Urge Override Of Governor McAuliffe’s Vetoes!Apr. 09, 2014
Recently, Governor Terry McAuliffe vetoed two bills that would protect religious liberty: SB 236, a bill that would protect the free speech rights of public school students; and SB 555, a bill that would have prohibited government censorship of military chaplain sermons. Both passed with large bipartisan majorities, including a unanimous vote in the Senate for SB 555! The General Assembly will hold its annual "veto session," where it reviews vetoes and amendments to bills, on Wednesday, April 23:
Please urge your senators and delegates to vote to override the governor's vetoes of SB 236 and SB 555 (click the links to find their contact information). If you don't know who your legislators are, click here.
SB 236, patroned by Senator Bill Carrico (R-40, Galax), would create "limited public forums" at certain public school events. Limited public forums restrict the schools from censoring speech simply because it is from a faith perspective. The schools can still "limit" the speech to the matter at hand; for example, a graduation speech still has to be about graduating, but it can contain statements about the importance of faith. The bill also protects students' rights to organize prayer groups, have events such as "see you at the pole" gatherings and wear clothing with religious expressions.
Students in our public schools shouldn't be treated as a second-class citizen simply because their viewpoint is motivated by their faith, regardless of what faith perspective they have. It is tragic that in Virginia, the birthplace of religious freedom, Governor McAuliffe has chosen to listen to the ACLU and has trampled on the right of Virginia's students to simply express their beliefs.
SB 555, patroned by Senator Dick Black (R-13, Leesburg), prohibited state government from censoring sermons given by chaplains in the Virginia National Guard and Virginia Defense Force. This reasonable, common sense measure passed the Senate in January 37-0! The governor's explanation for vetoing the bill is a remarkable misunderstanding of the actual definition of a chaplain.
Overriding a governor's veto requires two-thirds support from both chambers, meaning that 27 members of the Senate and 67 members of the House of Delegates have to vote for an override.
At what point do we finally say, enough is enough? Our God-given, inalienable right to exercise our faith, live according to our conscience, and speak truth to culture is in serious jeopardy if we allow people like Terry McAuliffe to dictate what we can and cannot do in the public square.
Your legislators, regardless of party, need to hear from you. They need to know that you are not going to stand for this type of discrimination any longer! Please act today:
Contact your senators and delegates today and ask them to override Governor McAuliffe's vetoes of SB 236 and SB 555 at the upcoming April 23 Veto Session.
McAuliffe Dealt Setback: Senate Upholds Conscience Protection!Mar. 06, 2014
Earlier today, the Democrat-controlled Senate defeated Governor Terry McAuliffe's amendment to SB 330, an amendment that would have seriously weakened conscience protections included in a bill providing for the licensing of genetic counselors. The vote was 23-17 with Democrat Senators Chuck Colgan, Phil Puckett and Chap Petersen joining all 20 Republicans in protecting the right of conscience. The Family Foundation would like to thank Senators Steve Martin (R-11, Chesterfield), Dick Black (R-13, Leesburg), and Tommy Norment (R-3, Williamsburg) who stood and spoke in opposition to the anti-conscience amendment. Special thanks goes to Senator Tom Garrett (R-22, Louisa) who articulated the legal liabilities of the amendment and to Senator Bill Stanley (R-20, Franklin) who questioned the patron of the bill, Senator Janet Howell (D-32, Reston), regarding the genesis of the amendment. Senator Stanley asked Senator Howell if she was comfortable with the initial language of her bill which passed the Senate 38-0. The considerably far-left senator responded that she was "perfectly comfortable" with the conscience clause language the way it was prior to the governor's amendment.
Continuing to prove how out of touch he is with mainstream Virginia, Governor McAuliffe showed today that he is also out of touch with even the most "progressive" leaders of his own party. He bowed to pressure from the ACLU and Planned Parenthood and was reminded by the 23-17 vote that his radical agenda will not be approved even in the Senate simply because he has a "D" behind his name.
The passage of SB 330 without the governor's anti-conscience amendments is a great benchmark for conscience rights in Virginia. If genetic counselors can be protected from being forced to violate their conscience, it follows that all other professions should receive equal protection. Today's vote proves that the freedom of conscience is not a right-wing issue or even a Christian issue — it is about freedom of conscience for all.
We are also very appreciative of our colleagues at the Virginia Catholic Conference, which again worked so hard with us over the past several days on this amendment, as well as the representatives of the genetic counselors who were willing to work with us to protect the conscience rights of their clients. Thanks, also, to all of you who contacted your senators to vote no on this significant legislative action. It does make a difference and your voices are heard.
Governor McAuliffe will have to chew on this legislative defeat.
Floor Vote Tomorrow On Bill To Ensure Chaplain Free Speech!Feb. 24, 2014
A bill protecting the free speech rights of Virginia National Guard and Virginia Defense Force chaplains (SB 555) that to this point has been completely non-controversial — in in the Virginia Senate! — suddenly became so Friday when Democrats began to raise a ruckus in the House Militia, Police and Public Safety Committee. The committee still voted to report the bill to the floor of the House of Delegates, but on a mainly party line vote, with only one Democrat joining all committee Republicans in favor. Patroned by Senator Dick Black (R-13, Leesburg), SB 555 unanimously passed the Senate and a House sub-committee. But Friday, several members of the sub-committee who previously voted in favor of the bill urged its defeat and voted against it in full committee. The bill simply ensures that the religious content of sermons made by chaplains of the Virginia National Guard or of the Virginia Defense Force can't be censored or restricted by any state government official or agency.
Even Democrats in the Senate unanimously voted in favor of the provision because it essentially repeats federal policy. But there are members of the House of Delegates that are so hostile to religious liberty that even ensuring that chaplains can simply do their job is not worthy of protection. The bill will be debated on the House floor today and voted on tomorrow.
Vital Vote Tomorrow To Prevent VDOT Abuse Of Virginia’s Property Rights Amendment!Feb. 16, 2014
Your urgent action is needed! Yet another amendment to our state constitution is under threat!
In 2012, after eight long years of inaction, the General Assembly passed, and 75 percent of Virginians ratified, an amendment to the Virginia Constitution to prevent eminent domain abuse. Now, VDOT has found a way around the fundamental right of property ownership enshrined in constitutional law!
A key House sub-committee tomorrow afternoon will consider SB 194, a bill to prevent VDOT from practicing in certain cases a process called inverse condemnation, which it has found to be a back door way to take property without just compensation to the owners. Doing so amounts to a backdoor subsidization for VDOT from already stressed Virginians whose taxes were raised last year to pay for new roads.
The bill is patroned by Senator Dick Black (R-13, Leesburg). For more information on how VDOT practices this shameful tactic to cheat people out of their land, see a blog post I wrote here. To understand the long train of abuses by VDOT on Virginia taxpayers and property owners, and to see a video of a VDOT official lobbying the General Assembly against your rights while being paid by your tax dollars, please click here.
As Big Vote On Property Rights Looms, VDOT Continues To Subvert Property Rights AmendmentFeb. 16, 2014
On Monday afternoon, the House Courts of Justice Civil Law Sub-Committee will consider SB 194, patroned by Senator Dick Black (R-13, Leesburg), a bill to put at least a partial stop on the practice of inverse condemnation, a back door method of eminent domain without just compensation prohibited by the Property Rights Amendment to the Virginia Constitution ratified by 75 percent of Virginians in 2012. (Click here for a previous posts explaining this devious process.) But it doesn't stop there. VDOT has practiced a long line of abuses to prevent the people of Virginia from enjoying what our constitution calls a "fundamental right," which is the most basic of God given rights. Property ownership is cherished as a fundamental right along with all those enumerated in the Bill of Rights, for without property, one has no protection from the government to practice free speech or worship, or even to own a home or make a living to support one's family.
For example, this op-ed by Roger Chesley in the Norfolk Virginian-Pilot, appropriately titled, "VDOT takes the low road on bait and switch tactics on land grabs," plainly explains the horrors of VDOT on the Ramsey family in Virginia Beach and why actions such as this sour voters on all government. VDOT bought the Ramsey’s property in an eminent domain case but now, because VDOT’s own actions have devalued the property, it is suing the Ramsey’s for a refund!
VDOT’s tactics in the Ramsey case are one of several it is using to sully government and hammer families into submission. VDOT fought for eight years against eminent domain reform after the deplorable Kelo decision. Now, despite the massive mandate of the Property Rights Amendment less than two years ago, VDOT continues to subvert it and torment hard working Virginia families by taking their property and not paying just compensation. Here's a list of VDOT's other actions, and below, see a video of a VDOT official lobbying against your rights while being paid by your hard earned tax dollars.
* VDOT is using the practice of inverse condemnation to devalue property, not act on it for lengthy periods during which period nothing can be done to the land, effectively taking it off the market, so that it can then buy the land for a fraction of its original worth. This not only rips off the families who often have owned the land for decades, but also is a backdoor subsidization of the project, hitting the family twice — once for its annual taxes to the Commonwealth and taking its property on the cheap.
* VDOT has attached Fiscal Impact Statements to eminent domain bills for years, a clear conflict of interest! This has unfairly condemned bills to failure. Furthermore, each FIS is nothing more than speculation. More than that, the cost of land acquisitions is the cost of doing business, just as are costs radio advertising or gas. Does VDOT file an FIS on its fuel vendors?
* By its own admission, through its Fiscal Impact Statements, VDOT admits it has ripped off the Virginia taxpayers for years by refusing to pay fair value. If there is a fiscal impact on purchasing property, the General Assembly could not have passed the eminent domain reform law in 2007, much less the Property Rights Amendment to the Constitution. VDOT’s actions equate to an attitude that property owners only rent their property until VDOT needs it.
* VDOT has a budget of land acquisitions. If it needs more money, it needs to seek it – not take people’s property cheaply.
* VDOT employees lobby the General Assembly at taxpayer expense to hold down just compensation for families’ lands — a double blow against the citizens of Virginia who effectively are compelled to pay government employees to lobby against their fundamental rights!
VDOT is a menace to Virginians in every region of the Commonwealth, urban or suburban, of all socio-economic means. It is up to the General Assembly to reign in VDOT! Click here to ask members of the House Courts of Justice Civil Law Sub-committee to vote for SB 194 tomorrow!
Forward the video to about the 25:30 mark to hear a VDOT official lobby this Senate committee against SB 194, trying to deny your rights while being paid by the hard earned tax dollars you send to Richmond!
Major Property Rights Vote In Senate Courts Committee Tomorrow!Feb. 04, 2014
Last week I wrote about the need to support SB 194, a bill to protect property owners from inverse condemnation, a technique that subverts the Property Rights Amendment to the Virginia Constitution voters ratified in 2012 with 75 percent of the vote. On Monday, the Senate Courts of Justice Committee considered the bill and asked for a clarifying amendment from its patron, Senator Dick Black (R-13, Leesburg). Tomorrow, the committee will vote on the final version. While the “body language” of committee members of both parties seemed favorable, nothing is guaranteed when the bill actually comes up for a vote. The opposition, which includes environmentalists, big money special interests such as utilities and railroads, local government and VDOT – the same unholy coalition that fought the Property Rights Amendment for eight years – is fighting this bill just as hard.
Why? Because this bill will shut down their backdoor subversion of the Property Rights Amendment, “inverse condemnation,” which skirts the prohibition on eminent domain. It is especially galling that local governments and
Here’s what government agencies now do: when it needs land, it publicly announces its intention to take land for “development rights” or for “conservation easements.” However, the agencies don’t make an offer for the land. Meanwhile, the property instantly loses massive value. It’s called “condemnation blight.”
The property owner can’t sell it to anyone, because the land can’t be developed. The government agency can take its time – often years – until the property is so cheap, its compensation to the owners for the taking is a fraction of what it once was worth. This is a backdoor method of making taxpayers subsidize government!
SB 194 will protect property values by allowing the owner to get compensation for what the land was worth at the beginning of the condemnation process and to receive just legal expenses in these indirect takings, just as owners do who have their land taken by conventional eminent domain. Often, property owners are intimidated from going to court for fear of expensive court costs.
Despite 75 Percent Approval Of 2012 Property Rights Amendment, Government Still Engaged In Eminent Domain AbuseJan. 26, 2014
On Wednesday afternoon, the Senate Courts of Justice Committee will consider SB 194, a bill to protect property owners from inverse condemnation, a technique that subverts the Property Rights Amendment Virginians passed with 75 percent of the vote in 2012, after government bureaucrats prevented it from reaching the ballot for years. It is a shame that after such a massive victory for families and for liberty from big government, we still must fight eminent domain abuse. Here’s what VDOT and other government agencies now do: When it needs land, it publicly announces its intention to take land for "development rights" or for "conservation easements." However, the agencies don’t make an offer for the land. Meanwhile, the property, often in the same family for decades, or invested in for retirement or for family needs, such as paying for children’s college education, instantly loses massive value.
The property owner can’t sell it to anyone, because nothing can be done to the land. The government agency can take its time — often years — until the property is so cheap, it’s compensation to the owners for the taking is a fraction of what it once was worth. This is a backdoor method of making taxpayers subsidize government!
The perfect example of this is the Tri-County Parkway in Prince William and Loudon Counties. There, the Virginia Department of Transportation and the federal government teamed up to "grant" conservation easements to land in a historic district so as to build a road near a historic battlefield. Yet, it asked no property owners if they wanted the easements and, in fact, every property owner wrote asking for their land to be removed from the easements. But, the government is sticking to its position.
Please contact members of the Senate Courts of Justice Committee, especially if your senator is a member. Ask them to support Senator Dick Black's SB 194 this Wednesday. The bill will protect property values by allowing the owner to get compensated for what the land was worth at the beginning of the process.
The bill also dovetails with the Property Rights Amendment’s language that allows property owners to receive just legal expenses in these indirect takings, just as owners do who have their land taken by conventional eminent domain. Currently, property owners, especially older ones, are intimidated from going to court for fear of expensive court costs.
ACTION: Please contact members if the Senate Courts of Justice Committee and urge them or her to vote yes Wednesday on SB 194, to prevent this shameless method of government taking families’ lands on the cheap and circumventing the Property Rights Amendment!
Student Freedom Of Speech Bill Passes Senate!Jan. 23, 2014
Tuesday afternoon, the Virginia Senate passed SB 236, legislation that will clarify the free speech and religious liberty protections of public school students. The bill, a high priority for The Family Foundation, passed by a vote of 20-18, largely along party lines. Senator Bill Carrico (R-40, Galax), a longtime defender of religious liberty, is the bill's patron. Based on existing law in two states that has not been challenged in the courts, Carrico's bill would create what the law calls "limited public forums" at certain public school events, which restrict schools from censoring subject matter simply because it is from a faith perspective. The schools can still "limit" the speech to the matter at hand. For example, a graduation speech still has to be about graduating, but it can contain statements about the importance of faith. The bill also protects students' rights to organize prayer groups, have events such as "see you at the pole" gatherings, wear clothing which express religious sentiments and the like.
Several senators expressed support for the bill, including Senator Tom Garrett (R-22, Louisa). Senator Garrett's passionate defense of freedom of expression and religious liberty as a whole was topped only by his answers to questions posed by an opponent to the bill, Senator Donald McEachin (D-9, Richmond). Senator McEachin, attempting to stump the bill's proponents, asked numerous questions about the supposed need to define various phrases used in the bill. However, he severely underestimated Senator Garrett's knowledge of religious liberty case law. Senator Garrett eagerly and deftly answered McEachin's questions and furthermore challenged him to apply this bill not just to Christian religious speech, but rather to all religious speech. Garrett also argued that students should be allowed to articulate and hear philosophies and beliefs that are unpopular or minority views for the good of their education.
Also defending the bill were Senators Dick Black (R-13, Loudoun) and Richard Stuart (R-4, Fredericksburg). Senator Stuart pointed out that while legislators on both sides of the isle complain about the SOLs and the "teaching to the test without teaching critical thinking," this bill would provide the opportunity for viewpoints that not everyone agrees with to be expressed, which motivates critical thinking.
The opposition misrepresented the legislation by claiming that it would "coerce" students to hear a viewpoint that may be "offensive." Senator Adam Ebbin (D-30, Alexandria) warned of "coercive prayer" to students who are compelled to attend a function. In fact, the bill doesn't offer special protection to religious speech, but simply the same protection that is offered any other type of speech at a school function. It evens the playing field for students who have a religious viewpoint, protecting them from unwarranted discrimination, and only requires school boards to adopt policies that protect that speech.
We appreciate that 19 of 20 Republicans voted to support religious liberty with their votes for the bill, as well as Democrat Senator Phil Puckett (D-38, Tazwell). The only Republican to vote against the measure was Senator John Watkins (R-10, Chesterfield).
Quote Of The Day 1-16-14Jan. 17, 2014
Our Quotes Of The Day don't always come from the House or Senate floor, or from committee meetings. These days, they come from tweets. Continuing in our bipartisan manner, we found this last night from Delegate Scott Surovell (D-44, Fairfax):
Notice TFF's and your my own logos on, ahem, the right.
First it was the rush of NOVA Rs (Senator Dick Black and Delegate Barbara Comstock) to enter the race to win the 10th House District seat opening up due to U.S. Representative Frank Wolf's retirement. Then, yesterday, Jim Moran announced he was retiring from his 8th District seat, prompting reports that several NOVA Ds will jump into the fray. Ah, yes. The General Assembly as the farm system for Congress.