Senator John Watkins

"Close The Window, Pull Down The Shade"

Earlier today, the Virginia Senate voted to pass SB 617, a bill to repeal the 2012 ultrasound update to the abortion informed consent law. The version of the story you'll probably hear is simply that the bill passed on a 20-20 vote with Lieutenant Governor Ralph Northam breaking the tie in favor of the bill. What really happened though involves multiple votes, a win and then a loss and then another loss, procedural gymnastics, mistakes and tears. But worst of all, the silencing of one senator's conscience by the strong arm of his caucus. Let me back up though and tell you the whole story. Even before SB 617 passed out of the Senate Education and Health Committee on Thursday, The Family Foundation met with lawmakers, lining up votes in favor of life and against SB 617. As today approached, we were cautiously optimistic that we had the necessary votes to defeat SB 617.

When the bill came up on the floor of the Senate, Senator Mamie Locke (D-2, Hampton) urged senators to vote on the side of John Stewart and Rachel Maddow and repeal this "shameful" law. Senator Locke quoted Family Foundation testimony given in committee stating that an ultrasound is a powerful "window into the womb" and referencing that testimony, she urged the Senate to "close the window, pull down the shade."

In other words: Do not, under any circumstance, show a woman a picture of the life she is carrying. Make no mistake — despite the opponent's rhetoric to the contrary — this bill is about hiding critical information from women.

After much debate, the vote was called and the bill failed, 18-22. The vote was party-line with the exception of Senator John Watkins (R-10, Powhatan) who voted in favor of the repeal and Senators Chuck Colgan (D-29, Manassas), Phil Puckett (D-38, Tazewell) and Toddy Puller (D-36, Mount Vernon) who voted against the repeal. This vote line up struck us as odd because Senator Puller has never (in our recollection) voted pro-life. Sure enough, a few minutes later, she made a motion to reconsider the vote by which SB 617 failed to pass (this is a fairly common procedure when someone accidentally votes the wrong way). The bill's passage was reconsidered and the vote sudenly was 20-20 (Senators Colgan and Puller switched) and  Lieutenant Governor Northam broke the tie in favor of the repeal.

Senator Colgan confirmed with media (see Norfolk Virginian-Pilot) and pro-life lobbyists alike that his vote switch was entirely accidental. He even filed a "yellow slip" in which the official record reflects that he intended to vote no (but that cannot change the outcome of a vote).

Because of Senate Rule 48a, a bill can only be reconsidered once. Therefore, Senator Colgan's mistake would stand unless unanimous consent to temporarily suspend the rule was given by the entire chamber to allow Senator Colgan to change his vote. Proving his sincerity, a very emotional Senator Colgan petitioned his Democrat caucus colleagues to give him unanimous consent to vote his conscience and right his incorrect vote. Senator Watkins, who was on the prevailing side, as required, made the motion to reconsider the vote, but it failed 37-1. The sacrificial lamb for the caucus, Senator Locke, voted no. Clearly, among Senate Democrat leaders, orthodoxy to the abortion industry took precedent over the conscience of even one of their own members. Senator Colgan was not allowed to vote his conscience.

But Senate Republicans were determined to allow Senator Colgan his voice. The next bill up for debate was a bill dear to the hearts of the Democrat caucus — a bill to increase the minimum wage. However, the bill needed unanimous consent for it to be moved to "third read" and properly before the Senate for a vote on final passage (a common procedure). Senate Minority Leader Tommy Norment (R-3, Williamsburg) took to the floor to make the point that he could vote against the motion requiring unanimous consent and thus defeat the bill singlehandedly. Senator Norment impressed upon the Democratic caucus the inappropriateness of their stifling the conscience of Senator Colgan and reminded them that if the Republican caucus wanted to retaliate, that they had the perfect opportunity by singlehandedly defeating the minimum wage bill. Taking the high road, Senator Norment made his point and then encouraged the Republican caucus to be statesmen and not vote in a retaliatory fashion. However, the point was clear — the Democratic caucus had played dirty today and their shameful actions would not be ignored.

SB 617 will probably be heard next in the House Courts of Justice Committee where it will likely meet its demise (the same fate as a similar House bill, HB 1056). Senate Democrats are already claiming the "win" on the ultrasound repeal bill's Senate passage, conveniently ignoring that there were more members of the Senate today who opposed the ultrasound bill than supported it. It was only by mistake that it passed. Words cannot express the emotional roller coaster of today and the extreme disappointment felt when Senator Colgan was not allowed to vote his conscience. Please thank the 19 Republican Senators, Senator Puckett, and yes, Senator Colgan, for their principled stand for life.

On a positive note, SB 618, a bill to force taxpayers to subsidize abortions in Virginia's federally-mandated health exchange, failed to pass the Senate on a vote of 18-22 (Senators Colgan and Puckett joined the Senate Republican caucus to defeat the bill).

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.

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.

This Just In: Democrat Controlled Senate Transportation Committee Kills Planned Parenthood License Plate Bill!

Yesterday, the Democrat controlled Senate Finance Committee did something very unusual — they aimed their wrath on a Democrat House colleague, Delegate Ward Armstrong (D-10, Martinsville), and purposely killed his property rights bill. This afternoon, the Democrat controlled Transportation Committee proved it could kill a fellow Democrat's bill by accident! Here's what happened:

We're all familiar with the Planned Parenthood license plate bill by now (HB 1108). Patroned byDelegate Bob Brink (D-48, Arlington), the bill would allow the abortion provider its own plate with slogan ("Trust Women, Respect Choice"). Money from its sales was designated to go to the coffers of the partisan political organization. However, the House of Delegates accepted a floor amendment by Todd Gilbert (R-15, Shenandoah) to redirect the money instead to the Virginia Pregnant Women Support Fund. This amended bill was what was before the Transportation Committee.

Now, the Senate finished its floor business today earlier than the House, but instead of waiting for Delegate Brink to attend to introduce his bill, committee chair Yvonne Miller (D-5, Norfolk) decided to hear the bill without him. Not rare, but still unusual. In addition, two senators, Edd Houck (D-17, Spotsylvania) and Harry Blevins (R-14, Chesapeake) were absent taking committee membership down to 13. A motion was made to amend the bill to redirect sale proceeds back to Planned Parenthood. The vote was close, 7-6, in favor of the amendment. Senator Phil Puckett (D-38, Tazewell), a pro-life Democrat (speaking of same), voted with all but one of the Republicans against the amendment. Senator John Watkins (R-10, Powhatan) voted with the Dems to give them what they wanted. False sense of security. Thinking they had the votes, Chairman Miller proceeded with a vote on the amended bill — but it went down, 7-6! Now, not only is there no funding, there's no plate! The entire bill is . . . dead!

What happened? Simple. Voting for amendments rarely is a big deal. Many senators do it to give the patron the legislation he or she wants so the committee can cast an up or down vote on what it is he or she is trying to accomplish. That's all the Senator Watkins did. On the vote on final passage, he voted "no" with all the Republicans and Senator Puckett, whose decision was probably hardened by the possibility of Planned Parenthood getting license plate money.

I can hear the "Ooooooooops" coming from Senator Miller now. Better still, the hissy fit coming from Planned Parenthood! Great news — and fun — all the way around. Gotta love those unintended consequences. Still, there's another Planned Parenthood plate bill alive, as part of an omnibus special license plate package, including one to benefit a low income children meals program. That PP plate bill funding has been stripped, too. However, its patron, Senator Janet Howell (D-32, Reston), has threatened to block the whole ball of wax if the PP funding isn't restored. But liberals never take food from the children, do they? The pro-abort crack-up gets wackier every day!

Quick hypothetical: If the two absent senators were there, the outcome wouldn't have changed. Even if Senator Houck voted for the plate, Senator Blevins has been consistently against all specialized license plates. He either would've voted no or abstained. A tie would have killed the bill.

Homosexual Agenda Bills Pass Senate, Hit Roadblock In House Today

The past 24 hours have been good for Virginia’s homosexual lobby, at least in the Virginia Senate, where two key legislative initiatives passed. But there also is positive news for values voters in the House of Delegates. Yesterday, the Senate passed SB 66, legislation that would add sexual orientation (and "gender identity or expression") to the state’s non-discrimination in hiring laws (see Richmond Times-Dispatch). Despite no evidence being presented anywhere in the process that discrimination is taking place, the bill passed 23-17, with one Republican, Fred Quayle (R-13, Suffolk), joining all 22 Senate Democrats who favored the measure.

Senator Mark Obenshain (R-26, Harrisonburg) argued against the bill during the floor debate, adding the fact that should this bill become law, the Commonwealth would open itself up for extensive litigation by those who claim they have been discriminated against regardless of their job qualifications.

Today, SB 451, legislation that would allow local governments to offer domestic partner benefits, and patroned by Senator Mary Margaret Whipple (D-31, Arlington), passed the Senate 26-14. This took place despite the fact that this legislation could have a significant fiscal impact on the Commonwealth through increased Standards of Quality funding. Republican Senators Quayle, John Watkins (R-10, Midlothian), Harry Blevins (R-14, Chesapeake), and floor leader Tommy Norment (R-3, Williamsburg) joined the 22 Democrats.

These bills still must be vetted in and voted on in the House. We encourage you to contact your delegates to defeat these unnecessary bills. If you do, we are quite hopeful that these bills will not find equal favor there.

In fact, earlier this evening, a House General Laws Sub-committee defeated HB 1116, mirror legislation to SB 66. It was patroned by Delegate Adam Ebbin (D-49, Arlington). The vote was 5-3 with Delegates John Cosgrove (R-78, Chesapeake), Bill Carrico (R-5, Galax), Ed Scott (R-30, Culpepper), Todd Gilbert (R-15, Woodstock), and Rich Anderson (R-51, Woodbridge) voted against the bill. This indicates that SB 66 has little hope for success in the House.

Not Everyone Appreciates Becoming A Star: Opponents Make Clear Opposition To Our Taping Committee Hearings

This, our first-ever guest post, was written by Suzanne Nichols, our General Assembly intern:

Videotaping committees and subcommittees this General Assembly has met with an array of responses. Many representatives have personally thanked us and some even requested we tape their bills. Delegate Kenny Alexander (D-89, Norfolk) was pleased to have made it onto our blog. Others have requested copies of the videos.

Then you have the extreme from the other side. Our first incident occurred when a woman, opposing one of our pro-life bills, told us not to tape her testimony after realizing we were from The Family Foundation. When I told her we were, since it was a public hearing, she said that we had a bad reputation for video taping. Word must travel fast because this was just the second or third time we had taped anything.

One afternoon in Senate Courts of Justice, a clerk asked us if it was "necessary to tape" a particular bill and seemed confused that we were not from the press. I guess it is not necessary, but holding people accountable for their words is worth the ire it raises. In Senate Finance last week, the Capitol Police eyed our camera and then asked Senator John Watkins (R-10, Powhatan) if we were intimidating him to which he replied, "No."

One afternoon, while in the GAB's 6th floor cafeteria, I ran into the woman who had not wanted her testimony on video. After some friendly banter, I reminded her I was the one from The Family Foundation who had recorded her prior testimony. Her demeanor changed instantly. She informed me that she was deeply disturbed and "did not think this information should be getting out there." This presented a fine opportunity to let her know why we have started filming and that we do, indeed, place the videos on our blog.

Our opponents do not want you watching how our bills fare or the nature of the testimony they bring against them. On the other hand, we think you should know the processes and outcomes here in Richmond.

Suzanne Nichols, from Harrisonburg, is a 2008 graduate of Grove City College in Pennsylvania where she received a B.A. in History. During session, she has ably researched and written on a variety of issues. She also, to the consternation of many, taped the telling committee videos you've seen on this blog (see her work at our YouTube page). When she told me the story, I immediately knew we had out first ever guest blog post. — The admin.

Update: Bill Of The Day SJR 303

We're pleased to announce our first Bill Of The Day, SJR 303, patroned by Senator John Watkins (R-10, Powhatan), which designates 2009 as the Year of Astronomy in Virginia in conjunction with the United Nations declaration of the year 2009 as the International Year of Astronomy, now will become law. The House passed it in a block vote a few minutes ago 98-0. Let it be known the power of the Family Foundation and this blog.

Regional Transportation Authorities: They're Still Alive!

Every year, a bill sneaks up on us and everybody else, that really takes the General Assembly by surprise. This year, perhaps more than others: There have been bills trying to expand the definition of blight (that we slowed down and got amended) and one still alive that would dismantle welfare reform (HB 1714). But one idea no one would have imagined would surface, espeially after the HB 3202 fiasco, was the idea of regional transportation authorities. There was talk of it in the greater Richmond area, but when suburban kingpin Henrico Country said it wasn't interested in joining, no one gave it a second thought. Nobody but Senator John Watkins (R-10, Midlothian), that is. 

(The admin's note: Contrary to what you may think after three successive posts mentioning his name, this is not pick on Senator Watkins Day. Pure coincidence that he has been at least partially involved in the previous two posts.)

Senator Watkins, it seems, still wants the City of Richmond and Chesterfield County to get together without Henrico, with the possibility the latter and other jurisdictions can join the party later. It's all in SB 1534, which passed the Senate yesterday 21-19. The two sides were as odd a mix as you'll ever see, with liberals such as Majority Leader Dick Saslaw (D-35, Springfield) voting against (probably in the vein of, "If Northern Virginia can't get that extra taxing power, no one is.")

This new authority would, according to the senator's own newsletter, include:

". . . the authorization of a regional congestion relief fee, which is, in essence, a grantor's tax that can be authorized by the respective Board of Supervisors or City Council. The primary reason for this is to give the authority, if formed, a mechanism to pay for its initial development and planning."

That is to say, more taxes, especially on an industry (real estate that is in depression and making refinancing and new mortgages more expensive) and more bureaucracy, regulation and half-baked and costly transportation projects. So, keep your eyes open. If this can sneak up on Richmond-area citizens, it can sneak up on every region. As we all know, bad ideas in the General Assembly never go away. They just get repackaged into worse ones.

Transparency: Good For The Private Sector, Not Good For State Government?

A fellow blogger gave me these lines to use in committee testimony in favor of the spending transparency bills (SB 936 and HB 2285). Thus far, the way they have travelled the legislative ladder, testimony hasn't been needed. For the record, the borrowed lines are:

"Financial institutions and publicly traded stocks, by regulation, must make readily available to the public its investments and corporate spending. If it's required of Charles Schwab, it should be required of state government."

The point being that the regulators (government) have a different standard for themselves than those on whom they impose rules. Here's a glaring and fun example. In his constituent newsletter today, Senator John Watkins (R-10, Midlothian) touts his commending resolution (SJ 394) to the crew and company of the summer 2008 HBO massive hit special event series John Adams (see our review here), much of which was filmed in central Virginia and Colonial Williamsburg. Among the reasons Senator Watkins wants to thank the crew is for the amount of money it spent in the Commonwealth:

"I previously mentioned my commending resolution to the crew of the John Adams HBO production. ... Filming a movie in Virginia is good for Virginia. For example, the John Adams mini-series spent $81,775,102 in Virginia. A few examples of how this money was spent: 

Technicians, Productions Assistants, Hired in Virginia: $9,025,750

Equipment Rental: $2,412,814

Wardrobe: $1,903,678

Car and Truck Rental: $1,141,053

Construction Supplies: $3,634,900."

Which is just great for everyone involved. But it begs the question: If we can get this kind of info out of a company doing temporary business in Virginia, why can't we get our own state government's expenditures? Stay vigilant. Improved transparency is on the way, but anything can happen. I'm keeping my testimony at the ready.

Choose Life Plates Amendment Vote: Analysis Of The Yeas And Neas

Here's how they voted on the Cuccinelli floor amendment, which added Choose Life license plates to SB 817, the sale proceeds of which will benefit pregnancy resource centers:

YEAS — Colgan, Cuccinelli, Hanger, Hurt, Martin, McDougle, Newman, Norment, Obenshain, Puckett, Quayle, Ruff, Smith, Stolle, Stosch, Stuart, Vogel, Wagner, Wampler, Watkins (20).

NAYS — Barker, Deeds, Edwards, Herring, Houck, Howell, Locke, Lucas, Marsh, McEachin, Miller, J.C., Miller, Y.B., Northam, Petersen, Puller, Reynolds, Saslaw, Ticer, Whipple (19).

NOT VOTING — Blevins (1).

That's 18 of the 19 Republicans in the affirmative, with Senator Harry Blevins (R-14, Chesapeake), abstaining as is his want (he, apparently is not a fan of specialized plates and does not vote on any such legislation, just as he abstained in committee). Two Democrats, Senators Chuck Colgan (D-29, Manassas) and Phillip Puckett (D-38, Tazewell), joined the 18, while the remaining 18 Dems voted en bloc against. This is a perfect illustration of exactly how difficult it is to get even modest, middle ground life legislation through the House of Lords, err, Senate.

Interestingly, here is the vote on the bill itself, in its amended form (and where Senator John Watkins (R-10 Midlothian) earned the Trifecta Award for voting every which way possible: abstained in commitee, yes on the amendment — for which we are grateful — and no on the bill):

YEAS —Barker, Colgan, Cuccinelli, Deeds, Edwards, Hanger, Herring, Houck, Hurt, Lucas, Marsh, Martin, McDougle, Miller, J.C., Miller, Y.B., Newman, Norment, Northam, Obenshain, Petersen, Puckett, Quayle, Reynolds, Ruff, Smith, Stolle, Stosch, Stuart, Ticer, Vogel, Wagner, Wampler, Whipple (33).

NAYS —Howell, Locke, McEachin, Puller, Watkins (5).

NOT VOTING —Blevins, Saslaw (2).

This is where we get a sense of the true extreme, abortion-at-all-costs senators: Saslaw, Howell, Locke, McEachin and Puller. Not a vote between them for the amendment, nor the bill — which included a number of special plates designed to encourage tourism in different localities. They'd rather vote against the localities that would benefit than help avert abortions. For this gang of five, anything to do with life, even such a minuscule nod to helping crisis pregnancy centers, is an abomination. 

Questions for these senators: Do you agree abortion is a problem? If yes, then do you or do you not agree pregnancy resource centers contribute to solving the problem? If not, why not?

Quote Of The Day/Bill Of The Day

I am not making this up. In what is a first for Capitol Square Diary, we got both the Bill Of The Day and the QOD in one fell swoop. Within the last couple of hours in Senate Finance, Senator George Barker (D-39, Fairfax), introduced SB 1497 to create a research authority on Geospatial Health, whatever that is.

Apparently not too many people know as Senators Edd Houck and William Wampler and committee chair Chuck Colgan all expressed some concern about the time available to understand the subject. As Senator John Watkins tried to explain, laughter was heard from the middle of the dais, where Colgan, Houck and the brilliant Senator Janet Howell reside.

When their laughter became noticeable, Colgan blew Howell's cover. Said the President Pro Tempore to a room of laughter:

"Senator Howell just said, 'I don't have to understand it to vote for it.'"

As it is said, the comedy that is best is so because it resonates with a degree of truth. We agree, especially in this case. Sadly, however, in Senator Howell's case, it also explains volumes.

Bill Of The Day

From the constituent newsletter of Senator John Watkins (R-10, Midlothian), outlining the bills he is patroning this session:

Senate Joint Resolution 303 designates 2009 as the Year of Astronomy in Virginia in conjunction with the United Nations declaration of the year 2009 as the International Year of Astronomy.