Sports Betting - It’s All About Tax RevenueDec. 04, 2018
The constant barrage of casino news was complicated further last month with news that there is some interest in legalizing sports betting in Virginia. Delegate Marcus Simon (D – Falls Church) told Fox 5 news that he will be introducing legislation to legalize sports betting in Virginia, and believes that there is some openness to it within the General Assembly. To facilitate the sports wagering, Delegate Simon is exploring the possibility of using historical horse racing machines, which were legalized in Virginia this year.
The Supreme Court’s May 2018 decision in Murphy v. National Collegiate Athletic Association, which held that the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) violated the 10th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, has made it possible for states to legalize, regulate, and tax sports betting. Before this decision, a person seeking to make a sports wager had to visit Nevada, wager with an offshore gambling website, or call a local bookie to place an illegal wager.
Of immediate concern is the potential for more unethical and illegal bribery within professional and collegiate athletics. Remember the infamous 1919 Black Sox scandal or Pete Rose? Maybe you are more familiar with the FBI investigation into NBA referee Tim Donaghy, who bet on games he was actually officiating? There are also numerous instances of bribery within college athletics, one of the more infamous examples being the Boston College point shaving scheme that involved mob bosses. An impressionable 18 to twenty-one year old college athlete could easily be swayed to drop a pass, fumble the football, strikeout, or miss an easy lay-up in exchange for a thousand dollars.
According to Delegate Simon, the reason behind his sports betting legislative proposal is to capture the lost tax revenue incurred when Virginians cross over to Maryland to gamble at MGM. This sentiment was affirmed by Secretary of Finance Aubrey Lane, who commented at a State Lottery meeting back in July that there will be a big push among some General Assembly members to legalize sports betting “[b]ecause, as you all know, there are significant monies involved in [sports gambling] – very significant.”
When it comes to sports betting, as well as casino gambling and historical horse racing machines, it seems the primary rationale for its legalization is more tax revenue. In other words, some policymakers are hoping to collect additional tax revenue from Virginians to spend on various government programs and, therefore, expand an already bloated state budget.
Lawmakers who are sympathetic to sports betting (and other forms of gambling) in Virginia argue that it would generate additional tax revenue that is lost when Virginians travel to other states to indulge their proclivity for gaming activities. Yet, Virginia resident gamblers are already expected to report all of their gambling winnings on their federal and Virginia tax returns (see Tax Ruling 14-73).
What’s really going on here is that some elected officials are envisioning hitting the “revenue jackpot” from new out-of-state gamblers who would visit potential sports betting and other gambling establishments in the Commonwealth, as well as Virginians who are otherwise new to the gambling scene. While this would result in an initial positive revenue impact, there is no guarantee this would produce the significant tax revenue they are promising, and here are some reasons why:
Based on casino history, consumer demand for gambling is fairly static and is less likely to create new gamblers.
Gamblers are a creature of habit and may continue wagering in another state.
If a competitive tax rate is not selected, then gamblers will resort to illegal methods of gambling. Many sports gamblers will likely continue using untaxed ways to make their wagers.
Sports leagues will eventually want a piece of the profits, which will impact the odds and cause legal sports wagering to become less appealing.
It’s safe to conclude that sports betting will most likely not generate the large sums of tax revenue for the Commonwealth that some are expecting. That being said, we should not risk creating more ethical problems for professional and college athletics, increasing crime rates, and further tempting gamblers struggling with addiction for the sole purpose of generating more tax revenue.
It’s my hope that policymakers will ultimately come to this same conclusion, and recognize that sports betting and other forms of gambling are just simply bad for Virginia.
What a Difference Showing Up MakesNov. 28, 2018
Does it really matter if people show up to government meetings to make public comment?
Sometimes it is hard to see the difference it makes when people speak up at school board meetings, County Board of Supervisor meetings, or in the General Assembly. Does it really matter if anyone speaks in support or opposition to a policy during public comment periods? Can those few minutes really make any difference?
I assure you, it does.
Over the past two weeks I have seen what a difference public testimony can make.
National organizations pushing for the passage of the so-called Equal Rights Amendment have been trying to get county Board of Supervisors to pass resolutions supporting their legislative agenda. They have had significant success.
Despite the fact that the ERA is a moot issue (having failed to meet the 1982 deadline), and despite the fact that no one can point to any positive legal change that the ERA would accomplish (since women and men are already equally protected under the 14th amendment), this effort to pass county resolutions has been very effective.
In the 17 jurisdictions that have been targeted to pass these resolutions, 14 have passed them (or added the issue to their legislative agenda), 2 are considering the resolutions, and only 1 decided not to pass such a resolution.
That one jurisdiction that decided not to pass the ERA resolution was Prince William County.
What makes Prince William County different from Powhatan County and all the others that passed the ERA resolution?
In Prince William County, there were dozens of women who spoke up in opposition to the ERA. Those voices made a difference. The Board of Supervisors chose to reject the ERA resolution after hearing that testimony.
Your voice makes a difference.
Where speakers spoke up in Prince William County, the ERA failed without getting anyone to second the idea. But when six people spoke up in support of the ERA without opposition in the city of Chesapeake, the resolution passed unanimously.
Speak up. You can speak at your local county or city leadership meetings, your school board meetings, and here in Richmond during the General Assembly.
If you want more information about speaking up in your local government meetings or in Richmond, please get in touch with me at email@example.com or at (804) 343-0010 ext. 240.
P.S. Here is another example of the power of speaking up. Last night so many people spoke up at the Loudoun County School Board on the question of the religious exemption for homeschooling that that Board was moved to reconsider the question they had already decided.
Virginians Need Tax Relief More Than Amazon DoesNov. 21, 2018
Many Virginians are learning they will likely see an increase in their state income taxes when they file their 2018 tax returns, while we learned last week that Amazon will begin receiving hundreds of millions of dollars in public incentives to move part of its headquarters to Northern Virginia.
Eight hundred million dollars ($800 million) in public incentives, to be exact.
That is how much it is costing Virginia to bring Amazon and part of its anticipated $2.5 billion headquarters to Crystal City in Northern Virginia. It was announced last week that Amazon and the Commonwealth agreed to an incentive package that is filled with all sorts of grants and tax breaks in exchange for promises to build a 4 million square foot facility and create at least 25,000 new jobs. This is welcome news for Northern Virginia and those 25,000 new employees who are promised to earn at least $150,000.
But what about the rest of Virginia? What does the Governor and the General Assembly intend to do next year to provide much needed tax relief to many hard-working Virginia taxpayers all across the Commonwealth who will likely see an increase in their income taxes this year?
While the federal Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) jump-started the national economy by cutting individual and corporate income tax rates, increasing the standard deduction, and making numerous other adjustments, it inadvertently created a tax disparity for Virginians by eliminating or reducing certain federal exemptions and increasing the federal adjusted gross income (AGI) for many taxpayers, which is the starting point for the Virginia tax return. The TCJA compensated federal taxpayers for these adjustments by nearly doubling the standard deduction, but Virginia made no such changes to its own tax code, including its own standard deduction which is not even half of the new federal standard deduction.
What does this mean for individual and married couples when they file their Virginia tax return in 2019?
Since Virginia requires taxpayers to follow the same filing statuses they use for the federal return, and it is likely that more taxpayers will switch from itemized deductions to the higher standard deduction, many Virginians will be forced to use a much smaller state standard deduction. So, while federal taxes may be lowered for many Virginians in 2018, a portion of that relief could be offset by an effective increase in state taxes from unadjusted state tax provisions.
Secretary of Finance Aubrey Layne is projecting that this will lead to a tax surplus of $594 million in 2019, and growing to nearly $1 billion by 2024. Policymakers are now trying to decide what to do with this anticipated windfall. The Governor’s plan is to use the additional revenue to make the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) refundable, but that would only benefit a very small portion of Virginians, specifically ones who currently pay little to no income taxes. Not surprisingly, some members of the General Assembly want to use the additional revenue to pay for increased Medicaid costs, education and other programs.
The obvious solution should be tax reform measures that would benefit all Virginians!
The Family Foundation believes that the fair and equitable decision should be to return the “windfall” back to all Virginia wage-earners who helped create it. Let’s reform an antiquated tax code and eliminate the tax disparity that is likely to impact many Virginians this year. We believe the Thomas Jefferson Institute’s (TJI) tax reform plan released yesterday offers the commonsense adjustments to Virginia’s tax code that will provide needed relief to many individuals and small businesses across the Commonwealth.
Here are the primary reform measures that the TJI tax plan proposes: i) conform Virginia’s tax code to the federal tax code and the TCJA; ii) increase Virginia’s standard deduction from $3,000 to $6,000 for individuals and from $6,000 to $12,000 for married couples filing jointly; iii) reduce the corporate tax rate from 6% to 5.5% beginning in 2019; and iv) indexing Virginia’s individual tax brackets, personal exemptions and standard deduction to increase with the rate of inflation.
We strongly support this tax reform proposal because it will allow Virginians to keep more of their own money to use in the way that makes the most sense for themselves and their families.
If politicians recognized that an incentive package with tax relief was needed to lure a TRILLION dollar company like Amazon to Northern Virginia, then they should also recognize that hard-working Virginians are also in need of some tax relief to lessen their financial burdens.
Senator Amanda Chase: The Face of CourageOct. 12, 2018
I’m going to guess that Senator Amanda Chase (R-Chesterfield) surely did not foresee the severity of the backlash that would come her way before she unflinchingly stepped up to the podium at last week’s “Conversion Therapy Work Group” meeting, during which she cautioned against a policy proposal guaranteed to significantly undermine parental rights, patient autonomy, free speech, religious liberty, and the very notion of truth itself. I also get the distinct impression that, had she been able to foresee the consequences ahead of time, she wouldn’t have changed a thing. The General Assembly could really use a few more legislators with that kind of courage, fortitude, and moral clarity.
As soon as Senator Chase posted about her involvement in the meeting on her Facebook page, the sharks began circling, and the madness inherent in the so-called “conversion therapy” discussion ensued. Passions ran high on all sides, but especially among those disinclined to recognize objective biological realities. Critical comments are to be expected towards legislators, but this was at a different level. And that was just Facebook.
Two days later, Senator Chase was being lambasted by Richmond2Day, which seemed to mostly take issue with the fact that she often provides retorts to statements from hostile constituents on social media. The real story here should be that Senator Chase actually takes the time to personally acknowledge and interact with her constituents - even the ones who disagree with her on various issues. A legislator who actively listens to and engages with her constituents? How refreshing. Moreover, she even talks openly about current issues on her weekly radio show, including this topic, which was featured on last week's show.
But what was it about this particular situation that caused Senator Chase to become the object of so much fury? She had the audacity to stand up on behalf of the General Assembly, struggling children, concerned parents, professional counselors, and people of faith and declare that children should be able to receive professional guidance when they are experiencing unwanted same-sex attractions or confusion about their biological sex, that we should trust parents to seek therapeutic methods that are in the best interest of their children and in accordance with their faith, and that we should permit counselors the professional latitude to help their clients through a variety of reasonable methods. I suspect that what really sent some over the edge, though, was that Senator Chase dared to stand before a body of mostly liberal bureaucratic "professionals" and clearly imply that, when it comes to the new radical agenda to force misaligned sexual identities onto vulnerable children, "the emperor has no clothes."
Plenty of others also showed up to share a similar message, including professional counselors, individuals who had received such counseling, pastors, and citizens of goodwill. But none besides Senator Chase had to subsequently face the firing squad - because she's an elected official, and well, elected officials are supposed to know to stay away from such "controversial" issues. For the sake of our Commonwealth and the many people impacted by this proposal, I'm glad Senator Chase didn't shy away from speaking the truth on such an explosive, but critically important, matter. The Family Foundation was there to address the Work Group, but we were grateful to have had a legislator lay the groundwork for our cause up front.
The Family Foundation stands resolutely behind Senator Chase and any other legislators who stand up to fight for children, parents, counselors, free speech, and religious liberty. Others are definitely out there, but our Commonwealth could use a few more.
General Assembly Passes Bigger Government, Higher Tax, Anti-Life BudgetMay. 30, 2018
After months of posturing and gridlock over the state budget, tonight the dam broke. The Senate voted 23-17 (19 Democrats and 4 Republicans) to embed a massive expansion of an already-failing and bloated Medicaid program into the budget. The House met to take an up-or-down vote on what the Senate passed, and quickly rubber-stamped it 67-31 (48 Democrats and 19 Republicans), sending it to the Governor for his signature.
The House has long since capitulated on this colossal growth of government entitlements, which will now cover able-bodied adults and will realistically end up covering between 400,000 - 600,000 additional Virginians. It already covers around 1.1 million. According to Delegate Kathy Byron (R-Lynchburg), this represents the greatest single-year expansion of government in Virginia history.
Throughout the several-hours-long debate on the Senate floor, Senator Emmett Hanger (R-Augusta) sold out conservatives at every turn as he played the role of the Governor’s spokesman, opposing every common-sense reform effort his Republican colleagues put forward, including key pro-life protections.
Senator Bill Stanley (R-Franklin) called the expansion plan purely a bailout for the hospitals who made a bad deal under Obamacare. In addressing the claims that this was somehow a “conservative” approach to Medicaid expansion, Stanley pointed out that “It’s raw unadulterated expansion.” Senator Mark Obenshain (R-Rockingham) explained how the new $600 million tax on hospitals is merely going to be passed right on through to the insured Virginians. No one’s insurance costs will decrease because of this plan. If anything, they will increase.
At every step of the way, we fought against Medicaid expansion, even up to the last minute. Earlier today, I spoke at a press conference spear-headed by Americans for Prosperity to ramp up the pressure against Medicaid expansion, where I expressed how expanding this problematic program could not be considered a solution for healthcare. Former U.S. Senator Rick Santorum met with Senate Republicans before speaking at the presser to brief them on a new federal plan in the works that would overhaul Obamacare in a way that gives federal dollars back to states through block grants so they can use it how they see best. Unfortunately, four Senate Republicans ignored this anticipated fact.
And as if all that wasn’t bad enough, the Senate failed to pass the “Hyde Amendment” which would mirror the federal government’s prohibition on taxpayer funding for abortions except in the limited circumstances of rape, incest, or to save the life of the mother. (The House followed suit.) Virginia law currently allows for funding in each of those situations, but also for situations of incapacitating physical deformities or mental deficiencies. It’s unclear exactly what that means, but we know that the number of abortions taxpayers pay for in that category has steadily increased every year for the past four years.
Tragically, the Senate also failed to prevent a brand new $6 million “slush fund” from flowing straight to Virginia’s abortion industry through a pilot program that promotes long-acting contraceptive devices (“LARCs”). While spending countless hours alerting and educating elected officials on the implications of this program, and despite some last-ditch efforts by some Senate Republicans like Siobhan Dunnavant (R-Henrico) and Steve Newman (R-Bedford) to correct the problem, the House and Senate did not ultimately heed our warnings. The magnitude of this program’s consequences is hard now to even imagine.
Finally, on top of all of that, there are built-in tax increases, like an increase in car title fees from $10 to $15, amounting to $26 million. Frankly, with the way this was done behind closed doors between two or three legislators and the Governor, and how quickly it was all dumped on everyone, it’s hard to say just how many bad things are in this budget.
It is painful to tell you this, but in truth, this is by far one of the most big-government, high-tax, pro-abortion budgets Virginia has ever passed. I wish I had better news, but that's just where things stand. Among other things, this only reinforces that there is much work ahead to be done, and despite our extreme disappointment, we remain committed to that critical task. We appreciate your continued support as we do.
United Against LARC FundingMay. 10, 2018
On Wednesday I was joined by our friends from the Virginia Catholic Conference, the Southern Baptist Convention of Virginia, and the Virginia Assembly of Independent Baptists at a Press Conference at the Capitol.
We stood united against the budget proposal creating a multi-million dollar "slush fund" for Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers. This is outrageous! The budget proposal is for a pilot program distributing Long Acting Reversible Contraceptives (or "LARCs"), which may send millions of dollars to the abortion industry. These abortion providers will charge taxpayers huge amounts of money to insert these devices, some of which can cause abortions, and will prevent pregnancies up to ten years!
Currently Virginians give Planned Parenthood approximately $150,000 every year in funding for programs and for abortions in very limited circumstances. The proposals could increase that amount over twenty or forty times! This chart demonstrates how dramatic the increase could be under the current proposals.
“At a time when the entire budget is held up because healthcare dollars are scarce, launching a new pilot program administered by the abortion industry under the guise of caring for women ought to be an easy cut to make,” I said in the press conference.
Tanya Ewbank, a resident of Virginia Beach, also shared her moving testimony. She was forced into an abortion by the staff and abortion doctor, and she is sure that women in vulnerable positions will be pressured into these Long Acting Reversible Contraceptives. Her testimony is powerful. You can view the entire conference online now.
I concluded the press conference by calling on the Senate and House budget conferee members to immediately remove this program from the budget. You can join that demand by clicking the link below and writing to your legislators and asking them not to send millions of dollars to the abortion industry in Virginia.
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 being assigned to the House General Laws committee, where historical racing had always previously been sent (2010, 2011, and 2015) and each time defeated, the bill went 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.
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.
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.
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.
Of Retirements and VetoesApr. 06, 2017
Wednesday's one-day “Veto Session” at the General Assembly proved to go largely as expected, primarily along party lines, with the Governor’s legacy cemented as the most obstructionist executive in the history of the Commonwealth.
Since ascending to office four years ago, Governor Terry McAuliffe has vetoed a record 111 bills – with none being overridden by the legislature. A two-thirds majority of those present for the votes is necessary to override a veto, and with no Democrat courageous enough to go against the hysterical “progressive” base that demands nothing less than absolute devotion to its dogmas, overrides were impossible.
With the Governor’s vetoes of many common-sense bills, several of which protected life, rights of conscience, and parental authority, there was plenty for state legislators to consider as they voted. But the day began with the shocking retirement of 24 year House veteran and chairman of the House Courts of Justice committee, Republican Dave Albo. This came on top of the recently announced retirements of Richmond area Republican Delegates Jimmie Massie and Peter Farrell. With the retirement of Speaker of the House Bill Howell already announced, it’s clear the House of Delegates will take on an entirely new flavor next year. We appreciate all the work of Delegates Howell, Albo, Massie and Farrell, with whom we have worked on many issues over the years. They will all be missed.
After nearly two hours of farewell speeches, the House finally got down to business and began the process of reviewing the Governor’s vetoes and dozens of amendments to bills, including the state budget. The Senate methodically worked through its bills dealing with the Governor’s actions as well.
The good news was the House once again rejected the Governor’s repeated effort to expand Medicaid under the failed Obama “Care” government health insurance scheme.
No vote to override a veto showed the left’s dogmatic adherence more than the failure to override the veto on HB 2191, a bill from Delegate Steve Landes giving parents a say when schools want to teach sexually explicit material to kids. When the bill passed the House in February it received 74 votes, meaning several Democrats voted yea. But today, they fell in line with their party and voted with the Governor.
Also in the House, the veto of Delegate Nick Freitas’s HB 2025, which would protect religious charities and schools from government discrimination because of their beliefs about marriage, wasn’t challenged with a vote. However, Delegate Freitas correctly pointed out that in the Governor’s own reasoning for vetoing the bill, he made the argument that religious charities are protected by the first amendment and statute for religious freedom – which means the Governor essentially argued why his own Executive Order discriminating against religious charities is unconstitutional! Remarkably, the Governor’s explanation says, “I veto House Bill 2025, which would shield from civil liability those who actively discriminate against same-sex couples. I vetoed this exact same bill last year, and my rationale for that veto remains the same.” Except we amended the bill this year to remove the civil liability part, which means, of course, it isn’t the “exact same bill”, but apparently neither the Governor nor his staff actually read the bill! You just can’t make this stuff up.
Regardless, even though the House and Senate could not garner the votes necessary to overcome the Governor’s vetoes, our message was heard clearly in the General Assembly yesterday. And credit where credit is due, despite secular leftist and media hysteria on these bills, for the most part Republicans in the General Assembly stood their ground and voted correctly.
The frustrations over the Governor’s vetoes of common sense legislation that protects religious charities, unborn life, taxpayers and parents’ rights must now be translated into action. The next Governor of the Commonwealth will either carry on the obstructionist tradition or be a conservative leader who will side with a majority of Virginians and sign these key bills.
Which Governor that is will be up to you.
Rare Bipartisan VictoryMar. 28, 2017
During a General Assembly session, The Family Foundation takes a position on over 100 pieces of legislation. We try to keep you informed on as many as we can, but often we will work on proposals that never get the attention they deserve.
Case in point is a bill that thankfully on Monday Governor Terry McAuliffe signed into law.
The proposal, HB 1709, requires schools notify parents if their child is involved in an incident of alleged bullying within five school days. Patroned by Delegate Eileen Filler-Corn (D-41, Springfield), the bill was amended during the process to give schools fourteen school days – or almost three full weeks – before having to involved parents. Let’s face it, Amazon can deliver packages to third world countries faster than that! We believe parents are the key to their children thriving and that parents should be informed, notified and included as soon as possible when their children are suffering from or being accused of bullying. Three weeks is far too long.
And while the education establishment always claims it wants to involve parents, they allege it’s just too hard or too expensive to quickly pick up a phone and call a parent. We disagree.
Virginia’s definition of bullying is such that it requires very serious, repeated acts. Bullying is a serious problem, and parents should be involved as soon as possible if their child is a victim. And, if their child is suspected of bullying, they should know they are being investigated by the school.
The bill ended up in a “conference committee” on the very last days of session, where a handful of negotiators from the House and Senate worked out the final five-day time period. We’re thankful to Delegate Filler-Corn for working with us on this important issue, and for those conferees for seeing the wisdom of involving parents.
Governor ObstructionMar. 24, 2017
Governor Terry McAuliffe spent Thursday celebrating the fact that he’s proven to be the most obstructionist Governor in Virginia history.
Earlier this morning, Hillary Clinton’s top cheerleader went live on air with WTOP radio to veto bills (SB 2314/HB 2025) that would have provided modest protections for pastors, churches, and peaceful religious organizations and schools by prohibiting the state from discriminating against them because of their religious or moral beliefs about marriage.
The vast majority of Virginians, nearly two-thirds according to polling by Mason-Dixon, believe that, at a minimum, religious entities should be able to hold traditional beliefs about the institution of marriage without facing retribution from the government. But once again, Governor McAuliffe sided with the radical LGBT lobby and the ACLU in claiming that protecting the faiths of countless churches, religious schools and religious organizations amounts to discrimination and even going so far as to say it equates to “demonizing people”, according to his official statement. The Governor, of course, is all too comfortable with demonizing anyone who happens to disagree with him!
In reality, these bills would have ensured that a religious charity couldn’t be denied equal access to state benefits because of its belief in traditional marriage – something the Governor is trying to do through his Executive Order 61 – and that Virginia students who attend Christian universities or colleges like Liberty, Regent or Patrick Henry wouldn’t be denied access to Virginia’s Tuition Assistance Grants because those schools have policies based on marriage between one man and one woman.
His vetoes were a record 90th and 91st of his term, but sadly, he wasn’t done. This afternoon, he announced the veto of several bills that would have advanced parental rights and provided more educational opportunities for Virginia families.
The Governor proudly vetoed HB 2191, which simply would have provided parents of public school students an opportunity to review and opt their child out of materials they find sexually inappropriate. You may remember that a similar bill met with fierce opposition last year from the education cabal in Richmond as well as the secular “progressive) left. This year, Delegate Steve Landes (R-25, Verona) narrowed the bill to define “sexually explicit” simply as things that are currently against the law under the criminal sexual assault statute, but that still wasn’t good enough for the Governor.
In addition, he vetoed bills which would create a full-time public virtual school option for up to 5,000 new students in Virginia, allowing them to choose, with no tuition, from over a dozen approved education providers. He also vetoed two bills that would allow two or three school districts to band together to form a regional charter school district where each district would have to have at least 3,000 enrolled students and at least one school that failed to be accredited for at least two of the previous three years.
The Governor once again sided with the antiquated, failing, one-size-fits-all education establishment against families and children who want more options and the freedom to choose the school that best fits their needs.
The reality: elections have consequences. Virginians have the opportunity to correct the McAuliffe error later this year. Advancing the values we cherish, like religious freedom, life and education freedom require a governor who not only shares our values but has the courage to fight for them. Four years of Terry McAuliffe’s contempt for the beliefs of a majority of Virginians are enough.
Gone But Not Soon ForgottenFeb. 27, 2017
On Saturday, the General Assembly wrapped up its 2017 legislative session, one that saw some surprises, some wins, some losses, and some very big changes.
Amidst final action on dozens of bills on Friday and Saturday, the House of Delegates, unfortunately, failed to override Governor Terry McAuliffe’s veto of legislation that would redirect some taxpayer funds away from Planned Parenthood to real, comprehensive health care clinics. The vote predictably fell short of the two-thirds of the 100 members required to override a veto, something that hasn’t happened during Terry McAuliffe’s administration. Remarkably, a day earlier, the Governor listed protecting Planned Parenthood as a top priority, ahead of feeding starving children and ending the Opioid epidemic. Such is the case for someone whose few accomplishments in four years includes propping up the abortion industry.
Earlier in the week, the House of Delegates put the finishing touches on a resolution that could significantly rebalance power in Virginia government from unelected bureaucrats back to the people’s elected representatives where it truly belongs. By a vote of 52-46 the House, and 21-19 the Senate approved HJ 545, patroned by Delegate Chris Head (R-17, Roanoke). The House majority was supplied by 51 of the 66 Republicans and one Democrat, while the Senate vote was party line.
The resolution would allow the General Assembly, by a majority vote in both chambers, to repeal a regulation by a state government agency. A version of this proposal has been introduced from time to time over the last dozen years or so, but has never even reached the Senate floor.
In order for the resolution to go on the ballot for voters to ratify or reject in November 2018, it must be adopted by both chambers in the exact same language again next year, when a newly elected General Assembly convenes. No gubernatorial action is required.
The legislature also completed work on budget amendments for the final year of the biennium budget. The $107 billion budget includes language fought for in previous years that prohibits taxpayer funding of low-income abortions except in cases of rape, incest and where the life of the mother is at risk, along with funding abortion of unborn children with severe disabilities. Efforts to remove the disability abortion funding failed, but several budget negotiators were appalled at information we gave them showing that the number of disability abortions has more than doubled per year since Terry McAuliffe became governor, and committed to working on this in the next budget, when we have a new (and hopefully pro-life) governor.
In the coming days, we’ll be sending you several action alerts, urging you to contact Governor McAuliffe on bills that have reached his desk, including those that protect the religious charities from government discrimination, give more choices and information to parents regarding education, and protect free speech on college campuses.
This year’s session was also the last that will be held in the current General Assembly Building, commonly called the “GAB.” The decades-old structure, a hodgepodge of several buildings joined together, will be torn down in the coming year and replaced. During the four-year project, the legislature will move to the Pocahontas Building, which sits directly across Main Street from our office. Logistics for next year will be new for everyone, and many questions will remain unanswered until the legislature arrives in January. Regardless, we’ll keep you informed and seek your engagement wherever and whenever the General Assembly meets!
Finally, perhaps the biggest news out of Richmond in the final weeks was the retirement announcement of Speaker of the House Bill Howell (R-28, Fredericksburg). Speaker Howell has been at the helm of the Republican House caucus for fifteen years, a time during which the Republican majority in the House grew, and we saw great success in our legislative agenda. Upon his announcement, House Republicans quickly confirmed that Majority Leader Kirk Cox (R-66, Colonial Heights) will be the next Speaker, and Delegate Todd Gilbert (R-15, Woodstock) will become Majority Leader. Delegates Cox and Gilbert are both previous Family Foundation Legislator of the Year award recipients and have worked with us on many legislative priorities over the years. We look forward to working with them in the future in their new roles.
Feed Planned Parenthood, Then the KidsFeb. 24, 2017
Each week, the Governor’s office sends a press release listing their “Top 5” accomplishments from the week. Apparently, this list is supposed to be reflective of the Governor’s priorities.
So the order at the top of this week’s “Top 5” list is very telling:
Governor McAuliffe Vetoes Legislation Defunding Women’s Health Provider Planned Parenthood
Governor McAuliffe Signs Bills Strengthening Virginia's Opioid Abuse Prevention and Treatment Efforts
Dorothy McAuliffe & Kathleen Sandoval: Ending Childhood Hunger Isn't Just the Right Thing to Do — It's Smart
That’s right, this Governor, who derides “divisive social issues” every chance he gets, put making sure taxpayers are propping up Planned Parenthood's abortion centers ahead of dealing with Virginia’s destructive Opioid crisis and ending childhood hunger!
There’s little doubt that advancing the progressive left’s social agenda has been a top priority of this Governor, particularly that of the $1 billion abortion industry, regardless of his rhetoric. Today’s list is simply reflective of that reality. He puts protecting Planned Parenthood, a business responsible for the deaths of thousands of unborn children every year, ahead of ending hunger, ahead of helping people with addiction.
This is McAuliffe’s “new Virginia.” One where Planned Parenthood reigns supreme.
Pro-adoption Bill Poised to Become LawFeb. 23, 2017
To be pro-life is to take a holistic view of the value of human life and to promote those institutions, like the family, which are critical for human flourishing. That’s why, in addition to fighting to protect unborn life, we work hard to encourage adoption for kids who need a mom and a dad. This year in the Virginia General Assembly, we have an opportunity to do that in a unique way.
Senate Bill 1412, patroned by Senator Dave Suetterlein (R-19, Roanoke), creates a new classification of paid leave for a state employee who adopts an infant under a year old. Currently, mothers who give birth to a child are offered paid maternity leave by their state employer, but parents who adopt a newborn child don’t receive that benefit. If this bill is signed into law – and it looks like it will be – then adoptive parents employed by the state will also be able to take that time to bond with their new baby in the same way as natural parents can.
This is a good and pro-life public policy because the Commonwealth of Virginia is saying ‘we are going to value and encourage adoption.’ It’s also good public policy because it seeks to treat new parents equitably, recognizing the critical nature of the first few weeks together between an infant child and his or her parents. Encouraging adoption is also good fiscal policy when considering the cost to the state in the long run for the care of each child until adulthood.
Meanwhile, the more we can promote and facilitate adoption, the more we can take away incentives for abortions. What if every woman who wasn’t ready for a child knew that there was someone waiting who was? Probably more would choose life. And just maybe, with the help of this new law, more people will choose adoption.
Private PartsFeb. 21, 2017
It was quite an interesting morning outside the Governor’s Mansion on Capitol Square today. Late yesterday Governor Terry McAuliffe’s office released his “Public Schedule” for the week:
You’ll note that his “Public Schedule” includes “Governor McAuliffe to act on legislation impacting womens health” at 9:45 am today at the Executive Mansion. Now, we are well aware that the so-called “progressive” left has some difficulty discerning what is public and private (see bathrooms), and we learned this morning that this apparently includes what constitutes a “public” event.
You see, several of us who wanted to see the Governor’s “public” activity showed up at the Mansion and tried to gain access. Only when we did we were informed that no, the event wasn’t “public,” it was private. Yet we watched as several people entered the event without showing any form of ID, so how the Capitol Police could distinguish between those invited to the public/private event is anyone’s guess. Perhaps it was the signs we were carrying that said things like “Defund Planned Parenthood” and “Planned Parenthood Lies” that made us undesirable.
So undesirable, in fact, that we were then informed that we couldn’t hold up our signs because we “didn’t have a permit.” This was a bit perplexing since we know that permits aren’t granted for any areas of Capitol Square with the exception of the area around the Bell Tower, far removed from the Capitol and the Executive Mansion; and this despite having witnessed numerous groups all session long being allowed to hold up signs wherever and whenever they pleased. We’ve watched Planned Parenthood apologists line the sidewalks of Capitol Square with their signs. Apparently, they are permitted to do that. In all fairness to the Capitol Police, they were just “doing what we’re told,” apparently by the administration, because we did hold up signs when we first arrived, but then we couldn't.
While standing outside the fence surrounding the Governor’s Mansion unable to hold up our signs, we were able to hear the Governor pontificate on how it is so important to have an “open and inclusive” Virginia where everyone feels welcome. While we were standing outside the fence. Barred from being welcome.
The Governor then very publicly (sort of) vetoed legislation that would have redirected taxpayer dollars away from Planned Parenthood toward real health clinics that offer comprehensive care for women. McAuliffe was joined at this public (oh, never mind) campaign rally by candidate for Governor Ralph Northam and candidate for AG Mark Herring.
For the second year in a row, the Governor celebrated vetoing a bill supported by 54 percent of Virginians; last year he did so at a Planned Parenthood abortion center. At least this year he did it in public/private/behind a fence.
Save the Babies!Feb. 15, 2017
The definition of “women’s health care” is as fluid it seems as the definition of gender, at least to the political left. Yesterday’s floor debate in the state Senate is another example.
As the Senate was debating Delegate Ben Cline’s bill to redirect non-Medicaid funding away from Planned Parenthood to comprehensive health care facilities, Senator Barbara Favola lamented that such a prohibition would end a contract the state has with a Planned Parenthood affiliate to provide STD testing. She worried that such a change would endanger “women’s health” and put unborn babies at risk (no, really) because they are more likely to have health issues if their moms have an STD:
Never mind that being killed in the womb is “no fault of their own” either, Favola and Planned Parenthood itself sure are awfully concerned about STD testing all of the sudden, which is kind of surprising. You see, over the past year plus while the industry was fighting to dilute abortion center health and safety standards, they fought to remove a requirement that abortion centers provide STD testing!
That’s right, the same people lamenting that they aren’t going to get paid by taxpayers to do STD testing also fought against having to do STD testing. Apparently, it’s only women’s health care when you profit off of the taxpayers.
And by the way, there is no reason that community health clinics can’t apply for the same grant and provide the same service. And they can do so in really “underserved” areas because they actually have clinics in underserved areas. There are no Planned Parenthood abortion centers west of Roanoke. There are dozens of community health care centers.
It really is remarkable that the abortion industry seems absolutely incapable of being honest in any way. Or they are completely blind to their own distortions. But they can get away with it because there is absolutely no one in the media that is going to challenge their claims.