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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.

McDonnell's First 100 Days: The View From The Family Foundation

The Washington Post ran a recent Sunday edition story that suggested a chasm has developed between Governor Bob McDonnell and social conservatives. According to the article, some have become disheartened and feel the governor has let them down while others are more willing to be patient and give the governor time. So, what does The Family Foundation think of the governor's first 100 plus days? Understanding the context of events is always key to accurate analysis. So let’s remember that for the past eight years social conservatives in Virginia have been isolated from the governor's office. Both previous governors were at times openly hostile to traditional values issues. Governor Mark Warner gave $25,000 to the Commonwealth Coalition, the organization that opposed the Marriage Amendment, and regularly opposed our agenda (hear in his own words what he thinks of Christian conservatives). Governor Tim Kaine openly campaigned against the Marriage Amendment and also opposed much of our agenda (though he did work with us on several marriage initiatives). Add to that the fact that in November 2008 Virginians voted for Barack Obama for president, and political pundits (as usual) proclaimed social conservatism dead. Any candidate who wanted to win had to disavow  caring about the unborn and marriage and stick to one thing and one thing only — money (well, the economy).

Enter Bob McDonnell. A long time friend of social conservatives and leader on many of our issues, values voters were energized by a candidate they could call "one of us." While campaigning, candidate McDonnell steered clear of social issues unless asked, focusing on exactly what the "experts" said he had to focus on — the economy. Some social conservatives expressed frustration that McDonnell wasn't more vocal on abortion and other social conservative causes, but many understood that the political climate was such that the majority of voters were most concerned about their personal well-being with an economy in recession and a federal government spending us into oblivion.

On Election Day, social conservatives voted for McDonnell in droves. Exit polling showed that nearly half of McDonnell's voters were self-identified evangelicals. Clearly, they believed that Bob McDonnell was going to be their guy in the Governor's Mansion. As with any constituency, those votes did not come without expectations, and they were high expectations at that.

Once sworn in, he went to work on his campaign promise to bring Virginians a balanced budget without higher taxes, and job development. Most agree that the governor has largely fulfilled those promises — though some are concerned with increased fees in the budget. During his administration's first General Assembly session the governor was relatively quiet on social issues, though his administration did vocally support abortion center safety legislation in the Senate Education and Health Committee. He also renewed an executive order concerning non-discrimination in state hiring practices, but did not include "sexual orientation" as had been done by the two previous governors (though Governor Warner did it in the last month of his administration).

Of course, things didn't go perfectly for the new administration. Social conservatives were particularly disappointed that he chose to issue an "executive directive" concerning hiring practices that included "sexual orientation," and we explained those concerns to him both publically and privately. He did, however, sign the Health Care Freedom Act, the first legislation of its kind in the nation that hopefully will protect Virginians from being forced by the federal government to purchase health insurance. He also protected Virginians from being forced to pay for low-income elective abortions (a major pro-life victory) and ensured that Planned Parenthood can't use the money they make off of their new license plate to perform abortions.

Now, we are just passed the first four months of his four-year term, and some conservatives are expressing disappointment, even outrage, with the governor's actions thus far. Interestingly, I was interviewed for the Post article long before its publication date, and at the time, we were encouraging the governor's office to take a more pro-active approach on social conservative issues. In particular, the discussion surrounded the pro-life budget amendments the governor chose not to introduce — defunding Planned Parenthood and failed embryonic stem cell research. On that issue I said to the Post:

We want him to do more, and we will continue to ask him.

I stand by those words. Once something is in the budget it is difficult to remove it. While we trust that Planned Parenthood will not receive any taxpayer money during this administration, we continue to believe that adding such language to the state budget will protect taxpayers in future years.

But remember the context of my Post interview:

In between my interview with the Post and the article's publication — several days — the governor fulfilled an extremely important campaign promise and reversed the Kaine administration's discriminatory prohibition on prayers offered by state police chaplains. In a press release I said we were "thrilled" with the governor's action, and we are. This was an important and courageous action and Virginians are better off for it. We also asked you to contact Governor McDonnell and thank him as well.

So, how is the governor doing? (Honestly, I think social conservatives need to take a deep breath, and remember that there are still three years and seven months left in this administration. We have to remember the victories he has delivered, while knowing that there is still a lot to be accomplished. But we are confident that the governor understands the concerns we have. There are pressing issues facing our commonwealth and the governor needs to address those issues. At the same time, the culture of Virginia must also be a priority for this administration. We will continue to encourage him to take the lead on family issues that are the foundation to the very economy he is trying to fix (see more of my comments in another article on this topic in the Richmond Times-Dispatch).

The Family Foundation is determined to be strategic in our efforts. We understand the political climate is hostile and we have to accept that incremental victories are victories nonetheless. Those who demand "all or nothing" tend to receive nothing. We are encouraged by the recent actions of Governor McDonnell and continue to believe he will fulfill his campaign promises.

Budget Amendments, Part 2

Friday, we posted important information about one of the most significant gubernatorial pro-life budget amendments in years. We are urging the General Assembly, especially five key senators, to approve the amendment. Please read the post to see how you can help. While we are happy that Governor McDonnell has proposed this significant amendment, he unfortunately chose not to introduce budget amendments this year that would defund Planned Parenthood (Washington Post) or embryonic stem cell research. So, did we win or did we lose?

I was asked that question last week by a reporter regarding the governor's decision not to amend the state budget to forbid funding of Planned Parenthood. Such an amendment has been, and continues to be, one of The Family Foundation's highest priorities.

  

Wins and losses: A good start on some issues, work continues on others.

Interestingly, in the several years since The Family Foundation first exposed the issue of taxpayer funding for Planned Parenthood (see our position paper), the amount of money flowing to that radical group has decreased. It is our understanding that there is only one unfunded contract in place, and that it soon will expire.

If correct, this means that when we do our annual research regarding funds directed to Planned Parenthood and its subsidiaries — for any reason — it should read $0.00. However, without budget language, funding can begin at any time (through contracts awarded to it by state agencies). Consequently, Governor McDonnell will have to ensure that his administration continues to fulfill his campaign promise and make sure that no taxpayer dollars go to Planned Parenthood each year of his term. While he chose not to do a budget amendment at this time as we would prefer, there is more than one way to skin a cat. Ultimately, the goal has always been to protect the taxpayer. 

We still believe the best safeguard for taxpayers is to have a budget amendment specifically defunding Planned Parenthood, rather than asking taxpayers to rely on a campaign promise. We will continue to hold Governor McDonnell (contact) accountable by checking each year to make sure that no state funds flow to Planned Parenthood.

However, we do thank the governor for amending the Planned Parenthood license plate bill to ensure that no money from the license plates will ever be used to fund an abortion (Norfolk Virginian-Pilot). Given the Senate's unwillingness to remove Planned Parenthood as the recipient of the plate funds, the governor's amendment was the second best option. But, now that it appears Virginians will be able to fund Planned Parenthood by "choice" through the purchase of a Planned Parenthood license plate, there is even more reason to ensure that they do not get budget money.

Finally, we must continue to fight for a total ban in the budget on state funding for embryonic stem cell research (see our position paper here). Although The Family Foundation has had 100 percent success ensuring that no new bio-tech funds or research tax credits are created without a ban, without a budget amendment universities still have license to destroy embryos in the name of research. Universities have refused to acknowledge that they are doing this controversial research and thus the governor determined an amendment may be premature. Expressing our disappointment with the administration, we have been assured that Governor McDonnell shares our concern on this issue, will investigate what is currently being funded and take appropriate action.

Governor Signs Choose Life Bill!

Governor Tim Kaine today signed into law legislation that provides for the creation of a “Choose Life” license plate!

 

Thank you to everyone who contacted the Governor and urged his support of this bill! Thanks also to Senator Ken Cuccinelli (R-37, Fairfax) for his tremendous leadership in maneuvering this bill through the General Assembly.

 

Since the fall of last year, pro-life Virginians through several organizations have rallied around the Choose Life plate, acquiring pre-paid applications required by DMV to be able to get the plates created, petition signatures and grassroots support. While Senator Cuccinelli’s original bill was killed in a Senate committee, he deftly amended an omnibus license plate bill on the Senate floor with the Choose Life plate, winning by a single vote (20-19). 

 

Proceeds from the purchase of the plates will go to support pregnancy resource centers. These facilities offer medical, spiritual and physical support to women and families in crisis pregnancy. 

 

Despite an all out assault by Planned Parenthood, NARAL Virginia and the ACLU, the Governor chose to dismiss the fallacious arguments of opponents and signed the bill into law.

 

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