Senate Transportation Committee

Choose Life Debate

We know you've enjoyed the play by play of what's happened to Senator Ken Cuccinelli's (R-37, Fairfax) legislation to provide an opportunity for Virginians to show their support for life by purchasing "Choose Life" license plates. Monies earned from these plates would help fund qualifying pregnancy resource centers throughout the Commonwealth.  This legislation is still steaming ahead, and so far has continued to eek by every obstacle. The concept, first introduced as SB 801, originally looked like it had met its fate in the Senate Transportation Committee, but then, through skilled parliamentary know-how on the part of Senator Cuccinelli, it was revived on the Senate floor, by amending it into SB 817 by a vote of 20-19. 

Watch the floor debate below:

What Happened And How: "Choose Life" License Plates Pass Senate!

Here are the details of the shocking development on the Senate floor within the last hour which is bound to have the knickers of Planned Parenthood types in a twist and assorted liberals in an extended spot of bother, especially when cars with "Choose Life" license plates zip past them along the streets and byways of their tony precincts. Background: SB 801 was a bill patroned by Senator Ken Cuccinelli (R-37, Fairfax) that would have not only created "Choose Life" license plates, but would have sent part of its proceeds to pregnancy resource centers around Virginia. Unfortunately, the bill died on a 6-6 vote in the Senate Transportation Committee a couple of days ago when two Republican senators, Harry Blevins (R-14, Chesapeake) and John Watkins (R-10, Midlothian), abstained from voting.

Opposition: This was a simple commonsense bill. Even to people who claim abortion is a last resort and who claim to be for "choice" it should have been an innocent piece of legislation. But the pro-abortion opposition —which cannot tolerate even anything optional that promotes life —denounced the plates as political in nature, and thus not allowable by law. Further, a family practitioner attacked crisis pregnancy centers in her testimony. 

On the floor: When another license plate bill came up on the Senate floor a little while ago, SB 817, its patron, Senator Richard Stuart (R-28, Montross), asked the body to accept the bill's committee substitute (a pro forma procedure), and was so moved by the Senate. Then Senator Cuccinelli rose and offered an amendment to include the Choose Life plates.

Reaction: Immediately, Majority Leader Dick Saslaw (D-35, Springfield) asked the chair, Lt. Governor Bill Bolling, to rule the amendment non-germane. However, the LG quickly replied that while he may have had an argument in the original bill, now that Senator Saslaw and the rest of the Senate had adopted the committee amendments — which expanded the bill to include a panoply of plates that the LG gladly rattled off — he had no case. Just like that, there was a vote on agreeing to the amendment and it squeaked by 20-19. One pro forma procedural vote later, the new bill passed 33-5.

Victory: We're still waiting for the LIS site to post the yeas and neas, but the parliamentary maneuvering here was spectacular and dramatic, not to mention the glee we had in seeing Senator Saslaw tied in knots by Senate rules! This also shows, at least as far as some legislation, the Senate GOP is more effective as a one-seat minority then they were as a majority, mostly because it forces them to stick together (at least sometimes) and they want to prove they deserve to return to majority status by flashing some conservative credentials. What would actually happen if they recaptured control is a question for another day. Right now, it's time to enjoy this and work for SB 817's passage in the House.

As Crossover Approaches, It's All To Play For

Tuesday is "crossover" day in the General Assembly, the day when work on bills from their respective chambers must be complete. The past two weeks have been long and intense, as you have been able to tell by reading this blog and by the number of e-mail alerts you've received. (If you don't receive our e-mail alerts, you should. They are informative, fun, fast and have received critical acclaim. People tell us that when they read them, they feel as if they were in the committee room. Click here to sign up.)   Several bills in The Family Foundation's bill profile were acted on recently. Here's an update:

SB 1270: Abortion Center Licensing Requirement (Support)

This legislation, introduced by Senator Jill Vogel (R-27, Winchester), would have required abortion centers to become licensed, have life-saving equipment in their facilities and submit to one yearly inspection. It was drafted to make abortion centers safer for the women who visit them. In fact, the original bill had numerous regulations, many of which pro-abortion activists claim are onerous and designed put these centers out of business. Anticipating this argument, Senator Vogel stripped down the bill to the three simple requirements listed above.

The fact is that there are several types of medical facilities that are much less invassive, such as podiatry centers; and altogether different types of facilities, such as puppy mills, that have much tougher regulations. Furthermore, all medical disciplines and specialities have oversight by peer review boards, with the notable exception of abortionists.

Finally, the pro-abortion side traditionally argues that the Board of Medicine regulates Virginia's abortion clinics. Fine. Senator Vogel presented SJ 276, which the Senate passed unanimously last year, that slams the Board of Medicine, citing a 1999 JLARC report, that discovered "the Board of Medicine  took too long to resolve cases, did not adequately protect the public from substandard practice by doctors, and did not handle medical malpractice cases adequately," among other charges. When confronted with its hypocrisy and the truth, the pro-abortion side did the only thing it could do — ignore it.

So, this bill, which seemed like a logical and bipartisan issue, failed in the Senate Education and Health Committee by a party line vote of 10-5. So much for "safe, legal and rare." Instead, in Virginia, abortion centers remain an exempted class, untouchable and protected by their overlords in the Senate. Read more about this issue here and see video of the Ed and Health hearing here.

SB 801: "Choose Life" License Plates (Support)

This legislation, from Senator Ken Cuccinelli (R-37, Fairfax), not only would have created "Choose Life" license plates, but would have sent part of the proceeds from the plates to pregnancy resource centers around Virginia. The bill was debated in the Senate Transportation Committee. Of course, the opposition denounced the plates, claiming they are political in nature and out of the purview for recognition.

Even more infuriating, a family practitioner unashamedly attacked crisis pregnancy centers in her testimony. The bill died in committee by a vote of 6-6 with Senators Harry Blevins (R-14, Chesapeake) and John Watkins (R-10, Midlothian) abstaining. Senator Blevins was in the room up until just before the vote and then walked out — leaving a "proxy" vote of "abstain" behind.

HB 2579: Informed Consent, Ultrasound Requirement (Support)

Delegate Kathy Bryon's (R-22, Lynchburg) bill would require abortionists to take an ultrasound and allow the woman to view it if she desires before having an abortion. The Family Foundation supports this bill not only because it would give women medically accurate information to aid their decision making, but also with hopes that more women would choose life after clearly seeing that life inside them. The House Courts of Justice Committee reported this bill 15-6. It now goes to the House floor.   

HB 2634: Providing Information on Fetal Pain

Another informed consent bill, patroned by Delegate Ben Cline (R-24, Amherst), would require that a woman be told that her unborn child could feel pain during the abortion process and provide her with information on anesthesia for the child. Again, the House Courts of Justice Committee passed this bill 17-5, and the House will vote on it this week. See some of the sub-committee debate here.  

HB 1624, HB 1625, HB 1726, HB 2385, SB 945, SB 1247:  Legislation on "Sexual Orientation" (Oppose)

With homosexual rights advocates feeling emboldened by recent election victories, every effort has been made this legislative season to make sure that the term "sexual orientation" finds its way into Virginia code. It has been attempted in every form from group life insurance and housing discrimination, to making sure that it becomes a protected class under Virginia's human rights laws. Any incremental step they believe they can take, they will. Thankfully, we can report that all efforts to expand the homosexual agenda have failed thus far, with the exception of SB 945 (life insurance). 

These battles are far from over and other skirmishes over other issues undoubtedly will materialize. If ever it was all to play for, this year's second half is it.