Greg Habeeb

The Pols Are Out And So Are Their Grades: American Conservative Union Releases Virginia General Assembly Scorecard

The General Assembly wrapped up its 2013 business, officially, April 3, at the conclusion of the "Veto" session. Since then, a flurry of scorecards have been released by several organizations, including the Family Foundation's late last week. Usually released throughout the year to coincide with fundraising galas, elections or other events, many organizations this year dropped their ratings in advance of the Republican Convention this weekend and the June Democrat primary. Today, the American Conservative Union released its third annual Virginia General Assembly Scorecard (click here for complete results). The ACU, founded in 1964 by a coalition of prominent national conservative organizations, is known for its annual Congressional Scorecard, considered the "gold standard" of Congressional ratings. In 2011, it decided to take that success to the state level, with a goal of annual rating all members in each of the 50 state legislatures. That year, it graded five, Virginia being the first of those (this  year it will score 20). Consequently, the General Assembly is the first to be scored three times — more firsts for the Old Dominion.

The ACU Scorecard offers three awards: Defender of Liberty Award, for those who score 100 percent; the ACU Conservative Award for those who score above 80 percent, and the not-so-coveted True Liberal of the Commonwealth Award for those who get a zero — and there are a few of those. However, the number of members in both chambers who scored 80 or higher dropped precipitously, with some who have reputations as conservative stalwarts not even even getting to 80 percent.

The reason? Not only were there several immensely important and substantive votes this year on significant policies with massive ramifications, they were voted on multiple times. For instance, the tax increase bill (HB 2313) was voted on three times (scored twice). An ironic twist is that the House budget, which normally rates as a support because of its pretty tight spending parameters and policy language, was opposed by the ACU when it came out of conference committee with the Senate, specifically because the rejection of the Medicaid expansion was stripped out. That also got a second vote because of a gubernatorial amendment. The Obamacare health insurance exchange also made the list and several conservatives got nicked on that, as well.

The ACU Virginia Scorecard is not only the most comprehensive one of its nature in Virginia — complied annually, with more than 20 floor votes on everything from spending, taxes, education reform, securing voting rights, second amendment rights, religious liberty, right to work, life and marriage, and all else that make up the conservative agenda, it's one the most comprehensive state scorecard in the country, as many legislatures, especially part-time ones, rarely let so many significant votes get to the floor. The ACU only scores floor votes and does not score unanimous or immensely lopsided votes, nor partisan votes, with the exception of significant policy shifting bills.

In a statement released today by the ACU, its Chairman Al Cardenas, said:

On behalf of the American Conservative Union, I am pleased to announce the winners of our 2013 State Legislative Ratings for members of the Virginia General Assembly. For 40 years ACU has set the gold standard for Congressional ratings, and we are now able to offer that same level of transparent information to the voters of Old Dominion so they can hold their elected officials accountable at the state level as well. In our third year rating the Commonwealth, we applaud conservatives in the Virginia General Assembly who continue to fight against higher taxes, against Obamacare and for the rights of the unborn.

The ACU's philosophy in its scorecard system is to track . . .

a wide range of issues before state legislatures to determine which issues and votes serve as a clear litmus test separating those representatives who defend liberty and liberal members who have turned their backs on our founding principles — constitutionally limited government, individual liberty, free markets, a strong national defense and traditional values. The votes selected for our Virginia Legislative Ratings were chosen to create a clear ideological distinction among those casting them.

The Defenders of Liberty Award winners are:

Delegates Rob Bell, Ben Cline, Scott Garrett, Todd Gilbert (TFF Legislator of the Year Award winner), and Margaret Ransone; and Senators Tom Garrett, Jr., Mark Obenshain and Ralph Smith.

ACU Conservative Award winners are Delegates Richard Anderson, Richard Bell, Kathy Byron, Mark Cole, Barbara Comstock, John Cox, Mark Dudenhefer, Matt Fariss, Peter Farrell, Greg Habeeb, Chris Head, Tim Hugo, Sal Iaquinto, Steve Landes, Jim LeMunyon, Scott Lingamfelter, Bob Marshall, Jimmie Massie, Jackson Miller, Randy Minchew, Israel O’Quinn, Brenda Pogge, David Ramadan, Roxann Robinson, Nick Rush, Beverly Sherwood, Lee Ware, Jr., Michael Webert, Tony Wilt, and Tommy Wright, Jr.; and Senators Richard Black, Steve Newman, Richard Stuart, Bryce Reeves, Steve Martin, Bill Stanley, Jr., and Ryan McDougle.

The highest scoring Democrats were Delegates Johnny Joannou and Joe Joe Johnson at 73 and 64 percent, respectively. The both  topped some Republicans, such as Delegate Chris Jones, who scored only 60 percent. Delegate Jones wasn't alone. Speaker Bill Howell only managed to match Delegate Joannou. Senate Republicans saw similar slippages. For example, Senators Jeff McWaters and Frank Ruff, who had scored at least 80 in the first two scorecards, dropped to the low 60s. Majority Leader Tommy Norment and Senator Harry Blevins, who retired recently in mid-term, scored 60 and 57 percent, respectively. Senator John Watkins rated a dismal 48 percent.

Last year, more than 70 Republicans from both chambers scored 80 percent or higher. This year, only 45 did.

The members who earned the True Liberal of Old Dominion Awards are Delegates Delores McQuinn and Roslyn Tyler; and Senators Kenneth Alexander, Janet Howell and Linda Puller.

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.

House Sensitivity Caucus Announces Annual Awards

Although the end of session may provoke emotions ranging from physical relief (the meat grinder is over) to mental relief (the legislative sausage making is over) to melancholy (friends and colleagues going home for a year), there is one thing we greatly look forward to: The House Sensitivity Caucus Awards, presented the last Friday of session each year. In a year truly turned upside down, epitomized remarkably by the staid Senate being more entertaining than the rowdy House, the Sensitivity Caucus Awards capture real atmosphere of the General Assembly: good-natured and sincere willingness to work together, despite the negative reporting that overwhelms mainstream media's sparse coverage. The Sensitivity Caucus, one of many intra-legislative coaltions, is a semi-secret cadre of House members who, throughout session, observe and make note of all 100 members' (and some staff, as we found out) rhetorical and habitual idiosyncrasies. It awards those members who fit certain parameters and who make themselves (in)famous for certain statements, proclivity to speak no matter what the occasion and willingness to serve as instant experts on topics far and wide. Both quality and quantity are recognized.  It's non-partisan and all offending (in a very good and fun sense). While there are many caucuses, the Sensitivity Caucus

Some of the members are Steve Landes (R-25, Verona), Terry Kilgore (R-1, Gate City) and Todd Gilbert (R-15, Woodstock). The caucus even creates teams and "drafts" members in a secret competition of "pop-ups" — members who get up and speak the most. Not only that, but this year they added awards this year to reflect behavior in committee. Whether on the floor or in committee, there was plenty of material this year, and each award pronouncement and explanation was greeted with loud bipartisan laughs (see Richmond Times-Dispatch's Virginia Politics Blog).

The award winners were:

Vivian Watts (D-39, Annandale);

Kay Kory (D-38, Falls Church) as Best Team Player for her adoring gaze at Minority Leader David Toscano (D-57, Charlottesville) during his perfunctory challenges to conservative bills;

Barbara Comstock (R-34, McLean) for the Homeland Security Award, for her more than casual references to her federal experience in speaking up on bills not her own;

Gilbert for the Wish I Hadn't Said It Award for his mention of a particular "lifestyle choice;"

Jimmie Massie (R-72, Henrico) for the On Board Award, which exemplifies action in committee, for the time he said in the Appropriations Committee that several organizations were "on board with this bill, the governor is on board with this bill, and I'm on board with this bill" (it was his own bill);

Johnny Joannou (D-79, Portsmouth) for the I Don't Practice Law In This Area Award, for the phrase he repeatedly prefaces his remarks with when fighting passionately for eminent domain reform (which he ultimately won);

Anne B. Crockett-Stark (R-6, Wytheville) for the Breakfast With The Devil Award, for using that phrase in a rousing speech she made on a gun bill;

House Clerk Paul Nardo, the first-ever staff winner, for the Speaker's Award, for keeping Speaker Bill Howell (R-28, Fredericksburg) more or less in line, on time and moving along;

Scott Garrett (R-23, Lynchburg) for the Cheerleader Award, for his much continued, solo clapping after a standing ovation had long since finished in honor of a speech given by Majority Leader Kirk Cox (R-66, Colonial Heights);

Greg Habeeb (R-8, Salem) for the Freshman Of The Year Award, which, caucus leaders assured us, was a tough competition that lasted three or four ballots due to the many talented rookie legislators, for asking a lot of questions (he shouldn't be asking). Further hint: He's not a freshman!

The final award was the granddaddy of them all, the coveted Pop-Up Award. It's the Heisman Trophy of the General Assembly. It's given to the member who has tallied the most floor speeches, who pops out of his or her seat to speak the most on any and all issues. According to Kilgore, there was a lot of competition this year. He said, "There are a lot of people in this chamber who want to tell us what they know." So much so, that a first-ever Honorable Mention Award was given to freshman Alphonso Lopez (D-49, Arlington).

But in the end, there was no suspense. No one jumps out of his seat more frequently, nor with more brazenness, the one who's speeches have been dubbed "Morrissey Moments," than "Fightin'" Joe Morrissey (D-74, Henrico) himself, who popped up 51 times this session, more than one of the entire teams. True to form, as Speaker Howell called the chamber back to order, the first person in his queue to speak was, none other than, Morrissey, who had his own ad hoc Sensitivity Award: The Too Much Information Award. Delegate Scott Surovell (D-44, Mount Vernon) was the front runner early on for a floor speech he made bemoaning Virginia's traffic congestion, a condition that, apparently, affects the sanctity of his marriage (see video here).

But he had nothing on Delegate David Albo (R-42, Fairfax), who went into great detail on the floor on February 24 about how the ultrasound bill affected an evening with him and his wife. See (or not) the painful and inartful details here. Why, Morrissey, rightly wondered, after 12 years of marriage, did Albo find it necessary to slyly slip his arm around his wife's shoulder? More curious is that viewing the "Redskins Channel" is an apparent prerequisite for mood acquisition. So, appropriately, Morrissey presented Albo an oversize poster of his head superimposed on the Redskins' number 21. Quipped Speaker Howell, "What's nice about that is that it has his IQ on the jersey, too."

BREAKING: Habeeb Keeps 8th District House Seat For GOP

Republican Greg Habeeb kept the Salem-area 8th House of Delegates seat in Republican hands tonight with a win in a special election to fill the vacated seat of former Majority Leader and now-U.S. Representative Morgan Griffith. The details are at the Roanoke Times, here. His win keeps the GOP majority at 60-39 with one seat open (91st district) due to former Delegate Tom Gear's sudden resignation.

Voter Guides Available Online For January 11 Special Elections For 19th District Senate, 8th House District House Seats

Our sister organization, Family Foundation Action, has printed and put online voter guides for the January 11 special elections to fill the Virginia Senate and House seats vacated by the Congressional election victories of Republicans Robert Hurt and Morgan Griffith, respectively. The elections are in the 19th Senate district and the 8th House district. The Senate district includes Danville, Franklin, Pittsylvania and part of Campbell County. The House district includes Salem and part of Roanoke. (Click here to find out  if you live in either one.) The candidates for the Senate seat are Republican Bill Stanley and Democrat Hank Davis. The voter guide for that election can be viewed by clicking here.

The candidates for the House seat are Republican Greg Habeeb and Democrat Ginger Mumpower. The voter guide for that election is available here

Both voter guides may printed and distributed or linked to social media sites or forwarded to friends via e-mail. To get hard copies, contact The Family Foundation at 804-343-0010. In addition, you may share or forward this link via social media sites or via e-mail.