The Pols Are Out And So Are Their Grades: American Conservative Union Releases Virginia General Assembly ScorecardMay. 16, 2013
The General Assembly wrapped up its 2013 business, officially, April 3, at the conclusion of the "Veto" session. Since then, a flurry of scorecards have been released by several organizations, including the Family Foundation's late last week. Usually released throughout the year to coincide with fundraising galas, elections or other events, many organizations this year dropped their ratings in advance of the Republican Convention this weekend and the June Democrat primary. Today, the American Conservative Union released its third annual Virginia General Assembly Scorecard (click here for complete results). The ACU, founded in 1964 by a coalition of prominent national conservative organizations, is known for its annual Congressional Scorecard, considered the "gold standard" of Congressional ratings. In 2011, it decided to take that success to the state level, with a goal of annual rating all members in each of the 50 state legislatures. That year, it graded five, Virginia being the first of those (this year it will score 20). Consequently, the General Assembly is the first to be scored three times — more firsts for the Old Dominion.
The ACU Scorecard offers three awards: Defender of Liberty Award, for those who score 100 percent; the ACU Conservative Award for those who score above 80 percent, and the not-so-coveted True Liberal of the Commonwealth Award for those who get a zero — and there are a few of those. However, the number of members in both chambers who scored 80 or higher dropped precipitously, with some who have reputations as conservative stalwarts not even even getting to 80 percent.
The reason? Not only were there several immensely important and substantive votes this year on significant policies with massive ramifications, they were voted on multiple times. For instance, the tax increase bill (HB 2313) was voted on three times (scored twice). An ironic twist is that the House budget, which normally rates as a support because of its pretty tight spending parameters and policy language, was opposed by the ACU when it came out of conference committee with the Senate, specifically because the rejection of the Medicaid expansion was stripped out. That also got a second vote because of a gubernatorial amendment. The Obamacare health insurance exchange also made the list and several conservatives got nicked on that, as well.
The ACU Virginia Scorecard is not only the most comprehensive one of its nature in Virginia — complied annually, with more than 20 floor votes on everything from spending, taxes, education reform, securing voting rights, second amendment rights, religious liberty, right to work, life and marriage, and all else that make up the conservative agenda, it's one the most comprehensive state scorecard in the country, as many legislatures, especially part-time ones, rarely let so many significant votes get to the floor. The ACU only scores floor votes and does not score unanimous or immensely lopsided votes, nor partisan votes, with the exception of significant policy shifting bills.
On behalf of the American Conservative Union, I am pleased to announce the winners of our 2013 State Legislative Ratings for members of the Virginia General Assembly. For 40 years ACU has set the gold standard for Congressional ratings, and we are now able to offer that same level of transparent information to the voters of Old Dominion so they can hold their elected officials accountable at the state level as well. In our third year rating the Commonwealth, we applaud conservatives in the Virginia General Assembly who continue to fight against higher taxes, against Obamacare and for the rights of the unborn.
The ACU's philosophy in its scorecard system is to track . . .
a wide range of issues before state legislatures to determine which issues and votes serve as a clear litmus test separating those representatives who defend liberty and liberal members who have turned their backs on our founding principles — constitutionally limited government, individual liberty, free markets, a strong national defense and traditional values. The votes selected for our Virginia Legislative Ratings were chosen to create a clear ideological distinction among those casting them.
The Defenders of Liberty Award winners are:
Delegates Rob Bell, Ben Cline, Scott Garrett, Todd Gilbert (TFF Legislator of the Year Award winner), and Margaret Ransone; and Senators Tom Garrett, Jr., Mark Obenshain and Ralph Smith.
ACU Conservative Award winners are Delegates Richard Anderson, Richard Bell, Kathy Byron, Mark Cole, Barbara Comstock, John Cox, Mark Dudenhefer, Matt Fariss, Peter Farrell, Greg Habeeb, Chris Head, Tim Hugo, Sal Iaquinto, Steve Landes, Jim LeMunyon, Scott Lingamfelter, Bob Marshall, Jimmie Massie, Jackson Miller, Randy Minchew, Israel O’Quinn, Brenda Pogge, David Ramadan, Roxann Robinson, Nick Rush, Beverly Sherwood, Lee Ware, Jr., Michael Webert, Tony Wilt, and Tommy Wright, Jr.; and Senators Richard Black, Steve Newman, Richard Stuart, Bryce Reeves, Steve Martin, Bill Stanley, Jr., and Ryan McDougle.
The highest scoring Democrats were Delegates Johnny Joannou and Joe Joe Johnson at 73 and 64 percent, respectively. The both topped some Republicans, such as Delegate Chris Jones, who scored only 60 percent. Delegate Jones wasn't alone. Speaker Bill Howell only managed to match Delegate Joannou. Senate Republicans saw similar slippages. For example, Senators Jeff McWaters and Frank Ruff, who had scored at least 80 in the first two scorecards, dropped to the low 60s. Majority Leader Tommy Norment and Senator Harry Blevins, who retired recently in mid-term, scored 60 and 57 percent, respectively. Senator John Watkins rated a dismal 48 percent.
Last year, more than 70 Republicans from both chambers scored 80 percent or higher. This year, only 45 did.
The members who earned the True Liberal of Old Dominion Awards are Delegates Delores McQuinn and Roslyn Tyler; and Senators Kenneth Alexander, Janet Howell and Linda Puller.
General Assembly 2013, Day 3: Capitol Square Diary Returns With Quote Of The Day, Moment Of The DayJan. 11, 2013
Today we are very pleased to bring back a unique category to our blog: Capitol Square Diary. From our inception five years ago, we carved out a special online home for the best, inside-the-walls, behind-the-scenes coverage of the General Assembly. With our team of lobbyists and well-established contacts and sources, no one gets access to information — serious and lighthearted — that we do. But, when we relaunched our web site in 2011, we streamlined the number of blog categories (which serve as blog sites within a blog on specific topics). Starting today, though, Capitol Square Diary is back. It will be the place to check out anything and everything that goes on in Virginia government — while the General Assembly is in session and while it is not.
In light of the reestablishment of Capitol Square Diary, we also bring back two frequent features proudly brought to our legions of readers in the Diary: Quote of the Day and Moment of the Day, which usually chronicle the unreported, off-the-cuff, lighter moments of session. (We'll also highlight a Bill of the Day from time to time during session.)
Today's Quote of the Day:
Delegate Sal Iaquinto (R-84, Virginia Beach), chairman of the House Courts of Justice Civil Sub-Committee, to Delegate Terry Kilgore (R-1, Gate City), patron of HB 1654, a bill to require certain circuit court clerks to file appellate courts trial records in an electronic format:
You know the forestry industry, the paper industry and the lumberjacks oppose this bill, don't you?
Today's Moment of the Day:
Just because committee work is in its early phase doesn't mean humor — and awkward moments — aren't already in mid-session form. At the same sub-committee meeting this morning, its first of the year, Delegate Annie B. Crockett-Stark (R-6, Wytheville), walked into House Room D. Delegate Iaquinto interrupted proceedings to call out to her, repeating, "Annie B.!" several times before she looked up, whereupon he informed her she was in the wrong committee room. Her bill was scheduled for the COJ Criminal sub-committee across the hall in House Room C. Looking over the composition of the Civil sub-committee, she said, "That's probably a blessing."
What People Think We Do, What We Think We Do, What We REALLY Do!Mar. 08, 2012
Being a lobbyist is a uniquely fulfilling job. At least at the state level. I won't speak for the big money lobbyists who represent the corporate and special interests in Washington, D.C., nor even the perhaps only-slightly-less-big-money- lobbyists who handle business for certain industries in Richmond. But at least for those of us who lobby on behalf of principles rather than clients, and I dare say even the for-profit lobbyists, there is nothing more exhilarating, challenging or professionally satisfying than working within the representative process to shape public policy.
Sports commentators say the 400 meter race is the most demanding event in sports — it's an all out, one lap sprint, with no pacing. The 800 meter race is double that. The General Assembly's odd-year short session is the 400 meters. The even-year long session is the 800 meters. It can really wear you down. It takes all the physical and mental stamina a lobbyist can muster, and one must summon all the research, writing, small and large group speaking, grassroots, coalition-building, intelligence-gathering, organizational, public relations, and new and old and social media skills within his or her capability. Lobbyists must be resourceful on many levels — if you can't get something done, you better find an asset or ally that can.
But in that exhaustion is an adrenalin kick that makes you want to come back for more no matter how tired or battered you get when your bills get shredded in committee, no matter how much work and negative (or positive) response you receive in meetings with delegates and senators. As someone said, session is the one thing you dread while you're doing it and can't wait to start again when it ends. But it is still exhilarating to get up each morning after getting home at 10:00 the night before and back up on four hours sleep to prepare for a 7:30 a.m. sub-committee meeting. Knowing you have the opportunity to affect life for the better can drive you pretty hard and doing that by working with amazingly accomplished people is a perk not many jobs offer. The occasional reception, meeting astronauts on aerospace day and getting free Brunswick Stew on Brunswick Stew day are fun pick-me-ups everyone who works during session can relate to. The camaraderie and relationship-building with members and other lobbyists, no matter what side of the aisle or particular perspective, leaves one a bit melancholy as session dwindles to an end and your bills have all been resolved. There is a coming down period one must reconcile with.
Even with the sometimes somber session now running its course, without the drama of a last day do-or-die vote as we normally have, even with the rumors that there will be no Sine Die party this year, we always try to provide the public with a taste of what it is like to lobby at the General Assembly, in the trenches, on a day-to-day basis. There is a fair share of humor (albeit some of it of the gallows variety), but it's necessary to keep our sanity. Perhaps the best illustration of what we do — and the funniest explanation of lobbying I've ever seen — is the six-panel image below that illuminates the perceptions various people have of what a lobbyist actually does . . . until it brings down the lofty visions to self-deprecating reality. The best humor is grounded in at least a semblance of truth. This certainly does have its fair share of that! It's hilarious and was brought to my attention via a Facebook tag by Katherine Schoonover, legislative aide to Delegate Sal Iaquinto (R-84, Virginia Beach) and founder of the Aisle News.
It's hard work and not at all wining and dining. But getting compensated for advocating for a philosophy you live and breath hardly seems like work. The mission is its own reward and that's why lobbying is immensely fun — even after hours of committee hearings.
Quote Of The Day: Ward Armstrong, TFF's Legislator Of The Month?Feb. 15, 2010
There have been some odd partnerships in the history of the General Assembly. We've partnered with some organizations, such as the NAACP and Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy on payday lending, for example. But one creating the double-takes, stares and, in some cases, guffaws, is our partnership with Delegate Ward Armstrong (D-10, Martinsville) — the House Minority Leader — on HB 652, a bill that would provide a greater degree of jurisprudence to land owners who seek just compensation in eminent domain hearings. More about the bill later, but as an example of the reaction we've received in committee after committee was best exemplified Friday afternoon in the House Appropriations Sub-committee on Transportation when Delegate Scott Lingamfelter (R-31, Prince William) who feigned a heart attack to a room full of laughs after I followed Delegate Armstrong's presentation to offer support for the bill.
So, today, on the bill's second reading on the House floor, Delegate Armstrong, who has been milking our partnership for all that it's worth, offered this in support of his bill:
We've enjoyed the partnership, ourselves, Delegate Armstrong. But, it does prove a point. When there's good legislation involving our principles, we don't care who the patron is. We support it. We also oppose bad legislation, no matter the patron. By the way, just for the record, HB 652 also has four Republican co-patrons: Delegates Glenn Oder (R-94, Newport News), Sal Iaquinto (R-84, Virginia Beach), Ed Scott (R-30, Culpeper) and Matt Lohr (R-26, Harrisonburg). That's a good heap of bipartisanship for anyone. Now, on to the Senate, where we hope for the same.