Medicaid Expansion delayed...for nowMar. 09, 2018
The already-chaotic budget process at this year’s General Assembly has become even more uncertain. Yesterday, Senate Democrats blocked a motion to extend the session 30 days, and then blocked another motion for a shorter extension. Meanwhile, House leaders apparently thought they had a deal with the Senate as its lead negotiator, Delegate Chris Jones (R-76, Suffolk), announced on the floor that there would likely be a 30-day extension.
But exceptions to the Senate's rules require a two-thirds approval and, despite two 21-19 party-line votes to extend the session, the motions failed. Each chamber went into recess late in the afternoon in an apparent attempt to bring down the temperature and resolve the issue. Not only can they not agree on a budget, they can’t agree when to talk about the budget. This is interesting territory since, unlike Washington, Virginia is actually required by our constitution to pass a balanced budget before adjourning for the year.
Eventually, they will have to come to an agreement to extend the session or otherwise go into a "special session." The important point is that there will be no imminent budget agreement, which means no Obamacare Medicaid expansion – for now. Whether this overtime budget negotiation favors its ultimate exclusion from the budget remains to be seen. But we do know it means Senate Republicans have not backed down. They are listening to concerned Virginians all across the Commonwealth who understand that Obamacare Medicaid expansion is an ill-conceived, high-risk policy for many reasons.
For starters, the Trump administration is saying it plans to eliminate the federal funds for the matching grants, without which Virginians would have to make up the billions of dollars themselves. That will necessarily lead to higher taxes and/or massive cuts to core services such as education, public safety, and transportation. With the Obamacare "individual mandate" now eliminated as a result of Congress' tax reform bill, it seems likely a recent legal challenge by nearly 20 states to the entire law's constitutionality may be successful. Moreover, the so-called work requirement is meaningless because the expansion covers people who already work, not to mention there is no verification provision to ensure people are actually working. And as for the "taxpayer safety switch," which would stop the program if the federal government doesn't send the money, can you name one government entitlement program that has ever ended once it began? (because we can't)
Once lawmakers decide on their new timetable, we will let you know what actions you can take to help prevent this terribly misguided policy from happening.
Legislature moves Heaven and Earth to pass casino-gamblingMar. 02, 2018
Unfortunately, gambling in Virginia just got a whole lot more expansive, but only after the House and Senate practically moved heaven and earth – and exploited nearly every procedural loophole – to pull it off. “Unconventional” hardly begins to describe what transpired over the past few weeks. It started to feel more like we were “north of the Beltway” than in Richmond.
It all started when “historical horse racing” on casino-style slot-machines was quietly slid into the outgoing Governor’s introduced budget. It was a bold move, given the legislature’s well-abided unwritten rule of not making substantive policy changes through the budget, instead of pieces of legislation. The RTD was first to point out that this major gambling expansion was in the budget, but that there was no corresponding bill in either the House or Senate through which to vet the issue on its merits and with the standard public hearing process. To Speaker Cox’s credit, nearly three weeks into the start of the Session and after the normal deadline for introducing bills had passed, he responded by allowing Delegate Webert (R-Warren) to introduce HB 1609 on the House floor, which required unanimous consent. But the introduced bill was essentially a “place holder” bill with no policy content, with the intention of it being significantly amended later. The final version, if signed by the Governor, will dump over 3,000 electronic slot-machine devices at locations all across the state.
The process continued from there to be anything but standard. Instead of assigning the bill to the House General Laws committee, where historical racing had always previously been sent (2010, 2011, and 2015) and each time defeated, the Speaker sent it straight to the Appropriations Committee, where it lacked the benefit of being heard on its merits to weigh whether it was a good policy idea for Virginia. Once assigned, the bill took off like a race horse through the House as if having been injected with a shot of pure adrenalin.
During the Appropriations subcommittee hearing, the actual policy was revealed and approved 8-0 with only The Family Foundation speaking against the bill language that had not been seen prior to the start of the meeting. Two days later, the full Appropriations Committee voted 21-1 to send the bill to the House floor, but allowed for no public testimony. We quickly realized there were numerous powerful and wealthy interests involved and that this iceberg we saw on the surface was buttressed by a significantly larger underbelly. So we doubled down to take them on, managing with very short notice to peel off 24 “no” votes on the House floor.
At “crossover,” we got a second bite at the apple in the Senate, but so did the deep bench of highly-paid corporate lobbyists representing the other side. The Senate, meanwhile, had already approved Historical Racing four times (2008, 2010, 2011 & 2013). At least policy testimony was heard in the General Laws and Technology Committee. The Family Foundation took our best shots, but the bill passed 13-1 and was referred to the Senate Finance Committee. The Family Foundation prepared to testify there regarding some anomalies, but the Senate Finance leadership did not take public testimony before approving the bill 12-4.
Amazingly, the bill allocates just 1.5% to the localities and leaves the remaining 98.5% to be allocated by the five-member Virginia Racing Commission appointed by the Governor. In denying the interested groups the opportunity to speak, the Finance committee suggested that the various interested parties still needed to work out some differences that would necessitate the bill being put into “conference” for the House and Senate conferees to work out. So they put a technical amendment on the bill supposedly for that purpose. They did this apparently without the foreknowledge of the patron of the bill, or most of the interested parties. Whatever they were up to, it certainly seemed strange.
Interestingly, on the morning of the Senate Finance Committee vote, the RTD reported about this initiative, quoting Senator Louise Lucas, who has long-carried casino gambling bills nearly every year. She spoke maybe too much truth about the historical racing machines at issue. "That's kind of the camel's nose under the tent," she said, adding that she saw little difference between machines that allow historical horse race betting and slots. "They can say whatever they want, I like what they did," she said, adding that she hopes the legislation opens the door to more types of gambling being approved "not in the too distant future."
The following day when the bill went to the Senate floor, they just so happened to be able to work everything out overnight, and the Senate leadership immediately had the Senate reject the committee amendment, bypassing any need for the House to get another vote on the bill and for a House/Senate conference on the bill. Then, bypassing the usual three-day process for bills that make it to the floor, the Senate sped up the process and passed the bill 31-9. Now it’s on to the Governor for signature and the Racing Commission for regulations to be produced and for Virginians to be hit with the impact of even more gambling to come.
With few exceptions, everyone piled on the gambling train, swooning over the shiny slot-machine scheme that promises to garner some $349 million from unsuspecting future gambling addicts that we’re told will revitalize the equine industry and usher in the renewal of live horse racing in Virginia, the industry that already failed miserably, despite the state’s earlier attempts to save it. Unfortunately, we anticipate in a few years from now having to tell the General Assembly “We told you so” – again.
With the amount of determination we saw in making this happen, there will no doubt be more attempts at expansion next year in a variety of forms. And we will be there again to meet them head on, continuing the stand against attempts to expand gambling for the sake of Virginia communities and families.
"No Pre-K for low-income families"Feb. 28, 2018
Monday morning, the House Finance Committee defeated SB 172, a bill that would have made it possible for thousands of low-income families to send their children to private school Pre-K, many of which are faith-based programs. The bill, patroned by Senator Bill Stanley (R-20, Moneta) created a tax credit for donations made to a scholarship fund to pay for private tuition for families who cannot otherwise afford it, but who want a different option for their children. Unfortunately, the bill died on an 11-11 vote, with the public school teachers union and other public education monopoly establishment groups bringing considerable pressure to bear on certain delegates to vote no.
It was a party line vote with three exceptions. Two Republicans – Tim Hugo (R-40, Centreville) and Robert Bloxom, Jr. (R-100, Mappsville) – sided with the union over struggling families, while Democrat Delegate Steve Heretick (D-79, Portsmouth) voted for the bill.
CLICK HERE to watch the committee’s deliberations (then advance the video to 9:00 am to see Senator Stanley propose SB 172).
Compare the testimony: A broad array of accomplished, non-partisan organizations that actually do work in the field spoke in favor of the bill and worked diligently over the last two weeks to find 12 yes votes. On the other side was the Virginia Education Association, which spends considerable money every campaign on behalf of Democrat candidates, as well as the politicized School Boards Association.
The VEA, which has no actual role in Pre-K education – its members are K-12 teachers – much less in private Pre-K schools, made several false charges including the preposterous accusation that private schools discriminate in student enrollment and hiring. That came as news to two witnesses in favor of the bill: James Dyke, former Governor Doug Wilder’s education secretary, who also is African-American, as well as an African-American pastor who runs a Pre-K program in the middle of the most crime ridden sections in the city of Richmond. At its own expense, that school admits students from families who cannot afford its already modest tuition at a heavy discount. In fact, these scholarships can only be used at accredited institutions, which must already adhere to state and federal nondiscrimination laws.
Also in favor of the bill was the Virginia Early Childhood Foundation, which cited the state’s own School Readiness Commission that recommends a program like this; the Virginia Catholic Conference; Jewish school educators; Chris Braunlich of the Thomas Jefferson Institute and former president of the State Board of Education; the Virginia Council for Private Education; as well as The Family Foundation. In addition, this bill won a large bipartisan vote in the Senate, including that chamber’s Democrat leader, Senator Richard Saslaw (D-35, Springfield). Yet House Democrats made it a partisan issue as a payback to its public education monopoly allies.
One of the most puzzling comments came from Delegate Vivian Watts (D-39, Annandale), who incredibly said that while she recognizes there are families who need immediate help, she could not vote for the bill because she wanted universal Pre-K coverage. She, the VEA, and those voting no basically said, “Let’s NOT help thousands of at-risk children now while we can, because it’s not government run, and instead let them slip through the cracks.”
We thank Senator Stanley and the committee members who voted yes and actively refuted the VEA’s assertions, as well as our coalition partners. Rest assured, this is an issue that's not going away. We will see to it. Parents need more choices in education, not a one-size-fits all approach.
The Budget Votes are in...Feb. 23, 2018
The votes are in, and as of a few hours ago, the Virginia House and Senate now have two very different budgets to meld together into one. There are a few notable things for you to know.
House of Delegates:
Unfortunately, the House voted 68-32 for a budget that included a massive expansion of an already unsustainable Medicaid program. Several Republican members spoke against Medicaid expansion, emphasizing that it will most certainly entail higher healthcare costs, more taxes on Virginians, and diminished access and quality of care for the 1.1 million Virginians already enrolled in the program. We commend the 32 members who stood firmly against it. You can see who voted for and against it HERE.
On a positive note, the House did vote to keep the “Hyde Amendment” language in its budget (put in by Delegate LaRock) – language that would restrict taxpayer funding of abortions to only the narrow cases involving rape, incest, and to save the life of the mother. Virginia law currently also allows for state funding of abortions in the cases of “gross and totally incapacitating physical deformity or mental deficiency,” but we believe this phrase is being interpreted extremely broadly by the McAuliffe/Northam Department of Health officials. You can see who voted for and against the amendment HERE.
The House also stood strong in rejecting attempts to add special statuses of “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” to the state budget through amendments offered up on the floor (by Delegate Simon). This was one of the items we have been most concerned about, and we are thrilled that the House held the line on this. Few things so threaten religious liberty in Virginia as these efforts. You can see who voted for and against the amendment HERE.
These protections for life and religious liberty are no small matters, and we are mindful that they could not have been possible but for God’s direct provisions.
We are very pleased that the Senate held strong in rejecting Medicaid expansion in their budget. The Senate budget is also around $600 million smaller than the House’s. You can see who voted for and against the final Senate budget HERE. We also want to commend the Senate for rejecting a floor amendment from Senator Cosgrove that would have expanded gambling in Virginia.
We will continue to keep you in the loop on the critical steps going forward. The budget battle still has a ways to go. In the meantime, please reach out to your legislators to express to them both your concerns and your gratitude.
ACT NOW: House Vote on Medicaid Expansion THURSDAY!Feb. 21, 2018
This week, the House of Delegates released its two-year budget proposal, and unfortunately, the House budget includes the abysmal Obamacare plan to drastically expand an already unsustainable Medicaid program. The House will be voting on this budget proposal tomorrow - Thursday - on the Floor!
URGENT ACTION: Email your Delegate and urge him or her to Vote AGAINST Medicaid Expansion TOMORROW!
After eight years of holding the line and refusing to "take the bait" for this massive federal power grab, all while witnessing significant spikes in healthcare costs in the states who did take it, the House plan would now capitulate to the specious promise of "free money" from the federal government to pay for healthcare.
If the House goes through with this plan, we can be sure of one thing: the size of government (and the federal government's reach into this state) will grow substantially. Medicaid already eats up 30% of our state budget (it was around 5% when it began) and already covers 1.1 million Virginians. Adding up to 400,000 more able-bodied Virginians to our Medicaid rolls, without adding a single doctor, clinic, or hospital to treat them, will only make the program even more unsustainable than it already is. And, we know from experience that every time the government grows, our liberties and our wallets shrink with inverse proportionality.
We believe there are steps the General Assembly can take to ensure that more Virginians who need healthcare can get it and keep it. There are countless people who have real needs, and we should be looking for meaningful ways to help them meet those needs. But drastically expanding an already out-of-control federal program is not the right answer, and worse - it will leave us bankrupt in the end, or leave our kids and grandkids strapped with debt they cannot repay. Obamacare Medicaid expansion has never worked, and it won't suddenly start working now, even with the House budget's attempt to mitigate some of the problems.
CLICK HERE to contact your delegate and urge them to reject a budget that expands Medicaid TOMORROW on the House floor!
Tell the House: Reject Medicaid ExpansionFeb. 19, 2018
On Sunday, the House of Delegates released its much anticipated proposed two-year state budget. As we worried it might, the proposal includes Medicaid expansion in Virginia. After eight years of holding the line and refusing to "take the bait" for a massive federal power grab, corresponding spikes in healthcare costs, and virtually guaranteed new tax liabilities for hardworking Virginians, the House plan would now capitulate to the specious promise of "free money" from the federal government to pay for healthcare.
ACTION: Email your Delegate and urge them to REJECT Medicaid Expansion in Virginia!
Whether the House's plan to drastically expand Medicaid coverage is the result of political will, pressure, or fear on the part of House Republicans, or whether it is more reflective of the possibility of them seeing "the writing on the wall" given the closely divided partisan power balance, one fact remains the same: the size of government (and the federal government's reach into this state) just got a lot bigger under this plan. And we know from experience that every time the government grows, our liberties and our wallets shrink with inverse proportionality.
While the plan would include some helpful attempts at reform, we know that government welfare programs always increase in demand and cost overtime. Virginia already has 1.1 million of its citizens receiving Medicaid, which has become the single greatest expense each year in our budget. Adding up to 400,000 more able-bodied Virginians to our Medicaid rolls will make the program totally unsustainable, especially without adding enough new doctors to treat them. And while it is often claimed that the federal government - not the state - will be on the hook for all or most of the funding involved, we should stop for a moment and ask ourselves: Where does THAT money come from? From us! While tax increases may not be immediate, they are inevitable if this policy goes through.
The plan purports to include a “Taxpayer Safety Switch,” which will make sure that if the federal government ever backs out of its commitment to pay for the cost, the plan will end. But when is the last time the government ever began giving an entitlement benefit that it later took away? It's a totally empty promise, and every one of the legislators knows it.
While some Virginians would no doubt receive needed healthcare under this plan, we shouldn’t buy into any illusions that any of it is “free” – either in dollars, or the countless other costs to overall quality, ease of access, or the chipping away of our liberty.
We are encouraged to find that the House budget does include “Hyde Amendment” language, prohibiting state funding for abortions except for in the narrow cases of rape, incest, or to save the mother’s life. However, it does not include a prohibition on state dollars flowing to Planned Parenthood. In fact, there is included in the plan a pilot program that would spend $6 million on certain long-acting contraceptive devices for low-income women, most of which would flow directly to Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers.
While the House’s proposal is incredibly disappointing in these ways, the budget battle is far from over. We need your help in contacting your House of Delegates member and urge the House to abandon this folly, and return to their staunch and principled resistance of the last eight years.
Please CLICK HERE to contact your delegate and urge them to reject this massive growth of government entitlements and further takeover of the healthcare system.
“Shame. Shame. Shame."Feb. 09, 2018
The committee room was overflowing into the hallway. Within that entire crowd, only a handful of people could be found who supported our position that Virginia law should not uniquely set apart the classifications of sexual orientation and gender identity as worthy of unique protections, as it does for minorities and religious people.
Have you ever had to stand, being 1 out of 100, literally, not figuratively, and express an opinion that would result in loud shouting and people jeering at you? Have you had a moment where your words of truth result in people following you out of the room shouting at you, “shame, shame, shame”?
This is what my team does through the legislative session. This is what they did yesterday. They stand for the truth in a hostile environment and are a representation of those reviled as described in 1 Peter 4:14-16. In legislative meetings and in the media, they represent thousands of Virginians who believe in our values and want someone to defend marriage as God designed it but can’t, or won’t, be at the Capitol themselves to do so. This team of policy warriors stands in the middle of the battle, taking the onslaught of hate and ridicule for our faith and our families every day.
Yesterday, a House General Laws sub-committee took up five bills that sought to enshrine into the Code of Virginia new, specially-protected classes of people based on sexual orientation and gender identity. These bills were put forth with the stated motivation of ensuring no discrimination takes place in state hiring or public housing against those in same-sex relationships or who have gender dysphoria and thus feel they are a gender that is not their biological sex.
Our team handedly dismantled their arguments bringing forward indisputable facts that in Virginia there have been no claims of discrimination in hiring, or housing that have been found to have merit. When we raised the concern that Liberty University would be forced to allow same-sex married couples to be housed in their married student housing under the proposed bill despite their deeply held convictions, the sponsor of the bill stepped forward and pronounced the true motivation.
In the words of Delegate Simon,
"There are certain sincerely held religious beliefs which are so discriminatory that we don't give them the protection of the law, and this is one of those cases."
And now we know. Make no mistake. These bills are not about telling a secular government not to discriminate when hiring. These laws are about preventing Christian universities and ministries from being able to practice their faith convictions about marriage. These bills seek to weaponize government against people of faith.
Yesterday, we defeated these bills with the help of 5 members on the subcommittee: Delegates Jason Miyares, Barry Knight, Tommy Wright, Dickie Bell and Buddy Fowler. Click here to watch the full committee. Bill Janis from The Family Foundation begins his testimony at 46:35.
But despite yesterday’s result, the battle continues. It's not going away. And The Family Foundation will continue to be there fighting that battle with you and for you, and for all Virginians.
FLE SpectacleFeb. 09, 2018
A progressive’s dream education bill died a merciless death in the House Education Committee earlier this week. HB 159, introduced by Delegate Sam Rasoul (D-11, Roanoke) aimed at gutting the only good parts of Virginia’s Family Life Education curriculum – including striking all aspects of the benefits of marriage, abstinence and of adoption in the cases of unwanted pregnancies, and then mandating every school district in the Commonwealth teach this valueless material to every child K-12.
The bill was so bad that his fellow Democrats ran as far away from him as possible. Supporting the bill were a long line of secular apologists whose outrageous comments raised laughs from the audience and scorn from committee members. When a William & Mary student, who is the secretary of the Virginia Young Democrats, said that the “research” shows that “abstinence doesn’t work” in preventing STDs and unwanted pregnancies, an unsuspecting audience laughed out loud, and the Chairman of the committee nailed him on it. A Planned Parenthood representative even said that “the values” expressed in those benefits should be taught by parents at home, in essence admitting that “family life education” should be taught by families and not by the state. As for the icing on the cake, even the School Boards Association opposed the bill, perhaps the first time it has ever been on the same side of a bill with us.
You had to see it to believe it. You can watch it for yourself at this link.
Special thanks goes to Committee Chairman Steve Landes (R-25, Verona) whose persistent questions proved the supporters’ arguments baseless. The fact is, Planned Parenthood and NARAL were behind this bill that would promote irresponsible behavior by students. After all, Planned Parenthood provides materials and even teaches Family Life Education in some school districts. Talk about a conflict of interest!
Democrats on the committee backed off the bill so fast they almost fell off the dais. The Family Foundation reminded the committee that much of the curriculum the bill attempted to eliminate was signed into law by former Democratic Governor Tim Kaine. It was a bipartisan effort that started with recommendations by the Marriage Commission we put together that included marriage and family experts and academics, including the nationally respected Dr. Brad Wilcox of U.Va.
To save face with common sense Virginians and avoid alienating its base and benefactor (Planned Parenthood contributes millions of dollars to their party), committee Democrats offered an amendment to restore the curriculum the bill proposed to strike, but leave in its HIV education provision and K-12 universal mandate. But Republicans replied with a motion to effectively kill the bill once and for all. It was a party line 12-10 vote, with Democrats claiming they were trying to save their amendment, but no one was fooled.
Click here to see the video, then click the agenda tab, scroll and click on “HB 159 Patron Rasoul.”
Love Saves LivesJan. 22, 2018
I’ve attended the March for Life in Washington D.C. every year for the past eight years. Usually the weather is cold, dismal, miserable, and snowy. This year the sun was shining bright, and coats were carried instead of worn.
The warmth of the sun matched the energy of the crowd of hundreds of thousands of people there to declare that “Love Saves Lives.”
The President of the United States also promoted that message in his live stream address to the crowds from the Rose Garden of the White House. “You come from many backgrounds – many places – but you all come for one beautiful cause: to build a society where life is celebrated, protected, and cherished. The March for Life is a movement born out of love,” the President said to the hundreds of thousands of people gathered at the largest annual human rights demonstration of all time.
Despite President Trump’s own failures, it was encouraging to hear the President of the United States promote the mission of love.
That mission of love is being accomplished. Pregnancy Resource Centers outnumber abortion centers more than 4 to 1. Hundreds of abortion workers are quitting. Abortion facilities are closing. Unknown thousands of lives have been saved from abortion by the love of the pro-life movement.
Love really does save lives. And the work of saving lives is being done throughout Virginia and across the country by this massive pro-life movement.
This movement is local. Gathering with hundreds of thousands of other pro-life people each year in Washington D.C. is a huge encouragement, but the work of saving lives through love is done locally, on a daily basis.
Standing outside of an abortion facility on a Saturday morning, I had the chance to love a woman who was planning to go in.
She was scared and felt like she had no other choice. She didn’t know where else to turn, and so had turned to what she thought was her only choice.
I was able to love her by showing her where the local pregnancy resource center was. I was able to love her by giving her the funds she needed for rent that month. I was able to love her by texting her encouragement and support as she continued her pregnancy.
The pregnancy resource center volunteer counselors were able to love her, too. They were there to love her by walking alongside of her throughout the tough process of deciding to keep her baby. They were there to love her as she gave birth. They are still there to love her by answering any parenting questions that she has now.
Love requires sacrifice, and the volunteers across this country are making sacrifices to love their neighbors. Their love is saving lives.
Defending Human LifeJan. 22, 2018
On Friday, in honor of the March for Life in our nation's capital, Delegate Nick Freitas delivered a gentle, yet passionate speech about why he is pro-life during the House of Delegates' Morning Hour at our state capitol.. Our team of General Assembly lobbyists caught this and thought it was worthy of sharing to as many people as possible. I agree. Please click on the image below and view it, and please share it on Facebook, Twitter and other social media. It is only about four-and-a-half minutes long, but each word is powerful and meaningful. I know you and all you share it with will be as touched as we were.
We've Come Full CircleJan. 19, 2018
For decades, every pro-life bill introduced to the state Senate was directed by the Senate Clerk to the Senate Education and Health Committee, where the legislation would promptly and painfully die – regardless of which party was in the majority. We called it the burial grounds. Flash forward to January 18, 2018 where that same committee, under the strong leadership of Senator Steve Newman (R-23, Lynchburg), today blocked every radical pro-abortion bill one can envision and topped off their day by defeating a dangerous agenda brought by the LGBT community.
The committee began its 8:00 A.M. meeting with an announcement that Senator Jennifer Wexton (D-33, Leesburg, also running for VA’s 10th Congressional seat in November) had struck her own bill, SB 709. This bill, coined the “abortion industry wish list,” was all-encompassing—an attempt to roll back the hands of time and prop up the abortion industry while simultaneously taking more unborn lives and harming women. The reasons a legislator would introduce and then almost immediately kill a bill are never fully known, but maybe, just maybe, someone in her caucus or on her campaign decided that openly advocating for elective abortion-on-demand up until the point of birth was not a smart place to be. Yes, this bill would have allowed abortion at any point in a pregnancy up until birth, for virtually any reason, in a non-regulated facility, without parental consent, informed consent, ultrasound, or any other concept that would allow women and girls the opportunity to reconsider their decision in a moment of crisis.
Despite the typical line-up of abortion sympathizers and representatives of the billion-dollar abortion industry, the committee handily discarded bills to repeal the entire informed consent for abortion statute and all safety regulations put in place to protect the women who enter these facilities. Wisely, the committee validated that all aspects of our abortion laws are currently working and don’t need to be rolled back. Until this morning, some Senators may not have known that while the McAuliffe-selected Board of Health relaxed the specifics of the abortion safety standards, they did so illegally. We informed the Committee of our litigation, pointing out that the effort to repeal these standards through legislation is merely an attempt to completely erase the abortion safety regulations before a judge can reinstate all of the portions the Board of Health illegally rolled back – a ruling we fully anticipate is only a matter of time.
The prize for the worst bill defeated by the Committee goes to Senator Scott Surovell’s (D-36, Mount Vernon) SB 245 that would ban what has been deemed “conversion therapy.” The gist of the bill is that no counselor can ever be allowed to direct someone under 18 years of age who might be questioning either their sexuality or their gender to resist and even to overcome unwanted same-sex attractions or to embrace their God-given biological sex. It’s a war of ideas and those that disagree with ours have long moved past debating them into attempting to ban them. We are thankful the Committee stood for freedom.
The Real RalphJan. 17, 2018
That was quick.
Anyone who has been around Richmond for any period of time knows that the first few days of a General Assembly session are full of seeing old friends, lots of talk of happy-go-lucky bipartisanship and a general atmosphere of congeniality.
That usually lasts right up until the first bill is debated in a committee.
This year, it seemed to last until newly minted Governor Ralph Northam addressed a joint session of the General Assembly. Until that point, there were members of the assembly who actually might have lived under the media-created delusion that Governor Northam is something of a “moderate” who really wants to “get things done.”
Instead, his speech Tuesday night was reminiscent of his predecessor’s litany of left-wing progressive ideology focusing primarily on making sure unborn children can’t survive the womb and redefining marriage and human sexuality down to nothing more than an emotional whim. In similar tones, former Governor Terry McAuliffe spent much of his last speech as governor last week decrying “divisive social issues” while then proceeding to spend much of his speech advocating for divisive social issues, like making sure unborn children can’t survive the womb and, well, you know.
In other words, the real Ralph was on full display, much to the dismay of conservatives who thought, maybe, just maybe, the new Governor was actually interested in governing.
That was all followed yesterday with competing speeches in the House of Delegates between Republican majority leader Todd Gilbert and Democrat minority leader David Toscano. Gilbert took Northam to task for his blatantly partisan speech, making sure to note that when a left-wing liberal says bipartisanship, they generally mean, “do everything that I want.”
To which Toscano answered with, well, a litany of left-wing progressive ideology that he claimed are all bipartisan! Just agree with him on everything and you can be bipartisan, too.
All this leaves us pretty much where those of us who have been around a while have come to expect – a deeply divided legislature with partisan groups that have nearly completely opposite worldviews that leave very little room for compromise. Of course, few Virginians know any of this, because the political media in Virginia (which is mostly made up of VCU journalism students posing as reporters) is so devoid of objectivity they can’t report anything close to reality. Remarkably, the stories out about the competing speeches, and the editorial boards, are making it seem like the breakdown in bipartisanship is all on the side of Republicans, presumably because they simply won’t pass everything Democrats want.
Be prepared for lots of that in the next eight weeks.
Victory: "Hate crimes" bills defeatedJan. 17, 2018
We’re not even a full week into the 2018 legislative session, and we already have some good news. Two bills dealing with "hate crimes" were defeated in the Senate Courts of Justice committee yesterday. One of them, Senate Bill 112, would have introduced the dangerous concepts of “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” into the Code, while also making it easier for providers of interactive computer services (like Facebook) to censor anything that it or other users considers to be “inciting hatred” towards people with those characteristics.
If you’re not familiar with them, a "hate crime" is a special category of criminal act where the act is shown to be motivated by certain kinds of thoughts and feelings towards the victim. If the “hate” was inspired by or directed at one of the items on the government’s list, then you’re guilty of an additional crime – a “hate crime.”
This means that a person could be subject to a separate criminal penalty, including jail time, not for the act they committed, but for their thoughts and opinions. In Virginia, conviction of a hate crime carries with it a “mandatory minimum” of 30 days in jail.
One can clearly see the slippery slope created by this sort of “thought crime”. What sort of thoughts, values, or motivations might the state try to criminalize next?
Regardless of the motivation for victimizing another person – whether based on someone’s sex, age, disability, veteran status, race, religion, “sexual orientation,” “gender identity,” etc. – a person should be punished for the crime they commit and not because of the kind of hatred they felt in doing so, even if we all find their particular motive reprehensible.
Supreme Court to Require Abortion Advertisements?Jan. 16, 2018
“Forcing a pro-life group to advertise for abortion has to be unconstitutional, yet that is what California’s Reproductive FACT Act does.”
So says the petitioners, National Institute of Family and Life Advocates (NIFLA), in the upcoming case before the Supreme Court, National Institute of Family and Life Advocates v. Becerra.
NIFLA is a Virginia based organization that represents over 1,400 pregnancy resource centers across the country. They give pregnancy resource centers legal advice and help them to convert to medical facilities. That change allows the pregnancy resource centers to provide limited health services – including ultrasounds – which are valuable services for underserved pregnant women.
NIFLA represents several pregnancy resource centers in California.
The conflict coming up to the Supreme Court arises out of the California Reproductive FACT Act, which went into effect in 2016.
This law requires all pregnancy resource centers in California to prominently display several notices to anyone entering their facility. Among these notices required by law is this statement:
Pro-life pregnancy resource centers are being specifically targeted by this law, which doesn’t apply to other organizations that serve pregnant women. Only pro-life pregnancy resource centers have to provide these large notices about free access to abortions.
This is viewpoint discrimination. The state of California is only targeting those who hold a particular viewpoint on the question of abortion. It is clear that the goal of the law, from the start, was to target pro-life pregnancy resource centers. The committee that passed this bill stated that the existence of pro-life pregnancy resource centers in California is “unfortunate.”
Government compelling pro-life pregnancy resource centers to prominently advertise for abortion services is a terrible violation of the First Amendment. It forces anyone who wants to counsel women away from abortion to advertise for the very thing they are working to prevent.
The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has refused to prevent this law from going into effect in California. It is now up to the Supreme Court to hear the case and protect free speech in California. The case should be heard sometime this summer.
Religious Liberty wins, for now.Jan. 10, 2018
Based on a quick survey of news articles and blogs on Mississippi’s law, HB 1523, you could conclude that gay, lesbian, transgender, and people who have sex outside of marriage, are about to be in great danger.
That is because the news articles and blogs are filled with hyperbole about how hated these groups of people must be. You will read about how scared lesbian women are when they travel to Jackson. You will read that opponents of the law say unmarried women will not be able to get birth control. You will read that people will be “hurt” and won’t have access to health care and governmental services. You will read that this law “leaves LGBT people in Mississippi in the crosshairs of hate and humiliation.”
And that’s about all that you will read about it. Based on the news reports alone, this law sounds like the worst thing ever to happen in Mississippi.
So it was fair to assume, based on the news and blogs, that the Supreme Court would protect the people of Mississippi from such a terrible law. Yet, the Supreme Court didn’t do that. This week, the high court announced that it isn’t going to hear the challenge brought against this law.
This is good news for the Mississippi government, which passed the law in the first place. But is it bad news for all the people the news and blogs have been crying out for?
Journalists, bloggers, and even Business Councils have talked about the “environment of discrimination” that this law might generate.
The name of this law is the, “Protecting Freedom of Conscious from Government Discrimination Act.” So there’s no doubt, the law is about discrimination.
It’s telling that only one of the news articles called this act by its name. All the others, and all the blogs, called it “HB 1523” or “The Religious Freedom Act.”
Instead of talking about the dangers of governmental discrimination against religious persons, all the news articles and blogs have been going on about the dangers of discrimination by religious persons.
In reality, this law will not result in a discriminatory environment against individuals.
(This law does nothing to change the state of the law against individual discrimination. Churches are already allowed to make hiring decisions based on their religious beliefs. Individuals are already allowed to discriminate against same-sex weddings. This was reported in the one news article that actually called the act by its name.)
The “Protecting Freedom of Conscious from Government Discrimination Act” does just that. It protects religious individuals and organizations from discrimination by the government. After what we’ve seen done to Jack Phillips in Colorado, Baronnelle Stutzman in Washington, Kevin Cochran in Atlanta, Aaron and Melissa Klein in Oregon, and so many others, that kind of protection is definitely warranted.
By Sean Maguire, Grassroots Coordinator at The Family Foundation
You're in the wrong place.Jan. 09, 2018
Yesterday morning I attended a press conference hosted by the Women’s Equality Coalition. They promoted their legislative agenda – which almost exactly contradicts the legislative agenda of The Family Foundation.
The Women’s Equality Coalition promotes abortion on demand, government funding for all contraceptive methods (including those that cause early abortions), and a host of social justice issues that would have serious consequences for families and religious liberty if they were adopted.
Sitting in the press conference that morning, I was most impacted by the personal testimony that one woman shared.
In her brief comments, she described her financial difficulties in detail. She has to work two jobs without time off. “I can’t take a day off if I’m sick, or to care for a loved one when they become sick,” she said emotionally. “I can’t take vacations like everybody else,” she said, “and that’s not fair.” Her life circumstances are undeniably hard.
No one can deny that women (and men) face difficult times here in the Commonwealth of Virginia. Times are hard. Money is tight. Vacations have to be put on hold – perhaps never to be taken at all.
This is not the responsibility of the civil government. It was difficult for me to sit there quietly as these women called upon the government to take care of them. “The time is long overdue for Virginia to take these common-sense steps,” the President of Virginia NARAL Pro-Choice declared.
“You’re in the wrong place,” I wanted to tell these women, “the Government cannot take care of you.” My urge was to confront the entitlement mentality head on. “You need the support of your family, your church, and your neighbors!” I wanted to say.
Confronting such a mentality must be done with gentleness. The Bible says that “a gentle answer turns away wrath,” and teaches us to answer “with gentleness and respect” so that anyone who slanders us will be put to shame. (Proverbs 15:1; 1 Peter 3:15-16)
Instead of confronting this woman about the poor public policy she is endorsing, I thanked her for sharing her story. Sharing her story was a brave thing to do.
Then I prayed for her. I prayed that God would hear her in her need, and help her. (The same way he heard Hagar and helped her.) (Genesis 21)
And now I will advocate for public policy that will promote the family, religious freedom, and the community. Instead of promoting a strong government with the power to take care of us, we must have strong families and neighborhoods that can take care of us.
The Family Foundation is working to ensure that strong families, churches, and neighborhoods will be able to help women just like the one who shared her story yesterday.
By Sean Maguire, Grassroots Coordinator at The Family Foundation
Who's in charge here?Jan. 05, 2018
At 11:00 Thursday morning, the State Board of Elections met in Richmond to randomly pick a name out of a bowl, an action that would not only determine the winner of the tied 94th House district race, but also the balance of power in an evenly-split House of Delegates (a result of the November 7th shakeup) – and just days before the start of the 2018 legislative session. We were there to catch an inside glimpse, and boy was it an intense – and unprecedented – moment in all of Virginia electoral history. The room was thick with the sense of watching history in the making.
After winning the original vote count on election night by 11 votes, then losing a recount by one vote, and then ending up in a tie the following day, incumbent Republican Delegate David Yancey won today’s draw over Democrat challenger Shelly Simonds, putting Republicans at a 51-49 advantage in the House. We anticipate Ms. Simonds will ask for an additional recount, to which she is legally entitled, but which is not expected to be completed before the legislative session begins. Costly litigation is also not out of the question in the Democrats desperate zeal to gain power in Richmond.
Effectively, today’s result means that Del. Kirk Cox (R-66, Colonial Heights) is fully expected to become the new Speaker when the members of the House vote to choose one on Jan. 10th, the first day of the 2018 session. The Speaker makes all committee assignments, and the Speaker’s party generally gets a majority of the seats on each committee. We have known and worked with Delegate Cox for many years, and we know Virginia will be blessed to have a man of his caliber and integrity in such a pivotal role. He could use our prayers now more than ever, as well as all those in leadership positions in the Commonwealth.
The retiring Speaker, Bill Howell, could also really use our prayers right now. If you haven’t heard, he underwent emergency heart surgery on Tuesday night, and is recovering in an intensive care unit. Though we don’t know all the details of his condition, it is a timely reminder of the heavy burden our governmental leaders carry, and how much they need our daily prayers.
We are hopeful about what today’s news could mean for our continued fight to protect life, marriage, parental authority, religious liberty, and constitutional government in Virginia. But regardless, we recognize this year comes with new and even greater challenges. We appreciate all your prayers for The Family Foundation as well, as we work with the new leadership in Richmond to defend our shared values.
2018: Dogs > HumansJan. 03, 2018
Things in the Virginia General Assembly continue to get more and more interesting, if not downright ironic. The seeds of secular humanism are now in the process of full bloom in the Old Dominion.
Now just let that one sink in for a moment.
Call us out of touch, but we believe that every human life is sacred, and that human beings are more valuable than cats and dogs - even as much as we all love our pets.
WWJD: What Would Jefferson Do?Dec. 20, 2017
What’s going on at the venerable institution founded by the Senior Statesman from Virginia, Mr. Jefferson? The University of Virginia appears to be straying not only from its deep roots of freedom, but from the U.S. and Virginia Constitutions as well. The UVA Student Council recently denied the application for recognition of a conservative free-market group, “Young Americans for Freedom” (YAF), claiming that YAF’s membership requirements were a violation of the terms and conditions for approval outlined in University policy.
According to their website, “A student organization is ineligible for CIO [Contracted Independent Organization] status when the organization restricts its membership, programs, or activities on the basis of age, color, disability, gender identity, marital status, national or ethnic origin, political affiliation, race, religion, sex (including pregnancy), sexual orientation, veteran status, and family and genetic information.”
Evidently, political clubs established for the sole purpose of advocating certain political viewpoints can’t condition membership upon political beliefs. The same goes for faith-based clubs.
However, aside from the obvious logical issues with that, there’s at least one little problem with the policy. It violates the law. Fortunately for YAF, attorneys with Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) made sure they knew it.
“That the freedoms of speech and of the press are among the great bulwarks of liberty, and can never be restrained except by despotic governments; that any citizen may freely speak, write, and publish his sentiments on all subjects, being responsible for the abuse of that right; that the General Assembly shall not pass any law abridging the freedom of speech or of the press, nor the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for the redress of grievances.”
More precisely, UVA’s policy directly conflicts with a state law passed in 2013 on behalf of The Family Foundation, which provides that:
“[A] religious or political student organization may determine that ordering the organization's internal affairs, selecting the organization's leaders and members, defining the organization's doctrines, and resolving the organization's disputes are in furtherance of the organization's religious or political mission and that only persons committed to that mission should conduct such activities.”
Game. Set. Match.
The irony of it all is almost more than one can bear. For starters, the club being denied recognition on campus (which includes access to meeting room spaces and potential Student Activity Fee funding), and therefore the ability to assemble for the discussion and expression of ideas, is called – wait for it – the Young Americans for Freedom. (Somehow I get the impression that the Young Americans for Anarchy would probably sail through uninhibited.)
But if that weren’t enough, this is after all the University founded by the immortal Thomas Jefferson himself, by whose direct hand much of Virginia’s Constitution and Bill of Rights as they still remain today were penned! Talk about a PR nightmare.
Though it is certainly not “gospel,” the folks at UVA would do well to screen their decisions by the simple principle of “WWJD” – or, What Would Jefferson Do? With rare exceptions, that’s got to get them to the right place.
As for this scenario, I can’t imagine Jefferson would need any deliberation at all in dispensing with the question of whether to recognize the Young Americans for Freedom. And that’s putting it mildly.
Va. Abortion Center becomes Pro-Life Medical ClinicDec. 18, 2017
I have some very exciting news on the pro-life front in Virginia! In late 2015, a group of pro-life entrepreneurs made the incredible decision to purchase a Northern Virginia abortionist’s business, which enabled her to retire from performing abortions after operating the facility for 27 years. Recently, with the help of the Catholic Charities in Arlington, they opened up that former abortion center, “Amethyst Health Center,” as a pro-life medical clinic called "Mother of Mercy Free Medical Clinic."
Talk about a story of redemption! A business that once averaged 1,300 abortions annually for 27 years is now a life-affirming clinic providing free and real medical care for the women in its community. And it all happened because a few self-sacrificing individuals put their heads and wallets together for what must have seemed like a wild idea at the time. You can read more about what they did here.
This, like so many other examples I see all the time, is an encouraging reminder that pro-lifers don’t just “talk the talk.” They actually walk the walk. It’s also a great reminder that there are so many avenues in which we can further the cause of life in our Commonwealth. And as a result of incredible actions like this, in addition to our continued efforts in holding abortion centers accountable with reasonable health and safety standards, ensuring taxpaying aren’t funding Planned Parenthood, and countless other examples, we are winning the war to preserve and protect innocent life!
And for the sake of so many lives, not only for those unborn but also for their mothers and fathers and so many others, we must continue to win. We cannot afford to let up. But in the meantime, we can and should be immensely grateful for this incredible story of the former Amethyst Health Center. It is wind in our sails for our onward journey to ensure that every human life is treated as sacred.