General Assembly Post Mortem, Part 2Apr 08, 2008
(Because of a technical malfunction that crashed this site on April 4, and took down every post and comment after March 14, the following has been re-posted. It was originally written March 27, 2008.) We were ridiculed by many, from all sides of the political spectrum, on our proposals to strengthen marriage. The laughter stopped when the stellar composition of our marriage commission was announced. Still, not many seriously thought we would have success with any of our marriage related legislation this year, even if it was a priority.
However, the governor already has signed HB 871 into law. Patroned by Delegate Joe Johnson (D-4, Abingdon), it allows at least 1 percent of excess Temporary Assistance for Needy Family funds to be dispersed to marriage education programs. Called the "1-Percent Solution" and enacted already by at least seven states, the bill was a recommendation of The Family Foundation's marriage commission that met during 2007. While introduced as a requirement and changed to a policy endorsement, it is a step toward providing needed funds for marriage education programs that help strengthen marriages and reduce divorce.
Another area of concern for us is parental rights. A priority bill that had great promise was HB 121, patroned by Delegate Scott Lingamfelter (R-31, Woodbridge). It would have required a state agency (other than a school) to notify parents when their minor child sought mental health treatment there. Not only does that sound pretty basic and commonsense, most people are shocked to hear that it's not already law. After all, children must get parental consent just to go to a tanning salon, among other trivial things, much less notification. This is the bill where the Community Service Board lobbyist actually said they already involve parents but don't notify them. This should be law regardless, but in the aftermath of the Virginia Tech tragedy, we were especially dismayed that it was defeated (where else?) in the Committee of Death, especially after it received 88 votes in the House. Nothing like the state knowing better than the parents.
However, one parental notification bill did pass. Delegate Rob Bell's (R-58, Albermarle) HB 1055: It requires colleges to notify parents if their children seek mental health treatment there. We know and we can't explain it either: Why is one fine to pass and the other not? As I concluded yesterday, sometimes these things take a persistence and the long view: As long as your cause is just and right, you will get there. One bill that was interesting and that escaped our attention until it got to a Committee of Death sub-committee, and which we applaud, was a bill patroned (HB 1058) by Delegate Kristen Amundson (D-44,Mount Vernon). It would require colleges to release academic records of dependent students to parents upon their request. Amazingly, as of now, a college in Virginia can refuse to release grades to a parent, then demand tuition payment in the next breath. It's so astounding that it prompted so wistful humor from members of the Senate Higher Education Sub-Committee about making it retroactive.
Again, incremental progress. But it all builds on itself. Whether it's life, marriage, parental authority, religious liberty or constitutional government, progress can, and is, being made. More post mortems later.