Senator Donald McEachin

McEachin, Senate Dems Conveniently Forget Deadline Extension They Forced In 2012

While the staggering amount of double standards emanating from the Left long since ceased to amaze me, I couldn't help but laugh at loud at Senator Donald McEachin's (D-9, Henrico) floor speech on Obamacare expansion yesterday. He blasted House Republicans for stalling the budget process and potentially sending this year's session into overtime or a special session, the latter of which Democrats vehemently object to. That is, rhetorically. In fact, General Assembly Democrats gladly will go into special session and act as if it's a concession to House Republicans, who oppose the Senate Democrats' proposal to expand Obamacare through the state budget. That's because state law prohibits lawmakers from raising campaign money while in session. Calling quits on the regular 2014 session and reconvening for a special budget session, allows the fundraising appeals to commence. Check your spam filters and bulk mail.

But that's not the biggest McEachin hypocrisy. He sarcastically scolded Republicans, saying that the state budget "isn't a term paper," that "there are snow days and no extensions," and said its due on its deadline of March 8. No questions asked . . . and there were none. But I'll ask them.

For starters, Senator, didn't you and your 19 Democrat colleagues vote en bloc for weeks and weeks well into and beyond the 2012 session's deadline to bottle up the budget process, since the lieutenant governor cannot break ties on the budget? That answer would be yes, and in a way that ended the budget standoff only a Hollywood producer would believe (click here to go down memory lane).

Okay, so I only have that one question. I think that's enough.

But not only does the senator apparently suffer from a memory lapse, he is fundamentally wrong on so many facets of the budget debate. First, Medicaid (Obamacare expansion), is not part of the appropriations process, therefore, should not be part of the budget bill. It is federal dollars and spent separately. It is not money raised from state taxes; it is money from the federal government for a specific program and, therefore, cannot be appropriated as tax money is for education or police, for example. Further, the language inserted in the Senate budget is stand alone language, appropriate only for a separate bill creating a new program.

Secondly, last year, the two chambers agreed that it would not be a part of this year's budget. As part of that deal, the General Assembly created the Medicaid Innovation and Reform Commission to determine which Medicaid reforms to pursue and new ways of securing health care for the poor. Only after its recommendations would Obamacare expansion be considered. Senate Democrats also reject the House Republican proposal for a first-time outside audit of Medicaid, a program with a history of abuse and mismanagement.

It's also funny that the Democrats are concerned with the 400,000 new people Medicaid/Obamacare expansion would cover in Virginia, all well over 100 percent of the poverty line, but not concerned by the five million people nationally who have lost their medical insurance because of Obamacare. How many of those live in Virginia?

Senator McEachin is correct about one thing: It's not a term paper, it's a budget for eight million people, and there is a deadline. But he'd rather blame Republicans for something they haven't done but which his side gladly did in 2012 and are preparing to do again.

Billions and billions. That's what Senate Democrats are trying to force House Republicans into spending on Obamacare expansion in Virginia.

Quote Of The Day: Games Lawmakers Do And Don't Admit To Playing

We end the second month of the fourth year of the decade with a humorous, but candid admission from Senator Donald McEachin (D-9, Henrico), who continues an amazing run of QODs won by Democrats this session. We don't agree with Senator McEachin on almost anything, but it was good to hear him honestly admit his legislative tactics. The House Appropriations Sub-Committee on Compensation and Retirement met early this afternoon and had only one bill on its agenda: Senator McEachin's SB 252, a bill that started out as a domestic partnership benefits bill for state government employees, but was "amended down" to an almost harmless bill. But as much as it was watered down, passing it would represent an however-small-incremental move toward domestic partner benefits.

In introducing the bill he made a point of the fact that as amended, the bill only allows access to purchasing health insurance and that no non-family member could be added to a policy. That was meant to allay fears of these purse string watchdogs that Virginia's budget wouldn't take a hit in extra human resource costs. When sub-committee Chairman Charles Poindexter (R-9, Glade Hill) asked for those who supported the bill to come forward, a representative of the City of Richmond approached the lectern to admit the bill was put in at the city's request. He assured the delegates that it was optional, not mandatory for localities many of which share expenses with the state), but that Richmond needed it so that it could compete for workers in an area with several Fortune 500 companies. With that, Senator McEachin jumped back into place and said:

I didn't mean to leave out local government, Mr. Chairman. I wasn't trying to pull a fast one on the committee. It doesn't mean I wouldn't try, but it's not this time.

Not that he's the only lawmaker out of the 100 delegates and 40 senators who harbors such machinations, although he was probably behind this one earlier in session, and not that there are tricks of the trade that can benefit and bereft either side of any issue. But he it was a frank admission despite the chuckles it elicited — perhaps because his fellow lawmakers recognized the truth of it.

By the way: the bill was tabled by unanimous voice vote, effectively killing it for the year. Senator McEachin may need to try that fast one next year. But we'll be watching.

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Big Don put appropriators on notice today. He needs to be watched.

Student Freedom Of Speech Bill Passes Senate!

Tuesday afternoon, the Virginia Senate passed SB 236, legislation that will clarify the free speech and religious liberty protections of public school students. The bill, a high priority for The Family Foundation, passed by a vote of 20-18, largely along party lines. Senator Bill Carrico (R-40, Galax), a longtime defender of religious liberty, is the bill's patron. Based on existing law in two states that has not been challenged in the courts, Carrico's bill would create what the law calls "limited public forums" at certain public school events, which restrict schools from censoring subject matter 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, wear clothing which express religious sentiments and the like.

Several senators expressed support for the bill, including Senator Tom Garrett (R-22, Louisa). Senator Garrett's passionate defense of freedom of expression and religious liberty as a whole was topped only by his answers to questions posed by an opponent to the bill, Senator Donald McEachin (D-9, Richmond). Senator McEachin, attempting to stump the bill's proponents, asked numerous questions about the supposed need to define various phrases used in the bill. However, he severely underestimated Senator Garrett's knowledge of religious liberty case law. Senator Garrett eagerly and deftly answered McEachin's questions and furthermore challenged him to apply this bill not just to Christian religious speech, but rather to all religious speech. Garrett also argued that students should be allowed to articulate and hear philosophies and beliefs that are unpopular or minority views for the good of their education.

Also defending the bill were Senators Dick Black (R-13, Loudoun) and Richard Stuart (R-4, Fredericksburg). Senator Stuart pointed out that while legislators on both sides of the isle complain about the SOLs and the "teaching to the test without teaching critical thinking," this bill would provide the opportunity for viewpoints that not everyone agrees with to be expressed, which motivates critical thinking.

The opposition misrepresented the legislation by claiming that it would "coerce" students to hear a viewpoint that may be "offensive." Senator Adam Ebbin (D-30, Alexandria) warned of "coercive prayer" to students who are compelled to attend a function. In fact, the bill doesn't offer special protection to religious speech, but simply the same protection that is offered any other type of speech at a school function. It evens the playing field for students who have a religious viewpoint, protecting them from unwarranted discrimination, and only requires school boards to adopt policies that protect that speech.

We appreciate that 19 of 20 Republicans voted to support religious liberty with their votes for the bill, as well as Democrat Senator Phil Puckett (D-38, Tazwell). The only Republican to vote against the measure was Senator John Watkins (R-10, Chesterfield).

A similar bill, HB 493, patroned by Delegate Scott Lingamfelter (R-31, Woodbridge), is working its way through the House of Delegates.

House Sub-Committee Defeats "Discrimination" Bill

Late yesterday a House General Laws sub-committee defeated legislation (SB 701) that would have elevated sexual behavior to a protected class in the state’s hiring laws. The sub-committee voted down the measure by a vote of 5-1. The patron, Senator Donald McEachin (D-9, Richmond), has carried similar legislation for many years. Several people testified in favor of the measure, some from Virginia's universities, such as VCU and William and Mary. All claimed a "climate of fear," believing that they can be fired for their sexual behavior. But no one, again this year, could present a single case of anyone who has actually been discriminated against. Statistics from the state show that there have been no confirmed cases of discrimination based on sexual behavior or "orientation."

That point was made by Delegate Todd Gilbert (R-15, Woodstock), a long-time member of the sub-committee. He stated that he has asked proponents to present actual evidence of discrimination, but no one has presented any such evidence, nor did they this year. He made the motion to defeat the bill.

Proponents also argued that Virginia is "losing talent" because we haven't elevated sexual behavior to a protected class. However, Virginia annually is recognized as one of the best managed states in the nation and a state with an exceptional business climate. Unfortunately, if people have a fear of being discriminated against, it comes from the rhetoric and fear-mongering of proponents of this legislation, and not from actual discrimination.

Should sexual behavior be elevated to protected status, the next steps no doubt will be to discriminate against faith-based organizations that partner with the state on assisting the needy, providing adoption services, and a host of other ministries, simply because they may have a viewpoint of human sexuality that runs counter to proponents of this measure. We hear a lot of contrivance around hear about the unleashed horrors of "unintended consequences" certain bills may allow. But the intended consequences of this bill to religious liberty, if ever passed, are frightening.

Others on the sub-committee who voted to defeat the bill were Delegates Chris Peace (R-97, Hanover), Barry Knight (R-81, Virginia Beach), John Cox (R-55, Ashland) and Peter Farrell (R-56, Henrico).

Bills Undermining Marriage On Senate Floor This Week!

Tomorrow at noon, the full Senate is scheduled to take up two bills on the floor that would undermine marriage in Virginia and, we believe, may violate Virginia's Marriage Amendment.

Please contact your senator now and urge him or her to vote NO on SB 1121 and SB 1122. To call his or her capitol office, click here. To e-mail him or her, click here.

SB 1121, patroned by Senators Donald McEachin (D-9, Richmond) and Mark Herring (D-33, Leesburg), would permit local governments to extend health and life insurance to "any other person" as agreed to by the insurer and the local government. Included in "any other person" would be domestic partnerships between non-married hetero- and homosexual couples. In essence, this bill creates domestic partner benefits for local government employees.

A second bill, SB 1122, also patroned by Senator McEachin, would allow the state to expand benefits in state government to cover domestic partners. The fiscal impact statement done by the state admits this saying the bill . . .

could create an increase in costs paid by state agencies, state employees, and retired state employees under the state employee health insurance plan. The provisions of this bill may allow coverage to be offered to extended family members and other non-related individuals not currently covered.

The cost to the state (and consequently the taxpayer) to these bills may not be determinable by the state, but we can guarantee that the creation of this new entitlement will be extraordinarily costly for you and your family. At a time when the state can't even pay its full commitment to Virginia Retirement System and is struggling to make ends meet, the Virginia Senate is about to pass legislation that will bury the state in insurance costs.

While the legislation is "permissive," and doesn’t require that benefits be offered, this legislation is obviously the next step in the progression toward domestic partner benefits in Virginia. The long-term consequence of this legislative track goes beyond finances to a threat to religious liberty. Eventually, private employers will be forced to provide these benefits against their will in order to be eligible for government contracts. We have seen this progression elsewhere and many other states are eliminating faith-based providers from contracting with them for this reason.

According to the state constitution:

Nor shall this Commonwealth or its political subdivisions create or recognize another union, partnership, or other legal status to which is assigned the rights, benefits, obligations, qualities, or effects of marriage.

Insurance long has been recognized as a benefit of marriage in our Commonwealth. This legislation would create a "class of persons" and assign them a benefit of marriage.

Governor McDonnell's Executive Directive

Late Wednesday afternoon, amidst growing tensions on college campuses, Governor Bob McDonnell issued a "Governor’s Directive," ordering those in the executive branch not to discriminate in their hiring practices (see here). His directive specifically referenced "sexual orientation." Governor McDonnell issued his directive in an apparent effort to ease the hostile atmosphere on our campuses and in the General Assembly. Four years ago, then-Attorney General McDonnell challenged Governor Tim Kaine’s executive order that added sexual orientation to the anti-discrimination policy, saying he didn’t have the authority to do so. It is still unclear exactly what legal weight, if any, a directive has, but media reports indicate that it does not have the same force of law of an executive order.

Much of the anger among college students has been generated by those who are supposed to be in authority at those schools — college presidents and administrators — who have criticized the advisory letter Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli sent them last week. The letter stated that public colleges and universities with anti-discrimination policies that include sexual orientation are in conflict with state law. Instead of providing leadership, the college presidents and administrators have provoked anger and outrage with inflamed rhetoric.

A media backlash also was fed by heated and often mean-spirited rhetoric by a handful of General Assembly members, including Senator Donald McEachin (D-9, Henrico) who, in a floor speech earlier this week, referenced Governor McDonnell’s graduate school thesis, yelling on the Senate floor, "We are being governed by the thesis!" Joining in the daily diatribes were Delegate David Englin (D-45, Alexandria) and Delegate Joe Morrissey (D-74, Henrico). It was often insinuated that anyone who disagrees with adding sexual orientation to the non-discrimination policy is hateful and bigoted. But truth has been difficult to find in this debate.

In addition, some legislators made the outrageous claim that, without a non-discrimination policy that included sexual orientation, Virginia is not "business friendly" and would not be able to attract new jobs. But several publications and organizations currently recognize Virginia as the best state in America to do business without having this policy.

Nonetheless, yesterday morning, Senator Tommy Norment (R-3, Williamsburg), in a clear conflict of interest as an employee of the College of William and Mary, one of the colleges expressing outrage over the AG’s letter, amended an economic development bill introduced by the Governor with: "The Commonwealth of Virginia maintains an ecumenical atmosphere in its sexual orientation hiring policies in the private and public workforce."

Besides being a bizarre statement, it is a frightening overreach into the private workplace, which would include religious-based ministries and churches. Fortunately, on the floor of the Senate — because of the Governor’s directive — Senator Norment removed his amendment from the bill.

The Family Foundation has and continues to maintain that there is no need for special protections for homosexuals. As the issue was thoroughly debated and voted on multiple times throughout this year’s General Assembly, no evidence of discrimination was presented.

We absolutely agree with one statement in Governor McDonnell’s directive — that state employment should be based on "qualifications, merit and performance," regardless of one’s immutable or unimmutable characteristics.

Over the next several days, we will consult with experts to determine the legal ramifications of this directive, but we are concerned when the Governor’s action is being heralded as a step forward by the ACLU and the state’s largest homosexual lobby, Equality Virginia (Pilot on Politics).

In a statement, Kent Willis of the ACLU said, "We hope this is only the beginning, and that the Governor's example will inspire legislators to finally pass a law prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in both private and public sector employment."

Any thought that the groups and organizations behind this effort will stop at public employment is naive. It is very clear that they want to force private businesses — including churches — to abide by their morality.

Sexual Orientation Bill Up For Senate Vote Monday!

Legislation introduced by Senator Donald McEachin (D-9, Richmond), SB 66, seeks to add sexual orientation to the state’s hiring policy of non-discrimination. The bill was scheduled for a vote in the full Senate earlier this week but it was delayed, likely due to grassroots pressure. Certainly, thanks to concerned Virginians, there are some senators feeling the heat from home. After Senator McEachin withdrew an attempted floor amendment, SB 66 made it through the second read on the floor of the full Senate and is up for a final vote on Monday. If this unnecessary legislation is successful, it would be the first time in Virginia history that sexual orientation would be elevated to a protected class. Furthermore, there is no evidence that discrimination is taking place.

Even if you have e-mailed your senator, it is critical that you contact him or her again over the weekend and urge a vote against this impractical bill. We can prevent this legislation from crossing over to the House if we work together to stop it now. Additionally, the impact of defeating this bill on the Senate floor, rather than in the House, a more likely scenario, may provide needed momentum to defeat the rest of the pro-homosexual agenda. Click here for your senator's contact information or here to determine who your senator is.

Bill Of The Day/QOD Runner-Up: Wake Up Senator!

Today's Bill of the Day also generated a near-miss Quote of the Day. HB 2671, patroned by Delegate Todd Gilbert (R-15, Woodstock), is a bill that would recognize Page County as the "Cabin Capital of Virginia."  Senator Mark Obenshain (R-26, Harrisonburg), apparently carrying the bill on the Senate floor since he represents Page, found himself in the midst of a tortuous Q&A on the bill by Senator Creigh Deeds (D-25, Bath). Among the pressing matters the would-be governor wanted to know from the stand-in patron was "Does the gentleman know what goes on in cabins?" Any type of debate signals, even if not paying attention, that the bill clearly is not in the uncontested calendar.  

But enough was enough for Senator Donald McEachin (D-9, Henrico), who decided to take action:

Senator McEachin: "Mr. President, I request the bill be pulled from the uncontested block."

Lt. Governor Bill Bolling: "It has been pulled from the uncontested block. Are the Senators ready to vote? . . ."

Wake-up, big Don! The bill passed 20-17.