bob marshall

Article V Debate: Battle Of Conservative Heavyweights!

If you love constitutional legal scholarship, you will not want to miss this: This Thursday, at 7:00 p.m., at the Colgan Theater on the Manassas campus of Northern Virginia Community College, conservative constitutionalists Delegate Bob Marshall and Patrick Henry College President Mike Farris will debate Article V of the U.S. Constitution. If that's not enough, former Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli will moderate the debate. Article V of the U.S. Constitution prescribes two methods for amending the constitution. Only one has ever been used — a proposed amendment passed by Congress and ratified by the states, and that hasn't been used in decades. Some believe that with the gridlock in Congress and the increasingly polarized political and ideological strains of the country, that proposed amendments will never escape Congress, even for the most necessary reforms, such as a requirement for a balanced federal budget.

The other method allows for the states to convene a convention to adopt an amendment . . . or amendments. That's where the controversy begins and only accelerates. There may be nothing more divisive among conservatives than this question because some believe, like Delegate Marshall, that if a convention is convened, those delegates, once locked into a room, could not only vote to adopt a specific amendment, but also add and delete to the constitution as they please. Mr. Farris and others believe that it is constitutionally legal to bind the delegates to one specific topic, and that the solvency of the United States (and perhaps another issue or two) demands this approach.

Delegate Marshall describes the event this way:

Mike Farris and I will debate whether or not we should hold a national convention (with delegates from every state), under Article V of the U.S. Constitution, to propose amendments that will make changes to our United States Constitution.

Both of us have researched this issue in depth and have reached opposite conclusions. I will argue that states should not petition Congress to call such a Convention for the purpose of amending (changing) the Constitution. Mike Farris will argue that we should.

Marshall-Farris

Battle of conservative heavyweights: Marshall vs. Farris with referee Cuccinelli!

For the last several years, resolutions have been proposed in the General Assembly for Virginia to add its name to the list of states that have called for an Article V convention. Other than the exhilaration of the intellectual exercise and ramped up lobbying efforts of both sides, they have made no splash, much less passed. But one can never predict the event that will spark a turning point in a movement.

With these two profound and intellectual men debating, and the former attorney general moderating, this will be an enlightening event, and a welcome one given the shrillness of so many issues in our modern political and philosophical discourse. The event, which include questions from the audience, is sponsored by the Manassas Tea Party, is open to the public. "Free will donations" will be accepted to cover the  costs. Colgan Theater is located at 6901 Sudley Road in Manassas.

Restitution For Eugenics Victims Tops TFF's Legislative Agenda

The Family Foundation of Virginia today released the highlights of its 2014 legislative agenda, highlighted by joining a bipartisan effort by Delegates Bob Marshall (R-13, Manassas) and Patrick Hope (D-47, Arlington County) to provide restitution to victims of Virginia's eugenics policy. Other priority legislation The Family Foundation supports includes bills protecting religious liberty, allowing homeschool student sports participation ("Tebow bill") at public schools, budget amendments to ban state funding of Planned Parenthood and to align Virginia with the federal Hyde Amendment, and the Pain Capable Unborn Child Act. It will oppose Obamacare expansion of Medicaid, adding sexual orientation to Virginia's non-discrimination laws, the expansion of gambling, tax increases, attacks on crisis pregnancy centers, and the removal of religious exemptions for home schooling. Here is The Family Foundation's official statement on its legislative agenda:

"The 2014 General Assembly will be very focused on jobs, the economy, the budget, mental health reform and rightly so, but our elected officials are capable of handling both economic and social issues," said Victoria Cobb, President of The Family Foundation. "The General Assembly spends the overwhelming majority of its time on non-social issues but those don’t merit quite the attention. Our goal is to be the voice of Virginians who care about values issues and recognize that we cannot have a strong, stable economy until we renew our moral standards."

A top priority of The Family Foundation is legislation ensuring religious liberty and free speech protections for public school students at graduations and other public ceremonies. Recent incidents of speech censorship at public school graduations around the country offer evidence that religious speech is being targeted. Legislation has been introduced that is modeled after existing state law in Texas and Mississippi, neither of which have been challenged in the courts. The legislation tracks U.S. Supreme Court decision language. 

"Public school students should not be targeted for discrimination simply because their speech reflects or includes their religious beliefs,” said Cobb. "The Constitution is clear and should be applied to students when they are speaking at public school events. It is a disgrace that American students are censored by government officials from simply mentioning their faith at a graduation ceremony, and that shouldn't happen in the birthplace of religious freedom."

Another priority will be restitution for victims of eugenics. First introduced last year, this legislation would provide a small financial payment to those whom the state physically denied the ability to have children. Eugenics was practiced in Virginia for nearly two decades, resulting in an estimated 8,500 victims.

"Virginia has apologized for eugenics, but that’s little comfort to those few surviving victims who had their ability to have children taken away from them by an atrocious government act. The idea that the government can deem some worthy of life and others not should be revolting to every American. And while this small amount of money cannot begin to undo the wrong, it is one way to hold a government accountable for its actions and, hopefully, to prevent anything like this from happening again."

The Family Foundation also will again support legislation that allows homeschool students to try out for sports at the public school they would otherwise attend. Commonly referred to as the "Tebow Bill," this simple policy of fairness to families who pay taxes in support of local public schools would affect a very small number of Virginia home school athletes. Numerous other states have adopted similar policies with no negative affect on athletic programs or public schooling.

The pro-family organization will also oppose the expansion of so-called Obamacare through Medicaid. Despite promises by the federal government to pay ninety percent of the costs in future years, it is clear by the unfulfilled assurances that people would be able to keep their own insurance and doctors and that there is serious risk to future state budgets by expanding.

"There is no question that we need to figure out new and compassionate ways to deliver health care to the truly needy in Virginia," said Cobb. "But every day Virginians are seeing the abject failure of Obamacare to fix the problems that we face. We need a new national dialogue on a real fix for our health care system that provides actual care and assistance and doesn't bankrupt our economy."

"Neither political party in Virginia has a mandate on anything, which leaves all ideas up for debate, discussion and compromise," said Cobb. "Values-driven Virginians expect their elected officials to represent them and their principles, and we’ll be there to make sure they do.”

 

Delegate Bob Marshall Takes On Terry McAuliffe In New Television Ad

Delegate Bob Marshall (R-13, Manassas) is campaigning for another term in the House, where he has been a member since 1992. But he's also, in a just released television spot, decided to take on Democrat gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe. Interesting strategy and Delegate Marshall does it, as we are accustomed to, in his own way. The genesis of the spot is the false McAuliffe attack, echoed now by Democrats the state over, that a bill introduced by Marshall and supported by Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, McAuliffe's Republican opponent, would ban birth control. The bill has nothing to do with birth control and, as Marshall points out, two U.S. Supreme Court rulings prohibit state legislatures from banning contraception. In a statement, Marshall said:

I should call my 30 second cable TV ad "McAuliffe’s Mendacity." Now my own opponent has joined in the craze and has huge mailers accusing me of the same nonsense which the Democrats know or should know is blatantly false. Several other races are being similarly targeted. Where is the responsible journalism?

Marshall adds two great kickers at the end. He reminds viewers that McAuliffe publicly stated earlier in the campaign that he won't read bills if elected governor (but would "hire people to do it for him") and says that his opponent apparently doesn't read bills either. Ouch! But then, only as Marshall would do, encourages people who don't belief him to call his cel phone! Brilliant!

The ad combines three elements conservative candidates rarely use (or are afraid to), characteristics Marshall contains in abundance for those who know him (and not the media caricature of him): confidence in knowledge of the issues, courage to take on those who would do your character or cause harm, and a sense of humor. Who else would jibe his opponent about not reading a bill he's criticizing and then challenge him or the public to call his phone to discuss it? Take that T-Mac!

Forget his opponent: Delegate Bob Marshall takes on "McAuliffe's Mendacity" to set the record straight.

The Family Foundation Action is a non-partisan, non-profit 501(c)(4) organization and paid for this informational communication. Not authorized by any candidate or candidate’s committee.

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.

Media Seeks TFF's Opinion On President Obama's Political Coming-Out-Of-The-Closet

The unintended consequences of President Obama's coming out of the political closet to tell everyone what we already knew — that he supports homosexual marriage — we're in the news! Family Foundation of Virginia President Victoria Cobb was interviewed by WRIC-TV (see below or click here), the Richmond Times-Dispatch (click here) and the Washington Post/AP (click here) about the president's declaration and its impact on the dynamics of the presidential campaign in Virginia, seen as a key swing/battleground state in this November's election, and WWBT-TV ran a statement TFF issued on its 11:00 newscast (click here). It reads:

President Obama is busy pandering to his dwindling base in an election year. It's the sign of a desperate candidate.

In the WRIC report, Delegate Joe Morrissey (D-74, Henrico), just can't contain his glee. He hasn't smiled so broadly or been this giddy since his law license was restored last week. Offering different perspectives are Delegate Bob Marshall (R-13, Manassas) and Victoria.

But if President Obama is being so courageous, as some on the left in these (and other) media reports are saying, why didn't he come out before the North Carolina vote Tuesday, where Tar Heels passed its Marriage Amendment by a 61-39 margin. (It also bans civil unions.) After all, he won North Carolina in 2008 and the Democrats will have their convention in Charlotte. Leading from behind, once again. Never was a man so brave where risk was so unapparent. No wonder he's so loved.

Also interviewed on WRIC is Governor Bob McDonnell, who has an interesting take. While he is continues to be for traditional marriage and supportive of Virginia's Marriage Amendment, he agreed with the president in one respect. He said marriage should be a state issue, not a federal one. Hmmm. Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney thinks there should be a federal Marriage Amendment. Does this affect his Veepstakes candidacy?

Ahhhh. Good to see Delegate Joe Morrissey smile again. He didn't have much reason to during the General Assembly this winter.

More On The "Mild-Mannered" Abortion Protestor . . .

Remember Margaret Doyle? She catapulted into the national limelight two weeks ago as the face of the pro-abortion movement in Virginia when the Mainstream Media in a rare, candid instant, caught her in a rage over pro-life legislation, baring her fangs and trying to barrel through a Capitol Police officer to confront Delegate Bob Marshall (R-10, Prince William). The Richmond Times-Dispatch, whose photographer Bob Brown captured it, immediately posted it on its web site and we followed suit that morning. It went viral and the T-D, almost embarrassed that it exposed the true disposition of the pro-abortion faction, published a fluff piece on Ms. Doyle by the next morning's hard copy edition, explaining that she, well, you know, really isn't like that — that, in fact, she is a lovable, sweet, popular catering company owner who just happened to get caught up in the passion of the moment.

From the article:

Most mornings, mild-mannered Margaret Doyle, owner of Richmond's Espresso-A-Go-Go Coffee Catering, is in a chipper mood. ...

Really?

It seems that when Ms. Doyle is in the solitude and comfort of her own home, where she has an opportunity to pause and reflect, you know, just chill, she, uhhhhhh . . . is filled with perpetual rage! Here are the contents of an e-mail she sent a pro-life legislator:

What a disgusting, disgraceful and vile pig you are -- the women of Virginia(except for the Christians that drink your kool-aid) have been pushed back to the dark ages because of you and Bob Marshall -- shame on you for being a foot soldier in the war on women -- once you come up for air after giving the governor a b!@#-j0%, you will be able to see how dangerous you really are -- how does it feel to be an accessory to state-mandated molestation -- at least you're not an accessory to rape anymore -- go to hell you f!#$!^+ monster!

Intemperate and poor punctuation skills. Not the way to go through life, Margaret — and in case there is any doubt, she wrote that on February 20, three days before the committee vote that ignited her heat-of-the-moment, national-headline-stealing outburst at the General Assembly. "Mild-mannered"? You be the judge.

But there's more. You see, Ms. Mild-Mannered Doyle seems to have an abundance of venom, sending the same legislator this belated Valentine's greeting, with the subject line:  "F*#@ you!"

In a pose only the pro-abortion movement could call "thoughtful and rational," Ms. Doyle conveys to a lawmaker an internationally known gesture.  (Photo: courtesy, Margaret Doyle)

The fact of the matter is that the people who protested at Mr. Jefferson's Capitol the last two weeks are not the face of Virginia. They are not normally-calm-every-day-citizens who are upset about certain legislation. They have bombarded pro-life legislators and their staffs with vicious e-mails and phone calls throughout this session, many so threatening they had to be forwarded to Capitol Police. They are ferocious, abortion-at-all-costs, in-your-face, members of relentless pressure groups who worship at the altar of abortion. Finally, despite attempts to conceal their true behavior and attitude, by the slip of the Mainstream Media and their own lack of restraint, their face has been revealed for all to see — and more often than we can even document.

Remember me? The face the media would have you believe is mainstream: Ms. Doyle two weeks ago after she was really fired up!

Admin's note: The text and subject line of the note and picture to the legislator is verbatim, but we used symbols to obscure the indecent language. We also blurred over the obscene gesture.

Is Public Prayer Unconstitutional?

As if the Fourth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals isn't busy enough this week. Not only will it decide on ObamaCare, it got the above question, too, in a case in which The Family Foundation filed an amicus brief last year. Now asked, another three judge panel will decide the constitutionality of the prayer policy of the Forsyth County, N.C. — but with national implications. The policy, drafted by the Alliance Defense Fund, allows for anyone of any faith to pray before county government meetings on a first come, first serve basis. The content of the prayers are not reviewed by government officials. Plaintiffs represented by the ACLU contend that, because most of the "prayers" at the meetings over an eighteen month period were "sectarian," the policy is unconstitutional. According to ADF attorneys, plaintiffs have argued in briefs that any prayer before public meetings is unconstitutional.

Judges Harvie Wilkinson, Paul Niemeyer and Barbara Keenan comprise the panel. If their questioning of attorneys arguing the case is any indication of where they stand on the issue, Judge Keenan is clearly in the ACLU camp. Appointed to the court by President Obama, she was particularly hostile toward ADF's arguments and clearly favored the idea of "inclusive" prayers if there were going to be any prayers at all. Judge Niemeyer appeared much more favorable toward public prayer, stating that prayers without mentioning a specific deity are "just words." Judge Wilkinson seemed like the swing vote, questioning both sides on multiple issues throughout the hour and ten minute hearing.

The details of this case date back to March 2007 when the ACLU and Americans United for Separation of Church and State filed suit against North Carolina's Forsyth County Board of Supervisors, stating:

[the Board] does not have a policy which discourages or prohibits those whom [the Board] has invited to deliver prayers from including references to Jesus Christ, or any other sectarian deity, as part of their prayers.

As ADF Senior Legal Counsel Mike Johnson, who argued in favor of the policy, aptly pointed out, "An invocation according to the dictates of the giver's conscience is not an establishment of religion. If it was, you'd have to argue that the drafters of the U.S. Constitution were violating the Constitution in the prayers and invocations that they themselves offered." (Mike Johnson testified, at Family Foundation request during the 2009 General Assembly, on behalf of the rights of state police chaplains to pray in Jesus' name. See video.)

A primary issue in the case is whether or not a voluntary prayer before a government meeting is "government" or private speech. If private, it is clearly protected by the First Amendment. But by the ACLU's logic, anything said at a government meeting by a private individual is government speech just by virtue of saying at that meeting.

Several Virginia legislators also signed on to an amicus brief in support of religious liberty in Joyner v. Forsyth County. They include Delegates Kathy Byron (R-22, Lynchburg), Bill Carrico (R-5, Galax), Bob Marshall (R-13, Manassas), and Brenda Pogge (R-96, Yorktown); and Senators Mark Obenshain (R-26, Harrisonburg) and Jill Holtzman Vogel (R-27, Winchester).

Major Tax And Spending Reform On Verge Of Passing?

This Tuesday afternoon, the Senate Privileges and Elections Committee will consider an important constitutional amendment that will bring much needed reform to Virginia's budgeting process, slow down tax and fee increases, and bring some transparency to the way our lawmakers raise and spend our hard earned tax dollars.

Contact members of the committee, urgently, and encourage a vote for HJ 615!

HJ 615, patroned by Delegates Bill Janis (R-56, Henrico) and Bob Marshall (R-13, Manassas), will safeguard our tax dollars by banning tax and fee increases, as well as banning the termination of tax credits, in the budget bill. The budget bill is supposed to be a spending bill only. But in recent years, governors and legislators of both parties have stuck tax and fee increases in it (such as when Mark Warner pushed through his infamous tax increase). The budget bill, which contains more than $70 billion, is given to lawmakers on the last day of session and they only have a few hours to digest it. It is nearly impossible to pick out tax increases of any type.

This resolution passed the House 80-15. If it passes the Senate this year and both chambers again next year, Virginia voters will vote on it in November 2012. But we must start with a positive committee vote Tuesday so it can get to the Senate floor.

If the General Assembly needs more revenue to fund its projects and programs, it should have the courage to propose and vote on ending tax credits and increasing taxes and fees separately, up or down, on the record. Increases in our tax burden should not buried in a must-pass budget with deadline pressure to approve so that state government can continue to function. But with transparent, separate tax increase bills and up-and-down on-the-record votes, we doubt lawmakers will be in any hurry to raise our taxes. So, this not only is a reform of the budget process that adds transparency, it’s a step toward reducing the size of government.

This resolution received a positive vote in sub-committee this week (5-1 with one abstention), but some of the senators who voted for it and the abstention expressed reservations and said they may still change their vote in full committee. Your voice is crucial to ensuring this much needed open government resolution passes so that we voters eventually get a chance to pass our own judgment on it.

Your Constitutional Protections At Stake Tomorrow

The pace of the General Assembly moves very fast, especially during the short session when committee hearings are compressed into a shorter period. Just this morning we were notified that four important proposed constitutional amendments, passed last week by the House, already are scheduled for tomorrow morning in a Senate Privileges and Elections sub-committee. Usually, there is at least a day or two respite and time to regroup right before or after "crossover," but the pipeline is full of bills and the legislation continues to flow. We need your urgent help to contact members of the sub-committee and ask them to vote for these important constitutional protections. Only four votes stand in the way killing these highly popular and needed measures without the full debate of the Senate, much less the full committee. So, your action is needed now.

HJ 615, patroned by Delegate Bill Janis (R-56, Henrico) and Bob Marshall (R-13, Manassas), would safeguard your tax dollars by banning tax and fee increases in the budget bill. The budget bill is supposed to be a spending bill only. But in recent years, governors and legislators have stuck tax and fee increases in it (such as when Mark Warner pushed through his infamous tax increase). If those revenues are needed, delegates and senators should have the courage to vote on tax increases separately, up or down, not buried in a must-pass budget with deadline pressure to approve so that state government can continue to function.

HJ 539, patroned by Delegate Mark Cole (R-88, Spotsylvania), is another important safeguard to your hard-earned tax dollars. It would require a three-fifths super majority vote of the General Assembly to raise state taxes and the same super majority for your city, town or county governing body to raise local taxes.

HJ 593, patroned by Delegate Bill Carrico (R-5, Galax), would protect Virginians' right of religious expression by allowing prayer and the recognition of religious beliefs, heritage and traditions on public property, including public schools. This will safeguard from court action, for example, students who offer prayers at school assemblies.

HJ 614, patroned by Delegate Tag Greason (R-32, Potomac Falls) would allow the General Assembly to provide for loans and grants to, or on behalf of, candidates for the military chaplaincy who attend in-state nonprofit institutions of higher education whose primary purpose is to provide religious training or theological education.

Urgent action is needed since the sub-committee meets tomorrow! If these resolutions die in sub-committee, the opportunity to incorporate them into the Virginia Constitution will be set back three more years. Contact the members and ask they vote for HJ 615, HJ 539, HJ 593 and HJ 614 tomorrow morning in Senate Privileges and Elections sub-committee.

Bill Establishing Wrongful Death For The Unborn In House Committee Tomorrow

Tomorrow, 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, will be heard in the House Courts of Justice Committee (click here for links to members' contact information)Please contact committee members now and urge them to report HB 1440.    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 because an unborn life is not only of value when it is wanted by the mother or when its life is intentionally taken by another.   Virginia's current wrongful death law operates in accordance with the "born alive rule." The born alive rule dates back to a 1940s federal court decision declaring that a child could recover damages for injury caused in utero once they were born. By extension, if a baby is born alive (though sometimes barely and only through artificial means) and then dies, a parent can then pursue a wrongful death cause of action for the injury in utero.   Approximately 40 states have gone beyond the born alive rule and now allow for pre-birth wrongful death suits for injury caused to a fetus while in utero. The Wrongful Death bill would bring Virginia in line with current law in the vast majority of states. This bill defines life as beginning at conception and, therefore, has the practical effect of expanding the state's wrongful death statue to encompass all unborn children.

General Assembly Issue Four: Transparency Isn't Just A Word

This is the fourth in a series about key issues facing the 2011 General Assembly, which starts January 12. Issue One, Life Defined And Protected, was posted Tuesday; Issue Two, Eliminate ObamaCare Induced Abortion Funding In Virginia, was posted Wednesday; and Issue Three, Restoring The Balance Of Power, was posted yesterday.

For several years The Family Foundation has supported legislation that would bring more transparency to Virginia state government. From our idea to put the state's expenditures online for citizens to review (click here to see it), to a more understandable budget, we believe the more citizens know the better they can influence policy decisions.

One of the least transparent aspects of Virginia government is the General Assembly's budget writing process. While you can go online to read the budget as passed by the 2010 General Assembly, how the legislature got to that final document is anything but open. In fact, during the final days of the budget writing session, only a handful of legislators (budget conferees) meet behind closed doors to work out differences and produce a final budget. Often, the rest of the General Assembly is given little to read the final budget but votes on it to get out of Richmond on time.

This process can be used to add elements to the budget that, if voted on independently, would not pass. In particular, increases in taxes or fees. This was evident last year when the final budget included increases in fees that came as a surprise to many legislators — as well as the public.

To remedy this, Delegate Bob Marshall (R-13, Manassas) has introduced legislation that would prohibit the General Assembly from including in the appropriation's bill . . . 

any provision that imposes, continues, increases, or revives any tax, fee, or fine, nor shall any such law contain any provision that reduces, suspends, or eliminates any credit, deduction, or exemption associated with any tax, fee, or fine.

The budget is an appropriations bill — it is intended to direct how taxpayer money should be spent, not how revenue can be generated or increased. If the General Assembly wants to increase taxes or fees they should make the case for those increases publicly — and put their vote on record. Certainly, one can argue that fee increases to cover the cost of higher administration expenses related to those services is understandable. But questions arise when those increases are done behind closed doors. Delegate Marshall's bill would correct that.

Eric Metaxas, Bob Marshall, Chris Freund: Speaking Engagements You Won't Want To Miss

There are some events taking place next weekend around the commonwealth featuring exceptional speakers on a variety of topics. I encourage you to take advantage of one or more of these great opportunities. On Saturday, November 20 from 7:00 - 9:00 p.m., former Family Foundation Gala keynote speaker Eric Metaxas will be in Richmond at the Richmond Center for Christian Study to discuss his new book, Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet and Spy (see Wall Street Journal review). Metaxas was on of our most popular gala speakers, mixing humor, a profound intellect and theological principle in his address. He is also the author of Amazing Grace: William Wilberforce and the Heroic Campaign to End Slavery. His presentation is at St. Matthew's Episcopal Church, 1101 Forest Avenue. For more information, click here.

Also on Saturday, Family Foundation Vice President for Policy and Communications Chris Freund will participate in a panel discussion on conservative principles at the annual Republican Party of Virginia Advance in Tyson's Corner. For more information click here.

On Sunday, November 21, from 4:00 - 5:30 p.m. in the Virginia Commonwealth University Student Commons Theater, 907 Floyd Avenue,  Delegate Robert G. Marshall (R-13, Manassas), a patron of the 2006 Marriage Amendment to the Virginia Constitution that defines marriage as between one man and one woman, will defend the amendment against Sarah Warbelow, state legislative director at the Human Rights Campaign. The event, sponsored by the First Freedom Center, is free and open to the public. Parking is available at the parking deck at 801 West Main Street, across the street from the Commons.

Fox Business Network Foils McDonnell Appearance With West Virginia Video!

You can't turn on the television these days without seeing a Virginia politician. Perhaps, just perhaps, the political world revolves around the Old Dominion again, as it did 230 years ago? Whether it's Governor Bob McDonnell talking about turning budget deficits into accounting surpluses (and then larger surpluses), Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli updating viewers on the law suit he filed against the constitutionality of the individual mandate in the health care law, Delegate Bob Marshall warning about illegal aliens, Representative (and House Republican Whip) Eric Cantor denouncing the massive unemployment and trillions in debt rung up by the Obama-Pelosi-Reid regime, former Governor Tim Kaine calling Republicans "extreme" or another former governor, Doug Wilder, preaching to Dems that Joe Biden should be dropped as vice president (RealClearPolitics.com), Virginia pols are everywhere. Mostly, they are able to get in their talking points. But as good a job as they do, they can't overcome matters out of their control. Such was the case a few days ago when Governor McDonnell appeared on The Willis Report on the Fox Business Network. He was able to stick in the now familiar story of turning around the inherited budget deficit and Mr. Kaine's disastrous prescription — an unprecedented and massive income tax increase — into an accounting surplus without a general tax increase by cutting spending to 2006 levels. He even fended off a few pointed questions by Ms. Willis.

But when the director cut to the b-roll, not even the most skilled, 58-percent-landslide-winning pol could salvage a positive: Instead of the beautiful Mr. Jefferson's capitol, instead of the lush Capitol Square, instead of the burgeoning Richmond skyline and nation-defining-historic landmarks, instead of the James River's world class urban rapids, we got . . .

Charleston, West Virginia? Instead of the stately Commonwealth, the regal Old Dominion, the tradition of Virginia, we got mountainy West Virginny, with luxurious shots of overpasses and highways leading into Charleston. Sigh. A shock to the Virginia Tourism Corporation's system, for sure. Oh, well. At least the road they show leads to the airport named for one of my heroes: the original man with The Right Stuff — General Chuck Yeager . . . made famous in pop culture, of course, by a Virginian, Richmonder Tom Wolfe!

The Fox Business Network video won't post to the blog for some reason, but click here to be to be taken to it on its Web page.

With Signing Of Health Care Freedom Act, National Health Care Fight Moves To Virginia

As the General Assembly began in January, perhaps the most anticipated legislative debate was going to be over the Virginia Health Care Freedom Act. How would this legislation — written to exempt Virginians from the unprecedented individual mandate in the Congressional health care bill — be received after a huge conservative victory in the fall? After all, the campaign was seen as a referendum against the federal government’s increasing control of private business and individual lives. But could it clear the typically obstructionist Virginia Senate? The answer came pretty early in session when five key Senate Democrats joined all 18 Republicans to send it comfortably through to the House where it was met warmly — even 55 percent of House Democrats voted for it. Similarly, the House version made its way through both chambers later in session. It was all anti-climatic until the events of last weekend.

After Congressional liberals rammed through its government-run health care plan, despite overwhelming opposition across the country, and the subsequent White House gloating, all eyes turned to Virginia. Yesterday, Governor Bob McDonnell made it official with what had to be the most widely reported bill signing ceremony in recent Virginia history. With his signature, Virginia has exempted itself from the most significant portion of the new federal law. We congratulate Governor McDonnell, the General Assembly and the bill patrons for their hard work in making history and protecting Virginia families from the federal government’s burdensome overreach and constitutionally questionable actions.

The patrons and chief co-patrons responsible for this major success for constitutional principle are: Senators Jill Vogel (R-27, Winchester), Steve Martin (R-11, Chesterfield) and Fred Quayle (R-13, Suffolk); and Delegates Bob Marshall (R-10, Manassas), John O’Bannon (R-73, Henrico) and Chris Peace (R-97, Hanover).

Now, however, even more national attention is focused on Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli as he defends this new law against the government takeover of our health care system. We thank him for his efforts and state and national leadership on this matter, as he does what he was sworn to do — defend Virginia law and the Virginia and United States Constitutions. He, as you can guess, is under a blistering attack from a loud, but determined, minority opposed to the Virginia law and his legal actions against federally run health care. You can support him by signing an online petition found here.

Finally, thanks to all of you who contacted your legislators and worked so hard to defend the founding principles of Virginia and the nation during this General Assembly session. As these uncertain economic times continue, more work will be required in the months ahead to restore our Founders’ vision.

Can The States Stop Nationalized Health Care? Bob Marshall Says, "Yes"

As mentioned here (and according to the AP), 13 attorneys general are preparing to file suit on behalf of their states to block any eventual nationalization of America's health care system — or at least leave their states free to choose whether to participate. Virginia Attorney General Bill Mims is one of the 13. Law suits have been known to work. It is, after all, the states which have the right and obligation to defend themselves from participation in any federal scheme not enumerated in the constitution as a federal responsibility — also known as the 10th Amendment. Of course, the 10th Amendment, nor anything about the constitution, has stopped the federales from increasing its size and scope over our lives throughout recent decades.

But law suits aside, what else can the states do? Apart from the attorney general, who else is in the game? What about legislatures? If Delegate Bob Marshall (R-13, Prince William) has anything to do with it, Virginia's General Assembly will have a lot to do with it. Last month, he made a presentation to the Tuesday Morning Group Coalition about HB 10, The Health Care Freedom Act, a bill he has already filed. Other patrons thus far are John O'Bannon (R-73, Henrico), Scott Lingamfelter (R-31, Prince William), Harvey Morgan (R-98, Gloucester) and Bob Tata (R-85, Virginia Beach). HB 10 reads, in its entirety, thus:

No law shall restrict a person's natural right and power of contract to secure the blessings of liberty to choose private health care systems or private plans. No law shall interfere with the right of a person or entity to pay for lawful medical services to preserve life or health, nor shall any law impose a penalty, tax, fee, or fine, of any type, to decline or to contract for health care coverage or to participate in any particular health care system or plan, except as required by a court where an individual or entity is a named party in a judicial dispute. Nothing herein shall be construed to expand, limit or otherwise modify any determination of law regarding what constitutes lawful medical services within the Commonwealth.

Marshall, as ever, is sure of its legislative cure as well as its constitutionality, as we are reminded by Norm Leahy at Tertium Quids. In fact, as Leahy points out, Delegate Marshall offers a Q&A on Dr. Bob Hollsworth's Virginia Tomorrow blog, asking and answering questions himself, a FAQ tutorial on state legislative prerogative on federal issues, if you will. At least as far as it concerns the federal takeover of the health care industry and individuals' constitutional rights to be forced into it. 

So, the 10th Amendment lives? We'll see what Virginia's General Assembly says — about its own authority. Virginia could make hay as the bulwark against the largest federal power grab in history. That would really give the lawyers something to fight about.

Spending Transparency: Close To Two Major Victories, Keep Contacting Lawmakers

Spending transparency is one of our priority issues this session and the bills involved (SB 936 and HB 2285) have had a long and winding path thus far (as do most major reform efforts). Just as predicted, their paths are somewhat similar to eminent domain reform bills in 2007, with many twists and turns and near-death experiences. Although each committee vote has been non-controversial, the behind the scenes efforts have been exhausting to get it to that point, with great credit going to the two patrons — Senator Ken Cuccinelli (R-37, Fairfax) and Delegate Ben Cline (R-24, Amherst), respectively, and their co-patrons, particularly Senator Chap Peterson (D-34, Fairfax) and Delegate Joe Bouchard (D-83, Virginia Beach). There has been tweaking of the bills to avoid the inexcusably outrageous and bogus fiscal impact statements which would have made the bills cost prohibitive to implement, especially in these tight budgetary times. (Fiscal impact statements once served a good purpose — cautionary breaks for lawmakers on new programs or government administrative expenses. Now they are used as excuses to stop much needed reforms.)

Each bill has gone through numerous committee hearings, amendments and substitutes, been reported and refered to money committees and the House version even was sent to a Senate committee the Senate version had no part of (see here). (As it turned out, HB 2285 was sent to the Rules Committeebecause the Auditor of Public Accounts comes under legislative directive, or some such governmentese, but still begs the question why SB 936 didn't go that route.)

All that said, we are closing in on major victories, but it's not time to let down our collective guard. A final push is needed from concerned citizens who believe the government has a serious obligation to shine the light on where our tax dollars are spent. 

SB 936 unanimously passed the House Science and Technology Committee only to have another obstacle thrown in its path — a trip to House Appropriations tomorrow. Committee members Bob Marshall (R-13, Prince William) and John Cosgrove (R-78, Chesapeake) tried to avoid the referral by asking for a vote to report straight to the House floor.

However, things look positive. Committee Chairman Kathy Byron (R-22, Lynchburg) told committee members the bill had to be referred to Appropriations to be vetted for costs, but that she would inform Appropriations Chairman Lacey Putney (I-19, Bedford) there are no costs associated with this bill. Appropriations meets tomorrow afternoon.

Indeed, Auditor of Public Accounts Walter J. Kucharski and Joe Damico, deputy director of the Department of General Services, both testified that the bill, offered in its third form, would have no fiscal impact on the state budget. Amazingly, the Department of Planning and Budget attached a fiscal impact statement to the bill claiming its original and subsequent amended versions would cost state government between $1.5-$3 million in new equipment and software, man-hours, and more employees. One small problem: no one asked the departments involved (read this about impact statements).

Earlier in the week, HB 2285 emerged with unanimous approval in the Senate Rules Sub-Committee on Studies and now is in the full Rules Committee which meets at 9:00 a.m. tomorrow. 

Spending transparency is an important issue (read here) for many reasons: good government, accountability, taxpayer protection and the like (read here). It also will give us a clearer window into how often, how much and for what reasons nefarious profit making groups such as Planned Parenthood get our tax money! We are very close to victory on a major priority this session. Let's not take it for granted.

Contact Rules Committee members here (HB 2285) and Appropriations Committee members here (SB 936).