With just over a week to go before this year’s General Assembly session is scheduled to end, several Family Foundation priorities or supported bills have advanced.  Yesterday was a good day, as two important Family Foundation priorities passed in Committees. 

In the Senate, HB 1090, patroned by Delegate Ben Cline (R-24, Amherst) passed the Education and Health committee 8-7.  This bill is a response to last summer’s Planned Parenthood baby-body-parts-for-profit scandal.  It redirects non-Medicaid funds away from any business that performs abortions to federally qualified health care centers that provide real health care for women.  There are over 140 federally qualified and rural clinics in Virginia that offer the services women need. 

Though Planned Parenthood currently receives only a modest amount of non-Medicaid money from Virginia taxpayers, we know that the organization is a favorite of Governor Terry McAuliffe.  We also recognize that the Governor’s favorite organizations are likely to be key beneficiaries of the Governor’s $100 billion budget!  HB 1090 ensures that the Governor will not be able to funnel non-Medicaid taxpayer money to one of his favorite political organizations.

Also yesterday, legislation that would protect churches and religious organizations from being discriminated against because of their deeply held belief in the definition of marriage passed a House committee. 

The bill, SB 41, patroned by Senator Bill Carrico (R-40, Galax), began as a proposal that simply protected pastors.  On Tuesday, we worked with the committee to amend the bill to expand it to include religious organizations and schools.  After a very lengthy debate in committee, and several amendments, the vote was postponed until yesterday to make sure the language of the bill did what was desired.  During the debate, our staff testified, proponents of same-sex marriage always claimed that all they wanted was to be able to marry, but they’d never force anyone to participate in a wedding against their beliefs.  Well, this bill was the opportunity for those who support same-sex marriage to prove they weren’t lying.

Of course, they all opposed the legislation, essentially calling anyone who disagrees with them discriminatory.  If faith-based charities can’t operate according to their beliefs, they are no longer faith-based, but agents of the government.  Sadly, the same groups were lined up to oppose the original bill that essentially just protected pastors! 

Both these bills should be voted on early next week.

Also this week, a bill that that seemed innocuous enough when it was introduced suddenly became the legislation the secular left and media have fixated on.  HB 516, patroned by Delegate Steve Landes (R-25, Augusta), simply requires the state board of education to develop a policy for schools that allows parents to review material that may be inappropriate and request an alternative assignment.  The debate has been fascinating!  Indeed, the hostility toward the ability of parents to make decisions about their children’s education is alive and well on the secular left.  You can read more about this on our blog by clicking here.  That bill now goes to Governor McAuliffe. 

We are also still tracking pro-life language in the state budget that protects taxpayers from funding most low-income abortions.  The Governor yesterday announced his opposition to the budget amendments, which is not surprising since he stripped the language out of his introduced budget.  Budget negotiators are at work trying to hammer out differences between the House and Senate budgets. 

Unfortunately, the Governor this week chose to veto two important education proposals:  legislation commonly known as the Tebow bill, which allowed home school students to try out for public school sports teams, and legislation that would have prohibited Virginia from participating in Common Core.  The Governor vetoed both proposals last year as well.

Thank you to everyone who has taken action on critical issues.  We hope you will continue to do so as session wraps up, hopefully, next Saturday!