Senator Edd Houck

Education Freedom = Racism? Some Senate Dems Say Yes, Others Remain Silent

I’ve been working for The Family Foundation for over a decade and thought I’d seen it all, but this morning’s display by several members of the Senate Finance Committee while debating a school choice bill went far beyond anything I’ve ever seen. Delegate Jimmie Massie (R-78, Henrico) presented HB 599, a bill that would provide a tax credit for donations to private school scholarship programs. After several organizations, including The Family Foundation, the Virginia Catholic Conference, a private schools association and a Richmond Jewish school, spoke in support of the bill, the committee took over. From there, the normal decorum of the Senate vanished into a cloud of pure anger.

The hostility of several Democrat members of the Finance Committee to parents and education freedom went on full display. I cannot with words adequately describe what then took place. But you don’t have to take my word for it — we have the entire shameful sequence on video (see our YouTube channel as well)! Here is the entire committee hearing in its entirety:

Part 1, Delegate Massie's Presentation:

Common sense stuff from Delegate Massie and a host of expert witnesses.

Part 2,  Supporting Statements Continue:

An eloquent, passionate, personal and intellectual presentation by Chesapeake resident Alberta Wilson.

Part 3, Finance Staff — No Fiscal Impact And The Outrage Begins:

Senator Howell should know the answer before she calls the witness!

Part 4, More Race Cards, Conclusion and Vote:

Senator Miller: This bill is akin to "selling people" but she'd still vote for it once public schools are fully funded!

In addition to all of this, Senator Henry Marsh (D-16, Richmond) criticized the bill without reading it: He accused the bill of subsidizing parents who send their children to private schools, but the bill plainly states the student must currently be enrolled in public schools to be eligible for the scholarships! I urge you to take the time to watch these short videos. I know you will be as dismayed as I was sitting there watching.

In a nutshell, opponents to the bill implied over and over that efforts to provide education freedom for low and moderate-income families is racially motivated. Without actually making the claim it was clear what they were saying. The harsh tone and rhetoric on display was simply appalling. Perhaps most disappointing is the fact that the children who are suffering most from poor government schools are African-American children in urban areas. It is private schools in those areas that offer true hope for children who otherwise have little chance at success. In fact, one of the most compelling testimonies in favor of the bill came from an African-American woman, Alberta Wilson, a champion of school choice!

Question: Do Senators Colgan, Reynolds and Houck, who also voted to kill the bill, agree with their Democrat colleagues' assessment that school choice is essentially racist?

After watching the videos, ask them yourselves:

Senator Charles Colgan: district29@senate.virginia.gov, (804) 698-7529

Senator Roscoe Reynolds: district20@senate.virginia.gov, (804) 698-7520

Senator Edd Houck: district17@senate.virginia.gov, (804) 698-7517

This morning’s antics are emblematic of the philosophical divide between the political class in Richmond and families. But the anger displayed also is indicative that these legislators are beginning to feel the heat! Just two years ago, school choice bills didn’t even register a procedural motion in Senate Finance. Today, they generate heated responses.

I’ll say it again as I’ve said before — school choice is coming to Virginia! It might not be this year, it might not be next year, but it is coming. Families are demanding it. Watch the video so that you can see exactly whom it is that stands in the way of freedom.

You might not hear much about this in the Mainstream Media, although the Norfolk Virginian-Pilot mentions it toward the end of this article. But that's why we and the New Media are here. And, we'd love to hear from you, too. Let us know what your impressions of the committee hearing are.

Virginia News Stand: November 11, 2009

Annotations & Elucidations "Stylistic" Election Coverage

The Communications Department didn't come up with much from conventional news sources today, but I dug around and found, in of all places, in-depth election coverage and post mortems from Richmond's too-old-to-be-hip-anymore weekly freebie, Style Weekly, which now delves into the business of the serious. It's done a decent job, too. Of particular interest are the hat-tips to Republicans by Democrat guru-strategist Paul Goldman and the whining of Claire Guthrie Gastañaga, Equality Virginia's lobbyist. University of Richmond Professor Daniel Palazzolo harangues Governor Tim Kaine and Scott Bass gets about half of it right. It's funny when liberals try to manipulate conservative mandates by telling us what they want the results to mean is fact, and then fratricidally turn on themselves (a sure sign that their interpretation of the results is a disingenuous attempt to water down the victory).

Elsewhere, Republican Ron Villanueva was declared the winner in the closest House of Delegates race, but it's only one step toward resolution, and will go on still longer, for sure. Attorney General Bill Mims is doing what all former attorneys general do (especially those who fill out a term of an elected one), and that is sign on with a big bucks power law law firm, while Senator Edd Houck (D-17, Spottsylvania) makes the news for the second day on the trot, describing a dour picture of state funding to localities. Nationally, the Washington Post reports that pro-abortion activists are trying to muzzle the free speech rights of pro-life clinics and information centers.

News:

Misaligned: How Virginia Democrats overestimated the power of Obama and underestimated the importance of independent voters. (Style Weekly)

Villanueva declared winner in 21st District race (Norfolk Virginian-Pilot)

Houck paints dire budget picture to city and Spotsy (Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star)

Attorney General to join Hunton and Williams (Richmond Times-Dispatch)

Kaine Takes a Hike (Style Weekly)

National News:

Disclaimer proposed for anti-abortion clinics (Washington Post)

Analysis:

McDonnell, Picture Perfect (Paul Goldman/Style Weekly)

Presumptive Politics (Paul Goldman/Style Weekly)

McDonnell's Power Surge (Scott Bass/Style Weekly)

Democratic Downers (Margaret Edds/Style Weekly)

Commentary:

Shilling For Bob (Claire Guthrie Gastañaga/Style Weekly)

Losing Legacy (Daniel Palazzolo/Style Weekly)

Editorial Comics:

"For Whom the Bell Tolls" (Glenn Foden/Townhall.com)

"A Year Later . . ." (Scott Stantis/Townhall.com)

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Watch This Now, Before It's Pulled!

Thanks to our friends at Bearing Drift who posted this earlier today, we now have the Mark Warner/Creigh Deeds television ad that the Deeds campaign pulled quicker than a Usain Bolt sprint. You see, it's all about Mark Warner saying Creigh Deeds will continue the policies he (Warner) started as governor and that Deeds believes in low taxes. Experts at M.I.T. can't calculate how many things are wrong with this ad. First, Warner raised taxes by the largest amount in Virginia history. Second, if you go by Deeds' previous ads, he's for lower taxes, which makes Warner's proclamation, shall we say, inconsistent, with his own policies as governor. But if you go by Deeds' media interviews and debate statements, he's for higher taxes. (See this post debate interview!)

Third, in case no one heard, Democrat Senator Edd Houck, one of the highest ranking budget writers in the General Assembly, wrote last week that no tax increase is necessary! (See here.)

Fourth, where's Tim Kaine? Off on another trip? (See video here.) Why won't Deeds use him in his ads?

No matter the answers to these questions, we highly recommend you watch this now. The Deeds campaign already pulled it off television. It only may be seconds before it's pulled from YouTube.

A still more confusing twist on Creigh Deeds' tax policy. At least this time, even he knows it's not too clear (see video), so he's pulled this ad from television.

High Ranking Democrat Senator Edd Houck Says No Tax Increase Needed!

In what must be one of the most devastating one-two combinations this side of Mike Tyson in his prime, Democrat gubernatorial candidate Creigh Deeds was on the receiving end of former Governor (and Democrat) Doug Wilder's non-endorsement yesterday (in large part because because of Deeds' insistence on new taxes). Now, Democrat Senator Edd Houck — one of the most senior members of the Senate, the second ranking member of the Senate Finance Committee and one of only five Senate budget conferees — has released a statement in which he writes that a tax increase is not needed. It's pretty bad when two prominent members of your own party sabotage the rationale for your entire campaign — to raise taxes for transportation and who knows what else. 

Senator Houck (D-17, Spottsylvania) wrote:

Fortunately, Governor Kaine’s proposals contain no tax increases. With salaries remaining stagnant, or worse, individuals losing their jobs, a tax increase is unneeded

Not that this is insurmountable for Senator Deeds. Anything is possible. But with friends like this, and two miserable days of news, we're sure he's glad it's the weekend.

BREAKING: Effort To Conform Transparency Bills Temporarily Fails

Just a few minutes ago, on the Senate floor, Senator Ken Cuccinelli (R-37, Fairfax) took HB 2285, patroned by Delegate Ben Cline (R-24, Amherst), out of the uncontested third block reading in order to offer a substitute which would conform the bill to his own, SB 936, which itself will be on its first House read tomorrow. If adopted and conformed exactly to each other, and no further alterations to either bill are made to either bill, then the need for a committee of conference would not be necessary. So Senator Cuccinelli decided to go forward with the amendment instead of an uncontested block vote. Instead, Senator Walter Stosch (R-12, Henrico) raised concerns that the language in the substitute could be interpreted as putting Social Security and tax identification numbers online. Although, after several questions to Senator Cuccinelli, he said his concerns were satisfied, but requested it go by temporarily so as to work out a clarifying amendment. It seemed the amendment was destined to be adopted with but a slight delay later today. However, Senator Edd Houck (D-17, Spottsylvania) asked that it go by for the entire day so as to have enough time for a carefully crafted amendment that will satisfy everyone's concerns.

As we posted earlier . . . despite the overwhelmingly positive votes these bills have received, it hasn't been easy. More waiting, more patience. We'll see what tomorrow brings.

One Transparency Bill Alive, One In Limbo

Today, in Senate General Laws, Senator Ken Cuccinelli's spending transparency bill, SB 936, stayed alive. It almost just plain won. In a nutshell, here's what happened: He streamlined the bill with new language worked on with Senator Walter Stosch and the director of public accounts, two people who were adamantly against it last year. It seemed to work. It wasn't going to be "Google Virginia" like supporters want, but it was a sure step forward.

Then, Senator Edd Houck asked where the dreaded fiscal impact statement was. The answer is that there is none, because the substitute bill was drafted with input with the auditor to endure he could do the search upgrade with existing funds — and clearly stated it and supported the bill in his testimony.

But Senator Houck wanted more assurances. Unlike last year, however, when he went on a tirade against the bill and claimed the cost would keep Virginia from educating children, he seemed genuinely interested in it, even withdrawing a very restrictive enactment clause amendment when the clerk read it aloud and he heard how it would kill the bill. Unfortunately, however, he was able to refer it to the Finance Committee. He and Senator Cuccinelli talked afterward and were all smiles. Legit? Seemed so. Senator Cuccinelli said the bill is still alive and it has a chance. We'll see.

Click here and start contacting members of the Senate Finance Committee now!

As for Delegate Ben Cline's version, here's the story: He is adopting the Senate substitute language. However, his bill was referred by the House Science and Technology Committee to House Appropriations and the jurisdictional sub-committee. Problem: The sub-committee doesn't meet again before crossover.

There is a mega outcry over this, with some very high ranking people not particularly pleased, because bills they support will get the silent death treatment without a meeting. Rumors are that negotiations were held with Appropriations Committee Chairman Lacey Putney and affected parties to schedule a Technology Oversight and Government Activities sub-committee tomorrow. But where? At the chairman's desk on the floor after session, where the public is excluded? If in a regular committee room, when? 7:00 a.m.?

Click here and contact Chairman Lacey Putney now and tell him you want HB 2285 to get a fair hearing.

Family Foundation's 2009 Legislative Agenda: Budget Transparency

Yesterday, we posted information about our efforts to defund Planned Parenthood, and abortion in Virginia, through grants it receives through the state budget. One of the challenges we face is actually finding the expenditures. You see, there isn't a line item in the budget that says "Planned Parenthood." The money is distributed by local health clinics from money appropriated to the Department of Health. At least the money we know about. An example of the difficulty in finding the truth came just last year when we sent Freedom of Information Act letters to every school board in Virginia concerning contracts with Planned Parenthood. The City of Richmond schools responded that they had no contract with Planned Parenthood but, just days later, we learned from Planned Parenthood that they were holding workshops in Richmond City Schools. Who is paying for this has yet to be determined, but we're working on it.

Several years ago The Family Foundation introduced legislation that was an attempt at making state budget expenditures more available to citizens. The legislation, sponsored by Senator Walter Stosch (R-12, Glen Allen), resulted in Commonwealth Datapoint (click here), a Web site where one can look through every check written by the state.

But plan on spending a lot of time, because while everything is there, it is about as user-friendly as Windows Vista. 

Last year, Senators Ken Cuccinelli (R-37, Centerville) and Chap Petersen (D-34, Fairfax) and Delegate Ben Cline (R-24, Amherst) introduced legislation that would make the budget Web site more user-friendly, including a Google-like search engine. That legislation was killed in committe in both the House and Senate. Senator Edd Houck (D-17, Spotsylvania), a member of the Finance Committee, was particularly offended by the idea that taxpayers should have the right to hold him accountable for budget decisions. Similar legislation will be introduced again this year by those same legislators.

As the Commonwealth now deals with a spending surplus of at least $4 billion, finding where we can save money is extraordinarily important.  Most legislators will tell you that there isn't much waste in state government or any more "trimming of the edges" that can be done. While it would be great to take their word for it, the fact that we spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on Planned Parenthood gives us doubt.

The way to righting this large ship of state begins here: It cannot be done without knowing exactly where and how government spends our hard-earned money; it cannot be done if we continue to sit in darkness while extreme organizations, such as Planned Parenthood, are provided with taxpayer bailouts.

In short, online budget transparency is a just concept of open and good government; of sunshine; of the people having oversight of their government, as the Founders intended. This year's legislative battle will be one of the bureaucrats and politicians who put power (via the purse) over the people's right to know.

Who will win? Rather, who has the will to win?