Jill Vogel

Sexual Orientation Bill Passes Senate Committee

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

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

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

This is a solution in search of a problem.

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

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

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

Primary Thoughts

Now that the dust has settled — not from the earthquake (another aftershock of 4.5 magnitude at 1:00 a.m. with possibly more in the offing) — but from Virginia's General Assembly primary season, some thoughts. First, although my prediction on Monday concerned the general election, it already has taken an embryonic form. It was an exceptional night for conservatives in numerous Republican Senate primaries, yet barely a whisper emanated from the mainstream media about this revolution. Throw in a previously held nomination contest in Hampton Roads as well as some conservatives who were unopposed. it's almost a lock that whether the GOP wins the Senate or not, its caucus, already trending to the right, may become nearly aligned with its House counterparts. But not all media are ignoring this trend or letting it slip them by. John Gizzi at Human Events recognizes it and is one of the few national columnists to trumpet the results.

If the GOP does win control of the Virginia Senate, not only will the caucus have a decidedly different philosophical bent from its past leaders, the likes of Ben Loyola, Jeff Frederick, Dick Black, Bill Carrico and Tom Garrett, among others, joining Mark Obenshain, Steve Martin, Jill Vogel and company, will create a dynamic not ever seen in Virginia history. The possibilities should jump start all ends of the conservative coalition, from social conservatives to limited government advocates, into a turbocharged grassroots effort this fall for an unprecedented opportunity — delivering both chambers of the General Assembly into conservative stewardship.

As for specific highlights: Turnout wasn't great, and there was the earthquake to deal with, but 10 percent turnout was not unexpected. What was shockingly appalling was the 2.5 percent turnout in the Southwestern 21st district. Delegate Dave Nutter took a late gamble by forsaking his safe House seat very late in the process (Roanoke Times), after denying he was interested, and jumped into the Senate race, defeating Tea Party backed Tripp Godsey. He will have to not only gain the Tea Party's enthusiastic backing, but energize a slew of activists to work hard for him to defeat entrenched liberal incumbent John Edwards. In what is still a blue district, Delegate Nutter now has even more work cut out for him.

Speaking of blue districts, now that he's won the 30th district Democrat primary, say hello to Senator Adam Ebbin. More reason than ever to turn the Senate conservative: As left as there is this side of Europe, Mr. Ebbin in the Senate majority will be able to advance every left-wing cause he advocated for in the House, but which met merciful deaths there.

In the hotly contested, newly drawn very red 22nd Senate district, where five Republicans went at it, Louisa County Commonwealth's Attorney Tom Garrett won. Some have asked whether it's a coincidence or irony that the 22nd was the epicenter of Tuesday's earthquake, as hard fought as it was. Bryan Rhode proved good looks, youth and a lot of money can't overcome among GOP voters a perceived slight to then-Attorney General Candidate Ken Cuccinelli (Lynchburg News & Advance).

Meanwhile, the Republican Party of Virginia establishment got crushed by the former state party chairman it ousted. Despite former U.S. Senator George Allen and other establishment Republicans endorsing opponent Tito Munoz, Jeff Frederick won the 36th district easily (Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star). Lesson for the party royalty: Opposing Jeff Frederick typically leads to his success. He is the supremo at channeling establishment opposition into intense grassroots insurgencies that make said opposition look clueless.

Another loser — Bearing Drift. Perhaps the most influential and most read Virginia conservative political blog, and very dear friends, its endorsed candidates in the four highest profile and contested primaries took a beating — five if you consider the fact that it endorsed Rhode and Mark Peake in the 22nd, hedging its bets. The winner: Social and grassroots conservatives. In many races, all candidates had certified conservative bona fides and other factors came into play, notably, experience and electability. The latter taking in many considerations, such as residence and community involvement and name identification in the most populous portions of the district, for example.

What about the Tea Party? A surprise during the filing period was that the expected shoe did not drop on many GOP incumbents. Only one, caucus leader Tommy Norment of the 3rd district, received a challenge. Instead, Tea Party backed candidates (really, the old-line movement/grassroots conservatives) went another route, gunning instead for newly redistricted and open seats. By and large, they were successful.

Is It Howell Or Rorschach?

One of the most unsightly of all the sausage making that is the legislative process is redistricting. Every 10 years, all 140 General Assembly districts, as well as Virginia's Congressional districts, must be redrawn to reflect population shifts as accounted for in the census. The districts can get pretty contorted, to say the least, with compactness and communities of interest giving way to snake-like shapes that slither from one end of the state to another (not that Virginia is an exception, either). Complicating matters is that whatever the General Assembly and governor agree to must be approved by the Justice Department because Virginia falls under the Voting Rights Act. But there are several rare dynamics at play this year. For one, it's the first time since Reconstruction that opposite parties control the two chambers during a redistricting year. As each chamber has prerogative over its districts, traditionally they don't interfere with each other's plan. However, with Governor Bob McDonnell as a GOP backstop to Senate Democrat mischief, Senate Dems laid down the law: Instead of two bills this year, anything coming from the House would be attached to the Senate's bill as a way of safeguarding its new districts from the governor's veto or amendments. If not, Senate Dems promised stalemate on the House plan. Interestingly, in this interview (read transcript) on The Kojo Nnamdi Show on WAMU-FM in March, Majority Leader Dick Saslaw (D-35, Springfield) was asked what the governor's role was in redistricting and he replied, "sign or amend" the bill. No mention of the veto option.

Here's more from the senator that day (hear audio), starting partisan, then trying to soften:

Well, if I lose a few seats as a result of redistricting, and I'm in the majority, I'm not doing a very good job. ... And I would simply say, well, you know, our goal is to make the Democratic districts, particularly the marginal ones, a little bit better than they are now. I'm not greedy. I'm not trying to put all the Republicans out of business by any stretch. They didn't do that to us 10 years ago. And we're not gonna do that to them.

So much for that. Governor McDonnell vetoed the bill sent to him last week anyway, primarily because of the dysfunctional and obscenely drawn Senate districts that drew fire from groups as varied as Prince William County to the NAACP (see Jenifer Buske at the Washington Post Virginia Politics Blog). While the House plan passed with all but 10 Democrat votes, the Senate plan — which could add up to three Democrat seats per the Richmond Times-Dispatch — was divided on party lines, 22-18. No wonder. None of this was a surprise.

More dynamics: While there is time to settle the Congressional districts because those elections are not until next year, all 140 General Assembly seats are up this year. Already, primaries have been pushed back to August to accommodate the readjusted districts. Candidates filing to run still don't know where they are running. Even if the parties and governor come to an agreement, there's this: This is the first redistricting since the Voting Rights Act with a Democrat president. Who knows what changes his Justice Department might demand. If all of this can't be wrapped up by a time certain, the entire process for both chambers gets transferred to judges.

But today there is hope. After he bragged that he wouldn't change "a dot or a comma," declared with bravado he wouldn't "surrender" and dared the governor to issue a second veto (Ros Helderman at the Post) for fear of sending it to the unelected judiciary, Senator Saslaw backed down. Now, Senators Janet Howell (D-32, Fairfax) and Jill Vogel (R-27, Winchester) are leading a bipartisan working group to come up with a new plan (the Post). But is it false hope? Senator Howell echoed Senator Saslaw's original sentiments: "We won’t negotiate away our majority." But then Senator Saslaw told the Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star, "There are some of us who are going to try to . . . get things worked out in an amicable fashion. We're determined to try to make the process work right." The whiplash changes in attitude are enough to require psychological testing. More on that in a second.

Senator Howell needs to understand that she doesn't determine the majority. If she did, there would be no need for elections. Voters determine majorities. One wonders what she and Senator Saslaw fear. Only three years ago, liberals heralded Virginia as blue. The existing Senate districts were good enough to flip a one-time 24-16 GOP majority to 22-18 Democrat. If Senate Democrats are so confident in their ideas and performance the last four years as the majority, what's with the gerrymandering that has split some localities into as many as eight districts?

Grossed out yet by the sausage making? Then you may or may not want to take this little test based on Senator Howell's vetoed plan. The districts' shapes are so contorted one might think they are ink blots on a Rorschach test. Click here to take the Is It Howell Or Rorschach? test. Disclaimer: Score does not correlate to actual state of mental health, but may indicate the insecurity of some Senate Democrats.

General Assembly Issue Three: Restoring The Balance Of Power

This is the third in a series about key issues facing this year’s General Assembly. Issue One, Life Defined And Protected, was posted Tuesday and Issue Two, Eliminate ObamaCare Induced Abortion Funding In Virginia, was posted yesterday.

It's the word of the day — federalism. Few Americans have any idea what it actually means or know its historical origins, but with the massive expansion of the federal government since the election of President Obama, more people are learning. From the government take over of health care, student loans and auto companies, to bailouts of banks, AIG and Fannie Mac and Freddie Mae, we have seen an unprecedented expansion of federal power.

Essentially, federalism means that the federal government will do what it is constitutionally empowered to do, and the states will take care of their own business. It has long been forgotten that the federal government exists at the mercy of the states or, as per the constitution, "to the people" — not the other way around. The government was meant to be our servant (thus the term "public service"), but now Washington has become the master, controlling aspects of life and the economy once thought preposterous, and demanding us to feed it with ever more of our heard earned money and compliance with its controls on our liberty.

But as the federal government explodes in size and power, some efforts are being undertaken to attempt to restore at least some balance of power (see Pat McSweeney's Richmond Times-Dispatch op-ed). The recent elections are evidence that while Americans may not be entirely familiar with federalism, they support it.

In Virginia, an effort to restore federalism is being led by House Speaker Bill Howell (R-28, Fredericksburg) through a repeal amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The repeal amendment would simply allow for any federal law — ObamaCare, for example — to be repealed if two-thirds of the states agree on the repeal. You might say it's a bill to protect "fly over country" from ideas that start in New York and California.

The Family Foundation supports this effort. We believe that there is an important role for the federal government but that its jurisdiction is limited. A repeal amendment would be a step toward restoring the intent of the constitution.

A concern is that the resolution calls for the ratification of this amendment through a constitutional convention, rather than through the congressional-state legislative ratification process. While some think a convention could have unintended consequences, any effort to do so can be limited to this issue alone. Frankly, the constitution is being misinterpreted by the courts and federal government just about every day. The repeal amendment would give states the ability to correct some of those misinterpretations.

Senators Ryan McDougle (R-4, Mechanicsville) and Jill Vogel (R-27, Winchester), and Delegate Jim LeMunyon (R-67, Oak Hill) have introduced legislation (SJ 280 and HJ 542, respectively) requiring Congress to call a convention to add the repeal amendment to the constitution. At least two-thirds of the states would have to pass similar resolutions before Congress must act.

Our Founding Fathers understood the need for a system of checks and balances — both within the federal government (executive, legislative and judicial) — and between the federal government and the states that created it. The repeal amendment would be another tool that could be used to protect our freedoms and ensure that balance is restored.

With Signing Of Health Care Freedom Act, National Health Care Fight Moves To Virginia

As the General Assembly began in January, perhaps the most anticipated legislative debate was going to be over the Virginia Health Care Freedom Act. How would this legislation — written to exempt Virginians from the unprecedented individual mandate in the Congressional health care bill — be received after a huge conservative victory in the fall? After all, the campaign was seen as a referendum against the federal government’s increasing control of private business and individual lives. But could it clear the typically obstructionist Virginia Senate? The answer came pretty early in session when five key Senate Democrats joined all 18 Republicans to send it comfortably through to the House where it was met warmly — even 55 percent of House Democrats voted for it. Similarly, the House version made its way through both chambers later in session. It was all anti-climatic until the events of last weekend.

After Congressional liberals rammed through its government-run health care plan, despite overwhelming opposition across the country, and the subsequent White House gloating, all eyes turned to Virginia. Yesterday, Governor Bob McDonnell made it official with what had to be the most widely reported bill signing ceremony in recent Virginia history. With his signature, Virginia has exempted itself from the most significant portion of the new federal law. We congratulate Governor McDonnell, the General Assembly and the bill patrons for their hard work in making history and protecting Virginia families from the federal government’s burdensome overreach and constitutionally questionable actions.

The patrons and chief co-patrons responsible for this major success for constitutional principle are: Senators Jill Vogel (R-27, Winchester), Steve Martin (R-11, Chesterfield) and Fred Quayle (R-13, Suffolk); and Delegates Bob Marshall (R-10, Manassas), John O’Bannon (R-73, Henrico) and Chris Peace (R-97, Hanover).

Now, however, even more national attention is focused on Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli as he defends this new law against the government takeover of our health care system. We thank him for his efforts and state and national leadership on this matter, as he does what he was sworn to do — defend Virginia law and the Virginia and United States Constitutions. He, as you can guess, is under a blistering attack from a loud, but determined, minority opposed to the Virginia law and his legal actions against federally run health care. You can support him by signing an online petition found here.

Finally, thanks to all of you who contacted your legislators and worked so hard to defend the founding principles of Virginia and the nation during this General Assembly session. As these uncertain economic times continue, more work will be required in the months ahead to restore our Founders’ vision.

Virginia Closer To Becoming First State To Re-Establish Freedom From Federal Government!

Freedom-loving, constitution-respecting Virginians are one step closer to seeing Virginia enact historic legislation! Today, the House Commerce and Labor Committee voted 17-5 to report HB 10, The Virginia Health Care Freedom Act, to the House floor. The bill is patroned by Delegate Bob Marshall (R-13, Manassas). The committee also rolled the similarly worded HB 722, patroned by Delegate Chris Peace (R-97 Hanover), into HB 10. In introducing the bill, Delegate Marshall told the committee that the Congressional Budget Office cited the fact that Congress in 220 years never has mandated an individual purchase of any product — and if it hasn't done so in that time, it means it knows it can't do so. In typical Marshall style, he also quoted Alexander Hamilton, the most ardent supporter among the Founding Fathers of an influential central government, in Federalist 83, where he explicitly stated Congress' power extends only to certain enumerated powers and defined the "welfare" clause quite differently than do most politicians today.

In addition, the committee scheduled a late vote on SB 283, SB 311 and SB 417, the health care freedom bills passed in historic fashion by the Senate. The Senate bills are patroned by Senators Fred Qualye (R-13, Suffolk), Steve Martin (R-11, Chesterfield) and Jill Vogel (R-27, Winchester), respectively. Easy victories were expected for those bills as well.

Virginia now is only a few steps from leading on, and asserting, what it so profoundly led and asserted two centuries ago: That the states and the people, as explicitly stated in the 10th Amendment of the United States Constitution, are the sovereigns of this country and commonwealth, and where the central government has no stated role, the people have natural rights to make decisions for themselves. Virginia now has the opportunity, in a new era, once again to lead the country in respect for constitutionally guaranteed limited government.

Even with this great momentum, nothing — nothing — should ever be taken for granted around here. These four bills – HB 10, SB 283, SB 311 and SB 417 – now go to the House floor. Anyone of the Senate bills that passes will go to Governor Bob McDonnell for his signature. E-mail your delegate (here) (or find your delegate here) and ask him or her to vote in favor of Virginians’ rights to make their own health care decisions without the federal government’s intrusion.

How The Historic Senate Vote On Health Care Freedom Happened

It's not hyberbole to say this afternoon's Senate vote was historic. The legislation it passed in three identically worded bills – SB 283, SB 311 and SB 417 – guarantees Virginians the right to freely choose their health care options irregardless of federal government mandates. It also asserts a notion long ignored but firmly ingrained in the U.S. Constitution. It also shows, from a political perspective, that there are Democrats who understand the small government movement isn't limited to "swastika-wearing" thugs as U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi would have us believe. The floor debate wasn't as dramatic as I — and those of us who relish political theater — had hoped. Sure, there were some pointed questions, but judging by the temperment of the questions and their lack of heft, it could have been mistaken for a transportation funding bill. That was an immediate clue the Senate majority knew it had lost more than two defectors from its caucus. If it was only two, there would have been deal making, recesses to sweat them out, arm twisting, all of the above or more.

If there was a surprise, it was in how many Dems defected and who two of them were: Senators Ed Houck (D-17, Spotsylvania) and John Miller (D-1, Newport News). There were rumors about the former last week (acceptable, but believe-it-when-you-see-it) and hope about the latter (no way that's gonna happen). The third new vote, also rumored late last week, Senator Roscoe Reynolds (D-20, Martinsville), was a more likely possibility. Although the 23-17 margin was a pleasant shock, I rooted for a showdown 20-20 tie that Lt. Governor Bill Bolling would have broken in the affirmative. That would have been more headline grabbing.

Not that the debate wasn't sharp. The questions from Senate liberals to the bills’ patrons — Senators Fred Quayle (R-13, Suffolk), SB 283; Steve Martin (R-11, Chesterfield) SB 311; and Jill Vogel (R-27, Winchester), SB 417 — came from Senators Donald McEachin (D-9, Henrico), John Edwards (D-21, Roanoke), and Majority Leader Richard Saslaw (D-37, Springfield), as well as the more moderate Senator Chap Peterson (D-34, Fairfax). But their questions repeatedly missed the point, including questions about contracts, insurance requirements to join athletic clubs, and ex-spouses providing insurance in divorce settlements. Senator Quayle nailed it in his opening remarks when he said, "This bill attempts to reinforce the Constitution of the United States. … The Constitution doesn’t grant rights to anyone. It puts limits on what government can do to us."

Nothing more needed to be said. This being the Senate, of course, more was. Including this gem from the not-smarting-enough-from-his-November-trip-to-the-shed Senator Creigh Deeds (D-25, Bath), who complained that with the economy and employment in bad shape, the General Assembly should not be "legislating in theory." A LOL coming from a guy who was shredded primarily because of national issues involving government intervention. Besides, he should know that it's Washington liberals who have ignored the economy and jobs for an entire year in lieu of health care "reform." But it's not theory. The Constitution is the law of the land. Amazing he doesn't understand that, but his comments today make it clear why his campign was a case study in political disasters, prompting comparisons to other campaigns ("Deeds-like").

At the beginning of session, not many people gave this legislation a chance of getting out of a Senate committee, much less passing the Senate floor by a wide margin. But it happened thanks to a large coalition comprised of thousands of activists from across Virginia, many of whom have been here several times to lobby their representatives and attend committee hearings.

But this is the General Assembly, after all, and nothing becomes law until it is signed. So vigilence is needed. We will stay on top of this legislation — and encourage all supporters to do the same — until it passes both chambers and is signed into law.

Here Are The Five Senate Democrats Who Voted For Health Care Freedom

The five Virginia Senate Democrats who voted for SB 283, SB 311 and SB 417, the Senate bill for health care freedom and defense of the 10th Amendment, are: Senators Charles Colgan (D-29, Manassas) and Phil Puckett (D-38, Tazewell), who both voted for it committee, as well as Senators Edd Houck (D-17, Spottsylvania), John Miller (D-1, Newport News) and Roscoe Reynolds (D-20, Martinsville). See the vote for SB 283 here, which is identical to the votes for the subsequent bills. The bills are patroned, respectively, by Senators Fred Quayle (R-13, Suffolk), Steve Martin (R-11, Chesterfield) and Jill Vogel (R-27, Winchester).