state budget

BREAKING NEWS: Senate Adopts Abstinence Education On 21-20 Vote!

It was a pro-life, pro-family sweep today at the reconvened "Veto" session of the General Assembly tonight. In addition to a dramatic abortion limiting 21-20 vote within the last hour, the Virginia Senate earlier voted by the same margin to concur with Governor McDonnell and the House of Delegates to restore abstinence education funding that former Governor Tim Kaine cut out of the state budget. As with the vote to ban taxpayer dollars from use in elective abortions in the ObamaCare state run health insurance exchanges, all 18 Republicans were joined by pro-life Democrats Phillip Puckett and Chuck Colgan to get to the magic number of 20 votes and a tie in the chamber allowing pro-life Lt. Governor Bill Bolling to break the tie in favor of the amendment. The funding, match money corresponding to a federal grant, was initially presented in the House budget but, in the final days of session, Senate conferees stripped it out in budget negotiations. But today, the House reiterated its position by a 69-29 vote, which sent it to the Senate. Senator Colgan (D-29, Manassas), chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, introduced the amendment and urged its passage. Pro-abortion Senator Mary Margaret Whipple (D-31, Arlington) rebutted the argument, parroting Planned Parenthood and the National Abortion Rights Action League, which claim abstinence education is ineffective (despite an Obama administration study that says otherwise).

The Family Foundation thanks Governor McDonnell, Lt. Governor Bolling, and the members of the House and Senate who ensured the success of these two important pieces of legislation that soon will become law, as well as all committed pro-life, pro-family Virginians who answered our call to contact their state legislators this week. More to come tomorrow about today's exciting developments.

If The Chairman Doesn't Know What's In The Budget . . .

It makes you wonder . . . what exactly is in a $78 billion budget? How much waste and unwanted and unneeded programs are embedded in it? While it is pardonable that the average Joe and Jane Virginian does not to know, most might think the chairman of the House Appropriations Committee — the budget writing committee — would know. But Delegate Lacey Putney (I-19, Bedford) was candid with the Washington Post Monday, telling Anita Kumar, regarding a special appropriation patroned by House Majority Leader Kirk Cox (R-66, Colonial Heights) and Speaker Bill Howell (R-28, Stafford):

Do you think I know everything in the budget, honey? I don't know what's in a $78 billion budget . . . I don't know.

Realistically, he is exactly right, and no blame goes his way. But if the chairman doesn't know, that tells us all we need to know — the amount of state spending remains considerable and much more needs to be done to get it to a reasonable level.

General Assembly Week In Review: Several Victories, Much Craziness (And More To Come)

Nothing adequately can explain the pace of the General Assembly. Especially the short session. More goes on that we can — and would love to — report. It is no exaggeration to say that we could employ an entire news team to cover all that we see (and hear). Lobbying and blogging is a killer. But here's a week in review of some significant legislation.  We had several legislative victories this week, including five resolutions to amend the Virginia Constitution this morning in the House Privileges and Elections Committee:

HJ 593, patroned by Delegate Bill Carrico (R-5, Galax), is a religious liberty amendment that protects public prayer. It passed by a 14-7 vote after some committee liberals raised several objections.

Also regarding religious liberty, HJ 614, patroned by Delegate Tag Greason (R-32, Loudon), which prohibits the state from blocking tuition loans and grants to students seeking theological education for the purposes of becoming a military chaplain. It passed with only three dissenting votes. This bill was debated thoroughly in sub-committee earlier in the week. The state already pays the salary of chaplains and Delegate Greason's amendment would allow for tuition assistance as well.

Three limited government resolutions also passed. HJ 539 requires a super majority vote by the General Assembly and local governing bodies to increase state and local taxes; and HJ 540 limits increased spending by the General Assembly and local governing bodies to the previous year's level plus the percentage increase in population and inflation. Both are patroned Delegate Mark Cole (R-88, Spottsylvania). HJ 539 survived a procedural vote to kill it, and then was reported by an 13-8 vote, while HJ 540 passed by a 11-9 vote. 

Finally, this morning, after extensive debate, HJ 615, patroned by Delegate Bill Janis (R-56, Henrico), the House Majority Whip, passed by a 14-7 vote.  This resolution precludes tax and fee increases in the state budget. Any revenue increase, including the termination of tax credits, would have to be introduced as a separate bill for an up or down vote. In recent years, governors and lawmakers have buried such increases within billions of dollars of spending in the budget. Even when promulgated, many lawmakers had no choice but to vote for such budgets or else precipitate a government shutdown.

The proposed constitutional amendments to protect property rights were carried over and will be heard a week from today. Yesterday, there was good news on taxes: The House passed by a 94-5 vote HB 1437, also patroned by Delegate Cole, which would allow localities the option of ending the BPOL tax. This tax, which was started 199 years ago to fund the War of 1812, is a job killer and well passed its own life expectancy. The same day, by a 97-2 vote, the House approved HB 1587, patroned by Delegate Sal Iaquinto (R-84, Virginia Beach), which would exempt start-up businesses from the BPOL tax for two years.

Earlier this week, the House of Delegates passed another Family Foundation priority piece of legislation:  HJ 542, The Repeal Amendment. Patroned by Delegate Jim LeMunyon (R-67, Chantilly), it would repeal any federal law if two-thirds of the states agree. The bill was hotly debated in both committee and on the floor of the House of Delegates, with opponents making subtle and not so subtle accusations of racism toward supporters.

Next week is the final week before "Crossover," and with many bills still left to be debated, almost anything imaginable will happen. Even some unimaginable.

Cox, Janis Fill Out GOP Leadership Team In House Of Delegates, But What About The Office Space?

Yesterday, the Republican Caucus in the House of Delegates elected Delegate Kirk Cox (R-66, Colonial Heights) to majority leader and Delegate Bill Janis (R-56, Henrico) to majority whip. The election was necessary (see Washington Post Virginia Politics Blog) after current Majority Leader Morgan Griffith was elected to the House of Representatives from Virginia's 9th congressional district, defeating 28-year incumbent Rick Boucher during last month's Republican wave. Cox was the majority whip. Both were unchallenged (see Richmond Times-Dispatch). Statements from the principles include this from Speaker Bill Howell (R-66, Fredericksburg) (see entire statement, here):

Both of these individuals are trusted allies and talented lawmakers with remarkable backgrounds that they’ve used to help House Republicans offer practical solutions and deliver real results.

Kirk is an outstanding member of the House who I rely on . . .  for thoughtful analysis and strategic insights on the important challenges and opportunities facing taxpayers, families, businesses and Virginia. Not only is he a widely acknowledged "go-to" person on the state budget, education, military and natural resource issues, but Kirk also has done a superb job as House Majority Whip counting votes and building support for our ideas.

Likewise, Bill is an engaged and detail-oriented delegate who contributes so much to our Caucus and Commonwealth. His service on key House committees has provided Bill with a firm understanding of the issues and how they impact people of all walks of life. I’m confident that he will continue helping to identify policy goals and forge coalitions in support of sensible legislation that will improve the quality of life for all Virginians.

From Cox:

We have many challenging years ahead with tight budgets and a need to grow private sector jobs. I look forward to working hard with House Republicans and all of my legislative colleagues to address these challenges and the aspirations of the people of Virginia as the next House Majority Leader.

From Janis:

I relish the opportunity to serve as the new House Majority Whip. Together, we’re going to help put Virginians back to work by promoting legislation that fosters an environment conducive to more job growth, more economic opportunity and more prosperity for all Virginians.

Okay, the formalities are out of the way. Now, the question is, what will happen to some very valuable General Assembly Building real estate? Delegate Cox — now one of the most powerful delegates ever outside of a speaker as majority leader and vice chairman of the Appropriations Committee — already has a large and prestigious ninth floor GAB office per his role on Appropriations. But as majority leader, he also will have a large and prestigious suite on the sixth floor where the leaders of both parties and chambers have offices. Which will he choose? Or can he keep both? If he chooses the ninth floor, will Delegate Janis get the sixth floor office (whips don't have offices there)? If he chooses the sixth floor, who gets the ninth floor office?

These are the intriguing questions that drive the General Assembly. We'll keep you posted.

Virginia News Stand: April 26, 2010

Annotations & Elucidations 100 Day Review

Much of the state news today is about the "first 100 days" and how the new Gov did during them. He even grades himself in a Richmond Times-Dispatch op-ed yesterday. Also in News, if you didn't see it in a previous post, is an interview with Family Foundation President Victoria Cobb on Richmond's WTVR-TV/CBS6 about the General Assembly's approval of the landmark budget amendment restricting taxpayer funded elective abortions.

In National News, President Obama pays a visit to Pastor Billy Graham even as his Pentagon revokes an invitation to his son Franklin Graham to speak at a National Day of Prayer event there. Meanwhile, Sarah Palin raises money behind enemy lines, but the wind may have already dissipated from the GOP's sails in Massachusetts. In Analysis and Commentary, Michael Barone examines the VAT, Paul A. Ibbetson looks at Barack Obama as King George III, and Debra Saunders details the extreme left-wing views of judicial nominee Goodwin Liu who, during his confirmation hearing, attempted to pull an Obama — What me? An extremist? Oh, my past, that little thing. He's young and a minority and the parallels are remarkable.

News

*Abortion amendment passes (Video 2:36) (CBS6/WTVR.com)

Mixed reviews for McDonnell’s first 100 days (Richmond Times-Dispatch)

McDonnell's first 100 days: Trip-ups, but more triumphs (Norfolk Virginian-Pilot)

McDonnell reflects on early days in office (Roanoke Times)

Secretary chases goals of governor (Roanoke Times)

Summing up the state budget: what amendments mean (Richmond Times-Dispatch)

McDonnell urges respect for civil liberties in enforcement of immigration laws (Richmond Times-Dispatch)

Family Research Council and Republican Liberty Caucus endorse in the 5th (BearingDrift.com)

National News

Climate bill placed on hold over Senate dispute (AP/GOPUSA.com)

Shelby: No deal on financial overhaul before vote (AP/GOPUSA.com)

Health care law's unfinished business: cost curbs (AP/GOPUSA.com)

Obama visits Pastor Billy Graham (AP/GOPUSA.com

Palin raises money for GOP in liberal Oregon town (AP/GOPUSA.com

Despite Kennedy loss, Coakley has no GOP opponent (AP/GOPUSA.com)

Analysis

Hold the VAT (Michael Barone/GOPUSA.com)

Commentary

Significant Accomplishments in 100 Days (Bob McDonnell/Richmond Times-Dispatch)

Defining the Political Divide (Star Parker/GOPUSA.com)

Barack Obama: Another Grasp at the Crown? (Paul A. Ibbetson/GOPUSA.com)

My Last Goodwin Liu Column — I Really Hope (Debra Saunders/GOPUSA.com)

Philip Dru Obama (Henry Lamb/GOPUSA.com)

Budget Amendments: Convince General Assembly To Uphold Governor McDonnell's Amendment Limiting Elective Abortions

Governor Bob McDonnell late Tuesday amended the FY 2011-12 state budget to prohibit taxpayer funding of most elective, low-income abortions. The Family Foundation and several of our pro-life partners in Richmond have been advocating for just such an amendment for several years. For years, Virginia, despite its reputation as a "conservative" state, has funded abortions well beyond what federal law requires. Although not all elective abortions will be prohibited under the amendment, it would remove Virginia from the small list of states that funds elective (i.e., "health" of the mother) abortions. The General Assembly must accept this amendment at next Wednesday's veto session in order for it to become law. During this year's legislative session, a similar amendment was passed by the House of Delegates but rejected by the radical pro-abortion Senate hierarchy — and that is really where the battle lies. Regardless of what actions are taken by the governor, the Virginia Senate has been the body that has blocked nearly every pro-life effort for several years.

In fact, we wouldn't need the governor to introduce pro-life amendments at all if the Senate would pass budgets that include such language. It is clear that it will not be until the Senate reflects the values of Virginia that we will see these victories. The opportunity to make those changes is quickly approaching, as all 40 Senate seats are up for election in 2011.

But for now — over the next few days — we must put our time, energy and resources into this amendment to ban publicly financed elective abortions. This would be a tremendous victory, but to do this, we need your help.

We believe the key to sustaining the amendment lies with five key Senators:

Fred Quayle (R-13, Suffolk): 757-483-9173 district13@senate.virginia.gov

John Watkins (R-10, Midlothian): 804-379-2063 district10@senate.virginia.gov

Roscoe Reynolds (D-20, Martinsville): 276-638-2315 district20@senate.virginia.gov

Chuck Colgan (D-29, Manassas): 703-368-0300 district29@senate.virginia.gov 

Phil Puckett (D-38, Tazewell): 276-979-8181 district38@senate.virginia.gov

Contact these senators today by phone numbers or e-mail adresses listed above and urge them to vote yes on Governor McDonnell’s elective low-income abortion amendment. With your help, we can make a significant advance in Virginia for the preservation of life and realize the fruits of last November's hard work.

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).

Lobby Day Just Two Weeks Away!

 

The new year has begun and, for most everyone, that means resolutions lived up to and those already abandoned. Sometimes it is useful to include on your resolution list a few items that are one-time events for the year and not prolonged marathon projects like losing weight or quitting some annoying habit. This way, you actually succeed at some and feel that it was worth the time to make the list in the first place.

 

With that in mind, here's a great one-time event you will feel proud to include among your 2009 accomplishments; one that will make a dramatic impact in our ongoing campaign to see Virginia promote and maintain traditional values: Family Foundation Day at the Capitol, on January 19 . . . just two weeks away!

 

We are excited that Lieutenant Governor Bill Bolling will address attendees on family issues that will become before the 2009 General Assembly. Lt. Governor Bolling has been a staunch advocate for marriage and human life, first as a 100-percent Senator on the TFF Action Score Card and now in his current office. Lt. Governor Bolling presides over the Virginia Senate and last year cast the deciding vote to defund Planned Parentood in the state budget. 

 

Senator Ken Cuccinelli (R-Fairfax) also will join us. Senator Cuccinelli introduced the budget amendment defunding Planned Parenthood and was The Family Foundation’s 2008 Legislator of the Year. 

 

Also, since Governor Kaine has supported a ban on state trooper chaplains from being able to pray in Jesus name, religious liberty will be a big issue this year. This is why we are pleased to announce that Jordan Lorence, Senior Counsel at the Alliance Defense Fund, will be our keynote speaker (see a previously posted video of him here). A dynamic speaker, he will address the issue of religious liberty, what our rights are and how we can make a difference. (See below to watch him speak to pastors at the Watchmen on the Wall conference we co-hosted with Family Research Council this past fall.)

 

You won’t want to miss these inspirational and informational opportunities, as well as the chance to meet with your senator and delegate to remind them to put principle before politics in this important election year. Making your presence known and voice heard makes a difference in ensuring Virginia continues uphold traditional values and remains a great place to raise a family. Not only that, you will have lived up to one of your New Years resolutions as well.

Family Foundation Day at the Capitol is January 19, 9:00 a.m. until the Afternoon, free of charge, Richmond Marriott, 500 East Broad Street

To register now, and for more information, contact John Smith, Grassroots Coordinator, at 804-343-0010 or John@familyfoundation.org. Register no later than January 13!

 

Quote (And Statistic) Of The Day

There were a lot of things said today as The Special Tax Session opened for business. However, since I heard this one in person, this is what I have chosen. It stands on it's own. From Ben Marchi, Virginia director of Americans For Properity, at an AFP luncheon, on Governor Tim Kaine's staff blocking access to gallery seats previously reserved for AFP members who arrived from all corners of the commonwealth for his speech to the joint session convened earlier this afternoon:

 "He's afraid of the tax payers."

Apparently, His Excellency saw the big crowd that rallied this morning in Capitol Square against his $1 billion tax plan and wanted them to "stay off" the capitol (get it?). Marchi closed the luncheon with a sobering statistic:

"It took Virginia 390 years to get to a $34 billion budget. It took only 10 years to more than double it."

Funny how we never hear the guvna quote that in all his statistics, factoids and quips.