newport news

Event Update: Virginia Beach Meeting Cancelled, Newport News, Roanoke Meetings Still On

Due to the effects of Hurricane Irene, we have canceled today's pastors event with Dr. Wayne Grudem at London Bridge Baptist Church in Virginia Beach. We are sorry for inconvenience this might cause. However, tomorrow's event with Dr. Grudem at World Outreach Worship Center in the Denbigh section of Newport News is still on. It is from 8:00 a.m.-noon. If you were planning on attending today's event, you are welcome to attend this one instead. Click here to register.

We also are hosting Dr. Grudem at First Baptist Church in Roanoke on Thursday, September 1, from 9:00 a.m.-noon. Click here to register for that. There is no charge for these events and a complimentary breakfast will be provided to all pastors and ministry leaders. If your church pastor and ministry leaders are not aware of these events, please share this link with them. If they cannot schedule one of these events, please follow this link and share with them information about our pastors outreach affiliate, Pastors For Family Values.

Next Truth Project November 6 In Newport News

The Family Foundation, in association with Focus on the Family, is pleased to offer our next The Truth Project® group leader training Saturday, November 6, 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., in Newport News at the World Outreach Worship Center, 1233 Shields Road. The Truth Project® is a DVD-based small group study that practically and personally introduces viewers to the truth claims of God. This dynamic training event will prepare you to lead this innovative small group curriculum, imparting a Biblical worldview into the lives of others. The event is open to everyone, especially small group ministers and leaders.

Click on the image to register today using our secure form.

Truth Project

You can only get The Truth Project® DVDs by attending a training event or by completing the 13-week study. So, don’t miss this great opportunity. It may very well be the most transformational four hours of your life.

Registration is $99.00 per individual or couple and is only $50 for students who present a valid student ID at the door. The cost includes entire 8-disc DVD curriculum with Leader Training DVD. For more information about The Truth Project®, visit www.TheTruthProject.org.

If you would like to bring a Truth Project training to your area, please  contact Roger Pogge at 804-343-0010 or e-mail at roger@familyfoundation.org.

Here Are The Five Senate Democrats Who Voted For Health Care Freedom

The five Virginia Senate Democrats who voted for SB 283, SB 311 and SB 417, the Senate bill for health care freedom and defense of the 10th Amendment, are: Senators Charles Colgan (D-29, Manassas) and Phil Puckett (D-38, Tazewell), who both voted for it committee, as well as Senators Edd Houck (D-17, Spottsylvania), John Miller (D-1, Newport News) and Roscoe Reynolds (D-20, Martinsville). See the vote for SB 283 here, which is identical to the votes for the subsequent bills. The bills are patroned, respectively, by Senators Fred Quayle (R-13, Suffolk), Steve Martin (R-11, Chesterfield) and Jill Vogel (R-27, Winchester).

Winning Matters Winners (And Still More Work To Do)

In October, we announced an online contest to reward the person who distributed the most voter guides prior to the election. We also announced a drawing for all who participated in our online contest. Congratulations to Donna Moore, our contest winner, who distributed nearly 10,000 voter guides to churches and various groups in the Fredericksburg area. Donna is a member of the Rappahannock Family Forum and has been actively engaged in making a difference in that region for years. We will send Donna a beautiful framed photograph of the state capitol.

Also, congratulations to Tony Armstrong of Newport News, who won the overall drawing. He will receive an autographed copy of the book From Hope to Higher Ground by former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee.

We offer our sincere thanks to all who distributed voter guides during the past campaign. With your help, we placed nearly 900,000 voter guides in churches and with civic groups throughout The Old Dominion! This is by far our largest voter guide distribution effort and we believe our voter guides had a big impact on the election. CNN exit polls reported that 34 percent of those who voted were born again/evangelicals, 83 percent of whom voted for the winning candidates. That is the highest percentage of voting for that demographic since CNN began exit polling in Virginia, giving the winning ticket nearly 50 percent of their votes.

This does not take into account our many African-American friends, such as new Pastors For Family Values Chaplain, Bishop Earl Jackson. We also published our first voter guide in Spanish and received much positive response from pastors in the Hispanic community. But . . . there is still work to do!

Please continue to keep our Winning Matters efforts in your prayers. There are at least two special elections to fill vacant Senate seats (to replace Attorney General-elect Ken Cuccinelli and Virginia Beach Sheriff-elect Ken Stolle) and maybe more as Governor-elect Bob McDonnell selects his cabinet appointees. We will be "on the job" and "on the ground" with our Winning Matters team, covering these elections, motivating and educating voters to make an informed choice at the ballot box.

Virginia News Stand: November 17, 2009

Annotations & Elucidations The Governor's Take

The education poll leads the news, but by now you know all about that. As for politics, Governor Tim Kaine is all about the long knives, now, criticizing Creigh Deeds for his campaign, as if the DNC chairman had no say so in it. I would write that it's easy for him to complain, but what does he know? He wasn't in Virginia for the campaign (rim shot, please).

The bulk of the news is about the House of Delegates: The Appropriations Committee gets a budget briefing during its annual two-day Capitol retreat; recently defeated Delegate Phil Hamilton (R-93, Newport News) announced his resignation, effective Sunday; and each  caucus held it's leadership votes over the weekend. The Republican lineup remains the same while the Democrats seem to have a position for every member of its diminished number.

In education news, about 10 teachers at a Henrico County high school are complaining about a guest speaker who advocates abstinence. Yeah. Hate speech. Speaking of communication and culture, a real blow to the Washington, D.C., media community: The homosexual advocacy publication Washington Blade is closing its doors. 

News:

Poll: Virginians like public schools but would like more nonpublic options (Richmond Times-Dispatch)

Democrat Deeds ran without his base, Kaine says (Washington Post)

House committee to hear state budget forecast (Richmond Times-Dispatch)

Va. House caucuses choose leaders (Richmond Times-Dispatch)

Phil Hamilton resigns from House of Delegates (The Daily Press)

Freeman High abstinence-only speaker draws fire (Richmond Times-Dispatch)

Health care-sharing ministries: Paying their fair share (Roanoke Times)

Gay weekly Washington Blade closes (Washington Post)

Washington Blade closes; new paper for gays planned (Washington Times)

About Last Night: Gala Was A Smash Hit

The nearly 1,300 pro-family Virginians who gathered at the Greater Richmond Convention Center last night at The Family Foundation of Virginia’s Annual Gala were treated to a fantastic evening of inspiration, motivation and topped off by a wonderful keynote address by former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee. The host of the Fox News Channel hit Huckabee was in great form with an inspirational speech filled with philosophy, morality, Biblical principles, humor (lava soap, anyone?) and capped with a moving exposition as to what happens when people ignore the tragedies around them (see Washington Post Virginia Politics Blog).  Just a week before election day, it was abundantly clear that pro-family citizens are excited about the future and are mobilized to act. The energy in the convention center was palpable. From the beginning of the program with an inspirational rendition of our National Anthem by eight-year-old Alana Springsteen to the final special music by April Lee, no one could leave room last night not feeling excited about the future of Virginia and the future of The Family Foundation.

Governor Huckabee combined humor with personal stories and an emotional challenge to the crowd, encouraging them to fight for our freedom, regardless of the cost. Touching on his time as a pastor and then as a politician, he made it abundantly clear that there is no time when Christians should abandon politics and government. Instead, we must continue to fight for our values to ensure a prosperous future.

As Family Foundation of Virginia President Victoria Cobb told the audience:

We look forward to election day this year with cautious optimism. One might even say we look forward to the future with hope for change. Yet, while we may anticipate electoral victory, we realize that it is just one small part of the cultural renewal that we seek, and there is so much more to be done. The Family Foundation has had one of the busiest years in our history, but the results on Election Day are not the completion of our work – just a new beginning. 

The Family Foundation Gala has become the largest pro-family gathering of its kind in Virginia and Governor Huckabee’s message was perfect for the evening. Joining the him in the program were our emcee, and new Chaplain to The Family Foundation's Pastors For Family Values, Bishop Earl Jackson; Speaker of the House Bill Howell, who introduced Governor Huckabee; and Pastor Jonathan Falwell of Thomas Road Baptist Church in Lynchburg, who gave the invocation and voiced strong support for the Family Foundation's work.

Also last evening, Delegate Glenn Oder (R-94, Newport News) was honored with The Family Foundation’s Legislator of the Year Award for his leadership on payday lending reform (see The Shad Plank). Delegate Oder showed principled leadership and an ability to work with a diverse coalition of organizations and legislators to get results on a tough issue. The compromise bill he was able to craft has significantly reduced the number of payday lending stores in Virginia and helped protect families from predatory lenders.

Voter Guides For November Elections Ready This Weekend!

The Family Foundation of Virginia's 2009 Voter Guides, non-partisan bulletin inserts that compare the positions of candidates on important issues such as life, marriage, parental rights and religious liberty, now are available. These Guides do not endorse or oppose any candidate or political party and are legal for distribution in churches. We were busy all summer encouraging pastors to engage in the civic process. Many have committed to distributing our Voter Guides in their churches. However, Virginia is a very large state and we have areas that have not yet been reached. We need your help in getting our Voter Guides into every church that is concerned about the direction in which our state and nation are heading. Please ask your pastor if your church will take The Family Foundation Voter Guides.

Each year, people contact several pastors and ask them to take the guides. This year, we are offering a small prize for your participation: Win a framed Virginia Capitol photo by submitting the largest number of churches with which you coordinated and delivered Family Foundation Voter Guides before midnight, November 3. Voter guide distribution at targeted events also will be considered.

Plus, we have another incentive: Start by entering just one church you know you can help with Voter Guides and you will be entered into the drawing to receive an autographed copy of our Gala speaker and former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee's latest book. Click here to enter.

On Saturday, October 17 (unless otherwise noted), we will have distribution sites across Virginia to pick up the Voter Guides. See the list below for the one closest to you. If there are none in your area, please volunteer to set up a distribution point for two hours that Saturday. To help in any way with this effort, e-mail john@familyfoundation.org or call 1-804-343-0010. Whether you want to take Voter Guides to your church, set up a distribution point in your area or be the contact person for your city or county, we need your help.

The distribution points are:

Richmond (Contact: Mark Earley, Jr., at 804-405-2129)

Grove Avenue Baptist Church, 8701 Ridge Road, 9:30-noon.

Clover Hill Baptist Church, 3100 Old Courthouse Road (Midlothian), 9:30-noon.

Gethsemane Church of Christ, 5146 Mechanicsville Turnpike (Mechanicsville) 9:30-noon.

Loudoun (Contact: Ryan Rogge at 703-674-6948)

Near Panera Bread, 215 Fort Evans Road, NE (Leesburg), 10:00-1:00 p.m.

Tidewater (Contact: Hector Falcon at 757-288-2382)

Kempsville Presbyterian Church, 805 Kempsville Road (Virginia Beach) 8:30-1:00 p.m.

Peninsula (For more information, call 757-592-0312)

World Outreach Worship Center, 1233 Shields Road (Newport News), 10:00-1:00 p.m.

Lynchburg (For more information, call 434-401-0726)

Thomas Road Baptist Church Parking Lot, 1 Mountain View Road, 10:00–noon.

Henry County (Contact: Jeff Evans at 276-233-9407)

Victory Baptist of Fieldale, 1300 Dillons Fork Road, 11:00-1:00 p.m.

Patrick County (Contact: Mildred Layman at 276-340-0549)

Stuart Festival, Patriots of Patrick County Booth, Between 410 and 402 Patrick Avenue in Stuart, 10:00-4:30 p.m.

Harrisonburg and Rockingham County

Available at the "Values" debate between incumbent Republican Delegate Matt Lohr and Democratic challenger Gene Hart, Cornerstone Church at the Lake, 3591 Isaak Walton Drive, Sunday, October 18

Roanoke (Contact: Mickey Mixon at 540-798-8621)

Tanglewood Mall, under the mall sign, 4420 A-Electric Road, Sunday, October 18, 3:00– 6:00 p.m.

Shenandoah County (Contact: Brad Huddleston at 540-820-0810)

Family Fun Day Festival for Christ, Shenandoah County Fairgrounds, 300 Fairgrounds Road, Woodstock, Sunday, October 18, 10:00-4:00 p.m.

Staunton and Surrounding Area (Contact: Brad Huddleston at 540-820-0810)

Free lunch for pastors! Shoney's Restaurant, 30 Sangers Lane, Staunton (I-81, Exit 222), 11:30–1:00 p.m., Tuesday, October 20. The Family Foundation of Virginia and the Shenandoah Valley Teen Challenge are sponsoring a free lunch for pastors. Voter guides will be available there. In order to attend, register by calling Brad Huddleston or e-mailing him at brad.huddleston@tffaction.org.

Important Questions For Virginia's Congressmen At Their Town Hall Meetings

While The Family Foundation focuses primarily on the General Assembly and local issues, the "health care reform" debate and the proposals at its center are of seminal importance in our country's history:

Do we go down the road of the failed European socialist model of static economies and statism or sustain what remains of the free-market system that has served this country for more than 225 years and created the most prosperous society ever known to man?

Do we put the brakes on this leftward move and truly begin to reform health care, one without coerced taxpayer funding for abortion, coerced insurance coverage of abortion and the coercion of medical professionals to perform procedures against their consciences (from the side that believes in "choice")?

Do we begin to unshackle aspects of our economy that have been taken over and severely regulated by government and restore the free-market roots that created unprecedented economic freedom, upward mobility and prosperity?

With so many important issues at stake which can fundamentallychange forever our values, heritage, culture, and the inheritance from our Founders and succeeding generations of patriots, making your voice heard is more crucial than ever. Accordingly, we encourage you to attend the summer town hall meetings your U.S. Representative and Virginia's U.S. Senators have or will schedule. Stay informed, ask them questions and get their answers to your concerns on these critical issues.

Here are a list of thetown hall meetings made public at this point, but these schedules are fluid. Check with your Congressman's office (click here for House member and here for senator) to confirm times and locations of any public meeting.

Thanks to our friends at Americans For Prosperity and Tertium Quids for supplying much of the following information:

Senator Jim Webb No meetings scheduled at this time. Senator Webb left Sunday on a two-week, five-nation tour of Asia to "explore opportunities to advance U.S. interests in Burma and the region."

Senator Mark Warner He is still scheduling his meetings and will be post them on his Web site (here).

5th District Rep. Tom Perriello Congressman Perriello scheduled 21 public events called, "Tom In Your Town." The ones that remain are:

Charlottesville August 11, 6:00 - 8:00 p.m., Charlottesville High-MLK Performing Arts Center, 1400 Melbourne Road.

Fluvanna County August 17, 6:00 - 8:00 p.m., Fluvanna County School Board Office, 14455 James Madison Highway.

Charlotte County August 18, 6:00 - 8:00 p.m., 250 LeGrande Avenue, Charlotte Court House.

Lunenburg County August 19, 6:00 - 8:00 p.m., Kenbridge Community Center Auditorium, 511 E. 5th Avenue.

Nelson County August 20, 5:30 - 7:30 p.m., The Nelson Center, 8445 Thomas Nelson Highway, Lovingston.

Mecklenburg County August 21, 6:00 - 8:00 p.m., Mecklenburg County School Board Office, 175 Mayfield Drive, Boydton.

Brunswick County August 22, 1:00 - 3:00 p.m., Tiger Express, 137 West Hicks Street, Lawrenceville.

Buckingham County August 24, 6:00 - 8:00 p.m., Buckingham Middle School (auditorium), 1184 High School Road.

Prince Edward County August 25, 6:00 - 8:00 p.m. Prince Edward Middle School (cafeteria), 35 Eagle Drive, Farmville.

Cumberland County August 26, 6:00 - 8:00 p.m., Cumberland Restaurant, 1465 Anderson Highway.

Albemarle County August 27, 6:00 - 8:00 p.m., Victory Hall, 401 Valley Street, Scottsville.

Campbell County August 28, 6:00 - 8:00 p.m., Campbell County Technical Center, 194 Dennis Riddle Drive, Rustburg.

Franklin County August 29, 11:00 a.m. - 1:00 p.m., The Franklin Center for Advanced Learning, 50 Claiborne Avenue, Rocky Mount.

Appomattox County August 31, 6:00 - 8:00 p.m., Appomattox Community Center, 220 Community Lane.

"Tom in Your Town" works like this: Come by anytime during the time period and sign in. Meetings are on a first-come, first-served basis. After the constituent meets with the congressman, one of the staff members will be there to follow up with any concerns. All are welcome.

9th District Rep. Rick Boucher Dublin  Tuesday, August 18, 9:00 a.m., Edwards Hall, New River Valley Community College.

Abingdon Thursday, August 20, 9:00 a.m., Southwest Virginia Higher Education Center.

2nd District Rep. Glenn Nye Rep. Nye's office told Americans For Prosperity that he "won't be available next week, but there should be some planned in the future." Once scheduled, they should be available on the Events Page of his Web site (here):

1st District Rep. Rob Whitman No public meetings are scheduled at this time, but one is planned for Fredericksburg and one for Newport News.

8th District Rep. Jim Moran Reston Tuesday, August 25, with former Democrat National Committee Chairman and presidential candidate Howard Dean, 7:00 - 9:00 p.m., at South Lakes High School (auditorium), 11400 South Lakes Drive. Doors open at 6:00.

11th District Rep. Gerry Connolly No meetings are scheduled at this time but, according to his staff, a meeting may be held in late August or early September.

10th District Rep. Frank Wolf A meeting is planned for early September, but no details are yet available.

Tea Anyone?

Boston may have had its Tea Party in 1773 (a fact I know well as a stammering, stage-frightened, scene-blowing actor in my 7th grade play, The Boston Tea Party), but Virginia's rebellious nature against authoritarian rule is no less historic, given Patrick Henry's famous 1765 "Caesar had his Brutus" "Treason" speech in the House of Burgesses. As with Thanksgiving, them Yankees try to steal all our firsts. But it seems the Tea Party movement has revived more than 235 years later. Thousands of Americans are fed up with the large government debt, the printing of money, stimulus packages, government bailouts, and the inevitable higher taxes to pay for it all and resulting inflation that would completely wreak our country.

So, on Tax Day, April 15, as of now, at least five Virginia localities are joining hundreds more across America to have their own tea parties to demonstrate their displeasure with the government's increasing involvement in the private sector.

The tea parties will be in Richmond, Charlottesville, Virginia Beach and Lynchburg (locations, times, etc., here at TaxDayTeaParty.com); as well as Newport News (more info here via Tertium Quids). Richmond and Newport News have wsonderfully appropriate locations: at Kanawa Plaza, in front of the Federal Reserve Building in the Holy City; and in front of the office of 3rd District U.S. Representative Bobby Scott (D-Newport News).

It won't be July 4th. But there should be some (rhetorical) fireworks nonethesame.

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.

Exclusive: Interview With House Majority Leader Morgan Griffith

Below is our interview with House Majority Leader Morgan Griffith (R-8, Salem). We submitted the questions to him via e-mail and he replied and returned them to us. Here it is in its entirety — as the questions were submitted and as his answers were written. Familyfoundationblog: Mr. Majority Leader, thank you for agreeing to do this interview! You are the first member of the leadership of either party or chamber to agree to an interview at familyfoundation.org.

The House, for years, has passed, often with huge bipartisan majorities, many of our priority pro-life, pro-family bills. Thank you for your leadership and the caucus' resolve in those matters. With that ground covered, so to speak, we thought we'd ask you about some other issues. We, and our readers, are looking forward to your answers and greatly appreciate your participation. Hope we haven't built up expectations and the pressure. ...

Familyfoundationblog: What big issue or reform would you like to see the caucus embrace and lead the General Assembly in passing? For example, SOQ reform? A taxpayer bill of rights?  Budget reform?  Real estate tax reform? Or something else entirely?

Majority Leader Morgan Griffith: In the long-term, it is the budget that poses the greatest challenge for us. Simply put, some key core services are growing at an unsustainable rate. With its budget doubling over the last decade, Virginia is among the top five states for spending growth.  Unfortunately, it will probably take a strong Republican governor, one committed to thoroughly reexamining the role, size, and scope of state government before this can be successfully addressed.

Familyfoundationblog: The House Republican majority has decreased over the last few cycles. Why is the GOP losing seats and how does the caucus plan to reverse the trend?

Majority Leader Morgan Griffith: Explaining why we've lost seats is complex, but the short answer is a combination of changing demographics in some parts of the state, the national political climate, and an inconsistent campaign operation overall.

We are preparing for an aggressive campaign to reclaim seats, and I have been concentrating my efforts on lining up strong candidates in Republican-leaning seats we do not currently hold. I am encouraged by our early work on this, and I think we're going to have some very exciting contests this year as a result.

Familyfoundationblog: Last session Delegate Ben Cline's (R-24, Amherst) online spending transparency bill, which would have put the budget online in a Google-like, user-friendly format, so an average Joe could look up any state expenditure, did not make it out of sub-committee. Several states have adopted such an online budget. We think budget transparency is important in general to generate public trust of government, but also to shine the sun on some nefarious groups that get state contracts, such as Planned Parenthood. What do you think the chances of passing such a bill are this session? Will it be a priority of the leadership? Most Virginians favor this and some think the GOP has ceded the issue for the Governor to carry out on his own.

Majority Leader Morgan Griffith: This year, the House approved Delegate Cline's Budget Transparency Bill (HB 2285) by a vote of 99 to 0. We have passed budget transparency measures previously (the issue has long been a priority of Senator (Walter) Stosch (R-12, Henrico), and former Delegate (Michelle) McQuigg spearheaded this effort in the House). As Chairman of the FOIA Commission, I know all-too-well that Virginia's government needs to improve the user-friendliness of its reforms and transparency measures.

Familyfoundationblog: The Standards of Quality formula is a big concern for many Virginians because it is antiquated and either needs massive reform or needs to be scrapped and re-fashioned from scratch for a student-based, more efficient education funding system. This would save hundreds of millions of tax dollars that could be re-prioritized. Do you see an opportunity to address this at some point in the near future?

Majority Leader Morgan Griffith: No. I don't believe the prospects for any substantive government reform in any area are promising under the current administration.

Familyfoundationblog: Everyone is curious now about the leadership's reaction to the Supreme Court's decision on the regional transportation authorities. Did you agree with the decision and did you think it is a good one?

Majority Leader Morgan Griffith: The Court's decision was well-reasoned, and there were some aspects of it that did not come entirely as a surprise. For legislators, though, the decision was frustrating. The bill that left the General Assembly would have complied with the Court's requirement that an elected body would have to impose the taxes. The Governor's amendments changed that aspect, and it was those amendments the Court struck down.

This was not the first time that a portion of HB 3202 fell into disfavor because of the Kaine Administration's amendments. The controversy over abusive driver fees was largely fueled by the public's rejection that the fees applied only to Virginia drivers. This was not the case when the bill left the General Assembly. The Kaine Administration made that alteration. In that case, the change was not disclosed in the Administration's briefing to the General Assembly on its amendments to HB 3202.

Familyfoundationblog: Are tax and fee increases the only things lawmakers are looking at? Why not make real cuts and/or prioritize tax dollars out of the General Fund toward transportation funding if it's that much of a crisis?

Majority Leader Morgan Griffith: Actually, the House passed a bill during last year's Special Session that would do just that, dedicating the growth of current revenue stream — income from Virginia's ports — directly to transportation. The Administration and the new Democrat Senate majority would not consider any measure that would increase the revenue flow to transportation without increasing taxes. This year, Delegates (Glenn) Oder (R-94, Newport News) and (Dave) Albo (R-42, Fairfax) have made significant improvements to that bill (HB 1579), and the House approved it by a vote of 67 to 31. But as long as the Democrat Senate majority and Governor Kaine insist on tax increases, the prospects for real progress on transportation are seriously diminished.

Familyfoundationblog: Perhaps one of the most talked about moments — and certainly one conservatives relished — of last session was on January 24, when you forced the vote on a couple dozen Democrats who refused to vote on one of their own member's bills, a bill that would have allowed public employees to bargain collectively (see video here). You made our blog's Quote of the Day for that! So, please take us through that:

Were you expecting the Democrats not to vote and prepared to force their vote? Or was this a spontaneous reaction? All they had to do was vote present to avoid this, right? Also, many have asked us why did you not record their vote in the affirmative to put them on record for public employee collective bargaining? What other insights can you provide our readers on this rare parliamentary event?

Majority Leader Morgan Griffith: The House Rules are very specific on this. If a member is in their seat but not voting and another member points that out, their vote must be recorded in the negative. This same motion was the first rules motion I made as a second-year delegate in 1995. We were in the minority then and I wanted to learn the rules thoroughly. Now every time there is a tough vote to take, I'm on the lookout for members hiding form the vote. An abstention would have prevented the challenge.

Curiously, the Democrats got over their shyness about expressing their support for collective bargaining later in the session. We ultimately got a vote on this issue, as the Democrat majority in the Senate passed a similar measure. At that point, they went on the record, with an overwhelming number of their caucus voting for an expansion of collective bargaining.

Familyfoundationblog: Mr. Majority Leader, thank you very much for your time during this especially busy period during the General Assembly. We greatly appreciate it and hope you enjoyed answering these questions, and hope you will join us again in the future.

Majority Leader Morgan Griffith: Thank you. The Family Foundation plays a vital role during each General Assembly session, providing members with much-needed information and a well-grounded perspective on the issues that are vital to Virginia's families. I know our members greatly appreciate the hard work you do on behalf of the families of Virginia.

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.

Second Quote Of The Day

Things went from conversational to slightly antagonistic to outright hostile in the House Appropriations Committee late this afternoon when Secretary of Transportation Pierce Homer was called up by committee Democrats to testify on Delegate Glen Oder's bill to take a percentage of future profits from the Port of Virginia and apply them to transportation instead of the general fund (HB 1579). Committee Republicans, who had been patient with the Democrats questioning of Delegate Oder (R-94, Newport News), took exception to what they believe was the repeated mischaracterization of the bill by Secretary Homer when he had his turn. Finally, Delegate Kirk Cox (R-66, Colonial Heights), asked Homer where the administration's transportation bill was. Homer said it had submitted five bills over the last three sessions and two special sessions.

Delegate Cox, after the secretary could not say the administration had a bill this session, let loose with this:

"So, you've had time to analyze this bill but not write one of your own! Thank you for your no bill answer."

BREAKING: Spending Transparency Approved In House Committee!

Just a few minutes ago, the House Appropriations Committee approved by unanimous voice vote, HB 2285, patroned by Delegate Ben Cline (R-24, Amherst). Were it so easy. This is the background: The bill wasn't heard until late in the process by its committee of jurisdiction and, with an unjustifiable price tag by the Department of Planning and Budget of up to $3 million, it was doomed for Appropriations.

Plan B: Scale it down. Instead of a new or rebuilt data collection system, both Delegate Cline and Senator Ken Cuccinelli (R-37, Fairfax), patron of the Senate companion, SB 936, worked with the Auditor of Public Accounts to improve current data collection and "retrievability" by the public, to go along with "searchability" improvements the auditor instituted since last year.

Problem: Despite all that, the jurisdictional Appropriations sub-committee had finished its pre-crossover meetings. Solution: Pressure and persuassion, and the chairman allowed for an additional meeting.

What just happened: After all that, and a glowing endorsement for two days running in Senate committees by the auditor, and Senate Finance taking the first step in the water, you'd think all was a slam dunk. More like those blooper reel missed dunks. At the sub-committee this afternoon, Delegate Cline was late and almost got passed over. Then, once he introduced the substitute, he and committee staff realized he had no substitute. Legislative Services, which drafts legislative language, and Delegate Cline had a failure to communicate, apparently, and either there was no substitute in front of the committee or there was, but with the original bill's summary attached. That meant is that the FIS was still in play. Not gonna pass in that posture. A sinking feeling if ever there was one.

What to do? Or is there anything to do? Delegate Scott Lingamfelter (R-31, Woodbridge) attempted to save it with a motion to report to the full committee with the understanding the Senate language would be introduced. Not what the chairman, Delegate Steve Landes (R-25, Augusta), wanted.

Delegate Landes then threw Cline a lifeline of sorts, agreeing to report with no recommendation if the proper substitute could be drafted by the full committee's last hearing, about a half hour hence. Proviso: Bills recommended in this manner only are brought up at the full committee chairman's discretion.

Scramble: Cline, committee staff and Legislative Services hustled to unravel the knots. Meantime, potential wolves at the gate: A guy from Virginia Enterprise Application Program showed up with questions and talked with yours truly and another pro-transparency lobbyist. Not against, but concerns, and concerns are enough for Appropriations to put the kibosh on apple pie and the flag. More: He tipped us off that General Services was against it. What a perfect Friday early evening.

Finally, full committee in progress and after a few bills were heard, and wondering exactly how many days it would be before I'd see family and friends, a mini-miracle. After a lengthy and contentious debate on transportation funding, where Democrats grilled Delegate Glen Oder (R-94, Newport News) on his innovative plan while Republicans grilled, in turn, Transportation Secretary Pierce Homer for not having a plan at all, the Chairman, Delegate Lacey Putney (I-19, Bedford) called up HB 2285, substitute ready and all!

Here's what I don't get: The committee has the correct substitute language, and during discussion of the bill several key members say they have had conversations with people who could be affected or must administer the bill if it becomes law, including the auditor and the Secretary of Technology,  and they report these people say there are no costs. (Question: How did they know what to ask if they didn't know what the substitute language was?) But they want the committee staff's opinion. Not that committee staff isn't great. They are. But how much vetting do you need when the members have gone to the top guys to begin with and they can see the difference in the substitute and original?

More discussion. Costs or no costs? How can we be sure? No one from Public Accounts to verify, but luckily the VEAP guy is silent and no one from DGS is around. Then, what's the purpose? If the information is out there, why do we need this? Is this about transparency? Is this about good government? Come clean Delegate Cline.

Finally, a motion and a second. Unanimous voice approval. I wiped the sweat off my brow and made the Sign of the Cross.

When Not Making History Is Good (Or, Watch The Libs Stumble All Over Themselves)

Earlier this evening, in House Room 2 in Mr. Jefferson's historic capitol, a House sub-committee defeated HB 1625, a major homosexual rights agenda item. The bill would have created sexual orientation as a protected class in housing discrimination laws by allowing local jurisdictions to carve out their own housing policies irrespective of the Commonwealth's current code. The House General Laws Sub-Committee on Housing, by a 4-3 vote, tabled the bill by Delegate David Englin (D-45, Alexandria), as amended. When he introduced the it before the committee Delegate Englin admitted previous incarnations of the bill were geared to sexual orientation. But he said his new bill was broader and protected no particular class of people.

Ironically, the broader aspects of the bill cost him votes from the liberal members of the sub-committee. Delegate Bob Hull (D-38, Falls Church) immediately brought up the difficulties and complexities this would present to the real estate industry in metropolitan areas composed of several jurisdictions. During the week, The Family Foundation lobbied members of the sub-committee on roughly the same lines, as well as the protected class argument. But the real unintended consequences — not imagined ones as our opponents conjure up — came when the representatives of the home building, apartment and real estate trade associations testified against the bill, citing the fact that it would create an unintended protected income class. In other words, homebuilders would have to accept HUD Section 8 housing vouchers and the like, and succumb to a host of prohibitive federal regulations.

Realizing that even his own caucus mates were deserting him, Delegate Englin said he would consider it "a friendly amendment to narrow the bill to sexual orientation," at which point the liberals on the committee, who opposed the bill on commonsense economic and governance grounds, stumbled excitedly all over themselves to make the motion. Delegate Hull beat them to the punch, and Delegates David Bulova (D-37, Fairfax) and Rosalyn Dance (D-63, Petersburg) quickly shouted a seconding motion. Speaking to the proposed amendment, Delegate John Cosgrove (R-78, Chesapeake) said, if approved, it would be the first time in Virginia history that sexual orientation would be made a protected class and therefore he could not support the bill. He motioned to table the bill and it was seconded, and the vote carried on a 4-3 party line voice vote. Joining Delegate Cosgrove were Delegates Bill Carrico (R-5, Independence), Bill Fralin (R-17, Roanoke) and sub-committee chairman, Glenn Oder (R-94, Newport News). 

So many committee meetings take place in the drab General Assembly building, so when one is in the ambiance of 200-plus years of history, where so much that has affected our nation has taken place, one wonders what type of modern history may be made. Tonight, as Delegate Cosgrove pointed out, we are happy the wrong type of history was not made.

Quote Of The Day

In a Daily Press article yesterday (click here) about the commonwealth's deteriorating budget and financial situation, Delegate Phil Hamilton (R-93, Newport News), chairman of the House Committee on Health, Welfare and Institutions, as well as vice chairman of the Appropriations Committee provided a classic one-liner:

"I hope that we actually have an open, honest and candid discussion about the expenditures we make. There are a lot of sacred cows in the budget. In some cases, the farmers have left, and the cows are still doing well."

Here's hoping for a few less cows. Norm Leahy at Tertium Quids has some thoughts as to which and whose cows should get gored (click here). Or at least diet some. After all, isn't that what we humans have to do when our budgets are tight?