Senator Mark Obenshain

Video: Conservative Caucus News Conference

The Virginia General Assembly Conservative Caucus held a news conference yesterday to highlight its 2014 agenda. Its House chairman, Delegate Ben Cline (R-24, Amherst), led the event and was joined by two freshman colleagues: Delegates Mark Berg (R-29, Winchester) and Dave LaRock (R-33, Hamilton), each of whom have hit the ground running with bold legislation. Delegate Cline said:

The Virginia Conservative Caucus is putting forward a positive agenda that addresses the challenges facing working individuals and families across the commonwealth. Virginians have stated that they want to see more jobs created by businesses, lower taxes and commonsense, efficient government. We know real solutions are what Virginia families are demanding from their government, and we are reflecting that demand in our agenda.

The Conservative Caucus is comprised of approximately 70 members in both the House of Delegates and Virginia Senate. Its Senate chairman is Mark Obenshain (R-26, Harrisonburg). It focuses on three areas of public policy: job creation and opportunity; strengthening and protecting families; and limiting government and defending freedom; and annually releases a legislative agenda featuring dozens of bills across all three areas.

Delegate Cline highlighted his HB 1243, a bill to reduce the state corporate income tax rate from six to five percent to generate job creation. Delegate LaRock featured his HB 950, a bill to provide a homeschool and private school income tax credit to foster education choice and competition; and Delegate Berg, a doctor, unveiled his HB 338, a bill to restrict the State Corporation Commission's functions with the federal Obamacare health care exchanges.

In addition to its agenda of positive bills, and his promise to work with Governor Terry McAuliffe on areas of mutual agreement, Delegate Cline also emphasized promised to "resist Medicaid expansion strongly." He said, "It makes no sense to expand a program to cover an additional 400,000 Virginians that currently serves 800,000" by inceasing by 139 percent the definition of poverty. Here is the video of the entire news conference:

The Virginia Conservative Caucus announces its 2014 General Assembly legislative agenda. 

An Insult To Intelligent Women

On Saturday, the candidates for attorney general participated in the first debate of what promises to be a long campaign season. However, instead of focusing on kitchen table issues, the debate unfortunately turned to accusations on an issue very personal to me and thousands of women. According to news reports, Democrat candidate Senator Mark Herring (D-33, Leesburg) accused Republican candidate Senator Mark Obenshain (R-26, Harrisonburg) of wanting to force women in Virginia to report miscarriages to police. It's a diatribe that abortion apologists in Virginia continue to repeat, and it's one that makes me sick to my stomach. There's simply no other way to describe it than an insult to intelligent, thinking women. And as someone who understands the emotional and physical pain of a miscarriage, it is extraordinarily disgusting that Senator Herring would politicize and exploit an issue of such heart-wrenching pain. It shows to what lengths the abortion industry and its representatives will go to carry the banner of their billion dollar industry.

The truth of the story is that several years ago, after an incident in the Harrisonburg area where a newborn, full-term baby was tossed in the trash, Senator Obenshain was asked by his local commonwealth's attorney, Marsha Garst, to find a way to rightfully make such an action illegal. No one but the mother of the baby knows for sure if the baby was born alive or not so Garst could not prove foul play because the body of the baby was never recovered (see NBC29.com). At no point did Senator Obenshain or anyone ever seek to penalize women who go through the painful trauma of a miscarriage. In fact, the bill was an effort to protect newborn children. At the time, Senator Obenshain, recognizing that the bill as drafted was flawed, sought to work with abortion industry representatives, as well as The Family Foundation, to find a solution, but none could be found, so prior to any committee action, he struck his own bill (such a process is very common and rarely political).

That the abortion industry and its apologists like Mark Herring would even make such ludicrous accusations about the bill and its intent is despicable.

At the debate Saturday, Senator Obenshain stayed true to his character and took the high road, focusing on his economic vision for Virginia. But what we saw happen Saturday is simply a preview of just how disgraceful this year's election likely will become. Make no mistake — the radical abortion industry is driving the Democrat agenda and message in this year's election.

 

Paid for by The Family Foundation Action and not authorized by any candidate or candidate's committee.

 

 

Candidates In Crowded GOP Lt. Gov. Field Face Potential Game Changing Debate Tuesday Night

It may be unique in the long history of Virginia politics: Seven candidates standing for a party nomination for a statewide office. But that's the situation this year as seven Republicans seek to win the second spot on the GOP ticket at the party's May 18 convention. There hasn't been anything like this since 1985, when five ran for the number two spot at the GOP convention at Norfolk's Scope. But seven? There are similarities to the two campaigns aside from the large number, though not enough to draw many parallels. The one major common denominator is that both nominations were decided by convention instead of primary, drawing a lot of interest from people who would not have otherwise run.

Precisely because of that, the candidates are by and large unknown to many GOP activists going into the convention at the Richmond Coliseum. Not one has been able to cut through the clutter of an already hot gubernatorial general election campaign between Republican Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli and Democrat Terry McAuliffe, as well as a more easy to sort through GOP campaign for attorney general between Delegate Rob Bell of Albemarle County and Senator Mark Obenshain of Harrisonburg. Throwing seven candidates into the mix for a part-time position that has two official duties — preside over the Virginia Senate and fill the office in case of vacancy — makes deciding who is best a difficult task.

However, there may be a game changer in the LG race in the form of a late-in-the-process-debate Tuesday night in Richmond at Benedictine College Prep at 6:30. The Central Virginia GOP Lieutenant Governor Candidates Forum is sponsored by several of that area's GOP committees, including the Richmond City and Henrico County units. They selected the location in the middle of the city as a way to bring the conservative message to areas that don't always hear it, and reach young people and Catholic voters as well.

All seven candidates have agreed to attend and a buzz (see Norm Leahy at Bearing Drift) is building up over it primarily because its proximity to the convention could create a breakthrough wave for a candidate that impresses or sink one who doesn't. In addition, the host committee and moderator Scott Lee, a conservative talk show host on Richmond radio station WRVA and the host of the syndicated Score Radio Show (which previewed the debate with its organizers last weekend), have promised questions that won't lend themselves to campaign brochure blather. We'll see and we'll be there to report.

The event is free and, while elected convention delegates may take special interest to attend, is open to the public as well. Doors at the Benedictine College Prep gym open at 6:00. The school is located at 304 North Sheppard Street (23221). Click here for more information. The candidates are: former Senator Jeannemarie Davis, E.W. Jackson, Delegate Scott Lingamfelter, Senator Steve Martin, Pete Snyder, Prince WIlliam County Board Chairman Corey Stewart, Stafford County Board Chairman Susan Stimpson.

Student Rights Bill Goes To Governor!

The House of Delegates yesterday passed a priority for The Family Foundation, legislation that protects the free association rights of students on public college campuses. SB 1074, patroned by Senator Mark Obenshain (R-26, Harrisonburg), ensures that religious and political organizations will not be discriminated against because of their beliefs and values. The bill passed 73-27. The bill already passed the Senate, so it is now on its way to Governor Bob McDonnell for his signature, along with its House companion, HB 1617. Participating in groups and organizations with missions that match their religious or political beliefs is a longstanding tradition for college students. Unfortunately, in the name of "tolerance," a few universities in Virginia have begun enacting so-called "all-comers" policies, which prevent these groups from being able to set criteria for members and leaders. Under these policies, student groups recognized by the university, receiving funding or using the facilities are prohibited from having any kind of requirement that members or leaders actually share the beliefs or believe in the mission of the group! Never mind that the funding comes from and facilities paid for their tuition, taxes and student fees.

Opponents to the legislation claimed that the bills allow student groups to "discriminate" using "taxpayer funding." Such a position implies that simply choosing to freely associate with people of similar ideas and beliefs is inherently discriminatory. Free association is a foundational constitutional principle but, as with other freedoms in recent years, have been reduced.

The House yesterday rejected an attempt on the floor to amend the bill with unnecessary language. Upon the governor's signature, Virginia will become only the second state in the nation to provide these protections for student groups.

Please e-mail Senator Obenshain to thank him for his leadership on this bill this year! His official Senate e-mail address is district26@senate.virginia.gov

Student Rights Bill Goes To Governor!

The Senate of Virginia yesterday passed a priority for The Family Foundation, legislation that protects the free association rights of students on public college campuses. HB 1617, patroned by Delegate Todd Gilbert (R-15, Woodstock), ensures that religious and political organizations will not be discriminated against because of their beliefs and values. The bill passed 21-18 with several Democrats joining Republicans to pass the legislation. The bill already passed the House, so it is now on its way to Governor Bob McDonnell for his signature. Participating in groups and organizations with missions that match their religious or political beliefs is a longstanding tradition for college students. Unfortunately, in the name of "tolerance," a few universities in Virginia (and even more so around the country) have begun enacting the so-called "all-comers" policies, which prevent these groups from being able to set criteria for members and leaders. Under these policies, student groups recognized by the university, receiving funding from it or using campus facilities are prohibited from having any kind of requirement that members or leaders actually share the beliefs or believe in the mission of the group!

Opponents to the legislation claimed that the bill allows student groups to "discriminate" using "taxpayer funding" (never mind that many such clubs are funded by activity fees charged to the students in addition to their tuition). Such a position implies that simply choosing to freely associate with people of similar ideas and beliefs is inherently discriminatory. Free association is a foundational constitutional principle but, as we know, those kinds of freedoms are slowly being reduced. The win is so significant that even the Congressional Prayer Caucus Foundation (a bipartisan group of Congressmen) took notice.

The companion Senate legislation, SB 1074, patroned by Senator Mark Obenshain (R-26, Harrisonburg), should be heard in the House Education Committee tomorrow.

Quote Of The Day: Yesterday

Things move fast at the General Assembly and we don't always have time to post the Quote of the Day, especially since we witness so many good ones. Add in social media, where lawmakers are disbursing their wit, wisdom and snark minute to minute, we're overwhelmed in the humor that lightens the often tense debate. But we couldn't resist revisiting yesterday's tweet from Senator Mark Obenshain (R-26, Harrisonburg), our first-ever QOD via social media, on the reaction (or lack of) Senate Minority Leader Dick Saslaw (D-35, Springfield) to the birthday card he received from the Senate's pages. The gruff, shoot-from-the-lip, say-anything Northern Virginia liberal was nearly moved to tears and admitted, "I'm speechless. Imagine that!" That it itself was worthy of QOD status, until the senator from The Valley retorted via Twitter:

QOD Obenshain

Senator Dick Saslaw in rare form: speechless. 

Senator Saslaw set up the tweet by appearing to be a little emotional as he accepted his gift from the pages, and said, "I don't know what to say," at which point his colleagues applauded sarcastically, before he sputtered out, "Thought you'd never hear that." Alas, the goodwill lasted all of a few hours, as the sharp tongues came out again during the transportation plan debate — and we still have three weeks to go.

Student, Parental Rights Bills Advance!

Yesterday was "crossover," the mid-point of the 2013 General Assembly session and the day when each chamber must complete work on its own bills. It's also a day that saw two substantial pro-family victories. The Senate passed a priority for The Family Foundation — legislation that protects the free association rights of students on public college campuses. SB 1074, patroned by Senator Mark Obenshain (R-26, Harrisonburg), ensures that the current practice on the majority of our campuses will continue and that religious and political organizations will not be discriminated against because of their beliefs and values. The bill passed 22-18 with several Democrats joining Republicans to pass the legislation. The House companion bill, HB 1617, patroned by Delegate Todd Gilbert (R-15, Woodstock), passed 80-19 late last week.

In the House, legislation protecting parental rights as fundamental passed 70-30! The bill, HB 1642, patroned by Delegate Brenda Pogge (R-96, James City County), reflects a recent decision by the Virginia Supreme Court that recognizes parental rights as fundamental. However, 24 states have reduced parental rights from fundamental to "ordinary," making it easier for government bureaucrats to interfere with families. This is significant because courts give special deference to "fundamental" rights and putting it in the Virginia Code secures it from a future Virginia court from rewriting the recent decision. Currently, Virginia law is silent on the status of parental rights, instead relying on hundreds of years of common law, which has granted parents fundamental in principle.

A similar bill previously passed the Senate, but because the bills are slightly different, we will continue to work with the patrons and representatives of parental rights groups to bring them into "conformity" for final passage later this session. The Senate bill is SB 908 and is patroned by Senator Bryce Reeves (R-17, Spotsylvania) and will be in the House Courts of Justice Committee today.

In the past two days, other legislation supported by The Family Foundation also advanced, including bills that combat human trafficking, help ease restrictions on the creation of charter schools, and provide a definition of bullying for the Department of Education as it works on guidelines to help schools combat that serious problem.

Unfortunately, all news today wasn't good. The Senate decided to send SJ 287, a religious liberty constitutional amendment, back to committee, effectively killing the bill for this year. Based on an amendment that passed last year in Missouri, the amendment would have given Virginians the opportunity to vote to re-establish our right to pray at the start of government meetings and protect students' religious liberty rights. As we continue to watch the federal government infringe upon our God given right to express our faith in the public square, Virginians want to be able to respond. Our goal will continue to be to reinforce our First Freedom, through statute and, if necessary, a constitutional amendment. We thank Senator Bill Stanley (R-20, Moneta), the resolution's patron, and Senator Bill Carrico (R-40, Galax), the chief co-patron, for their very hard work and inspired and passionate words yesterday on the Senate floor.

In the coming days we will again notify you to take urgent action on key bills. Thank you to everyone who has contact their legislators so far! You voice does make a difference.

Two For Two On Two

Earlier today, the Senate unanimously passed two necessary budget transparency bills: SB 1129, patroned by Senator Tommy Norment (R-3, Williamsburg), identifies earmarks; and SB 1161, patroned by Senator Ralph Smith (R-19, Roanoke County), requires the proposed conference committee budget to be posted online for 48 hours before it's voted on. Just a few years ago, the 48-hour bill couldn't even get a motion in sub-committee. Now it's up to Virginians to demand from the House, which has killed similar bills in sub-committee for years, to pass these bills! We'll update you later in the week. Prior to that, two truly pro-family pieces of legislation, affecting students and parents, passed major hurdles: The Senate passed SB 1074, the Student Groups Bill (freedom of association for college student clubs), patroned by Senator Mark Obenshain (R-26, Harrisonburg), 22-18; and the House passed HB 1642, the Parents Rights Bill, patroned by Delegate Brenda Pogge (R-96, James City County), 70-30.

Two bills passed each on two important areas of concern regarding family and individual liberty as well as government accountability. Not a bad batting average for morning.

Senate To Vote On Key Religious Liberty Bill!

On Tuesday, the Senate will vote on a priority bill of The Family Foundation, SB 1074, patroned by Senator Mark Obenshain (R-26, Harrisonburg). This bill will protect the rights of religious and political college student groups at public universities to choose members and leadership based on their beliefs and principles.

Please contact your Senator now and urge them to vote YES on SB 1074!

Participating in groups and organizations with missions that match their religious or political beliefs is a longstanding tradition for college students. Unfortunately, some universities around the country have begun enacting so-called "all-comers" policies, which essentially prohibits these student organizations from establishing criteria for their membership and leaders. Consequently, a student group that is recognized by the university and receives funding — from their own student activity fees — or use of facilities, could not have any kind of requirement that members or leaders actually share the beliefs or believe in the mission of the group!

Free association is a foundational constitutional principle but, as we know, those kinds of freedoms slowly are being reduced. Incredibly, the U.S. Supreme Court has upheld "all-comers" policies as constitutional, though it didn't require universities to have them. SB 1074 will ensure that the current policy of the majority of Virginia's public universities will continue.

The only opposition to the legislation that we are aware of is from, predictably, the ACLU, which argued against the bill by stating, in essence, that it views free association as inherently discriminatory. It also argued that religious groups shouldn't be allowed to receive "recognition" from state funded universities because they "discriminate" based on their views of human sexuality. We have worked with representatives of various Virginia universities to ensure that they are not opposed to the bill.

Several Key Priorities Move Forward In General Assembly Today!

Today, the House of Delegates passed two Family Foundation priorities while the Senate passed a bill protecting parental rights. Also, a Senate committee advanced another Family Foundation priority. In the Senate, after hearing from many of you over the past several days, SB 908, patroned by Senator Bryce Reeves (R-17, Fredericksburg) passed 26-14! This is a key victory for ensuring that state courts continue to recognize parental rights as fundamental and not reduce them to simply "ordinary" as has happened in 24 states. By maintaining them as fundamental, it continues to require that the government meet a higher legal standard before infringing on those rights. Many thanks go to the Home School Legal Defense Association, who advanced the legislation. The House version of this legislation will be voted on tomorrow afternoon in the House Courts of Justice Committee.

The Senate Education and Health Committee advanced SB 1074, legislation that protects the free association rights of Virginia public college students to assemble in groups according to their religious and political beliefs. The bill, patroned by Senator Mark Obenshain (R-26, Harrisonburg) passed 9-6, with Senator George Barker (D-39, Alexandria) being the lone Democrat to join all committee Republicans to pass the bill. Opposition was led by the ACLU, which questioned the motives of those advancing the bill and made claims about court decisions surrounding the issue that were incomplete at best. This bill should be voted on by the full Senate early next week.

In the House, the student group bill, HB 1617, patroned by Delegate Todd Gilbert (R-15, Woodstock), the companion to SB 1074, passed overwhelmingly, 80-19. The House also advanced the "Tebow Bill," (HB 1442) legislation that would give homeschool kids the opportunity to participate in public school sports. The bill, patroned by Delegate Rob Bell (R-58, Charlottesville), passed 56-43. Supported by nearly two-thirds of Virginians, this bill is about treating students in our communities fairly and simply giving homeschoolers an opportunity to try out for teams.

Thank you to all of you who sent e-mails or contacted your elected officials on these and other issues so far this session. They have had an impact! Next Tuesday is the mid-point, or "crossover" of session, meaning that each body must act on its own legislation by that time. We will continue to keep you informed an ask for your action as needed.

Abortion Center Safety Passes Senate On Lt. Governor Bolling’s Tie-Breaker Vote!

After a long and passionate Senate floor debate that spanned a few hours over two days, the Virginia Senate voted 20-20 this afternoon to direct the Department of Health to promulgate regulations for abortion centers. After a brief pause for the Senate clerk to announce the vote, Lt. Governor Bill Bolling cast his constitutionally authorized tie-breaking vote in favor of the bill. It now will go to Governor Bob McDonnell for his signature. After more than two decades of hiding behind a veil of political secrecy, abortion centers in Virginia will face greater scrutiny and better health standards. It was the first time ever that such legislation has even reached the Senate floor, despite numerous bills passed by the House. Each year, including earlier this session, the Senate kills the legislation in committee. But all 18 Republicans held together and two brave pro-life Democrats, Senators Phil Puckett (D-38, Tazewell) and Chuck Colgan (D-29, Manassas), resisted pressure from their caucus' leadership.

While the session has gone according to script this year, with the House passing and the Senate Education and Health Committee killing pro-life legislation, a dramatic turn occurred only a few days ago, in last days of session. SB 924, patroned by Senator Ryan McDougle (R-4, Hanover), which directs the Board of Health to promulgate regulations for certain health care facilities, passed the Senate and went to the House of Delegates. Delegate Kathy Byron (R-22, Lynchburg) offered an amendment to add abortion centers. Liberals challenged its germaneness, but after consulting with his parliamentarian, House Speaker Bill Howell (R-28, Stafford) ruled it in order and the House passed it overwhelmingly. That change required it to return to the Senate where the GOP caucus began to coalesce around the amendment. The vote was scheduled yesterday, but after a half-hour of debate it was passed by until today. Senate Democrat leaders pressured its two wayward colleagues, but at the outset of the tenor of today's 90-minute debate it was apparent there were no cracks in the coalition.

Unfortunately, opponents devoid of logic but full of less-than-genuine arguments, demagogued the issue. At one point Senator Janet Howell (D-32, Fairfax) mocked Senator Mark Obenshain's (R-26, Harrisonburg) recitation of federal court decisions upholding abortion center regulations, even though he was replying to her colleagues' calls for proof of legal precedent. It prompted this exchange. Majority Leader Dick Saslaw (D-35, Springfield) told his colleagues to "get a life!" if they thought the bill was about women's safety, ignoring his own colleagues' faux concerns for the constitution.

Senator John Edwards (D-21, Roanoke) repeatedly claimed the bill was unconstitutional with wild assertions and vague stretches of case law, all of which were refuted by Senator Obenshain, who cited federal appeals and U.S. Supreme Court decisions. One was Planned Parenthood v. Casey, which Senator Edwards said ruled such regulations illegal. Senator Obenshain replied that "standing up and saying so doesn’t make it so," and read from the court’s opinion which plainly disproved Senator Edwards' assertions.

Several liberal senators predicted horrors such as back alley abortions even though states such as South Carolina regulate abortion centers with no such reports and Virginia regulated abortion centers until 1983. They also claimed first-trimester abortions were among the "safest procedures" despite absolutely no corroborating evidence because there are no reporting requirements mandated in Virginia. Senator Dave Marsden (D-37, Fairfax) even compared the bill to the poll tax and efforts to keep minorities from voting in the Jim Crow era.

Another desperate aspect of the debate was the demand by several liberal Democrats that Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli issue an opinion, perhaps the first time they've wanted his advice. Of course, it was a tactic to delay and kill the bill. Senator Edwards sarcastically said the attorney general would love to defend the bill if it became law because of the other legal actions he’s pursued. But the fact was, and they knew it, he issued an opinion in August in support of the constitutionality of such regulations. He even accommodated senators with a letter composed during a Senate recess — which added to the longevity of the debate.

Opponents' arguments, so twisted, inevitably contradicted each other, with Senator Howell's unwitting admission that abortion is, in fact, used for contraception when she said the bill would take away one method of "determining the size of families."

This was a monumental vote and a historic day. The forces of life, after years of pursuit, finally won an incremental and commonsense victory. Thank you to all who contacted their senators on this important issue! We now look forward to working within the regulatory process to ensure the regulations by the Board of Health ensure abortion centers are safe for women who make the unfortunate choice of abortion.

BREAKING: Abortion Center Debate Produces Quote Of The Session!

The debate on SB 924, which, as amended, would mandate the Board of Health to regulate abortion centers, has spurred contentious debate on the Senate floor, and the chamber has passed the bill by temporarily. Senate Majority Leader Dick Saslaw promised the bill and its House amendment would be voted on today. Now, the Senate is in recess for an unrelated reason as we await the vote. During the debate, an exchange between liberal Democrat Janet Howell and pro-life conservative Republican Mark Obenshain, produced this, after the latter answered a request to cite legal precedent regarding the constitutionality of the bill:

Senator Howell: Are you the Attorney General?

Senator Obenshain: You don’t need to be the Attorney General to read the constitution.

Senator Howell: Will you be the person defending the commonwealth in a lawsuit?

Senator Obenshain: No, I will not. Will you be the person suing the commonwealth?

The chamber fell silent while even neutral observers in a viewing room let out a collective whoaaa! Senator Howell pursued no further debate with Senator Obenshain.

Why Property Rights Are Important And An Inside Look At The Senate: Interview With Senator Mark Obenshain

If you are wondering why we have emphasized the importance of property rights this session and the procedural games played by the Virginia Senate, then listen to an outstanding interview (below) given Saturday by Senator Mark Obenshain (R-26, Harrisonburg) to Scott and Richard Lee on Richmond radio station WRVA's Saturday Morning With The Lee Brothers. In it, the senator gives the inside scoop on what has gone down in the Senate regarding the on-going rules fights between Republicans and majority Democrats, and handicaps tomorrow's vote in a Senate Privileges and Elections sub-committee on HJ 693, a property rights amendment to the Virginia Constitution. It's very much worth the listen.

Click here to listen to the Lee Brothers interview Senator Mark Obenshain (9:30).

Now that you've listened, don't you want to do something about it? It's not too late and it's not just us saying so (see our friends at Disrupt The Narrative). Contact members of the sub-committee listed here and ask them to vote to report HJ 693, patroned by Delegate Johnny Joannou (D-79, Portsmouth).

While Senate Roadblocks Property Rights, House Reflects People's Will 81-19

While the Virginia Senate has proved to be a roadblock for property rights and reform of government's oppressive power of eminent domain — first, by defeating SJ 307 4-3 in a sub-committee vote, then refusing to bring it to the full Privileges and Elections Committee, then blocking a discharge motion to bring it to the floor — all hope of passing a constitutional amendment to guarantee these protections is not lost this session. That's because at the same time the Senate majority Democrats defeated Senator Mark Obenshain's discharge motion on SJ 307 Tuesday, the House passed HJ 693, patroned by Delegates Johnny Joannou (D-79, Portsmouth) and Rob Bell (R-58, Charlottesville), by an overwhelming 81-18 margin. This mammoth bipartisan vote surpasses even the 60-something vote the eminent domain reform statute received in 2007. Now, this coming Tuesday morning, the same Senate subcommittee that earlier in session listened to local governments and unelected housing and redevelopment authorities instead of their constituents, will get another chance to listen to the will of the people and protect your property rights.

Contact members of the Senate Privileges and Elections Sub-committee on Constitutional Amendments Tuesday morning (members' contact links here) and ask them to report HJ 693.

Defending our property rights is a longstanding principle of The Family Foundation, and we've supported efforts for several years to pass a constitutional amendment that answers the U.S. Supreme Court's infamous and deplorable Kelo decision. Property rights affect all people, across all socio-economic and geographic lines. Perhaps the most affected are urban families, whose homes and businesses are considered an inconvenience to urban planners' redevelopment schemes, most of which always fail (think Richmond's 6th Street Marketplace).

While Virginia passed a law in 2007 in  response to Kelo, developers,  utilities, and local governments and housing and redevelopment authorities (who use your tax dollars to lobby against your rights) have tried each subsequent year to chip away at that statute. In short, as good as the statute is, it needs the protection only a constitutional amendment can provide.

Senate Rules Dispute Boils Over Into Rare Discharge Motion On Floor: Full Senate Finally On Record On Protecting Property From Eminent Domain

A bit of history was made — or at least attempted — Tuesday in the Senate. Senator Mark Obenshain (R-26, Harrisonburg), expressing the frustration of an arbitrary exercise of Senate rules by majority Democrats, made a discharge motion — a parliamentary procedure to bring to the floor of a legislative body a bill that has been defeated or bottled up in committee. A discharge motion hasn't been attempted in the Senate in nearly two decades (see Washington Post Virginia Politics Blog). It's considered desperate and an affront, especially in the "collegial" Senate, because it doesn't respect Senate procedure and the "committee process" (i.e., the opinion of your colleagues who have heard the patron, witness testimony and debate, and studied the legislation) — it's done with, so let it be — and slows down floor action. It's rare because those who attempt it often are ostracized by most, if not all, of their colleagues. Its required two-thirds majority vote also is difficult to achieve, so the risk-to-cost ratio isn't appealing.

However, it's on the books for a reason or it wouldn't be a rule — precisely when the committee process has degenerated into a, "the rules are what we say they are," selectively applied, moving target. Senate rules and tradition are that sub-committees take recommendation votes only, and that full committees hear every bill for a final vote. Last year, the Senate, in an unprecedented move, changed its rules after crossover to allow sub-committees (with as little as two votes) to kill House bills so as to save members from going on record on tough votes in full committee. Rule changes in midstream are almost unheard of, but even at that, Senate bills always have been given the courtesy of full committee hearings. Where's the "collegiality" in revoking that process? (While House rules allow for the killing of bills in sub-committee, it is in its rules, and they are applied equally, to all bills, throughout session.)

I got an inkling of the Senate mischief at this session's first meeting of the Privileges and Elections Committee. The chair, Senator Janet Howell (D-32, Reston), announced that no bill with a negative sub-committee vote would be brought to the full committee. Senator Obenshain asked if he heard correctly and, when told "yes," protested to no avail. But the discussion boiled over into a rules battle at a subsequent meeting (see Washington Post) when he tried to bring up bills and resolutions with negative sub-committee votes in full committee (see video below). Which brings us to Tuesday on the floor:

Senator Obenshain attempted to dislodge SJ 307, a proposed constitutional amendment to protect private property from government takings through eminent domain. It was defeated 4-3 in a Privileges and Elections sub-committee on an unrecorded party line vote (notice that omission here). Amazingly, only four unrecorded votes can thwart the will of the people in the Virginia Senate! A small forum in a cramped conference room on the third floor of the GAB is the venue for the debate and discussion on whether the commonwealth will protect one of its citizens' most cherished rights — the protection of private property from the oppressive government power of eminent domain.

But in a surprise move, after consulting with his caucus earlier that morning, Senator Obenshain got his full Senate vote on property rights during a marathon session to finish bills before crossover. He motioned "to suspend the rules" and bring SJ 307  directly to the floor. He was seconded by Senator Tommy Norment (R-3, Williamsburg). The motion properly before the body failed to get a majority, much less two-thirds, on a strict party line vote, 22-18. If SJ 307 made it to the floor through the committee process, it most likely would pass. Unfortunately, some Democrats adhered to process over propriety. The good news is that the Senate finally, after several years, has a recorded vote on property rights and that the GOP caucus united on this rare motion.

There should be a rule about that: The Senate majority preaches collegiality . . . except when hearing and voting on its members' legislation. 

Half-Time Report: Several Family Foundation Priorities Pass The House!

Today is crossover at the General Assembly, the day when the House and Senate have to complete work on bills introduced in their respective chambers. Consequently, yesterday the House spent nearly 11 hours on the floor debating bills, with final votes taking place today. The Senate did their marathon debate and vote session today. Several Family Foundation priorities passed the House of Delegates, some after lengthy debates took place on the proposals yesterday.

HB 1440, patroned by Delegate Bob Marshall (R-13, Manassas), which would provide protection (civil recourse) for the unborn in cases where they lose their life due to the negligence of another, passed 62-36 — despite the wild accusations by Delegate Vivian Watts (D-39, Fairfax), who claimed the legislation would outlaw contraception. Delegate Dave Albo (R-42, Fairfax), the chairman of the Courts of Justice Committee, which reviewed the bill, defended it on the floor. He said that he had several attorneys and committee legal counsel review the legislation and all agreed that the bill, nearly identical to a 20-year-plus Missouri law, and which was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1989, would not affect legal contraception in any way.

HB 2147, patroned by Delegate Ben Cline (R-24, Rockbridge), would prevent health insurance plans in the Virginia health insurance exchange, required by ObamaCare, from providing abortion coverage. This preemptive strike against ObamaCare, should it be implemented, passed 60-36.

The House today also passed by a vote of 54-45 HB 2314, legislation patroned by Delegate Jimmie Massie (R-72, Henrico), that would provide a tax credit for corporate donations to private scholarship programs. This education opportunity legislation is tailored to help low-income families. It is modeled after a successful Florida scholarship program that has helped more than 20,000 students and saved the state more than $36 million in FY2008-09. (We hope you join us this Thursday for our Family Foundation Day at the Capitol and Rally, which will focus on this legislation.)

Also passing today was legislation that will create an "In God We Trust" license plate. The bill, HB 1418, is an omnibus license plate bill patroned by Delegate John O’Bannon (R-73, Richmond) that incorporates the "IGWT" plate bill introduced by Delegate Dickie Bell (R-20, Staunton). A Senate bill (SB 811), patroned by Senator Mark Obenshain (R-26, Harrisonburg) creating the same license plate also passed the Senate today.

Thank you to everyone who has contacted their delegates and senators on these and other issues. After today the bills that have passed the House or Senate will "crossover" to the other chamber to go through the committee process. Please continue to respond to our action alerts (sign up here) and keep up with all the General Assembly news and video by returning to this site, and by following us on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube as the General Assembly session continues in the coming weeks.

Life Bills In Senate Education And Health Committee Thursday!

It's that time of session again. Thursday, the Senate Education and Health Committee will vote on multiple pro-life bills. This is the committee that has blocked meaningful pro-life legislation for years. Despite the history, we still want to make sure every member of that committee knows where their constituents stand on this issue — particularly since it’s an election year.  Please contact the senators on this committee (click here for committee contact links) and urge them to support SB 1202, SB 1207/SB1378, SB1217, and SB 1435. These pro-life bills could radically change the culture of life in our Commonwealth:

SB 1202: Abortion Funding Opt-Out for ObamaCare ObamaCare puts states in charge of their own health insurance exchanges for individuals and small businesses. If enacted today, Virginia could potentially include in its exchange health insurance plans that cover elective abortion.  Pro-family citizens opposed to abortion would be mandated to fund this unethical destruction of human life. SB 1202, patroned by Senator Mark Obenshain (R-26, Harrisonburg), is a bill that would prevent insurance plans in the Virginia health insurance exchange from providing abortion coverage. Five other states have taken this step so far, and several more are considering doing so, while Pennsylvania and Maryland are allowing abortion coverage.   SB 1435: Ultrasound/Informed Consent SB 1435, patroned by Senator Ralph Smith (R-22, Botetourt), updates Virginia's informed consent law with modern technology. It would require a woman to have an ultrasound and the option of viewing it prior to an abortion. Currently, a woman is given a pamphlet with generic pictures of fetal development. This bill would give the woman specific information about her child and allow her to make a truly informed decision. It also would help prevent mistaking the gestational age of the unborn child that can lead to illegal abortions. Two years ago, this bill died in this committee with a vote of 11-4.   SB 1378 and SB 1207: Wrongful Death of the Unborn SB 1207, patroned by Senator Obenshain, and SB 1378, patroned by Senator Bill Stanley (R-19, Danville), are bills that would provide protection (civil recourse) for the unborn in cases where they lose their life due to the negligence of another. While Virginia's code does include a fetal homicide law, the same unborn life, taken without intention or premeditation, elicits no civil penalty. Improving our civil law to recognize fetal manslaughter is essential. An unborn life is not only of value when it is wanted by the mother or when its life is intentionally taken by another.   SB 1217: Coerced Abortion SB 1217, patroned by Senator Smith, provides that any person who forces or coerces a pregnant female of any age to have an abortion against her will is guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor. Shockingly, this type of coercion is not currently criminalized. Given that homicide is the leading cause of death for pregnant women according to a study in the Journal of Midwifery and Women's Health, Virginia needs to do more to protect women and their wanted unborn children. Women should not be forced to abort to avoid violence. Last year, this bill died in this committee by a vote of 10-5.    Be a voice for the voiceless and let these senators know that you will be watching how they vote with the expectation that they will vote yes for life this Thursday.

Quotes Of The Day

That's not a typo. We have multiple Quotes of the Day today. One, this morning, occurred in the House Education Sub-committee on Standards of Quality. It was considering a bill from Delegate John O'Bannon (R-73, Henrico) on childhood obesity that would require additional physical education for students K-8. Pat Lacey, the ever present spokesman for the umbrella Educrat coalition, which can't seem to approve of anything except more taxpayer money for any and all problems, and which makes nothing but excuses and obstacles for why education reforms can't happen, extended the never say yes philosophy even to phys ed reform! When he addressed the committee to say some elementary schools may not have the gyms to accommodate inclement weather, sub-committee chairman Scott Lingamfelter (R-31, Woodbridge) said:

At VMI we didn't have that problem!

Later in the morning, in the Senate Privileges and Elections Sub-committee on Constitutional Amendments, a government lobbyist for Fairfax County, which used the hard-earned tax' money of its own citizens to lobby against them, testified against Senator Mark Obenshain's (R-26, Harrisonburg) proposed constitutional amendment to protect private property rights. She gave an example regarding the difficulty the amendment would create in taking land for certain municipal projects, which led to this exchange between her and Senator Creigh Deeds (D-25, Bath), the sub-committee's chairman, who was preparing to lead a party line vote to defeat property rights protection:

Senator Deeds: But that's the part of the bill I like!

Fairfax lobbyist: Okay . . . I'll sit down now. 

Also from that committee: VACO and VML lobbyist Randy Cook — VACO and VML are the lobbying arms of Virginia's counties and cities, respectively, which pay people like him with your hard earned tax money to lobby against your rights — said that a constitutional amendment isn't necessary because they haven't challenged the condemnation powers of the 2007  property rights statute . . . yet. To which Senator Obenshain later replied:

VACO said, 'Stop me before I condemn (property) again.'

Three Quotes of the Day. All humorous. All pointing, however, to something much more serious.

Help Bring "In God We Trust Plates" To Virginia

Virginia drivers could have the option of a new specialty license plate on their cars next year if approved during the 2011 session of the General Assembly — the "In God We Trust" plate (depicted below). Senator Mark Obenshain (R-26, Harrisonburg) and Delegate Dickie Bell (R-26, Staunton) are the patrons of the legislation that would create the plates. Because the General Assembly requires at least 350 pre-filed applications to be on hand for the legislation to be approved, anyone who is interested in obtaining these plates should file their applications as soon as possible (click here to download an application form). A $10 check must be included with the application (the address is provided on the form). If the plate does not get approved, the money will be refunded.

InGodWeTrust Plate

Although "In God We Trust" became the official motto of the United States in 1956, it first appeared on U.S. coins in 1864, during the Civil War, and continues to appear on both coins as well as paper currency to this day. However, the words first took root much earlier, when Francis Scott Key included them in the fourth stanza of "The Star Spangled Banner," which he penned in 1814 during the War of 1812

At least nine states already have approved similar "In God We Trust" license plates, including Arkansas, Florida, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Tennessee. In addition, eight states have plates that include a reference to God, such as "God Bless America" and "One Nation under God."

For more information, contact the Valley Family Forum at family@valleyfamilyforum.org  or call 540-438-8966.

Thanking Our Pro-Life Allies For The Abortion Funding Ban Victory!

We hope you are still celebrating with us over the passage of the budget amendment that significantly reduces taxpayer funding for elective abortions in Virginia (Amendment #91)! This is a long-awaited milestone in our journey toward Virginia becoming the most pro-life state in the nation. While Family Foundation staff worked tirelessly for weeks to encourage Governor Bob McDonnell to introduce this pro-life amendment and then for the General Assembly to sustain it, we would be remiss if we did not recognize those who aided us in this fight. Please join us in thanking these important people in the pro-life movement.

First, if Governor Bob McDonnell had not introduced this elective low-income abortion amendment, there would be nothing to celebrate today. His stand on this amendment is commendable. Please click here to send him an e-mail of thanks or call him at 804-786-2211.

Even with the governor's introduction of the amendment, its passage would have been tenuous had there been no one to articulate the amendment's merits and stand in its defense on the Senate floor. Never one to back down from a fight, Senator Mark Obenshain (R-26, Harrisonburg) was the only senator willing to verbally support the amendment on the floor. Senator Obenshain's reasoned defense was crucial to the amendment’s passage and the retention of key swing votes. Please send Senator Obenshain an email of thanks at district26@senate.virginia.gov or call him at 540-437-1451.

Without votes, success is unattainable. While all votes were equally important, special thanks go to Senators Chuck Colgan (D-29, Manassas), Phil Puckett (D-38, Tazewell) and Roscoe Reynolds (D-20, Martinsville) who, despite intense pressure from their party and Planned Parenthood/NARAL to tow the party line, voted their conscience and made a courageous stand for life. Additionally, thanks to all the delegates (64) and senators (20) of both parties who voted for this important pro-life amendment.

Special thanks goes to the Virginia Catholic Conference, Virginia Society for Human Life and the Virginia Assembly of Independent Baptists for working side by side with us in the days leading up to this important vote and for their tireless efforts yesterday, remaining with us and never leaving the capitol grounds from early morning until the end. Iron sharpens iron and we are thankful for their support. Along those lines, we would be remiss if we did not thank all of you who contacted the governor and key legislators throughout the past month. The governor and legislators listened — your voice was crucial to success.

But ultimately, thanks be to God for this miraculous legislative victory! God, like he did with Gideon’s army, whittled down the numbers on the ground to an illogical amount — the absences of Lt. Governor Bill Bolling and Senator Steve Newman (R-23, Forest) — so that in the end, success could only be attributed to the proper source — Him. Join us today in giving thanks to Him for this protection of life after decades of waiting.