an influence on its members not seen in any other committee. Hopefully, we'll find out when the same sub-committee considers the bill in the next week or two. But we're likely to see it law before we get an explanation. Of the two, we'll gladly take the latter.

Budget transparency is important for accountability of the budget writers by the public, for non-budget writing members to make an informed decision, as well as reigning in unnecessary spending. The more eyeballs on the budget, the less funny business. If there is no funny business, appropriators have nothing to worry about and should pass this bill, finally.

Quote Of The Day: Aunt Esther Speaks Again

As I wrote yesterday, as entertaining as General Assembly committees and floor sessions can be, the media quotes and social media output from members can be every bit as noteworthy. That was the case last week when the Aunt Esther of Virginia politics spoke up to the Washington Post about the session's most contentious issue. Senator Louise Lucas (D-18, Portsmouth) got wind that some House colleagues in the Legislative Black Caucus were considering supporting the Senate Republican redistricting amendment to the House's technical amendments bill that was supposed to iron out only certain deficiencies in the most recently redrawn legislative districts. She proceeded to verbally whip her wayward friends back in line just as Aunt Esther would hammer Fred Sanford with her Bible after one of his acid-tongued insults. After all, we can't have independent thinking in the LBC.

Said the senator to the Post, in true Aunt Esther flamboyance, figurative Bible raised, ready to slam down on unsuspecting heads:

I’m hot as a pot of fish grease about this. I’m hoping that they’re not going to be so naive as to bite that bait.

As it turned out, the amendment was scuttled yesterday in the House when Speaker Bill Howell ruled it non-germane to the underlying bill. Whether or not that action actually brings "peace in the valley" is another question. But we know, for the time being, Senator Lucas is feeling much better.