The Governor Couldn't Resist!May. 10, 2019
The state budget process is finally over, and with it came some big wins and also disappointments. Last week Governor Northam submitted his final actions on the budget to the House of Delegates. They included leaving in place the federal “Hyde Amendment” language, which ensures taxpayers will not be forced to pay for abortions of babies with supposed disabilities, and vetoing a modification to the existing Long-Acting Reversible Contraception (LARC) program that would have stopped nearly $2 million from being funneled to the abortion industry.
For more details about these budget provisions, you can read about them here on our blog.
We cannot overstate how important of a win it is for the protection of pre-born babies to have the Hyde Amendment language included in the budget, especially given the complete disregard for human life that was on full display during session this year. This achievement is the result of strong legislators willing to stand firm for the protection of pre-born babies, as well as the unwavering resolve of The Family Foundation, the Virginia Catholic Conference and the Virginia Society for Human Life (VSHL) to push for these types of protections year after year.
In the end, the Governor did not accept the Hyde Amendment language willingly, since he was actually prohibited by the Virginia Constitution from vetoing that particular type of budget amendment. Of course, he couldn’t let the Hyde language stand without offering this hypocritical comment indirectly criticizing pro-life conservatives: "the General Assembly's action is cruel and out of touch with the difficult reality some families face." Remember, this is the same Governor who tried to explain that leaving a baby on a table after a failed abortion while the parents and physician had a discussion over whether or not the baby should live or die, was somehow morally acceptable.
The Governor’s actions also demonstrated his total commitment to Planned Parenthood by vetoing an amendment introduced by Senator Siobhan Dunnavant (R-12, Glen Allen) to limit “LARC” funds to only the purchase of IUD devices. His veto, which will continue to allow millions of dollars in grants being allocated to the abortion industry, was simply a ‘wink and a nod’ to Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers to say “I’ve still got your back.”
All of this goes to show how elections have consequences, and how important it is for voters to be aware of the values that their legislators espouse. That’s why The Family Foundation Action works so hard to create a General Assembly Report Card to show you exactly how legislators voted on specific legislation that has a significant impact on families.
The 2018-2019 Report Card is Here!May. 03, 2019
The Family Foundation Action today released the 15th edition of its non-partisan General Assembly Report Card. This educational document informs citizens on key votes taken by the General Assembly during the 2018 and 2019 legislative sessions that relate to the issues of life, marriage, parental authority, religious liberty, and constitutional government. Click the icon below to view the new Report Card to see how your legislators voted:
It is our hope the 2018-2019 Report Card, along with Voter Guides that will be distributed this fall, will help motivate citizens to vote and enable them to make informed choices. All 100 seats in the House of Delegates and all 40 Virginia Senate seats are up for reelection, which will be held Tuesday, November 5th. Voters will also have the opportunity to review the scores of several legislators seeking re-nomination by their party prior to the June primary elections scheduled for Tuesday, June 11th.
As with each Report Card distributed over the years, hundreds of votes taken by the legislature during the past two years were reviewed. The first page of the Report Card explains the criteria used in determining which votes to include. Non-partisan and broad-based, the Report Card seeks not to benefit one party or candidate over another, but to equip voters with the information they need to make an informed choice when they go to the ballot box.
This year’s Report Card has fourteen “100 percenters” in the House of Delegates and three in the state Senate.
To order additional copies of the Report Card to distribute in your church, community groups, or to like-minded friends and neighbors, click here or contact The Family Foundation Action at 804-343-0010 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. A suggested donation of $.25 per copy is encouraged to help defray costs of printing and distribution. Please also consider sponsoring the distribution of 100, 500 or even 1,000 Report Cards with a donation of $25, $125, or $250. Checks should be made out to "TFF Action" and mailed to 919 E. Main Street, Suite 1110, Richmond, VA 23219, or you can pay by credit card here. Thank you for your support!
The mission of The Family Foundation Action is to protect families and promote responsible citizenship by giving Virginians the tools they need to hold their elected officials accountable. The Family Foundation Action is not a PAC and does not endorse candidates. Therefore, please be advised that political campaigns and candidates for public office may not use either The Family Foundation or The Family Foundation Action logo for any campaign-related publications. Any such use of these logos is not authorized and should be ceased and corrected immediately.
The Family Foundation Action is a non-partisan, non-profit 501(c)(4) organization and paid for this informational communication. Not authorized by any candidate or candidate's committee.
Budget Update: Victory for Life!Apr. 04, 2019
We are thrilled to tell you that, at yesterday's "Veto Session" in Richmond to consider the Governor's vetos and budget recommendations, the House of Delegates rejected Governor Northam's attempts to make taxpayers pay for abortions and to funnel millions of dollars to Planned Parenthood! This is a huge win for the protection of unborn life, and a great end to a day that began with Virginia's first-ever (and highly successful) statewide March For Life at the Capitol.
For more details of the pro-life budget provisions that were successfully defended yesterday, read about them here on our blog.
The Governor's amendment to keep millions in tax dollars flowing to abortion facilities was defeated 50-49, and his amendment to fund abortions failed on a vote of 50-45. We want to thank several Delegates who made compelling floor speeches in support of the pro-life language, including Delegates Dave LaRock (R-Loudoun), who has been a champion for the budget's "Hyde Amendment" language, Nick Freitas (R-Culpeper), and Scott Garrett (R-Lynchburg). Look out for videos of these and others like them on our Facebook page soon - The Family Foundation Action.
Believe it or not, there is still one more round left to go in the budget process. It will now be sent back to the Governor, who will have a final veto opportunity. With yesterday’s success, we crossed another major hurdle in protecting life in Virginia. It's a great day to be a pro-life Virginian! Thank you for all your support and prayers.
Pro-Family Tax Reform [General Assembly Update Part 5]Mar. 22, 2019
For our final edition of the 2019 General Assembly recap, The Family Foundation is thrilled to report on the successful tax reform that passed this year and was signed by the Governor.
After the Trump administration signed the federal Tax Cuts and Jobs Act that went into effect in 2018, Virginia soon realized it was set to receive an unanticipated windfall in state revenues of nearly one billion dollars. Leading up to the 2019 General Assembly session, the legislature had to decide what to do with all that extra money.
Thankfully, they chose to give the $1 billion back to the taxpayers. In what marks one of the biggest state tax reform measures in modern memory, the legislature worked out a plan that would return that revenue to the people who were actually paying it. HB 2529 (R-Hugo) made a number of positive family-friendly changes to Virginia’s tax code, including:
Increasing the state standard deduction from $3,000 to $4,500 for individuals and from $6,000 to $9,000 for couples, which will take effect with next year’s tax filings;
Retaining the current deduction on state and local taxes, instead of adopting the $10,000 cap in last year’s federal tax changes; and
Providing taxpayers a credit of $110 for individuals and $220 for couples filing jointly to be distributed in October
During the year leading up to the 2019 session, The Family Foundation was apart of a workgroup coordinated by the Thomas Jefferson Institute to put forward a proposal for what to do about the windfall in revenue that was coming to the state. Along with several other conservative groups, we helped craft and jointly endorsed a tax reform plan that looked a lot like the one that ultimately passed.
This was a very big deal, even as it didn't get nearly as much attention in light of all the other issues during the session. By keeping taxes low, we help keep government small, limited, and thereby less likely to infringe upon the liberties we hold so dear. This was a major highlight of the 2019 session and we were proud to play a part in its success.
Will Virginia Become Las Vegas? [General Assembly Recap PART 4]Mar. 15, 2019
Besides issues involving life and abortion, this year became the year of gambling. There were at least 15 bills to expand gambling in Virginia, including full-scale Vegas-style casinos in as many as five cities, the legalization of sports betting and online gambling, expansion of the Lottery, and the commercialization of charitable gaming. We had our work cut out for us to educate and provide testimony on the many reasons why these predatory industries are a bad bet for Virginia fiscally, economically, and socially.
With over 50 well-paid lobbyists roaming the Capitol halls on behalf of the gambling interests that flooded the Commonwealth this year, in the end SB 1126 (D-Lucas) was the last bill left standing, and the House and Senate versions of the bill could not be further apart. Then late on a Saturday evening, while no one else was at the Capitol and the session was wrapping up its last full day, the bill's conference committee members met to “resolve” the significant differences in the House and Senate versions.
Unfortunately, and to our great surprise, what they created in this back-room deal was a bill that would seem to satisfy the deep pockets of the numerous gambling interests and billionaire benefactors. The legislature essentially threw the entire gambling 'wishlist' – full-scale casinos in five or more cities, college and professional sports betting, online gambling, etc. – into one giant gambling bill. Only one casino in each city would be allowed, and only investors who can put up a minimum of $200 million in capital investments would qualify. (Hence, why we called this "crony capitalism", with the government granting monopolies to favored parties.)
The bill does require a commission to first “study” the matter and provide a report in only about 7 months from now, but with something of this magnitude, a half-year study is nowhere near long enough to show they're serious. The bill also stipulates that casinos have to be approved by the city residents in a voter referendum, but gives no say to the countless people in the adjacent localities who will also be impacted, while also ignoring the fact that big-money interests will likely pump millions into a local referendum to effectively buy the support they'll need. The bill also requires the legislature to pass the bill again next year in order for it to become law, so at least there is still time to influence legislators on these policies.
This gambling 'omnibus' bill reflects a combination of ‘kicking the can down the road’ to give the General Assembly another year to figure out exactly how much and what kinds of new gambling they want to foist upon Virginians, and also a strong legislative 'tipping of the hand' suggesting that they’re primed to expand gambling in one way or another no matter what this “study” uncovers or recommends.
A big part of the challenge this year was that the General Assembly was so preoccupied with other important matters like the ERA, tax reform, abortion and infanticide, and the improper behavior of our top three elected officials, that there was virtually no time - and no real opportunity provided - to engage in any serious policy discussions on the issues of casinos or sports betting. Much more robust discussions need to take place before the General Assembly thinks about making such a major shift in public policy.
Also noteworthy, HJ 658 (R-Pogge), a Constitutional Amendment we drafted that would have required statewide approval of any casino gambling the legislature were to pass, never made it out of committee. The bill was modeled after Florida, whose citizens voted last November by a 71% margin to put this requirement into their state constitution.
The debate over major new gambling schemes in Virginia is far from over. There is still much work and education to be done on these issues over the next year. Stay tuned as things continue to develop.
More Threats to Religious Freedom Than Ever [General Assembly Update Part 3]Mar. 13, 2019
This year we faced a record-setting 32 bills aimed at advancing the “LGBTQ” agenda, which not only has a corrosive effect on the family and society, but always inevitably leads to conflicts with religious liberty and conscience rights. These bills included attempts to add special rights for “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” (SOGI) to virtually every area of the law. (e.g. in housing, employment, businesses, public accommodations, health insurance benefit requirements, apprenticeships, hate crimes, assisted conception/surrogacy, etc.)
Numerous bills sought to completely erase distinctions between men and women by making the Code language “gender neutral.” Others sought to: make it virtually effortless for anyone to legally "change" their sex on official documents, establish gender-neutral dress codes for boys and girls in schools, require insurance companies to pay all the costs of a person's [completely unnecessary] "sex reassignment/transition" therapies and surgeries, and scrub all traces of Virginia’s one-man/one-woman marriage statute and Constitutional Amendment from the books.
Incredibly, we helped defeat 31 out of 32 of those efforts to redefine male, female, moms, dads, wives, husbands, and the family as created by God (and self-evident in nature). These bills would have generated serious conflicts with religious liberty, conscience, and privacy rights, while undermining some of society's most basic and fundamental truths. We cannot overstate how big a deal these results are.
Unfortunately, one bill – HB 1979, a profoundly anti-family and anti-life bill – did pass despite our best efforts to convince legislators of its harms. It now awaits the Governor’s expected signature. This legislation, sold as a bill to "fix" some of the "barriers" to assisted conception and surrogacy contracts, signifies a dramatic and harmful policy shift concerning the creation and treatment of human life, the rights of children, the legal basis for parenthood, the significance of marriage, and the dynamics of the parent-child relationship. It was purportedly designed to make it easier for same-sex couples to create children they are otherwise incapable of producing naturally. But the bill went much further than even that by effectively allowing for the commodification of lab-created babies who no longer need to have any genetic tie to either "parent", and also by allowing any unmarried single person to contract with someone to acquire a baby - thus purposely ensuring a child is born without a mother or a father. You can read a more complete overview of the issue on our blog here.
The most important bill this session designed to protect religious freedom was SB 1778 (R-Newman), which sought to protect the free speech and religious exercise rights of counselors as well as the ability of minors struggling with their sexual identity to receive meaningful counseling. (A national movement has dubbed this “conversion therapy.”) While the bill initially prevailed on a vote of the full Senate, it was unfortunately derailed due to an unexpected tactical move the following day, despite the known fact that several state health regulatory boards are planning to prohibit counselors and psychologists from providing this type of counseling. You can read the full story of this bill on our blog here.
Overall, it was a highly successful year on this front, but we do not expect it to get easier from here. Much credit belongs to various members of the House leadership for strategically and courageously heading off the many serious threats to religious liberty and to the very fabric of civil society.
Parental Rights: Several Big Wins and a Few Near Wins [2019 General Assembly Recap Part 2]Mar. 08, 2019
2019 became a big year for parents. We fought hard to pass several important bills to afford parents more options, involvement, and oversight in their children’s education. These initiatives were often our most strategic and time-consuming legislative battles, even while they were frequently overshadowed by the more hot-button issues. HB 2107 (R-Ransone) was one great bill that has made it to the Governor’s desk. It provides parents the opportunity to review any audio-visual materials that contain graphic sexual or violent images used in conjunction with any anti-bullying or suicide prevention lessons in public schools, and the ability to exclude their child if they deem the materials too graphic.
Unfortunately, HB 2570 (R-LaRock), which would have required schools to obtain parents’ permission for their child to participate in the Family Life Education ("Sex Ed") lessons, failed in the Senate after passing the House with a hard-fought 51 votes. We made this a major priority this year, in light of all the new graphic and aggressively-ideological messaging that is being pushed onto kids in various school districts. We will keep fighting to make this common-sense policy a reality for families.
The flagship school choice initiative in Virginia – the Education Investment Scholarship Tax Credit Program – was successfully expanded to pre-kindergarten this year through the passage of SB 1015 (R-Stanley), and now awaits the Governor’s action. The program has been a huge success in recent years and continues to enable more children in families who cannot otherwise afford private education to receive a private scholarship to use towards a qualifying private school. It's another step towards ensuring that parents to have every opportunity to get the best possible education for their children, according to their values. SB 1590(R-Dunnavant) was another good education choice bill that would have expanded the online “Virtual Virginia” program to all public schools statewide. Unfortunately, after passing the Senate, it failed in the House.
Numerous bills sought to provide protections and opportunities for homeschooled students. Among them, SB 1275 (R-Black) would have allowed home-schooled high school students to participate in the federally-sponsored Junior ROTC program at their local school. After a hard-fought battle, having passed in the Senate, it was defeated on a tie vote in a House Committee. A bill to allow homeschool students to participate in the Driver’s Ed program at their local public school also unfortunately failed.
Finally, HB 2542 (R-Byron) is another great bill that passed and awaits the Governor’s action. It seeks to keep families together by allowing for the temporary delegation of parental or legal custodial powers to a trusted third party for families facing a crisis or extraordinary circumstances. Instead of having to enter “the system” of Social Services, qualifying parents could work with a licensed child-placing agency to have someone care for their kids for a limited time in order for them to work out family problems, deploy overseas for a combat tour, or other scenarios like these.
Overall, despite a few razor-thin losses on a couple of important bills we fought hard to advance, we are thrilled to report that 2019 saw significant gains for parental rights and options!
A Tragic Loss for Life and FamilyFeb. 22, 2019
On Wednesday, by a vote of 63-36 the House of Delegates, unfortunately, agreed to the Senate’s nominally-amended version of HB 1979 (D-48, Sullivan). (The Senate passed it 28-12.) The bill will now make its way to the Governor’s desk for his signature. Make no mistake, this legislation will bring a dramatic and harmful policy shift concerning the creation and treatment of human life, the rights of children, the basis for parenthood, the significance of marriage, and the dynamics of the parent-child relationship. Despite the numerous victories so far this session, the passage of HB 1979 is of profound damage to the family.
Some have called this bill "pro-life" because it will now allow single people and same-sex couples to contract with a surrogate mother to implant one or more of the one million "snowflake babies," which have been created in labs and are currently frozen. But those same legislators completely disregarded the obvious incentives this bill creates, which will only lead to countless more human embryos being created in labs, frozen, and left to languish. While we, too, want existing human embryos to have the opportunity to fully develop, this bill will only ensure this problem is multiplied.
Another reason this bill cannot be pro-life is because it allows surrogacy contracts to include forced abortions, including “selective reductions,” which is the horrific practice of killing some of the babies in the womb, while leaving one or more alive. Some contracts also allow the intended parents to be able to require abortion of the child(ren) if the child appears to have a disability, or simply if they change their minds about wanting the child. This is commonplace in surrogacy contracts, and current Virginia law does not prohibit these types of agreements. This bill will greatly expand the number of surrogacy contracts, but without doing anything to protect against forced abortions at the demands of the “intended parents.”
For the first time, this bill would sever the biological connection between a child and his or her parents before the child is ever born. Current law requires at least one parent to be a genetic parent of the child who is being intentionally created through assisted conception. This bill allows for there to be no genetic connection at all, replacing the legal basis for parenthood with a mere contract among willing adults, which effectively flips the current custodial paradigm of “best interests of the child” to one of merely the desires and intentions of any adult.
Tragically, this bill, for the first time, allows for a child to be intentionally and permanently deprived of either a mother or a father before they are even born, and for the entirety of their life. (The bill removed all the references to “father”, “mother”, “husband” and “wife”.) Yet every person innately understands the value of having both a mother and father, and those who grow up without either a mother or a father tend to have a deep longing to have and to know them. Since the bill now allows single and non-married persons to contract with someone to produce a child for them through surrogacy simply because they want one, this Commonwealth has just declared that when it comes to bringing children into the world, married homes are no more preferred than single-parent homes.
While the outcome is incredibly disappointing, we witnessed throughout the process incredible courage on the part of some legislators who did not succumb to the outside pressures to support this bill. We want to especially thank Delegate Dave LaRock (R-33, Hamilton) for his commitment to protecting unborn life and speaking on the House floor in opposition to HB 1979 several times, including his great floor speech yesterday. Watch it HERE.
HB 1979 is a clear illustration of the lengths that the Left (and now, even some on the Right) will go to in order to redefine the family by stripping away the biological connections between parents and children and to protect the barbaric practice of selective reduction and abortion.
Please pray for us as we continue to fight against these dangerous anti-life and anti-family policies.
Rally to Revive the ERA?Feb. 13, 2019
Advocates of the so-called Equal Rights Amendment are rallying today in one last attempt to bring this defeated Constitutional Amendment back from the dead.
We encourage you to send an email, but also message your legislators onFacebook + Twitter! Tell them to Celebrate Womanhood on Valentine's Day, not ERAse it.
Click here to find your legislators' Facebook and Twitter accounts. Use the instructions at the bottom of the page to directly message your legislators a special Valentine's Day message!
Be creative in your social media messages. Here are some ideas to get you started:
Celebrate Womanhood this Valentine's Day. Don't support the ERA.
Women should be given flowers, chocolates, and good gifts on Valentine's Day. Don't give them the so-called ERA.
Happy Valentine's Day! Celebrate Womanhood, reject the ERA!
Roses are Red
Violets are Blue
The ERA's been Dead
Since before '82!
Click here to send a message right now by email.
Feel free to send as many messages as you want throughout the day! The ERA advocates have taken the time to come in person to try to convince our legislators that the ERA is a good idea, your voice on social media is needed today!
Calling All Virginians to Pray for our Commonwealth and LeadersFeb. 06, 2019
These are trying times for our Commonwealth. The most important and powerful thing each and every one of us can do now is to pray for all of our elected officials and the future of Virginia.
The past two weeks have been a tumultuous time for our statewide elected officials and the members of the Virginia General Assembly, which is no doubt taking a toll on them mentally, physically, and spiritually. In the midst of the media firestorm, our leaders must still carry on the people's business, which includes considering many important bills, passing a budget, and the very pressing need to come up with a tax plan. They and their families need our prayers - especially those embroiled in controversy. The Family Foundation needs your prayers, as we fight in the midst of all this for our shared values.
We care deeply about the well-being of all families and are uncompromisingly dedicated to protecting the dignity of human life at every stage. It has been heartbreaking to see many of the things we've witnessed over the past two weeks. But I am reminded of Psalm 37:3-6 and 23-24 and of our place in this culture at this point in history:
3 Trust in the Lord and do good;
dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.
4 Take delight in the Lord,
and he will give you the desires of your heart.
5 Commit your way to the Lord;
trust in him and he will do this:
6 He will make your righteous reward shine like the dawn,
your vindication like the noonday sun.
23 The Lord makes firm the steps
of the one who delights in him;
24 though he may stumble, he will not fall,
for the Lord upholds him with his hand.
We are definitely living in challenging times, with a heightened sensitivity to sensational story-lines that can be very disheartening. So, I ask you to turn your heart to God, pray for peace and healing, and commit all these things to His perfect will.
Unexpected Action on Constitutional AmendmentsJan. 07, 2019
This year is not going to be like any other.
We have never before seen a Committee schedule a special meeting to vote on controversial legislation on the very first day of the legislative session. Yet that is what the Senate Privileges & Elections Committee has just done.
This committee will break from the tradition of putting controversial legislation off until later, and will not only vote on repealing the Virginia Marriage Amendment, but they will also vote on the so-called Equal Rights Amendment!
Voting on two very controversial pieces of legislation – and Constitutional Amendments at that!!! – on the first day of session is unprecedented. The people of Virginia deserve better than this kind of stunt.
Nevertheless, The Family Foundation will be there standing up for and testifying in support of families.
We have been clear about our opposition to the ERA. Here are ten of the most compelling reasons:
1. Women already ARE equal under the Constitution – Both women and men already have a full claim to equal rights under the 5th and 14th Amendments, since they are both “persons.”
2. Enshrines abortion! – The ERA could be interpreted as enshrining in the Constitution a right to taxpayer-funded abortions because abortions would be deemed medically necessary just like procedures sought by men, forcing the state to fund them under Medicaid.
3. Strips Churches of their tax-exempt status – Any church that has doctrines, policies, or practices for male-only clergy will likely lose their tax-exempt status because of “sex discrimination.” This will impact hundreds of churches in Virginia.
4. Jeopardizes privacy and safety – Traditional male and female domestic abuse shelters, bathrooms, locker rooms, hospital rooms, nursing homes, etc. would be eliminated because under the ERA women and men must be treated as indistinguishable.
5. Increases Auto and Life insurance for women – Regardless of the statistical evidence showing that women live longer than men and have better driving records, women will have to pay the same rates as men.
6. Nullifies Title IX protections for women – The ERA would permit males and females to compete for inclusion on the same sports teams, as evidenced by Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court which invalidated sex-segregated sports policies, including contact sports, citing the state’s ERA.
7. Threatens religious liberty and conscience – The courts would be empowered to define “sex” and “equality of rights,” which could grant special legal rights to people on the basis of subjective characteristics like “sexual orientation” and “gender identity,” which have proven hostile to religious liberty and conscience protections.
8. Transfers more power to the Federal Government – Section 2 of the ERA would give extensive new powers to the federal government that currently belong to the states.
9. Requires Integrated prison system – Male and female prisons will likely become integrated, resulting in dangerous conditions and harsher discipline for women since they would be required to be treated in the same way as men.
10. Fails to prevent unfairness towards women in any new way beyond existing law - There are numerous laws in virtually all areas of American life (e.g. employment, education, credit eligibility, housing, public accommodations) that already prohibit sex discrimination.
On marriage, Virginians passed our Marriage Amendment with 57% approval, recognizing in our state constitution that marriage is between one man and one woman. However, the will of Virginians was disregarded in 2015 when the U.S. Supreme Court voted 5-4 to redefine marriage, making “same-sex marriage” the de facto law of the land. Revisiting the issue of marriage on the ballot box at this point in time would only serve to ignite passions on both sides that will not promote the common good of all Virginians. It would pit neighbor against neighbor, friend against friend. Despite the Supreme Court’s ruling, to this point, none of the roughly 32 states that ratified male-female marriage amendments has removed the definition from their constitutions. Why should Virginia be the first?
If you also oppose the ERA and the Marriage Repeal, we urge you to immediately email all of the members of the Senate P&E Committee through our Action Page.
After you send that email here are three additional steps you can take:
Attend the P&E Committee on Wednesday. You will have to show up in the morning and be prepared to stay most of the day, so bring a book and a bagged lunch. For more information about coming to Richmond on Wednesday, e-mail Sean Maguire at email@example.com.
Send Your Pastor to Pastors at the Capitol. We already have dozens of pastors coming to Richmond to attend the P&E Committee hearing on Wednesday. If your pastor isn’t already registered, they can register online here.
Send a Letter to the Editor. ERA Activists are filling local newspapers with letters supporting the ERA. You can counter their message by sending a letter explaining why the ERA is actually bad for Virginia. Click here to easily and quickly send your own letter to the editor.
The 2019 General Assembly is going to be like nothing we have seen before. You and I must be ready to do more than we have ever done before in order to preserve life, marriage, religious liberty, parental authority, and Constitutional government.
Thank you for taking more time this year to contact your legislators, go to committee hearings, write letters to the editor, and pray for The Family Foundation and for our Commonwealth.
We're Living in a Different WorldDec. 17, 2018
“We are living in a different world.” Yep, that just about sums it up.
This was a statement made by Delegate Sickles during a panel discussion on gambling at the Virginia Press Association last week. His comment was part of an effort to explain how certain gambling activities that used to be frowned upon by society for decades are now tolerated and even considered as normal entertainment to many.
While Delegate Sickles admitted that he himself does not gamble, and finds no interest in this particular activity, he felt compelled to introduce a bill to legalize sports betting in Virginia for those who do find it entertaining, and all because, apparently, we just live in a different kind of world now.
Let me share some of the other comments offered by the panelists that did seem to lend merit to this idea that “we are living in a different world.”
“If we legalize gambling, researchers can begin to learn more than they do now [about gambling].” (No, this was not Nancy Pelosi.)
“There is always going to be negative impacts associated with gambling,” but we should still pass sports betting.
“We need to legalize sports betting to capture the illegal wagers and keep revenues in Virginia.”
“We have a program that allows problem gamblers to self-impose a ban on themselves, whereby a person who fears he or she is gambling uncontrollably can ask to be “banned” from the gambling floor.”
These bewildering comments offered by the panelists at the VPA conference sounded like something from a parallel universe.
Only in this world can someone say ‘let’s expand gambling to give researchers the opportunity to study it more, and to learn more about its negative impacts.’
Only in this world can someone suggest that we should expand gambling in Virginia despite the fact that casino gambling and sports betting are accompanied by a wide range of social problems like addiction, bankruptcy, crime, and human sex trafficking.
Only in this world does one say that we should legalize sports betting because it will somehow cause people currently finding unregulated and untaxed ways to make sports wagers to begin making legal wagers that are regulated and taxed.
And only in this world can an off-track betting establishment tell us they are concerned about problem gambling (with a straight face) and that they are attempting to correct the issue by offering a program in which the problem gambler asks to be banned from betting floor.
By contrast, The Family Foundation offered several important facts about gambling during that same panel discussion. First, gambling is regressive, in that it extracts money from the people who can least afford it. Second, gambling can have a destructive impact on marriages and families, as problem gambling leads to financial stresses, divorce, and in some cases suicide attempts. Third, casinos and sports betting establishments will drive up bankruptcies, reduce property values, and hurt local economies, because people will spend more money at these places instead of the local shops and restaurants. And fourth, there will be at least a 10 percent increase in crime, from larceny and robbery, to human trafficking. The FBI has been monitoring human trafficking along the I-81 corridor, which is where the proposed Bristol casino would be developed.
Can’t we just say that there are enough negative outcomes associated with gambling to not legalize casinos and sports betting? Shouldn’t Virginia be trying to address all of the social ills associated with gambling rather than attempting to legalize the very thing that will cause them to escalate even further?
Of course not, because we are living in a different world in which we have to pass more government sponsored gambling in order to learn more about its harmful effects. In this world government is presumed to be omniscient, so we are to just trust it to always act in accordance with our best interests.
Yes, we are living in a different world, alright. But you don’t have to only look at comments made by proponents of gambling to prove that point. There is evidence all around us. Consider only a few of the recent headlines:
Is this the kind of world you want to live in? I imagine you don’t, and it doesn’t have to be that way.
Even if bad policies are passed, we still have the opportunity to change the world around us. We can disciple that young woman to choose life for her unborn child rather than getting an abortion. We can invest time into a young person’s life and help them realize that what brings true joy and happiness is God, not changing their bodies or going by different pronouns. And we can help our neighbors struggling with gambling addictions find more rewarding ways to build financial stability and to find entertainment.
It is important to know that the people, not the government, determine the type of world we live in.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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.