Over the past two days, first through an op-ed in the Richmond Times-Dispatch, and then today by way of press release, we announced several of our legislative priorities for the 2012 General Assembly that begins next Wednesday. The list includes legislation that would protect the conscience rights of faith-based child placement agencies, add an offer of an ultrasound image to current informed consent requirements and provide a tax credit for corporate donations to scholarship programs. As with any year, the 2012 General Assembly will be very focused on jobs, the economy, and the budget.  But the fact is that our elected officials are capable of handling both economic and social issues.  Many of us went to the polls in November with the hope that a new General Assembly will be friendlier toward our cause, and we are enthusiastic about the change in the state Senate.

This year, our highest priority, legislation providing a tax credit for corporate donations to scholarship programs, is modeled after successful scholarship programs in other states, providing hope for low-income families while saving Virginia taxpayers’ money.  It is time for Virginia to get out of the past and join the growing number of states that are bringing progressive education reform to children. Families are growing weary of the obstructionist rhetoric and actions of the education establishment bent on blocking children from getting the education they deserve.  School choice is coming to Virginia, and it should begin this year.

Another priority of The Family Foundation is legislation ensuring conscience protections for faith-based child placement organizations.  Although recent regulatory attempts to coerce these organizations into violating their faith principles on matters of the family by threatening the loss of state licensing were unsuccessful, the General Assembly must act to ensure the valuable work of these agencies is not jeopardized in the future.  Private, faith-based ministries facilitate the majority of Virginia adoptions, providing hope and security to hundreds of children.

This year, our primary pro-life initiative is legislation requiring an ultrasound prior to abortion, and ensuring the woman be offered an opportunity to view the ultrasound at least 24 hours before making her decision regarding her unborn child.  Approximately twenty states have passed similar laws.  The primary intent is to protect the woman’s health.  Instead of guessing at the gestational age and size of the unborn child, thereby risking the woman’s health, a doctor uses the ultrasound to be precise.

The Family Foundation will also support various pieces of legislation that allow homeschool students to try out for sports at the public school they would otherwise attend, legislation that gives Virginians the opportunity to vote on a Constitutional Amendment that protects property rights, and legislation that protects Virginians from funding through tax dollars failed research that requires the destruction of human embryos.

We look forward to working with both House and Senate members, the Governor, the Lt. Governor and the Attorney General to ensure that pro-family legislation sees success in 2012.  And, we are confident that with the changes in the General Assembly that took place as a result of November’s elections, pro-family legislation will receive a much warmer welcome than in recent years.

Throughout session, along with lobbying and grassroots mobilization activities, we will once again provide constant updates concerning events at the capitol, debates in committees, and political dynamics on our website blog at www.familyfoundation.org.  In addition, we will video bill presentations and make those presentations available on our YouTube page.  We will also keep you informed about breaking news through social networking tools like Twitter and Facebook.

Over the next several days, we will be detailing our top legislative priorities.  Watch your email to learn more about these important initiatives.