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Virginia News Stand: December 18, 2009

Annotations & Elucidations The Snowbound Edition

We have lots of material built up from the last two days, plus Governor Tim Kaine's shocking income tax increase and budget proposals earlier today that, as one radio reporter said, caused an audible gasp from each member on the committee. Since the entire state is going to get blanketed by 24.36 feet of snow starting tonight, you might as well site back and read it all.

Not only do we have quantity, we have quality. There's plenty of news about the budget, but we also are cited five times (links with a *) — four on our new Internet safety initiative with Enough is Enough, the Interfaith Center for Public Policy, the Office of the Attorney General and Pastors For Family Values, three of which is video — and once on D.C.'s new same-sex marriage law.

Meanwhile, House Speaker Bill Howell (R-28, Stafford) has cut some staff and perks from the House of Delegates — no more free coffee, boys and girls. He said he's saved the Commonwealth $4.8 million since 2003 with a series of reductions, including new scheduling which allows members to travel to Richmond one day during for multiple out-of-session committee meetings rather than two or three separate occasions.

At the federal level, Senator Jim Webb (contact) penned a column in the Harrisonburg Daily News-Record saying that he hasn't made up his mind on the health care bill. Perhaps Virginians can help him conclude in the negative? The Wall Street Journal examines the Democrats' pending electoral implosion due to Americans' desire for the government not to own every industry and create new ones out of whole cloth. ("Climate change" and "green jobs"?)

But getting back to Governor Kaine's desire to eliminate the car tax cut and/or raise the state income tax by one percent: As mentioned here several times in recent weeks, he has a peculiar idea of a legacy, doesn't he? I know he's been out of state a lot in recent months, but didn't he see the election results? The people are demanding reductions in government, not more taxes. There's never been a governor more determined to inflict economic pain on Virginians than he — every year seeking a giant tax increase, despite a campaign pledge not to — and now, this monstrosity. The winner in all this is Governor-to-be Bob McDonnell. If he keeps his pledge not to raise taxes, and balances the budget, after Kaine has basically said that it can't be done that way, the new guy will pretty much own the state.  

News:

Kaine wants to scrap car-tax; increase state income tax (Richmond Times-Dispatch)

*Virginia takes Internet safety initiative to faith community (Richmond Times-Dispatch)

*D.C. City Council votes to legalize same-sex marriage (Richmond Times-Dispatch)

Virginia panel hears about juvenile justice disparities, ‘sexting’ laws (Richmond Times-Dispatch)

Kaine may renew Virginia's car tax debate amid budget gap (Washington Post)

Kaine seeks ways to increase revenues (Richmond Times-Dispatch)

McDonnell hints at job cuts for state employees (Richmond Times-Dispatch)

McDonnell, Bolling visit Southside, discuss job creation (Richmond Times-Dispatch)

Gov.-elect Bob McDonnell says fixing Virginia's roads will be his 'most difficult challenge' (The Daily Press)

Transportation panel sees revenue as key to roads plan (Richmond Times-Dispatch)

Va. seeks to extend IT contract deadline (Richmond Times-Dispatch)

No more free coffee, other House cuts (Norfolk Virginian-Pilot)

Delegates will give up some perks to save Va. some money (Richmond Times-Dispatch)

Area legislators talk to Chamber of Commerce (Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star)

Virginia Republicans push Webb to oppose health bill (Richmond Times-Dispatch)

National:

Democrats' Blues Grow Deeper in New Poll (Wall Street Journal Online)

Commentary:

Health-Care Reform Needed Now (Jim Webb/Harrisonburg Daily News-Record)

Video:

*Interfaith Effort for Internet Safety (3:09) (WTVR.com/WTVR-CBS6)

 

*New Efforts to Promote Internet Safety (2:24) (NBC12.com/WWBT-NBC12)

*Promoting Internet Safety Through Religious Communities (3:26) (WHSV.com/WHSV-TV3)

Thanksgiving Meditation And Prayer

Delegate Chris Peace (R-97, Hanover) today sent out this very well stated and  contemplative Thanksgiving thought and prayer. We couldn't have said it better ourselves:

While President George Washington declared a National Day of Thanksgiving in 1789, Thanksgiving has been an American tradition officially celebrated on the 4th Thursday of November annually since 1863. Our federal holiday was not formalized until 1941. As Virginians we can take great pride in the fact that our ancestors arrived on the banks of the James River at what is now Berkeley Plantation in 1619 and gave the first thanks to God for His provisions.

Thanksgiving Day Prayer For Your Family:

Almighty and gracious Father, we give you thanks for the fruits of the earth in their season and for the labors of those who harvest them. Make us, we beseech thee, faithful stewards of thy great bounty, for the provision of our necessities and the relief of all who are in need, to the glory of thy Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen. (Book of Common Prayer)

From the entire family at The Family Foundation of Virginia — Board, volunteers and staff — extend to you and your loved ones the very best wishes for a happy and safe Thanksgiving.

Today's Celebration, Tomorrow's Work

Today, pro-family Virginians are celebrating yesterday’s election of candidates whom we believe hold to, and will govern by, values you and I share. After months of working hard either for candidates or organizations like The Family Foundation to educate voters, seeing the fruit of that labor is sweet indeed. Exit polling found that evangelicals made up more than one-third of voters yesterday and 83 percent of those voted for the pro-life, pro-family candidates. Those numbers surpass the high water mark of pro-family involvement in any Virginia election to date!

No one can question that our Winning Matters campaign had an incredible effect on voter turnout. Thank you to everyone who contributed to the campaign by donating financially, distributing Voter Guides, Report Cards, holding voter registration drives, and a multitude of other activities. Your efforts made a huge impact yesterday.

But now, the work begins.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m as thrilled as you that Virginians sent a clear message to President Barack Obama, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (not to mention Mark Warner, Jim Webb and the like) that we reject the debt riddled policies they are pushing. I’m excited that we have a Governor-elect, Lt. Governor-elect and Attorney General-elect who share our values. But I also know that we’ve been here before, in the days after elections, thinking that the work was done only to learn that it was far from over. We need to hold all of our newly elected officials to their promises.

Even with a larger conservative majority in the Virginia House of Delegates, the obstacle that our pro-family, pro-life agenda has faced for several years – the Virginia Senate – stands between us and our goals. While we hope members of that chamber also get the message of last night’s election results, they have two years before they face the voters. If history is any indication, they are hoping that you will have forgotten by then.

The first opportunities to affect the Senate will come with two special elections in the next few weeks. With Ken Cuccinelli’s victory last night, there will be an election to replace him in his Fairfax Senate seat. In addition, Senator Ken Stolle won election to sheriff of Virginia Beach, meaning that there will be an election for that seat as well.

Here is the commitment I’m asking you to make today: we will not stop, we will not rest, until the Senate of Virginia reflects our values! We will not stop working until that chamber joins the rest of our leaders in supporting common sense pro-life and pro-family proposals.

We have the opportunity in the upcoming session to give all 40 members of the Senate the chance to vote on legislation that reflects our values – and if they reject those values again, we have to make them pay the price at the ballot box in 2011.

I also encourage you to pray for all the newly elected candidates. In particular, over the next few months Governor-elect McDonnell will select key advisers, cabinet members and a multitude of officials on boards and commissions. Please pray that he appoints qualified, principled conservatives to those positions, the impact of which will go on well after he leaves office. It is often said that "personnel is policy," so selecting those he will take counsel from in the years ahead is crucial for the new governor.

But today, celebrate. Enjoy a hard fought victory. Then get ready to join The Family Foundation as we look only to the future.

Poll: What Type Of Governor Will Bob McDonnell Be?

So, the votes are cast and the election is over. Already, media pundits are talking about what it means. In today’s Washington Post, I am quoted concerning the expectations pro-family Virginians have for Governor-elect Bob McDonnell. Now it's your turn. What do you expect? Vote and leave us your thoughts.

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.

Pew Poll Confirms Tide Has Turned In Abortion Debate

In late August, Democrat gubernatorial hopeful Creigh Deeds took what most political analysts said was a gamble when he began hammering Republican Bob McDonnell on the issue of abortion — and in contradiction of his pledge to leave social issues out of the campaign. Many thought Deeds' lackluster campaign was looking for an issue that would motivate his base, but at the risk of alienating independent voters. Thursday, the Pew Research Center for People & the Press released a national survey (see Pew) that might indicate the Deeds move was the wrong one. Said Pew:

Recently, Americans have become more opposed to legal abortion.

In fact, the division between those who believe abortion should be illegal in almost all cases is nearly even with those who believe it should be legal in most cases, a significant shift. Plus, the number of those who think abortion should be more difficult to obtain also increased (see U.S. News & World Report).

But what should worry Deeds the most is that liberal Democrats polled have lost an extraordinary amount of intensity on the issue. According to Pew:

There has been a 26-point drop since 2006 in the proportion of liberal Democrats who say abortion is a critical issue, from 34 percent to 8 percent.

Ooops! So much for energizing the base.

As with any abortion poll, the news is mixed, but it discloses many positive trends. For example, it indicates an important shift in public opinion away from abortion on demand. It confirms a Gallup poll from May (see Gallup) that shows more Americans consider themselves pro-life than "pro-choice" for the first time in that poll's history.

So, we are winning this issue on a daily basis by changing hearts and minds. It is nearly impossible to look at the beauty shown by an ultrasound and not recognize the humanity that exists. Any woman who has heard the heartbeat of her unborn child for the first time and then sees the image of that child inside her is drawn naturally to the conclusion that it is a human life worth defending.

More and more people are drawn to that defense, too. Virginians and Americans are joining together for the next several weeks for 40 Days for Life. We urge you to join with them (see how, here) in praying for more hearts and minds to change. Also, call your local pregnancy resource center and lend a hand. Reach out to a woman in crisis and provide for her needs. Together, through prayer and action, and through God’s blessing, we will one day live in a nation that respects all human life — born and unborn.

VEA/NEA Endorse Policy Contrary To Virginia Law At The Expense Of Education

Yesterday,we reported on the VEA's proud go-along at the NEA national convention endorsing same-sex marriage (see here). Instead of concetrating on issues that matter to teachers and improving education, the VEA has endorsed advocating a radical left-wing policy in contradiction of the Virginia Constitution and statutory law. The president of the VEA, Dr. Kitty J. Boitnott, responded to our post with a long comment on the thread stating that our take on the VEA/NEA position wasn't exactly what the convention meant with its lock-step adoption of the radical homosexual agenda. She goes on about "social justice." What any of this has to do with teaching clearly is beyond most parents' concerns for their children's education. 

Not only is the  homosexual marriage resolution contrary to the views of a majority of Virginians, she did not answer our concern about whether the VEA, with this policy position, now will encourage its member teachers to ignore the new traditional marriage guidelines to the Family Life Education curriculum. A true conflict of interest now is on the record.

Adopting a radical agenda contrary to Virginia law. Wasting time on matters completely non-germane to education. A significant conflict of interest.

We report. You decide. Below is the resolution:

NEA Representative Assembly New Business Items (NBIs) NEW BUSINESS ITEM E ADOPTED

"Resolutions B-13 (Racism, Sexism, Sexual Orientation, and Gender Identification Discrimination) and I-13 (Civil Rights) set forth NEA's opposition to the discriminatory treatment of same-sex couples and its belief that such couples should have the same legal rights and benefits as similarly-situated heterosexual couples. The Legislative Program is in accord: NEA supports "obtaining, preserving, and strengthening basic civil and human rights under law," and specifically calls for "passage of a federal statute prohibiting employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity and expression." Section IV(b). In implementation of the foregoing policies, the Representative Assembly adopts the following action plan with regard to same-sex couples:

1. NEA will support its affiliates seeking to enact state legislation that guarantees to same-sex couples the right to enter into a legally recognized relationship pursuant to which they have the same rights and benefits as similarly-situated heterosexual couples, including, without limitation, rights and benefits with regard to medical decisions, taxes, inheritance, adoption, and immigration.

2. NEA does not believe that a single term must be used to designate this legally recognized "equal treatment" relationship, and recommends that each state decide for itself whether "marriage," "civil union," "domestic partnership," or some other term is most appropriate based upon the cultural, social, and religious values of its citizenry.

3. NEA will support its affiliates in opposing state constitutional and/or statutory provisions that could have the effect of prohibiting the state and its political subdivisions from providing the same rights and benefits to same-sex couples as are provided to similarly-situated heterosexual couples.

4. NEA will take such actions as may be appropriate to support efforts to (a) repeal any federal legislation and/or regulations that discriminate against same-sex couples, and (b) enact federal legislation and/or regulations that treat same-sex couples and similarly-situated heterosexual couples equally with regard to social security, health care, taxation, and other federal rights and benefits.

5. NEA recognizes that the term "marriage" has religious connotations and that same-sex marriages may not be compatible with the beliefs, values, and/or practices of certain religions. Because of its support for the separation of church and state and the right to religious freedom guaranteed by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, NEA supports the right of religious institutions to refuse to perform or recognize same-sex marriages.

The Executive Committee will monitor the implementation of this New Business Item, and keep NEA affiliates informed of actions taken to achieve its objectives."

Virginia News Stand: June 30, 2009

Leading the news today is a piece on NRO.com about Senator Ken Cuccinelli, the Republican nominee for attorney general. It gives a good look into his beliefs of limited constitutional government. Let's say he doesn't take lightly the intent of the Founders, many of whom he proudly cites as Virginians. Elsewhere, the Post acknowledges that taxes are still a good issue for Republicans this fall at the same time Fairfax County may (surprise!) raise taxes — again! Meanwhile, Mark Warner's baby, VITA, continues to be a headache for the commonwealth.

Nationally, President Obama continues his back and forth on the  homosexual agenda. Now, according to the AP, he wants all Americans to joyfully accept it. Also, yesterday's Supreme Court decision on striking down a reverse discrimination policy in Connecticut, that had been upheld by Judge Sonia Sotomayor, the president's Supreme Court nominee, may play a role in her confirmation. We have an AP article and a commentary by Bobby Eberle. Finally, Marcia Segelstein takes a look at whether school children are getting frightened by environmentalists.

News:

Virginia Gentleman (National Review Online)

Va. Republicans drop fight over access to Kaine's DNC travel records (Richmond Times-Dispatch)

For GOP, Taxes Retain Potency (Washington Post)

Va. Lawmakers Question System Upgrade Contract (Washington Post)

Ailing Budget May Lead Fairfax Back to Car Tax (Washington Post

Virginia considering regulating car title loans (Richmond Times-Dispatch)

Activist says it's time that Christianity got a makeover (Roanoke Times)

National News:

Obama hopes to persuade all Americans to accept homosexuality (AP/OneNewsNow.com)

Discrimination ruling shapes Sotomayor debate (AP/GOPUSA.com)

Commentary:

Message to Obama Nominee: Discrimination is Wrong (Bobby Eberle/ GOPUSA.com)

Are Environmentalists Scaring Your Kids? (Marcia Segelstein video blog/American Family Association blog)

Family Foundation Action Releases General Assembly Report Card

Family Foundation Action today officialy released its 2008-09 General Assembly Report Card. A Capitol Square news conference is underway.  Below is the official news release from the orgnization:

FAMILY FOUNDATION ACTION RELEASES GENERAL ASSEMBLY REPORT CARD

RICHMOND — The Family Foundation Action today released the tenth edition of its non-partisan General Assembly Report Card. The educational document, released at a capitol press conference, informs citizens on key votes taken by the General Assembly during the 2008 and 2009 sessions. 

"In the House alone two-thirds of the members voted in favor of The Family Foundation's agenda more than half the time, indicating a broad based, bipartisan support for The Family Foundation's commonsense proposals," said Victoria Cobb, president of The Family Foundation Action. "It is our hope that the Report Card, along with Voter Guides that will be distributed in the fall, will motivate citizens to vote, and help them make informed choices when they go to the voting booth." 

The mission of The Family Foundation Action is to protect families and promote responsible citizenship by giving Virginians the tools they need to hold their elected officials accountable. The Family Foundation Action is not a PAC and cannot endorse candidates. This organization will also be producing and distributing voter guides for Governor, Lt. Governor, Attorney General and select House races in the fall. The Family Foundation Action plans to distribute 100,000 Report Cards throughout Virginia in the coming months, double the number from the 2007 distribution. 

As with each Report Card distributed over the years, hundreds of votes taken by legislature during the past two years were reviewed. The first page of the report card explains the criteria used in determining which votes to include. Non-partisan and broad-based, the Report Card seeks not to benefit one party or one candidate over another, but to arm voting Virginians with the information they need to make an informed choice when they go to the ballot box.

This year's Report Card has seven more "100 percenters" in the House than the last edition, bringing the total to 42. There are four in the state Senate, twice the number from 2007. In addition, there are no "Zeros" on this Report Card in either the House or the Senate.

"Demand for the Report Card continues to increase with each release," added Cobb. "We distributed 50,000 copies of the last edition, not including those that were downloaded from the Action Website. We hope to distribute twice that number with this edition to ensure that more Virginians know exactly where their elected officials stand on important values issues."

Copies of the Report Card are available by contacting The Family Foundation Action at 804-343-0010 or at www.tffaction.org.

 

National Day Of Prayer Reminds Us Religious Liberty Still Must Be Protected

Today is the 58th annual National Day of Prayer. The theme for this year's observance is "Prayer: America's Hope" and the Scripture verse is:

"May Your unfailing love rest upon us, O Lord, even as we put our hope in You." (Psalm 33:22)

We ask you to join with our nation and with The Family Foundation as we pray for God's grace and His healing of our land.

The National Day of Prayer has a storied history. In 1952, President Harry Truman signed into law a declaration that every president must proclaim a National Day of Prayer on the day of his choosing. In 1988, President Ronald Reagan codified the first Thursday of May as the official National Day of Prayer. Since then, Presidents Reagan, George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush have marked this day with a White House observance. All presidents have issued commemorative proclamations. For many years, a special prayer service has been held in the East Room.

Of course, now we are in a era of "change," the "Age of Obama." As this day approached, many pondered what, if anything, new or otherwise, the president might do. After all, he did state that America is "no longer a Christian nation" and his recent address at Georgetown University came with the insistence that it cover Jesus' name.   

It turns out that President Obama, in lockstep with his previous hostile decisions, decided not to schedule a public ceremony in the White House, and may not send a representative to the National Day of Prayer Task Force event on Capitol Hill. Instead, he opted for a private proclamation signing. All are actions that indicate a desire to squelch the public expression of faith.

An Archbishop of Canterbury once said, "Lex orandi, lex credendi," which translates to, "the manner in which we pray shapes the manner in which we believe." President Obama's actions appear to show that he, unlike pro-family Virginians, does not respect the importance of prayer and belief. Given what we see from the White House, now more than ever, it's important that we protect our religious liberty.

However, we at The Family Foundation, continue to lead the battle in Virginia. In the past decade, we have championed several efforts on behalf of preserving religious liberty in the Commonwealth:

» A bill requiring that every school division conduct a moment of silence so each student can pray, meditate, or reflect (passed into law in 2000)

» A bill authorizing the posting of the national motto, "In God We Trust," in public buildings (passed into law in 2002)

» A bill requiring a higher legal standard for government to intrude on an individual's religious liberty (passed into law in 2007)

» A bill further protecting the rights of students in Virginia public schools to express their faith within classroom work (passed into law in 2008)

» A bill to restore the rights of state police chaplains to pray in the name of Jesus (passed the House in 2009, but failed in  Senate Courts of Justice Committee)

At first sight, it seems the last bill is an anomaly. Not necessarily so. It can take one, two or several sessions to get a bill passed and signed into law. Religious liberty is fragile and in danger from intrusion, or neglect, by the state. So, we will continue to fight to protect our religious heritage, even during an era where, to some, not prayer, but the cult of personality is paramount.

(We can always use help in carrying out our mission: To do so, visit our Action Center, sign up for our e-mail alerts here, sign up to volunteer here, or make a donation here.)

McAuliffe's Response

It was quite interesting to hear Democrat gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe basically tell the far left, homosexual lobby to get over the Marriage Amendment in his answer to a question in Saturday's Democrat debate. Ironically, his tone is reminiscent of what conservatives find irritatingly familiar from many quarters —that no one cares about social issues, they drive away voters and let's unite around fiscal issues (never mind many of these people advocate higher taxes and spending anyway). He basically said that it takes three years to get a constitutional amendment on the ballot and passed — which is what is needed to repeal the Marriage Amendment. A governor has four years to make a difference, so why take up three years (75 percent) of your one term trying to fight something Virginians passed overwhelmingly two-and-a-half-years ago? Instead, let's worry about jobs.

Finally! A Democrat tells the liberal base to cool it on the social issues in favor of "kitchen table" issues, because you're driving away voters. Conservatives, on the other hand, don't find that call rare at all. But T-Mac ain't dumb. He realizes the difference — which is, of course, that it is electorally proven that social conservatism wins. 

Wow! Moran's Militant Stand Wins Endorsement!

Not but a few minutes after we posted the last thread, the Richmond Times-Dispatch puts out this report: Apparently, so impressed with former Delegate Brian Moran's answer to the same-sex marriage question at Saturday's Democrat gubernatorial debate, that an organization called Virginia Partisans Gay and Lesbian Democratic Club endorsed him. Said the group's president, Charley Conrad:

"Throughout his career, he's fought alongside us — not just in his voting record, but also in the leadership positions he has taken in support of equality. And even now, during this campaign, he continues to push pro-equality positions, despite any potential political risk. The LGBT community is standing firmly with Brian because he has always stood up for us." 

For those who don't know, LGBT is short for gay, lesbian, bi-sexual and transgender. Some homosexual lobby groups include transvestites in their coalition.

At the debate, Moran said:

"Equality is a fundamental value that makes us Democrats. Virginians know where I will stand on this issue because they know where I have stood. Leadership isn't easy."

Translation: According to Moran, if you believe in equal rights — as opposed to special rights — you can't be a Democrat.

Another Transparency Victory (Or, A Legislative Journey: The Life And Times Of HB 2285)

As a follow-up to yesterday's victory for reform, government spending transparency and accountability with our hard-earned tax dollars, late last night the House version of the spending transparency bill, HB 2285, patroned by Delegate Ben Cline (R-24, Rockbridge), was approved by both chambers unanimously. It is on its way to Governor Tim Kaine's desk to sign, amend and send back, or veto.  Along with SB 936, patroned by Senator Ken Cuccinelli (R-37, Fairfax), these two Family Foundation priority bills, if they become law, will allow Virginians, over time, to track government spending on contracts, the vendors the state pays and for which work they do, as well as other important information; and allow us to be able to more easily track such items online. 

Just as with SB 936, HB 2285 did not receive a single negative vote throughout its legislative journey which included: Two House committees, a House sub-committee, a House floor vote, a Senate sub-committee, a Senate committee, a Senate floor vote on accepting a substitute, a Senate floor vote, a House vote to accept the Senate substitute and reject an extra Senate amendment, and a final floor vote in the Senate (last night) to accept the House's rejection of that amendment. 

I know it sounds confusing, but it makes an important point: just because a bill gets a unanimous vote, it doesn't mean it was easy to accomplish. Even popular and just ideas are difficult to get passed and can come unraveled in a moment. For example, both patrons deserve a great deal of credit for their patience and parliamentary skill. They adapted the bills at strategic points to fight off bogus fiscal impact statements which would have doomed them as "too costly" to adopt. Grassroots activists also deserve much credit for staying informed on the issue and contacting their senators and delegates along the way. Click here to get a taste of this Byzantine, egg-shell-walking process

One simple example of the improvement these bills will bring is that a link to the Commonwealth DataPoint Web site will have to be put on the state government's homepage. Right now, if you are not a policy wonk, and don't know the name Commonwealth DataPoint, or don't know that it's on the Auditor of Public Accounts' Web site, you can't even begin to find what limited information is state government offers. So, imagine — it takes an entire act of the General Assembly just for a simple Web link! So, you know what we go through on controversial legislation. (Click here and scroll down to see a Sunshine Review's report on the current status of Virginia's online transparency. Hint: not good.)

For years, it has been very difficult to determine for what and to whom the state contracts and pays for services, not to mention what spending is duplicated and otherwise wasted — and whether it is spent on nefarious groups such as Planned Parenthood. It took almost the entire session, but these are major victories. That said, at least we had one humorous moment in this process, appropriately, near the end. If you haven't checked out yesterday's QOD, click here to read about the House "debate" on HB 2285.

Choose Life Plates Reported To House Floor!

Early this morning the House Committee on Transportation, on a 15-7 vote, reported to the House floor Senator Ken Cuccinelli's (R-37, Fairfax) legislation to provide an opportunity for Virginians to show their support for life by purchasing "Choose Life" license plates (see Senate floor debate here). Money earned from these plates would help fund qualifying pregnancy resource centers throughout the Commonwealth. The bill, SB 817, patroned by Senator Richard Stuart (R-28, Montross) will be voted on by the full House early next week. Because the bill was amended in a Transportation sub-committee, should it pass the House, it will have to be accepted again by the Senate.

Since the House floor vote will take place early next week, it's important to contact your delegate now (contact list here) and urge him or her to vote for SB 817. By making our voices heard we can allow Virginians to publicly show their support for life, while providing a greater source of funding for pregnancy resource centers, not to mention seeing the continued exasperated countenances of Planned Parenthood, NARAL and ACLU members.

Choose Life Follow-Up: Take Action!

Yesterday morning the bill, SB 817, patroned by Senator Richard Stuart (R-28, Montross), narrowly squeaked by in a House Transportation sub-committee by a 4-3 vote, all while Planned Parenthood and the ACLU sat in the room surely wondering why they can't kill this bill. As Senator Ken Cuccinelli (R-37, Fairfax), the author of the bill's Choose Life amendment, left the sub-committee, he asked the chairman, Delegate Edward Scott (R-30, Culpeper), if he should be present for the full  Transportation Committee hearing of the bill. Delegate Scott said he should.  Thus, the long, twisted, slow slog to get such a simple, commonsense, popular and practical policy passed continues (see here). The saga, as the old television announcers would say, goes on.

However, its prospects in the House still should be good. It can and should pass — and it will — with your help. Make your voices heard so we can allow Virginians to publicly show their support for life, while providing a greater source of funding for pregnancy resource centers — not to mention seeing the continued exasperation of Planned Parenthood, NARAL and the ACLU. That alone is worth the price of admission, and it's an easy price to pay:

Simply contact members of the House Transportation Committee (click here for the committee's contact information) and tell them you want them to vote for Choose Life plates. 

Then, before too long, we can brighten Virginia's roads with a positive message of life. Annoying limousine and other assorted liberals simply would be a delightful coincidence.

Congrats To Jim Moran: Porker Of The Month!

Remember U.S. Representative Jim Moran's outburst to a constituent who simply asked if he would agree that everyone in Washington should take responsibility for the mortgage crisis? Virginia's 8th District Congressman blew up at the constituent and said she didn't know what she was talking about. At the same meeting he also said, "In the long run" the government was coming after all of your money (see our comment and video, here).

Such great leadership and statesmanship can't be ignored. Thankfully, it hasn't. Representative Moran, brother of Delegate Brian who is seeking the Democrat nomination for governor next year, was awarded the "Porker of the Month Award" for November by Citizens Against Government Waste.

CAGW gave Moran the award, presumably against stiff competition, for this remark:

Now, in the last seven years, we have had the highest corporate profit ever in American history, highest corporate profit. We've had the highest productivity. The American worker has produced more per person than at any time. But it hasn't been shared and that's the problem. Because we have been guided by a Republican administration who believes in this simplistic notion that people who have wealth are entitled to keep it and they have an antipathy towards the means of redistributing wealth. And they may be able to sustain that for awhile, but it doesn't work in the long run.

Quite an achievement since then-presidential candidate Barack Obama, around the same time, promised to "spread the wealth around." But CAGW President Tom Schatz made the case for Moran (see news release, here):

Rep. Moran's punitive conclusion about creating wealth reflects the prevailing ethos of the current Congress. His remarks offer a window into the soul of the congressional leadership and offer a bare-knuckled preview of the kind of confiscatory policies taxpayers can expect now that there are even fewer fiscal conservatives on Capitol Hill. This Congress intends to reward hard work and productivity with a government-mandated ‘sharing' program.

So, we are sure we speak for millions of Virginians from Alleghany to Accomack and from Westmoreland to Wise and everywhere in between: Congratulations, Congressman Moran! You've made Virginia proud! 

This Is What They Think Of You, Us

If you are undecided about who to vote for tomorrow, think you've decided but aren't quite sure if he's the right choice, or know of others you think need some last minute information, consider this: Click here to hear for yourself what some candidates think of you and you fellow Virginians and Americans. Remember, not only did they make these comments, they at first denied it as well, until confronted with the audio.

Then, click here to see what America is all about, what you and we are all about. When in doubt, it's always best to forget the rhetoric, the charges and counter charges, and spin. Instead, compare their own words of what they think of us to what all of us know to be the basic understanding of who we are as a people and country — and our instinctive principles of life and liberty that make us such a great nation.

Interview With Senator Sam Brownback, Part 2

Welcome to part two of our exclusive interview with United States Senator Sam Brownback (R-KS), one of America's pro-life, pro-family, pro-traditional values leaders. In the first part, we got the senator's thoughts on how to win "red" states, the financial crisis, the Supreme Court and on Republican presidential candidate John McCain. In part two, we ask him about embryonic stem cell research, church leaders speaking out on public policy and politics, Alaska Governor Sarah Palin (see new video), his friendship with Senator McCain and the pending new HHS medical provider conscience regulations. We hope you will enjoy part two and the entire interview. We are pleased to have brought it to you. Let us know what you think with your comments. 

familyfoundation.org: Senator McCain has supported embryonic stem cell research in the past. Catholic teaching opposes the destruction of embryos, which happens when the stem cells are extracted from them. Has his position on this made you uncomfortable at all in your support of him? Have new developments which make adult stem cells act as embryonic stem cells had an impact on his thinking? Also, since embryonic stem cell research has not yielded one medical breakthrough, while there have been dozens from adult stem cell research — how has all this affected Senator McCain's thinking on the subject, if at all?

Senator Brownback: I think with the new developments in stem cell research, we are reaching the days when embryonic stem cell research is rendered moot, and John McCain has repeatedly pointed out the successes in non-embryonic stem cell research.    

familyfoundation.org: Are the Catholic bishops correct in their outspokenness and in taking so bold a stand or should Church leaders of all faiths stay quiet on issues of governance? To what degree should Catholic and Christian voters look to their bishops and pastors for guidance in voting?

Senator Brownback: Church leaders should lead the Church. I leave it to their discretion how they choose to do that. 

familyfoundation.org: What did you think of the two presidential candidates' performances at Pastor Rick Warren's "Saddleback Forum"? What impressed and/or concerned you about some of their answers to Rev. Warren's questions?

Senator Brownback: I think John McCain proved, again, that he is the right candidate for values voters. Anyone watching the forum could see that John McCain will lead the country in the right direction. 

familyfoundation.org: How far did the selection of Governor Sarah Palin go toward bringing pro-life, pro-family voters back toward Senator McCain?

Senator Brownback:Governor Palin really energized the pro-life and pro-family base of the party. She has brought out huge crowds and has really amped up the excitement level. Governor Palin is a real-life example of values voters' ideals. She has a beautiful child with Down Syndrome, which is something to be celebrated. Eighty to 90 percent of women who find out their unborn baby may have Down Syndrome choose to end the pregnancy. Governor Palin has reminded us all that being pro-life and pro-family is something to be celebrated.     

familyfoundation.org: What did you know about her previously and what have you learned about her since that adds to your belief she'll make a great vice president?

Senator Brownback:Governor Palin is known as the most popular governor in America. And she brings critically important and historically relevant executive experience to the ticket. With 75 percent of this year's presidential and vice presidential candidates being male senators, it is remarkably valuable to have on the ticket a woman who has executive experience.    

familyfoundation.org: The Department of Health and Human Services is considering new rules on "Provider Conscience" regulations so medical professionals and hospitals who don't believe in abortion and other things contrary to their faith do not have to provide those services. What is the status of those proposals, do you think they will get approved and how will they be an improvement over the current rules? Does Senator McCain support these new proposed rules?

Senator Brownback: For more than thirty years, the letter and the spirit of federal law has required that medical providers not be discriminated against for refusing to perform abortions if they have moral or religious objections to abortion. The HHS regulations under consideration are intended to support this law against such discrimination. Like John McCain, I have defended conscience protection laws in the past. Medical workers should be free to choose to stay true to the Hippocratic Oath to "do no harm." 

familyfoundation.org: Senator Brownback, thank you very much for taking your valuable time to provide Virginians with your thoughts on these paramount issues concerning life and traditional values, when so many critical issues face Congress. We look forward to hearing from you again in the future.

Senator Brownback: Thank you, I enjoyed visiting with you. And for more information on John McCain, please go online to catholics.johnmccain.com or johnmccain.com/phonebank

What Are The Odds?

What are the odds the Virginia Lottery has not been square its fellow Virginians on the actual odds of winning its scratch-off games? Scott Hoover, a Washington & Lee University business statistics professor, says at least even money. Hoover is suing the state gambling agency for refunds of $84.7 million for continuing to sell "scratcher" instant lottery tickets even when the top prize tickets get sold out (click here for an AP report on his suit). By law, The Lottery Department must publish the odds of winning for all of its games. Unlike the lotto games, where on the number of people who can select the winning numbers, the scratcher games are printed with a finite number of winners per batch. When a grand prize is won, those odds get steeper, yet the original published odds stay the same.

Hoover gives the "Beginner's Luck" scratcher game from last summer as an example. It had six grand prizes of $75,000. But when the last grand prize was sold on July 24, it continued to sell the tickets — 241,000 of them to be exact. Hoover knows this from his own investigation — he tracked the payouts from the game on the Lottery Department's Web site and received information from the department via a Freedom of Information Act request. In essence, the Lottery Department was sanctioning, according to Hoover, the selling of tickets in which the already infinitesimal odds of winning were reduced to absolute impossible because there were no more grand prizes left! In other words, a shell game!

The galling thing is, if all true, is that the Lottery orders new batches of the scratchers with the same original odds when the grand prizes are claimed. But instead of scrapping the remaining tickets and substituting the new batch, it continues to sell the old tickets to suck money out of unsuspecting and hopeful participants while the potential winning tickets are sitting in boxes!

This isn't like the two clowns on the classic television series Gunsmoke who couldn't figure their way out of a paper bag. By Hoover's analysis, the Lottery Department sold 36.8 million tickets after the grand prizes were gone in more than 47 scratch-off games since 2003. In his suit, Hoover asks not only for the refunded money, but that the Lottery Department be barred from selling "defective" tickets in the future.

If the professor is correct about all this, it will have implications beyond this particular form of state-sponsored gambling. There are many in the General Assembly who are hoping the impasse over tax increases for transportation and the thirst for more money will lead to their solution: The expansion of state-sponsored gambling in the form of "historical" horse racing — basically, video slots for horse racing.

We don't know what their odds of success will be. But the way the Lottery has been apparently fooling us all these years, don't think defeating it will be a sure bet. 

Breaking: AG McDonnell To Appeal Partial Birth Abortion Ruling To Full Fourth Circuit Court Of Appeals

Below is the news release issued earlier this morning by Virginia Attorney General Bob McDonnell concerning his decision to appeal the 2-1 ruling earlier this month by a three-judge panel of the U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals to strike down Virginia's partial birth abortion ban. 

McDonnell Announces Virginia to Petition for Rehearing of Partial-Birth Abortion Case by Full Fourth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals

-Move Follows Divided Panel Decision by Same Court Striking down Virginia's Partial-Birth Abortion Ban-

Richmond - Attorney General Bob McDonnell announced today that the Commonwealth of Virginia will ask the full Fourth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to review the decision of a divided panel of the court that struck down Virginia's ban on partial-birth abortion.

Speaking about the decision, Attorney General McDonnell noted, "It is my belief that Virginia's partial-birth abortion ban, passed overwhelmingly by the people's elected representatives in the General Assembly, is constitutional. Given the significance of the issues at stake, and the fact that the United States Supreme Court recently upheld a very similar federal ban on the procedure, the full court should review the ruling by the divided three-judge panel."

On May 20th a three-judge panel of the Court ruled 2-1 against the Commonwealth's partial-birth abortion ban, passed by the General Assembly in 2003. Following this decision the Commonwealth had two options in proceeding: petition for a rehearing by the full Fourth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, or appeal the decision to the Supreme Court of the United States.

The petition for rehearing by the full Fourth Circuit will be filed on Monday, June 2, 2008. The Court is expected to rule in approximately a month or two on whether the full court will review the case on the merits. If it does, it will schedule oral argument, most likely in the fall. The case is titled Richmond Medical Center v. Herring.

We applaud this very appropriate and reasoned appeal to this horrendous decision by the U.S. Fourth Circuit panel which trashes the rights of the most vulnerable and innocent among us; and which lacks deference to the overwhelming will of Virginians through its elected legislature (more than two-thirds of each General Assembly chamber), as well as to the Constitution of the United States as interpreted by the Supreme Court of the United States, which upheld a similar law.