House of Delegates

Urge Override Of Governor McAuliffe’s Vetoes!

Recently, Governor Terry McAuliffe vetoed two bills that would protect religious liberty: SB 236, a bill that would protect the free speech rights of public school students; and SB 555, a bill that would have prohibited government censorship of military chaplain sermons. Both passed with large bipartisan majorities, including a unanimous vote in the Senate for SB 555! The General Assembly will hold its annual "veto session," where it reviews vetoes and amendments to bills, on Wednesday, April 23:

Please urge your senators and delegates to vote to override the governor's vetoes of SB 236 and SB 555 (click the links to find their contact information). If you don't know who your legislators are, click here.

SB 236, patroned by Senator Bill Carrico (R-40, Galax), would create "limited public forums" at certain public school events. Limited public forums restrict the schools from censoring speech simply because it is from a faith perspective. The schools can still "limit" the speech to the matter at hand; for example, a graduation speech still has to be about graduating, but it can contain statements about the importance of faith. The bill also protects students' rights to organize prayer groups, have events such as "see you at the pole" gatherings and wear clothing with religious expressions.

Students 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. It is tragic that in Virginia, the birthplace of religious freedom, Governor McAuliffe has chosen to listen to the ACLU and has trampled on the right of Virginia's students to simply express their beliefs.

SB 555, patroned by Senator Dick Black (R-13, Leesburg), prohibited state government from censoring sermons given by chaplains in the Virginia National Guard and Virginia Defense Force. This reasonable, common sense measure passed the Senate in January 37-0! The governor's explanation for vetoing the bill is a remarkable misunderstanding of the actual definition of a chaplain.

Overriding a governor's veto requires two-thirds support from both chambers, meaning that 27 members of the Senate and 67 members of the House of Delegates have to vote for an override.

At what point do we finally say, enough is enough? Our God-given, inalienable right to exercise our faith, live according to our conscience, and speak truth to culture is in serious jeopardy if we allow people like Terry McAuliffe to dictate what we can and cannot do in the public square.

Your legislators, regardless of party, need to hear from you. They need to know that you are not going to stand for this type of discrimination any longer! Please act today:

Contact your senators and delegates today and ask them to override Governor McAuliffe's vetoes of SB 236 and SB 555 at the upcoming April 23 Veto Session.

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. 

Floor Vote Tomorrow On Bill To Ensure Chaplain Free Speech!

A bill protecting the free speech rights of Virginia National Guard and Virginia Defense Force chaplains (SB 555) that to this point has been completely non-controversial — in in the Virginia Senate! — suddenly became so Friday when Democrats began to raise a ruckus in the House Militia, Police and Public Safety Committee. The committee still voted to report the bill to the floor of the House of Delegates, but on a mainly party line vote, with only one Democrat joining all committee Republicans in favor. Patroned by Senator Dick Black (R-13, Leesburg), SB 555 unanimously passed the Senate and a House sub-committee. But Friday, several members of the sub-committee who previously voted in favor of the bill urged its defeat and voted against it in full committee. The bill simply ensures that the religious content of sermons made by chaplains of the Virginia National Guard or of the Virginia Defense Force can't be censored or restricted by any state government official or agency.

Even Democrats in the  Senate unanimously voted in favor of the provision because it essentially repeats federal policy. But there are members of the House of Delegates that are so hostile to religious liberty that even ensuring that chaplains can simply do their job is not worthy of protection. The bill will be debated on the House floor today and voted on tomorrow.

Please contact your delegate and urge him or her to vote for SB 555 on the House floor Tuesday!

Quotes Of The Day: Language Matters

Today is budget day at the General Assembly. The House of Delegates Appropriations Committee and the Senate Finance Committee, after weeks of work, submitted their budgets earlier this week. Today was the day each chamber debated floor amendments for hours before, finally, coming to their respective budget bills proper for yet more debate and a vote on final passage — and that was after amendments and debate on the "Caboose Bill," which cleans up and modifies the current budget. Budget day is one of the longest days on the floor during session. No other bills are discussed, generally. Today, each chamber got under way at noon and each wrapped up business at 6:00 or a little after. The point is, a lot of talkin' went on today.

In fact, as an aside, it was quite a day for words. This morning, Delegate Manoli Loupassi (R-68, Richmond) and Senator Steve Martin (R-11, Chesterfield) got into a frustrating debate in committee over the words "and" and "or" in an amendment to HB 1054, a bill that would allow for computer science courses to be counted toward science credit requirements. The surreal and strange is never in short supply at the Virginia General Assembly.

More substantively, statements during the House budget debate by Minority Leader David Toscano (D-57, Charlottesville) and Delegate Jennifer McClellan (D-71, Richmond) are of particular note. On one budget amendment, concerning advanced manufacturing of all things, Delegate Toscano had concerns. The responses to his questions of the amendment's floor manager, he apparently thought, were lacking. Not getting the clarity he sought, Delegate Toscano uttered:

"Language means a lot." 

It sure does!

But only when it's convenient for the Left. The statement was devoid of any recognition the the Left has perverted our language, constantly redefining the meaning of timeless institutions. Marriage and parents quickly come to mind. How about life? It's only a life if it's outside the womb, and even then, in some circumstances, that's debatable. Which takes us to Delegate McClellan's remarks.

While most people consider abortion a tragedy, Delegate McClellan has a knack for making not being able to get an abortion sound tragic. She called for the defeat of budget language that would bring Virginia in line with the federal Hyde Amendment restricting Medicaid funding of abortion in Virginia to the rarest of cases, and eliminating it for unborn children diagnosed with abnormalities, calling it . . .

the cruelest amendment. 

Saving a life is "cruel"? I wonder what Webster would say to that.

But that's not all. Far removed from the Holy City of Richmond, in Sochi, Russia, a 23-year-old, sunshine-faced American by the name of David Wise won our country an Olympic gold medal in halfpipe skiing. It so happens that, according the Olympic network NBC that Wise, who was married at 19 and has a child with his wife, is living an

alternative lifestyle.

That's, like, so different, dude! Mollie Hemingway, at The Federalist.com, expounds here.

According to the NBC article ("David Wise’s alternative lifestyle leads to Olympic gold") by Skyler Wilder, Wise's is unusual because:

At only twenty-three years old, he has a wife, Alexander, who was waiting patiently in the crowd, and together they have a two-year-old daughter waiting for them to return to their home in Reno, Nevada.

At such a young age, Wise has the lifestyle of an adult. He wears a Baby Bjorn baby carrier around the house. He also attends church regularly and says he could see himself becoming a pastor a little later down the road.

How weird! But if he was homosexual, I'm sure his "lifestyle" would be normalized by NBC. Which takes us back to abortion and Delegate McClellan. One has to wonder how pro-abortion she and the Left would be if, as they claim, homosexuals are born homosexual, and that it could be detected in the womb. What would they then call "abortion doctors" in those cases? Redefining the language wouldn't be so convenient, then, would it?

 

Support Defunding The Attorney General's Attack On Marriage!

Ever since Attorney General Mark Herring disenfranchised more than a million Virginia voters and turned his back on his oath to uphold Virginia's constitution, citizens across the commonwealth have been asking, "What can be done?" Every option is being explored, but tomorrow, the House of Delegates likely will try to hit Herring where it can — in his budget. Multiple budget amendments will be introduced tomorrow, when the House debates and amends its budget bill, by Delegates Bob Marshall (R-13, Manassas) and Todd Gilbert (R-15, Woodstock) that would prohibit the Office of Attorney General from using taxpayer dollars to challenge Virginia's Marriage Amendment.

Please click here to contact your Delegate and urge him or her to support any effort to defund Attorney General Herring's attack on the Virginia Constitution!

Regardless of one's position on the Marriage Amendment, the decision of Attorney General Herring to not only abandon the state constitution — and the voters — but actually attack it by joining in a case in to overturn one of its amendments, is both unprecedented and dangerous. It bases the defense of every law and constitutional amendment in Virginia on the whims of one individual.

So outrageous is the arrogance of the attorney general, that he has added a statement to his website proclaiming:

The Attorney General is the sole person empowered to present the Commonwealth's position in legal matters and it is up to him or her to determine that position through rigorous legal analysis.

Until Attorney General Herring took office, laws in the commonwealth were assumed to be constitutional until a court ruled otherwise. Now, this attorney general has placed himself above the law, the constitution, and above the courts as the final arbiter of what is constitutional.

The House of Delegates is fighting back. Tomorrow, it will vote on its budget. Please encourage your delegate to stand up for your vote and the rule of law, and adopt budget amendments that defund the attorney general's attack on the Virginia Constitution!

Please click here to contact your Delegate and urge him or her to support any effort to defund Attorney General Herring's attack on the Virginia Constitution!

 

Important House Vote On Virtual School Expansion Tomorrow!

Early this week, the House of Delegates will vote on HB 324, a bill to expand virtual school options in Virginia. The Family Foundation is supportive of efforts to increase the ability of parents to determine the best educational opportunity for their child, be it public school, public charter school, virtual school, private school or home school. HB 324 moves Virginia one more step in the right direction which is why The Family Foundation supports this initiative.

E-mail your delegate and ask him or her to support HB 324 to increase educational opportunities for Virginia's children.

HB 324, patroned by Delegate Dickie Bell (R-20, Staunton), creates full-time virtual public education. HB 324 requires the Virginia Virtual School to be open to any school-age child in the commonwealth and provide an educational program meeting the Standards of Quality for grades K-12.

As drafted, HB 324 retains excellence in education, reduces the cost on a per student basis and should not require additional state funds over what the state spends on education in traditional brick and mortar schools. Additionally, localities actually will save money with HB 324. The funding structure is set up so that the child's local school division of residence (rather than the division where the virtual school is based) pays for the local share of the child's virtual education. The local share sent to the Virginia Virtual School to educate a child is capped at no more than 76 percent of the local cost of educating a child at a brick and mortar school, so the locality is guaranteed to save money.

HB 324 is fiscally responsible and increases educational opportunities. For these reasons, we urge you to contact your delegate and urge him or her to vote in support of HB 324.

GA Update: This Week's Abortion Votes

Yesterday morning, the Senate Education and Health Committee, on a party line 9-5 vote (with 1 abstention) reported SB 617 to the Senate floor, a bill that would repeal the ultrasound update to the informed consent law that conservatives fought hard to pass in 2012. The bill's patrons are Senators Mame Locke (D-2, Hampton) and Donald McEachin (D-9, Henrico). The full Senate will vote on the ultrasound repeal bill Tuesday. Virginia's ultrasound law allows women the opportunity to see their unborn child prior to making an irreversible, life-altering decision. While ultrasounds were already standard protocol prior to the 2012 legislation, abortion doctors were not showing the picture to their patients. This window into the womb is powerful and no matter the choice of a woman, it allows her a more informed decision and reduces regret. The ultrasound law is about requiring the abortion doctor simply to turn the screen.

Additionally, ultrasounds are medically necessary prior to an abortion. An ultrasound determines not only gestational age, but gestational position (whether the pregnancy is uterine or ectopic), viability, if a woman is actually pregnant (it's not unheard of for an abortion to be performed on a non-pregnant woman), and if there are multiples. All of these factors are critical information for the doctor to have when the abortion is performed if the safety of the woman is a priority.

However, we know that all too often, unfortunately, the safety of the woman is not the first priority of abortion doctors. An owner of two abortion centers in Virginia was found not even to have medical-malpractice insurance despite swearing otherwise under oath (see The New Yorker). Virginia Department of Health inspection reports reveal that the Roanoke Medical Center for Women performed abortions on multiple minors without parental notification or consent, in violation of Virginia law. There are countless other violations we could cite, but suffice it to say the abortion industry has proven that a woman's safety is not its priority. That is precisely why ultrasounds must be required — for a woman's safety because we cannot rely on the abortion industry to take precautions.

The Education and Health Committee also voted to report SB 618 yesterday on another party line vote (9-6). The bill, patroned by Senator Locke, would reinstate abortion funding in Virginia's federally mandated healthcare exchange. It would force taxpayers to subsidize abortions against their conscience. It will be up for final passage in the Senate on Tuesday as well.

The Virginia Senate is not the only chamber taking abortion votes. On Wednesday, the House of Delegates voted on several important measures, as well. The Courts of Justice Constitutional Law Sub-Committee voted to defeat three different attempts to repeal or water down the ultrasound law (HB 546, HB 547 and HB 1056), and a measure that would redefine birth control to include "emergency contraception" or the morning after pill (HB565,). The bills' patrons all were Democrat women: Delegates Eileen Filler-Corn, Jeion Ward and Vivian Watts.

The subcommittee also tabled by voice vote HB 98, patroned by Delegate Bob Marshall (R-13, Manassas), a bill that would have criminalized sex-selective abortion. The committee cited various enforcement issues that they were unable to easily fix (i.e., is it fair to criminalize the doctor for the discriminatory thoughts of the mother? How do you prove the baby was aborted for sex-selective reasons?), but seemed to resonate with the concept behind the bill.

The battle for the sanctity of life is fierce in Richmond. Please be in prayer over these Senate bills. Pray that pro-life senators are courageous in their stand for life despite political pressure to the contrary. Your prayers are of great value and are much appreciated.

Judging By The Score

In sports, it's often said, "The game was closer than the final score indicates," or, "It wasn't as close as the score indicates." It reveals that the final score is not always indicative of how close, or not, a game may have been. Often, there’s more to the story. The most popular document created by The Family Foundation Action is our semi-annual General Assembly Report Card. In it you’ll find the "score" of every member of the General Assembly based on their legislative votes on Family Foundation priorities over a two-session period. The snap-shot of votes taken by their elected representatives gives citizens a good idea of where their legislators stand on key issues.

The Report Card also serves as a reminder to legislators that they can’t hide from the public. Every session our legislative team is asked over and over again by legislators, "Will this be a score card vote?" The message is: the Report Card matters. Legislators, at least those who are in more conservative districts, want to be able to prove their pro-family "credentials" with a good score. On the flip side, more liberal legislators often trumpet their low scores as proof of their "progressive" values. All in all, everybody wins!

Well, except that no document, or score, is a perfect reflection of the whole game. We make clear on the Report Card that it isn't meant to be used as a measure of one's personal faith. It is a great measure, as close as we've been able to come up with, of one's commitment to conservative, pro-family, pro-life principles, but it really is just part of the story. It's based only on votes and can't measure one's motives or reasoning behind a vote. That's for the legislators to explain to their constituents.

Some of the "100 percenters" on the Report Card are tried and true heroes of our values. They lead, they vocalize our values, they carry our legislation, and they work behind the scenes to advance our agenda.  Some "100 percenters," however, simply vote right when the time comes, but either offer no help or actually work behind the scenes in some instances to derail our agenda. At the same time, legislators who vote against our position in some situations may lead more than some "100 percenters." An example of that would be Delegate Todd Gilbert, who was our Legislator of the Year for 2013 with a score of 95 percent on the Report Card. But Delegate Gilbert leads on, fights for and carries our legislation.

And sometimes, there are issues that are just very complicated, though our position is very clear, that makes a vote more difficult to understand. For example, at last year's veto session, an amendment to a "Healthcare Exchange" bill relating to ObamaCare that prohibited the insurance companies in the exchange from offering abortion coverage was a high priority for The Family Foundation. The amendment passed and is now part of the law. But a couple of House of Delegates members, Barbara Comstock and Rick Morris, voted against the amendment. Was it a vote against life?  Well, no. They made it clear to us that they will not vote in favor of anything having to do with ObamaCare. It wasn't about the amendment; it was about the overall policy. Of course, we also made it clear that if we're going to have an exchange, we had the responsibility to make sure it included pro-life language. Also, last year, Delegate Bob Marshall voted incorrectly on a floor amendment granting special protections based on sexual behavior, but he did so out of an objection to how the House was operating on amendments, and not the underlying policy. Again, something that is impossible to explain in the Report Card.

The best answer to the problem is t make sure you know your legislators. The Report Card is the absolute best document in Virginia to get a picture of how dedicated to pro-family, pro-life values our legislators are during a two-year period. But if you see a vote that you don't understand, call them, or call us. Ask. Dig deeper and learn more. Stay involved during session so you know what’s happening and how your delegate and senator are voting. We don't want the Report Card to be the final authority, we want it to be a document that doesn't just educate, but motivates you to learn more and get more involved.

Don't just read the final score. Watch the whole game.

Fate Of The Marriage Amendment To Be Determined "Soon"

The Family Foundation was joined yesterday morning in Norfolk by Concerned Women for America, FRC Action and hundreds of Christians from churches across Eastern Virginia as we stood up in support of marriage, the Virginia Constitution and in solidarity with the brave and principled attorneys from Alliance Defending Freedom. Alliance Defending Freedom was in court officially representing the Clerk of the Court of Prince William County, Michele McQuigg, a former member of the House of Delegates, who is seeking affirmation of the Marriage Amendment in her position, which is charged with issuing marriage licenses. Oral arguments for the challenge to the Marriage Amendment were heard with U.S. District Court Judge Arenda L. Wright Allen, who promised to make a timely ruling, and said, "You'll be hearing from me soon."

Lawyers for the plaintiffs asserted the amendment, passed by 57 percent of Virginia's voters, was unconstitutional, arguing marriage was a fundamental right and that the institution was not ultimately about children but was instead a symbol of freedom, comparing same-sex marriage to marriage allowed only among freed slaves. Attorney General Mark Herring attended the hearing to watch his solicitor general argue on behalf of the plaintiffs.

Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys argued the government's interest in marriage is in the upbringing of children by a mother and a father and that there exist no constitutional grounds or precedent to change the law to allow for homosexual unions. Its attorney skillfully outlined how marriage is the one and only relationship that is absolutely essential to the future of humanity. In yet another attempt of the liberal left to redefine beyond recognition an important term, plaintiffs actually stood before the judge and stated that "same-sex couples pro-create."

Outside the hearing, traditional marriage supporters held a rally as well as a news conference that included Family Foundation President Victoria Cobb, Josh Duggar from FRC Action, Alison Howard from Concerned Women for America, and Bishop E.W. Jackson of S.T.A.N.D. Supporters of natural marriage numbered in the hundreds, while only a dozen people supporting same-sex marriage protested outside.

Of course the media's coverage was predictably skewed. For a real representation of what happened, see the video and picture below. More photos from the rally can be seen on our Facebook page. Then, please follow this link and sign the petition asking Attorney General Mark Herring to do his job and defend the Virginia Constitution!

The real news.

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From left, Josh Duggar of FRC Action and a star of TLC's 19 Kids and Counting; The Family Foundation's Victoria Cobb; Alison Howard from Concerned Women for America; and Bishop E.W. Jackson of S.T.A.N.D. 

Here Come The Social Issues

Today, Senate Democrats took advantage of their new "majority" by changing Senate rules and committee make up, after having won two recent special elections and holding the lieutenant governor's tie breaking vote. The mid-session shake up is unprecedented. At one point, as the Democrats introduced a new rules package and erased the old ones, the President of the Senate, Lieutenant Governor Ralph Northam, said there were "no rules" in effect! Literal translation: The rules are what we say they are. Consequently, there is no question that after today's power grab, Senate Democrats will elevate their abortion and sex agenda to their top priority. Though some bills they introduced have already failed to pass committee, we expect, since no rules seem to apply anymore, for those bills to be revived and advanced. There is little doubt that "social issues" will dominate their agenda in the coming days, to the detriment of passing a state budget on time or addressing the dangerous health care issues faced by the implosion of Obamacare.

To ensure they'll be able to defeat any legislation that protects vulnerable human life or advances educational freedom or parental rights, Democrats added an extra abortion apologist to their takeover of the Education and Health committee, while also creating a three seat (9-6)  majority. But in addition to stacking committees out of proportion to their "majority," they did something not only unprecedented, but something beyond imagination.

In a too-late-by-three-years-response to being outsmarted in 2011, when they were an outright majority, and when pro-life advocates outmaneuvered them to add abortion center safety to legislation on a Senate bill amended by the House of Delegates, which forced a full floor vote on that bill, Senate Democrats today created a new rule where they can send bills they passed but amended by the House to the (new) Rules Committee. Normally, a Senate bill amended by the House goes back to the full Senate for a vote, and vice versa. Republicans argued that such a rule violates not only the spirit, but the letter of proper procedure, and indeed the rule of law. But ignoring the rule of law seems to be the normal operating procedure for some liberal politicians these days.

This afternoon's often tense debate over changing Senate rules in the middle of that chamber's four-year term did nothing but add fuel to an ever growing partisan fire here in Richmond. (What's happened to The Virginia Way that so many liberals, trying to appear centrist, have clamored for?)

Regardless of one's perspective on the validity of today's power change, one thing is perfectly clear: elections matter. Democrats in Richmond hold power in the state Senate by just 11 votes; the number by which their 20th member won his recent special election. If there is a better example of why voting for candidates who share our values no matter the circumstance, we don't know what it is. Democrats have power, not because they are winning more people to their views, but because people who share our views are not turning out on election day. In November, more than 70,000 fewer self-identified evangelicals voted in the governor's race than voted in 2009. That decline in turnout made the difference in a close election.

At The Family Foundation, we are committed to reversing that trend. That's why The Family Foundation Action, or political arm, has hired a full time political director to elevate our get-out-the-vote apparatus to levels we've never before reached. Today is a dark day for the Virginia Senate and for our values. But it is only one day.

Better days are coming.

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.

That Didn't Take Long: Black Looking Into Congressional Run Hours After Wolf Retirement Announcement

Just hours after U.S. Representative Frank Wolf (R-10) announced he would not seek re-election in 2014, fellow Republican and Virginia Senator Dick Black announced the creation of an exploratory committee to seek that Congressional seat. In an e-mail he stated the electoral advantages his nomination would provide:

I have formed an exploratory committee to run for the 10th Congressional District seat that is being vacated by Congressman Frank Wolf.

Frank has worked hard for the 10th District during his 34 years of service, and has announced today that he will not run for re-election in 2014. I invite you to join my exploratory committee which is simply a declaration that you intend to support me should I become a candidate for Congress in the 10th District.

The 10th Congressional District includes all of Loudoun County, a large portion of Prince William County, and a small portion of Fairfax County. I currently represent over 200,000 people in the 10th District*, including Loudoun and Prince William Counties.

As a former member of the House of Delegates I represented parts of Sterling, Herndon, and Great Falls as well. Between my eight years in the House of Delegates and my current service in the State Senate, I have represented the majority of the 10th Congressional District.

Speculation among pundits went into overdrive this afternoon upon Rep. Wolf's announcement, with Bob Holsworth telling WRVA-AM in Richmond that VA-10 will be one of the most closely watched races in the country next year as control of the House of Representatives will be up for grabs. Most expect several people to jump into a campaign for what may be gerrymandered Virginia's only remaining House swing district.

If Senator Black does seek the job and wins, it will create yet another intense special election this time next year for control of the currently evenly divided Virginia Senate. Because of last November's results, there will be two special Senate elections before the start of the General Assembly session in January that will determine that chamber's the majority party.

 

Tuesday Is Primary Day In Virginia

Tuesday is primary day in Virginia and several intraparty races will be decided in preparation for November's elections. Democrats will decide on their candidates for lieutenant governor and attorney general. Senator Ralph Northam (D-6, Norfolk) is facing off against former Obama administration appointee Aneesh Chopra for the nomination for lieutenant governor. Northam, who received a 25 on The Family Foundation Action's 2013 General Assembly Report Card, has the endorsement of Planned Parenthood and has been one of the abortion industry's most vocal apologists. Chopra, who served as Secretary of Technology for then-Governor Tim Kaine, has made public statements that are supportive of the abortion industry and abortion on demand, is supportive of elevating sexual behavior to a protected class, and opposes the "Tebow Bill" (see Blue Virginia). The winner of the nomination will face Republican E.W. Jackson in November.

Democrats also will decide their candidate for attorney general between Senator Mark Herring (D-33, Fairfax) and former federal prosecutor Justin Fairfax. Herring, who received an 18 on TFF Action’s Report Card, also is an ally of the abortion industry in Virginia. Fairfax has made comments in opposition to Virginia's abortion center health and safety standards. The winner will face Republican Mark Obenshain (R-26, Harrisonburg) in November’s general election.

In addition to these two statewide nomination campaigns, there are several House of Delegates primaries in both parties. Follow this link to see if there is a primary in your district for either or both parties. In November, all 100 seats in the House are up for election.

As you know, The Family Foundation is restricted by federal law from endorsing any candidates for office and we do not participate in primaries for either party. Our goal is simply to keep you up to date on the elections that are happening and to ensure that you have the best information available on the candidates' stances on important values issues so that you can make an informed decision.

 

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.

Did He Or She Pass Or Fail? The 2012-13 Family Foundation General Assembly Report Card

The Family Foundation Action today released the 12th edition of its non-partisan General Assembly Report Card. The educational document informs citizens on key votes taken by the General Assembly during the 2012 and 2013 sessions. You can view the Report Card by clicking here.

It is our hope that the Report Card, along with Voter Guides TFF Action will distribute in the fall, will motivate citizens to vote, and help them make informed choices when they go to the voting booth. All 100 seats in the House of Delegates are up for election this year, as well as the offices of Governor, Lt. Governor and Attorney General. Depending on outcomes of the Republican convention and Democrat primary, as many as four members from the House of Delegates or Virginia Senate with scores on this Report Card could be on the ballot for those statewide offices in November.

2013 Report Card

How well did your delegate and senator vote? Click on the image to access the 2012-13 Family Foundation General Assembly Report Card

As with each Report Card distributed over the years, hundreds of votes taken by the legislature during the past two years were reviewed. The first page of the Report Card explains the criteria used in determining which votes to include. Non-partisan and broad-based, the Report Card seeks not to benefit one party or one candidate over another, but to arm voting Virginians with the information they need to make an informed choice when they go to the ballot box.

This year's Report Card has 13 "100 percenters" in the House o Delegates and nine in the Senate.

The Family Foundation Action distributed 100,000 copies of the last edition, not including those that were downloaded from the Action website. Our goal this year is to distribute more than 120,000.

To order additional copies of the Report Card to distribute in your church, community group and to like-minded friends and neighbors, click here, or contact Roger Pogge at The Family Foundation Action at 804-343-0010 or at roger@tffaction.org. A suggested donation of $.25 per copy is encouraged to help defray costs of printing and distribution. Please also consider sponsoring the distribution of 100, 500 or even 1,000 Report Cards with a donation of $25, $125 or $250. Checks should be written to "TFF Action" and sent to 919 East Main Street, Suite 1110, Richmond, VA 23219;,or you may pay by credit card here. Thank you for your support.

The mission of The Family Foundation Action is to protect families and promote responsible citizenship by giving Virginians the tools they need to hold their elected officials accountable. The Family Foundation Action is not a PAC and cannot endorse candidates.

Paid for by The Family Foundation Action.

Reconvened Quotes Of The Day

The General Assembly is meeting today in its annual one-day reconvened session, commonly referred to as the “Veto Session,” where it considers the governor’s vetoes and amendments to bills passed during the regular session that met during the winter. Whereas the “Morning Hour” — a fairly open-ended time for members to comment on matters not directly dealing with the legislative calendar — of a regular session consists mainly of welcomes to constituent groups, lifting the profile of a bill or policy position and assertive partisan speeches, Morning Hour during the reconvened session typically plays homage to the members who have announced their retirement. With eight members making the announcement since the end of session in February, there was a lot of talking going on, but none more so than that on behalf of Delegate Lacey Putney (I-19, Bedford), the last of the independents and powerful chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, whose first term began in 1962. He is the longest serving member in the 400-year history of the longest continuously meeting legislature in the New World. That meant lots of laud from numerous colleagues — and a great deal of story telling. After the very lengthy praises were over, Delegate Putney, soon to be 85, took the floor and brought down the House (get it?) with this:

It's not often that I’m speechless, but I hardly know what to say today. I feel like the mosquito at the nudist camp. There is so much territory to cover, you don’t know where to start.

It took several minutes for delegates to contain themselves and the chairman proceeded to compliment colleagues of both parties past and present and the demeanor of the chamber, explain what his time there meant to him, and recount humorous anecdotes, history and the accomplishments of the General Assembly over his 50-plus years of service. The last of the retirees to be recognized, and on the other end of the service scale, was Delegate Donald Merricks (R-16, Chatham) retiring after only three terms. Described by Delegate Rob Bell (R-58, Albemarle) as a workhorse and not a show horse, one who rarely took the floor to embellish himself and one, most importantly, who told you where he stood and never held out his vote for something else.

Then the man of few words took the floor to acknowledge his colleagues' ovation. By now it was nearly two hours after session started with a long single-day's worth of business ahead. He recounted his favorite Bible verse from Exodus, where the Israelites were at the Red Sea with the Egyptians in hot pursuit. Moses prayed to God for a means of escape while others complained that they were better off as slaves in Egypt. Delegate Merricks then relayed how a scholar translated God's answer to Moses:

"Stop praying and start moving the people!" So let's stop talking and get on with the calendar!

To which House Speaker Bill Howell (R-26, Stafford) replied:

If I knew you were going to say that, I'd have recognized you first!

 

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

General Assembly Pages And Interns Needed

General Assembly session is quickly approaching, which means The Family Foundation is in the midst of important preparations. One of the critical elements of our preparations includes finding student interns and pages to assist our legislative team in our advocacy work in our Richmond office. Both our intern and page programs offer students a valuable opportunity to experience the activities of a General Assembly session firsthand. There will be unique opportunities to observe legislative committee meetings, floor sessions of the House of Delegates and Senate, and much more. Candidates for the intern and page positions must have a pro-life, pro-family perspective on social issues and a Biblical worldview of the roles of politics, government and the church. The Family Foundation's 2013 General Assembly team will begin session work Monday, January 7 and conclude Friday, February 22. Those desiring more information, or those interested in serving, should contact Jessica Cochrane by phone at 804-343-0010 or by e-mail at Jessica@familyfoundation.org.

Intern Program (College)

Interns assist staff in actively monitoring legislation, attending General Assembly committee meetings, research and writing, assisting with our Virginia Stands for Life prayer walk and rally, and helping with social media and video projects. Candidates for this position should be available at least two full days per week, but preferably more. The optimal candidate for this position would be organized and self-motivated, able to work without constant supervision, and have some skill in research and writing. Both credit and non-credit internships are welcome. Parking is provided and housing can be arranged if necessary.

Page Program (High School)

Pages are responsible for the efficient maintenance of information within The Family Foundation's General Assembly Operations Room and information exchange between The Family Foundation and the members of the General Assembly. Pages assist Family Foundation legislative staff in the accomplishment of their daily tasks, delivery of information to the General Assembly building, and administrative responsibilities in the development department. Pages are encouraged to work at least two (half or full) days per week. The more days a page is in the office, the more he or she will learn and experience.