General Assembly Recap: Success On The Fly And In The PlanMar. 02, 2009
It's hard to believe the 2009 General Assembly is over. It seems like it was just yesterday that we red flagged HB 1671 and SB 1094 (the "blight bills") and "created controversy," (according to the big-government types who said we shouldn't be involved). But we got the two bills amended to where they won't affect property rights. It was an improv act, to be sure, but that type of nimbleness is needed during session because rarely does anything go to plan. We had many other important victories in both chambers and some good legislation is on its way to the governor's desk — unlike the above, legislation we either initiated or supported from before session. Only 46 days ago these victories were mere drafts of bills on the desks of lawmakers. Through the Family Foundation's advocacy, and legislator contact from concerned citizens, many pro-family bills passed both chambers — some even with unanimous or nearly unanimous votes. But even that doesn't make it easy (see why here).
We have five core principles upon which we advocate in the legislature: Life, Marriage, Religious Liberty, Constitutional Government and Parental Authority. To put our 2009 victories in perspective, we received major victories on four priority bills reflective in five of those principles:
- Life: A bill that creates a Choose Life license plate (see here), the purchase of which would provide a percentage of the revenue to pregnancy resource centers throughout Virginia, awaits Governor Tim Kaine's signature (contact here).
- Marriage: A positive reference about the benefits and responsibilities of marriage (see here) will now be included in the public school's Family Life Education guidelines. This is a modest, but important, step in educating the next generation about the value and benefits of marriage. This guideline improvement was a recommendation of The Family Foundation Marriage Commission.
- Constitutional Government: Companion bills, increasing spending transparency, passed unanimously in both chambers (see here), and will allow citizens to better see where their tax dollars are spent.
- Parental Authority: A bill passed requiring schools to provide parents a summary of what is being taught in public school Family Life Education (see here). It also gives parents the opportunity to review the curriculum so they have the information necessary to either allow their children to stay in the class or opt out their child.
While we are pleased with the successes we had this year we understand that there are still many obstacles to make Virginia more family friendly, including an upcoming veto session in which we may see a veto threat against the Choose Life license plates. So, while the 2009 General Assembly is for the most part over, and we prepare for veto session, we are already working on our plans for 2010.
We thank each of you who took the time to contact your legislators during this past session. Our e-mail alert system generated nearly 25,000 e-mails to legislators this year! Your action does make a difference and, we at The Family Foundation, always are encouraged by your response. Additionally, we enjoyed bringing the General Assembly to you via video on this blog and our YouTube page. We had more unique visitors in the 28 days of February than in the 31 of January!
We also offer our humblest thanks for allowing us to represent you in the General Assembly. We take the responsibility very seriously and look forward, with your help, to continued success.
Conservative Caucus News Conference To Start in 20 Minutes/Follow It On TwitterJan. 21, 2009
The Conservative Caucus news conference to unveil its 2009 General Assembly legislative agenda will begin at 11:00, in about 20 minutes. We'll be there twittering any important details and will have a blog report later in the day.
Virginia News Stand: January 13, 2009Jan. 13, 2009
There's been a lot going on here recently, so please excuse the lack of original content and News Stands: Between the holidays, sickness and many exciting developments behind the scenes which we have shared or will share with you shortly (but mainly due to sickness), we've gotten a bit behind the 8-ball. All that behind us, we are excited and charged up to bring you the best commentary on issues far and wide, new features, and especially the best coverage of the upcoming G.A. session. So, here goes the first News Stand of the 2009 General Assembly season. News:
State senators will try bipartisan efforts (Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star)
Freshman state senators form caucus to reduce partisanship (Winchester Star)
Va. lawmakers race to raise funds before session (Richmond Times-Dispatch)
Kaine: stimulus to aid Va. (Richmond Times-Dispatch)
Family Foundation's 2009 Legislative Agenda: Teaching Benefits Of MarriageJan. 05, 2009
One would assume that “Family Life Education” would include instruction about the basic make up of the “family.” Guess again.
After researching the commonwealth’s Standards of Learning requirements for family life education, the only reference to marriage found is not very encouraging at all:
"The student will provide examples of difficult family situations: abusive behavior, financial problems, separation or divorce, illness, injury or death, loss of job, family has to move, birth of a baby, remarriage, etc."
Gee, that’ll make kids want to grow up and get married, won’t it?
Earlier this year, The Family Foundation’s marriage commission met to discuss legislative proposals that will encourage and strengthen traditional marriage in Virginia. One idea was to make sure that the benefits of marriage are being taught to the next generation in Family Life Education. Most people are simply not aware that marriage is beneficial to everyone involved, as well as the community. But the science doesn't lie.
According to Brad Wilcox, professor of sociology at the University of Virginia and a member of The Family Foundation's marriage commission, "In general, the research shows that children who grow up in an intact, married family, are about 50 percent less likely to experience serious psychological, academic, or social problems as children or young adults, compared to children who grow up in single or step-families." Social science also shows that both men and women benefit from marriage as well.
Unfortunately, our culture and media portray marriage as archaic and even dangerous. Virginia is one of a growing number of states where the marriage rate, the number of people choosing to get married, is declining. It also is one of the few states where the divorce rate continues to climb.
One way to reverse these trends is to begin showing our kids the positive benefits of marriage. Delegate Brenda Pogge (R-96, Yorktown), who, along with her husband Roger, ran our marriage amendment campaign in 2006, and state Senator Ralph Smith (R-22, Roanoke) have agreed to carry this priority legislation on behalf of The Family Foundation. The bill simply adds a line to the commonwealth’s Family Life Education requiring that the benefits of marriage be taught to our kids.
Teaching the next generation that marriage is a positive instead of something to be dreaded is just one step toward restoring marriage in general. Of course, the General Assembly should pass this bill without any decent because it is based on science, something that many members are always advocating.
Lobby Day Just Two Weeks Away!Jan. 06, 2009
The new year has begun and, for most everyone, that means resolutions lived up to and those already abandoned. Sometimes it is useful to include on your resolution list a few items that are one-time events for the year and not prolonged marathon projects like losing weight or quitting some annoying habit. This way, you actually succeed at some and feel that it was worth the time to make the list in the first place.
With that in mind, here's a great one-time event you will feel proud to include among your 2009 accomplishments; one that will make a dramatic impact in our ongoing campaign to see Virginia promote and maintain traditional values: Family Foundation Day at the Capitol, on January 19 . . . just two weeks away!
We are excited that Lieutenant Governor Bill Bolling will address attendees on family issues that will become before the 2009 General Assembly. Lt. Governor Bolling has been a staunch advocate for marriage and human life, first as a 100-percent Senator on the TFF Action Score Card and now in his current office. Lt. Governor Bolling presides over the Virginia Senate and last year cast the deciding vote to defund Planned Parentood in the state budget.
Senator Ken Cuccinelli (R-Fairfax) also will join us. Senator Cuccinelli introduced the budget amendment defunding Planned Parenthood and was The Family Foundation’s 2008 Legislator of the Year.
Also, since Governor Kaine has supported a ban on state trooper chaplains from being able to pray in Jesus name, religious liberty will be a big issue this year. This is why we are pleased to announce that Jordan Lorence, Senior Counsel at the Alliance Defense Fund, will be our keynote speaker (see a previously posted video of him here). A dynamic speaker, he will address the issue of religious liberty, what our rights are and how we can make a difference. (See below to watch him speak to pastors at the Watchmen on the Wall conference we co-hosted with Family Research Council this past fall.)
You won’t want to miss these inspirational and informational opportunities, as well as the chance to meet with your senator and delegate to remind them to put principle before politics in this important election year. Making your presence known and voice heard makes a difference in ensuring Virginia continues uphold traditional values and remains a great place to raise a family. Not only that, you will have lived up to one of your New Years resolutions as well.
Family Foundation Day at the Capitol is January 19, 9:00 a.m. until the Afternoon, free of charge, Richmond Marriott, 500 East Broad Street
To register now, and for more information, contact John Smith, Grassroots Coordinator, at 804-343-0010 or John@familyfoundation.org. Register no later than January 13!
Family Foundation's 2009 Legislative Agenda: Protecting Chaplains' Religious Liberty RightsJan. 06, 2009
This past fall, as Virginians worried about the failing economy and state government announced massive revenue “shortfalls,” the Kaine administration tried to quietly introduce a new regulation that forbid state police chaplains from praying in the name of Jesus. Apparently the superintendent of the state police did this proactively, without any complaints from anyone “offended” that a chaplain had actually prayed to God.
Six of 17 chaplains resigned their positions as chaplains over this order. We were honored to have two of those chaplains at our Richmond Gala in November.
The superintendent and governor’s office alleged that the policy change is based on a recent 4th Circuit Court decision involving prayer at government meetings, specifically a case where a pastor in the Fredericksburg area was ordered to stop praying “in Jesus name” at city council meetings. The court concluded that allowing someone to publicly pray according to his beliefs at a government meeting was an "establishment of religion" because the prayer was "government speech."
Other circuit court rulings, however, are in direct conflict with the 4th Circuit, and many legal experts conclude that the state police decision is a misapplication of a flawed 4th Circuit Court ruling. In other words, this new policy never should have happened.
To remedy the Kaine administration’s decision, The Family Foundation will support legislation this year introduced by Senator Steve Martin (R-11, Chesterfield) and Delegate Bill Carrico (R-5, Independence). Working with Alliance Defense Fund and its expert attorneys we believe that there is a legislative answer.
Next week, the 2009 General Assembly will begin. The Family Foundation is poised to bring our pro-God, pro-life, pro-family agenda to the center of the debate. We hope that you will be ready to take action when bills like this one protecting the religious liberty rights of chaplains are debated.
More On G.A. Transparency: What Senate Ed & Health Doesn't Want You To KnowDec. 29, 2008
With all the talk about more transparency in the 2009 session of the General Assembly, such as House sub-committee votes going on record for the first time starting this session (see Richmond Times-Dispatch, here), and the brewing battle over putting the budget online in an easy, Google-search format, I stumbled upon an interesting element of non-transparency. Legislative Services a couple weeks back offered a refresher course in its Lobbyist-In-A-Box Web page to G.A. lobbyists, many of whom, by the way (at my session), were agency employees, something else disturbing on an altogether different level (try government bureaucrats lobbying your legislators, with your tax dollars, to regulate and tax you more, for example). But one disturbing trend at a time.
Lobbyist-In-A-Box is a great tool for the professional lobbyist as well as the grassroots activist, and anyone in the public can access it and use it to follow the progress of bills, who voted for what, amendments to bills, etc. The only difference between lobbyists and the general public is that with our registration, we can track unlimited bills at once; the public is limited to tracking five at once (although anyone can track as many bills at anytime individually outside of the automatically tracked five).
Coincidentally, a few days before the LIAB refresher course, a delegate asked us to come up with the amended form of HB 894, a bill last session patroned by Delegate Matt Lohr (R-26, Harrisonburg) that would have licensed abortion facilities. Although it easily passed the House with bipartisan support, it met the predictable outcome in the Senate Committee on Education and Health (aka, the Committee of Death). The amended form of the bill was offered to the committee by Delegate Lohr in an attempt to win passage by reducing the number of regulations his original bill required of abortion facilities to get a licence.
The substitute would have required less regulation than in last year's well-publicized "puppy mill bill" which passed and was signed into law. It would have required only annual cleanliness inspections and life saving equipment. This stripped-down version of the bill was voted down 10-5 on a procedural motion on a party line vote. Sad, but not surprising the Committee of Death would give preferential treatment to dogs over women.
Now, here is where the lack of legislative transparency and the life issue intersect: When our LIAB instructor gave us a "tour" of where to find and how to track amendments and legislative history, she assured us every change to every bill is on the Web site. However, days before, when I looked for the substitute for the delegate, it was not on the site. Interest peaked, I asked the instructor if she was sure all amendments were posted. She said yes.
I asked her to look up, for the class' edification, HB 894. I told her that Delegate Lohr had introduced a substitute but it was not posted. She tooled around the Web site and could not find it either, although another substitute, defeated on the House floor, was posted.
Hmmmmmmmmmmm. It gets curiouser and curiouser.
You see, the liberal dominated Committee of Death didn't want to look like it was voting down an elementary bill, which would give women more protection than puppies in a breeding facility. It would rather only post the original bill so it can boast to its radical abortionist/Planned Parenthood constituency that it shot down another radical right wing, anti-woman bill; not a simple, commonsense, I-can't-believe-that's-not-already-law bill, where they would appear to the general public as the incredibly out-of-touch, extreme, abortion-for-any-reason-at-any-stage pols they are.
The upshot to all this? Even as the instructor said, Ed and Health can do pretty much what it wants to do, protocol or not. That's why budget transparency and accountability, which go hand-in-hand, is crucial to the big picture. We need to know where and how much of our hard-earned tax money goes to organizations such as Planned Parenthood. It would be nice to shine the light on those in the Senate who are protecting that organization's state-sponsored ATM, even if the Committee of Death won't post all the information that's fit to post.
By the way, something anyone can find with a little research that not even Ed & Health can conceal: Eight senators on the Committee of Death last session voted for the puppy mill bill in other committees, enough to send HB 894 to the Senate floor.
Let's play "Find The HB 894 E&H Substitute:"