earmarks

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.

Virginia News Stand: April 14, 2010

Annotations & Elucidations Headaches For The Regime

I don't know where to start. This certainly is one of our most gripping News Stands ever —all sorts of angles, topics and perspectives. We have sources and writers debuting today, such as BigGovernment.com, RealClearPolitics.com and NewsOK.com. We even have a link to a short ABC News report about Neil Armstrong slamming President Obama (on the 40th anniversary of the Apollo 13 flight) for completely cutting NASA's manned flight space program. Not easy to go up against a living legend and international hero, so the president is predictably looking to retreat. On top of that headache for the regime is this embarrassment: The White House press corps is getting sued by a media organization for doing the president's "bidding." If that's not funny enough, John McCain is disavowing the "maverick" moniker and the RINO U.S. Transportation Secretary, Ray Lahood, is moving us toward a bicycle society that has raised objections from even the sleepiest corners of the policy realm.  

Not that it's all sweetness and light out there. A GOP couple was beat up in New Orleans while attending the Southern Republican Leadership Conference. Jim Hoft of BigGovernment.com fingers the suspects. More: radical liberals are practicing what Saul Alinsky preached and are moving toward a confrontation with Tea Party activists. Brent Bozell and Michell Malkin both have a look.

In political news, Sean Trende of Real Clear Politics makes a compelling case for as many as a 100-seat GOP House gain in November, while the AP looks at the pending doctor shortage. Tony Blankley and James Antle both caution against GOP caution, in the elections and in opposing the next Supreme Court Justice nominee. The Wall Street Journal deconstructs liberals' arguments for extended unemployment insurance by quoting top Clinton and Obama economic advisor Larry Summers, while the great Walter Williams sets the record straight on the job-killing minimum wage. So: Get your taxes done, take a breather, and get to reading. Lots of informative and enlightening words today. Enjoy.

News

Virginia tax revenues increased in March (Richmond Times-Dispatch)

McDonnell: Critics are "uncivil and partisan" (The Daily Press)

McDonnell spokesman says voting rights letter sent to felons 'without approval' (Washington Post)

New Virginia law kills free online tax-filing program (The Daily Press)

Budget tweaks lift manufacturers, public workers (Norfolk Virginian-Pilot)

Fimian calls for a ban on Earmarks (BearingDrift.com

Perriello pulls in $600,000 in donations this year (Lynchburg News & Advance)

Analysis

How Bad Could 2010 Really Get For Democrats? (Sean Trende/RealClearPolitics.com)

Doctor shortage? 28 states may expand nurses' role (AP/GOPUSA.com)

National News

Neil Armstrong Criticizes President's Space Plan (ABC News video :46/RealClearPolitics.com)

White House press corps sued for doing Obama's 'bidding' (WorldNetDaily.com)

Gay Day of Silence a Waste of Tax Dollars, Critics Say (FoxNews.com)

Agitated McCain: Don't call me a maverick (Politico.com)

Big Easy Beatdown . . .GOP Official and Boyfriend Savagely Beaten Leaving SRLC Dinner (Jim Hoft/BigGovernment.com)

Transportation's bicycle policy hits potholes (AP/GOPUSA.com)

Aide to Democrat ex-congressman files harassment complaint (AP/GOPUSA.com)

Huckabee likens gay marriage to incest, polygamy (AP/Richmond Times-Dispatch)

Commentary

Incentives Not to Work: Larry Summers v. Senate Democrats on jobless benefits (Editorial/Wall Street Journal)

Minimum Wage Cruelty (Walter E. Williams/GOPUSA.com)

Tea Parties vs. Hard-Left Protests (L. Brent Bozell, III/NewsOK.com)

John Paul Stevens Republicans (W. James Antle, III/The American Spectator)

Alinsky's Avenging Angels: Tea Party Saboteurs (Michelle Malkin/GOPUSA.com)

No More Profiles in Caution (Tony Blankley/GOPUSA.com)

Speaking Of Earmarks, Goodlatte To Offer Moratorium Resolution This Week

Speaking of earmarks and Congressional attempts to ban them, at least for a year, I just received this from Fourth District U.S. Representative Randy Forbes (R-Va.): It's a resolution that Sixth District Representative Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) will introduce this week to ban earmarks in the House. Now that both the Republican and Democrat caucuses in that chamber are on record as wanting to end the pork practice, we'll see who is serious about truly ending it.

RESOLUTION

Expressing the sense of Congress that House Democrats should join House Republicans in a total ban on earmarks for one year, that total discretionary spending should be reduced by the amount saved by earmark moratoriums and that a bipartisan, bicameral committee should be created to review and overhaul the budgetary, spending and earmark processes.

WHEREAS families all across our nation must make tough decisions each day about what they can and cannot afford;

WHEREAS government officials should be required to exercise an even higher standard when spending taxpayers’ hard-earned income;

WHEREAS Thomas Jefferson once wrote: "To preserve [the] independence [of the people,] we must not let our rulers load us with perpetual debt. We must make our election between economy and liberty, or profusion and servitude;

WHEREAS our national debt is at its highest rate ever;

WHEREAS the federal budget deficit is projected to exceed $1 trillion for the next two fiscal years and hover around $800 billion annually for the foreseeable future;

WHEREAS current levels of spending are simply unsustainable;

WHEREAS it is time for Congress to wake up and see that the federal deficits and the national debt have reached crisis status;

WHEREAS Congress must control spending, paving the way for a return to surpluses and ultimately paying down the national debt, rather than allow big spenders to lead us further down the road of chronic deficits and in doing so leave our children and grandchildren saddled with debt that is not their own;

WHEREAS House Republicans have adopted a one year total moratorium on all Congressional earmarks: Now therefore be it

Resolved, That it is the sense of the House of Representatives that —

(1) The entire membership of the House should join House Republicans in a total ban on earmarks for one year;

(2) Discretionary spending should be reduced in the FY 2011 Budget by the total amount that was spent on requests for earmarks in FY 2010;

(3) In the event that spending in the FY 2011 Budget is not so reduced by the amount spent for earmarks in FY 2010, an amendment to the budget resolution to effectuate this change must be made in order; and

(4) A complete review and overhaul of the Congressional budgetary, spending and earmark processes should be commenced by creating a bi-partisan, bicameral committee to study the issue and report back with recommendations.

Three Proposed Constitutional Protections From Government In Senate Committee Tomorrow Afternoon!

Thursday, we let you know about three important proposed constitutional amendments that passed the House and now are on the way to the Senate. You never know about the pace of the General Assembly, especially right after crossover, so guess what? All three of those CAs incredibly important reforms are on the docket tomorrow, at 4:00 p.m. in the Senate Privileges and Elections Committee.  Please contact members of the committee and voice your support for these constitutional amendments (see committee here), as soon as possible, up to early afternoon tomorrow. Remember, if these proposed amendments fail, it may be another two years before we can even get the process going again.

All three of these proposed amendments to Virginia's Constitution have something in common: Protection. Protection from eminent domain, the government taking your or a friend's private property, whether commercial or residential; protection from profligate government spending — a taxpayers' bill of rights, so to speak (necessary when Virginia's budget has grown 80 percent during the last 10 years); and protection from mismanagement of our dedicated transportation funds.

Here's a summary of the three:

HJ 725, patroned by Delegate Rob Bell (R-58, Albermarle) would provide protection from the government's power of eminent domain, and protect the 2007 law protecting private property rights from tampering by future General Assemblies. That law was a reaction to the deplorable U.S. Supreme Court Kelo decision, which allowed a local government to take private property and give it to developers. Just as the Marriage Amendment was needed to protect Virginia's marriage statutes, the 2007 private property law needs constitutional protection. This session alone has seen two bills (HB 1671 and SB 1094) that would have weakened it (we were able to amend them into acceptable bills). So it is obvious this constitutional protection is needed.  

HJ 789, patroned by Delegate Manoli Loupassi (R-68, Richmond) would limit spending to the preceding year's total appropriations plus an amount equal to the percentage increase of inflation plus population growth. It makes exceptions to provide tax relief, deposits to the "Rainy Day Fund" and nonrecurring capital projects. With state spending increasing more than 80 percent over the last 10 years, we need this constitutional protection from the big spenders in Richmond. What family budget has grown that much that fast?   

HJ 620, patroned by Delegate Glen Oder (R-94, Newport News), is another protection against greedy government big spenders. It would put all tax revenues designated by law for transportation in a "lock box" so that they cannot be spent on earmarks, pork or for other areas of the budget, only for the big spenders to claim they need more money for transportation. When campaigning for governor, Governor Tim Kaine said he wouldn't raise taxes until the "Transportation Lock Box" was in place. Of course, he rescinded that promise only a few hour after being sworn in.       

So, please contact the committee members as soon as possible and ask them to vote for these constitutional amendments tomorrow in the Senate Privileges and Elections Committee.

Three Constitutional Amendments To Go On Trial In The Senate

The pace remained settled in Capitol Square today as committees in the two chambers prepare for the grind of hearings next week on bills passed in each other's chamber. We've reported on a number of successes over the first half of session, both in good bills that passed and bad bills killed. Also in the mix are three proposed constitutional amendments we support, all of which passed the House earlier this week and now begin their trials in the Senate. To amend the constitution of Virginia, a proposed amendment must pass the General Assembly in exactly the same form — a comma can't even be changed — in two sessions with an intervening statewide election, and then approved by the voters in a statewide ballot. So it's nearly a three-year process. It's not the easiest thing to do, as we know from the Marriage Amendment.

HJ 725, patroned by Delegate Rob Bell (R-58, Albermarle) would provide protection from the government's power of eminent domain, and protect the 2007 law protecting private property rights from tampering by future General Assemblies. That law was a reaction to the deplorable U.S. Supreme Court Kelo decision, which allowed a local government to take private property and give it to developers. Just as the Marriage Amendment was needed to protect Virginia's marriage statutes, the 2007 law needs constitutional protection. This session alone has seen two bills that would have weakened it (we were able to amend them into acceptable bills). So it is obvious this constitutional protection is needed.

HJ 789, patroned by Delegate Manoli Loupassi (R-68, Richmond) would limit spending to the preceding year's total appropriations plus an amount equal to the percentage increase of inflation plus population growth. It makes exceptions to provide tax relief, deposits to the "Rainy Day Fund" and nonrecurring capital projects. With state spending increasing more than 80 percent over the last 10 years, we need this constitutional protection from the big spenders in Richmond. What family budget has grown that much that fast? 

HJ 620, patroned by Delegate Glen Oder (R-94, Newport News), is another protection against greedy government big spenders. It would put all tax revenues designated by law for transportation in a "lock box" so that they cannot be spent on earmarks, pork or for other areas of the budget, only for the big spenders to claim they need more money for transportation. This way, we know that our hard-earned tax money is going to where lawmakers say it is going. Then, and only then, if they need more money for transportation, can they in good conscience ask us for a tax increase.   

All three of these commonsense and much needed reforms and protections will be heard in the Senate Privileges and Elections Committee (get members' contact info here), perhaps as early as next week. Please contact the committee members to urge them to report these resolutions to the Senate floor.

Budget Transparency Bill May Come Up Soon!

The General Assembly is barely under way, yet already there is urgency in the air. Most people think this session will be dominated by the budget and the revenue surplus that has been squandered, putting our state finances in a deficit. Complementing the budget debate is a very important issue and one of our very top priorities this session: Budget Transparency and Accountability, which entails putting the state budget online in an easy-to-search format.

How can we control spending when no one knows how much is spent, where it is spent and on what it is spent? Lawmakers from both chambers readily admit that unless they are on the powerful money committees, they don't know where our money goes because after it is appropriated, it gets funneled around and through departments and agencies in forms of grants and contracts that make it virtually impossible to track. In fact, lawmakers themselves have to file several Freedom of Information Act requests just to discover the purpose of one  check.

Without an accountable, easy-to-use online tool, how can anyone track the many thousands of tax dollars the commonwealth doles out to nefarious organizations, such as Planned Parenthood, under cryptic "education" grants? How to uncover the millions of wasted tax-dollars on earmarks and political paybacks for non-essential services to special interest groups or district-friendly pork barrel projects?

Not only will an online budget — easily searchable in a Google-like format — help legislators make informed decisions on how to budget billions of your hard-earned tax dollars, it will allow hundreds of thousands of citizen watchdogs to point out the waste in government spending. In short, this is a just concept of open and good government; of sunshine; of the people having oversight of their government, as the Founders intended.

We were informed early this week that the Senate bill creating online budget accountability, SB 936, might come up as early as Wednesday, January 21, in the Senate General Laws Committee. The patrons are Senators Ken Cuccinelli (R-37, Fairfax) and Chap Peterson (D-34, Fairfax), but despite this same bipartisan support last year, the committee defeated it with bipartisan votes. Lawmakers of both parties, and their bureaucrat allies, who are more interested in the accumulation of power via the purse and the secrecy of the budget's intricacies, are determined again this year to arrogantly deny the families and people of Virginia their rights to know what their government does with their hard-earned tax money.

However, this year, with an overspent government desperately trying to "find money to cut" and with the twin backdrops of an election year and federal bailouts to banks and businesses that have refused to account for what they've done with our tax money, the time is ripe for accountability in the commonwealth's finances.

The "Google Government" bill, SB 936, may come before the Senate General Laws Committee as soon as this Wednesday, January 21. Don't let opponents of open government kill this bill quietly, early, when few are paying attention.

It is urgent for you to write members of the Senate General Laws Committee (click here) and to find others to do so as well — all the better if one is your senator — and let them know you want the ability that the citizens of several states already have, to conveniently research how and where your money is spent. Amazingly, President-elect Barack Obama's one major accomplishment in the U.S. Senate, was to partner with Oklahoma's conservative Republican Tom Coburn, to put all federal contracts online.  

If the behemoth that is the federal budget can be put online, so, too, can Virginia's.