21-20, 21-20, 21-20: Pro-Life Bills Finally Pass Virginia Senate Roadblock To Become Law; Behind The Scenes At Last Night's Drama!Apr. 07, 2011
Near the end of an already extraordinarily long annual "Veto Session" last night, at around 10:00, after intense debate and several failed parliamentary maneuvers by opponents, the Virginia General Assembly handed pro-lifers and Governor Bob McDonnell another big victory. After passing the House of Delegates by a comfortable margin, the Virginia Senate — whose committees long have been the burial ground for commonsense bipartisan pro-life legislation, deadlocked 20-20 on the governor's amendments to HB 2434 — to restrict Virginia's health insurance exchanges (when and if ObamaCare takes effect) from publicly funding abortions except in the cases of rape, incest, or life of the mother — allowing Lt. Governor Bill Bolling to break the tie and send the bill back to Governor McDonnell for his signature. We long have stated that if certain measures could get to the floor, they would pass. This victory, another vote last night to restore the abstinence education funding eliminated by former Governor Tim Kaine, as well as the landmark vote the last week of the regular session to regulate abortion centers (all by 21-20 margins with Lt. Governor Bolling casting the tie-breaking vote each time), vindicates us. As represented by their legislators in Richmond, Virginians are decidedly pro-life.
The hard work began as lawmakers returned to the capitol Monday. Family Foundation lobbyists hit the ground running, going door to door to sure up votes and answer questions from legislators. Preceding that were efforts well before the reconvened session to educate lawmakers and their constituents. While the House looked secure, the Senate was always going to be close, with perhaps one or two senators leaning one way or another, but not fully committed.
Meanwhile, opponents in both chambers used several procedural motions to derail the votes. House members yielded their time from member to member in an attempt to control the debate and even moved to break up the governor's amendments into separate votes. While that succeeded, all four passed. The bill then moved down the hall where Senator John Edwards (D-21) challenged the germaneness of the governor’s amendments. When Lt. Governor Bolling ruled them in order, opponents attempted to overturn the decision by a floor vote, but lost 21-19 (see vote).
After intense debate, the Senate voted 20-20, with all 18 Republicans and pro-life Democrats Chuck Colgan (D-29, Manassas) and Phillip Puckett (D-38, Tazewell) voting yes. Interestingly, Senator Roscoe Reynolds (D-20, Martinsville), who voted to sustain Lt. Governor Bolling's ruling, voted no. When the clerk read the result, The LG decisively announced that "The chair votes aye." Thus, the making of a law (see vote).
Despite the late vote, an early morning event may have had the most impact — the first ever meeting of the Virginia Legislative Prayer Caucus (more on the LPC in a future post). More than 500 Virginians, including many delegates and senators of both parties, gathered at the steps of the historic capitol to pray for God to shower His blessings on our Commonwealth. As Governor McDonnell reminded attendees, Matthew 19:26 says, "With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible."
The Family Foundation gives its overwhelming appreciation to Governor McDonnell, Lt. Governor Bolling, all 20 Senators who voted for this pro-life amendment, and to all who contacted their senator to urge their support. If you don't think this has the grassroots excited, see our Facebook page!
Education Freedom = Racism? Some Senate Dems Say Yes, Others Remain SilentFeb. 24, 2010
I’ve been working for The Family Foundation for over a decade and thought I’d seen it all, but this morning’s display by several members of the Senate Finance Committee while debating a school choice bill went far beyond anything I’ve ever seen. Delegate Jimmie Massie (R-78, Henrico) presented HB 599, a bill that would provide a tax credit for donations to private school scholarship programs. After several organizations, including The Family Foundation, the Virginia Catholic Conference, a private schools association and a Richmond Jewish school, spoke in support of the bill, the committee took over. From there, the normal decorum of the Senate vanished into a cloud of pure anger.
The hostility of several Democrat members of the Finance Committee to parents and education freedom went on full display. I cannot with words adequately describe what then took place. But you don’t have to take my word for it — we have the entire shameful sequence on video (see our YouTube channel as well)! Here is the entire committee hearing in its entirety:
Part 1, Delegate Massie's Presentation:
Common sense stuff from Delegate Massie and a host of expert witnesses.
Part 2, Supporting Statements Continue:
An eloquent, passionate, personal and intellectual presentation by Chesapeake resident Alberta Wilson.
Part 3, Finance Staff — No Fiscal Impact And The Outrage Begins:
Senator Howell should know the answer before she calls the witness!
Part 4, More Race Cards, Conclusion and Vote:
Senator Miller: This bill is akin to "selling people" but she'd still vote for it once public schools are fully funded!
In addition to all of this, Senator Henry Marsh (D-16, Richmond) criticized the bill without reading it: He accused the bill of subsidizing parents who send their children to private schools, but the bill plainly states the student must currently be enrolled in public schools to be eligible for the scholarships! I urge you to take the time to watch these short videos. I know you will be as dismayed as I was sitting there watching.
In a nutshell, opponents to the bill implied over and over that efforts to provide education freedom for low and moderate-income families is racially motivated. Without actually making the claim it was clear what they were saying. The harsh tone and rhetoric on display was simply appalling. Perhaps most disappointing is the fact that the children who are suffering most from poor government schools are African-American children in urban areas. It is private schools in those areas that offer true hope for children who otherwise have little chance at success. In fact, one of the most compelling testimonies in favor of the bill came from an African-American woman, Alberta Wilson, a champion of school choice!
Question: Do Senators Colgan, Reynolds and Houck, who also voted to kill the bill, agree with their Democrat colleagues' assessment that school choice is essentially racist?
After watching the videos, ask them yourselves:
Senator Charles Colgan: email@example.com, (804) 698-7529
Senator Roscoe Reynolds: firstname.lastname@example.org, (804) 698-7520
Senator Edd Houck: email@example.com, (804) 698-7517
This morning’s antics are emblematic of the philosophical divide between the political class in Richmond and families. But the anger displayed also is indicative that these legislators are beginning to feel the heat! Just two years ago, school choice bills didn’t even register a procedural motion in Senate Finance. Today, they generate heated responses.
I’ll say it again as I’ve said before — school choice is coming to Virginia! It might not be this year, it might not be next year, but it is coming. Families are demanding it. Watch the video so that you can see exactly whom it is that stands in the way of freedom.
You might not hear much about this in the Mainstream Media, although the Norfolk Virginian-Pilot mentions it toward the end of this article. But that's why we and the New Media are here. And, we'd love to hear from you, too. Let us know what your impressions of the committee hearing are.
UPDATE: The Sordid Tale Of SB 504, Courts Of Justice, Ed And Health And Re-ReferalFeb. 03, 2010
Clerical error or not, Senate pro-abortion advocates had their way with SB 504, Senator Ralph Smith's (R-22, Roanoke) coerced abortion bill in the full Senate Courts of Justice Committee committee this afternoon. Despite a valiant effort by committee member Senator Mark Obenshain (R-26, Harrisonburg) to hear the bill in the full Senate Courts committee, the ultimate result was a 9-6 vote to re-refer SB504 to Senate Education and Health and essentially assure its demise. Also noteworthy, were Senators Tommy Norment (R-3, Williamsburg) and Roscoe Reynolds (D-20, Martinsville) for their vocal support of SB 504. Senator Reynolds stated that SB 504 has heard in sub-committee already and that this motion to re-refer the bill had come too late and was disrespectful of the sub-committee members' time and effort. He said that he was here to debate policy, not to waste time on bill re-referrals and game playing.
Senators Dick Saslaw (D-35, Springfield) and Henry Marsh (D-16, Richmond) led the charge to re-refer the bill relying solely on "the rule" that no one until today has publicly cited stating that all pregnancy related bills must go to Senate Education and Health. This rule (which we now believe to be 18D) is what pro-abortion legislators have hid behind in order to prevent any pro-life victories. This one rule has single-handedly blocked the success of pro-life legislation!
However, SB 504 creates criminal and civil penalties for domestic violence cases in which the woman happens to be pregnant! Somehow the full Courts committee did not see fit to hear arguments on this form of domestic violence despite the fact that it would create new penalties and passed the buck to the Education and Health committee. The Clerk of the Senate, Susan Schaar, even made it to the committee room in time to watch the procedural shell game.
This blog post does not do justice to the events of today. Please visit our YouTube channel to see the video we captured of this illogical and hypocritical debate. I believe you'll find the most astounding part to actually be on the debate that follows SB 504. This debate revolved around SB 556, a bill that would add criminal penalties to crimes against incapacitated adults including those who are mentally or physically ill or disabled.
As Senator Obenshain points out, SB 556 and SB 504 have a great deal in common in that both are adding criminal penalties for specific groups of persons. SB 504 deals with pregnant women and SB 566 deals with incapacitated adults. Senator Obenshain, in keeping with the theme of the debate on coerced abortion, proceeded to make a motion to refer SB 566 to Education and Health citing Senate rule 18D which defines “disabilities” and puts this under the jurisdiction of Education and Health. This threw the committee for a loop and out came some absurd arguments in an attempt to differentiate SB 556 from SB 504. In the end, Senator Obenshain's motion failed and the incapacitated adults bill hypocritically remained in the Courts committee despite the committee's referral minutes earlier of the coerced abortion bill.
The Family Foundation would like to especially thank Senators Mark Obenshain and Roscoe Reynolds for their courageous efforts today to stand on the side of justice and for their passionate support of this pro-family bill. If there is one blessing in this whole escapade it is that, since this bill has never gone to the Senate floor, at least several more senators now have a recorded vote in favor of killing the coerced abortion bill.
Mischief In Senate Courts? We're Just Asking.Feb. 02, 2010
Yesterday, the Senate Courts of Justice Criminal Sub-committee voted to recommend SB 504 to the full Courts committee by a 4-2 margin. The bill criminally penalizes coerced abortions (such as when a boyfriend physically threatens his pregnant girlfriend) and is patroned by Senator Ralph Smith (R-22, Roanoke). It was the first time this bill had cleared a Senate sub-committee before with a positive vote. It's also the first time it's ever been in Courts. In previous years, it was in Education and Health (known as the "Committee of Death") where it dies quickly. So, on to the full Courts Committee where it might have a chance, right? Not so fast, because something funny happened on the way to the full committee. We think. We're not sure. We're just asking, that's all.
The bill was supposed to be heard in the full committee tomorrow. But one of our lobbyists, in preparing for the meeting, noticed on the bill's Web page that it's entire legislative history was wiped out. Not just changed, mind you, but completely whitewashed. Instead of showing it referred to the Courts Committee and then the sub-committee and the recorded sub-committee vote, it lists a referral to Education and Health. Click here to see for yourself.
Furthermore, as you can see from the video below and yesterday's sub-committee docket, it clearly was in the Courts Criminal Sub-committee (click here). In the video, Sub-committee Chairman Senator Roscoe Reynolds (D-20, Martinsville) clearly announces the vote total and its next stop in the legislative process, the full Courts of Justice Committee. That should be reflected in the bill's history on its Web page. But it is not. Why? Instead, no votes are recorded, there's no mention of it even being in the Courts Committee and, as if nothing has happened, it appears as an idle bill waiting to be heard for the first time this session in Education and Health.
The only way the SB 504 could be in Education and Health is if a subsequent motion was made to re-refer. But a lobbyist with an allied organization sat through the entire sub-committee meeting and reports that no such motions were made.
So, why does the bill's Web page show that it is in Ed and Health? The coerced abortion bill is as close as it has ever been to a vote on the Senate floor. We are asking only that it gets a fair committee hearing in the committee it was legislatively assigned to.
Let's go to the tape. Sub-committee Chairman Roscoe Reynolds says it, but there's no mention of it on the legislative services Web site.
How The Historic Senate Vote On Health Care Freedom HappenedFeb. 01, 2010
It's not hyberbole to say this afternoon's Senate vote was historic. The legislation it passed in three identically worded bills – SB 283, SB 311 and SB 417 – guarantees Virginians the right to freely choose their health care options irregardless of federal government mandates. It also asserts a notion long ignored but firmly ingrained in the U.S. Constitution. It also shows, from a political perspective, that there are Democrats who understand the small government movement isn't limited to "swastika-wearing" thugs as U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi would have us believe. The floor debate wasn't as dramatic as I — and those of us who relish political theater — had hoped. Sure, there were some pointed questions, but judging by the temperment of the questions and their lack of heft, it could have been mistaken for a transportation funding bill. That was an immediate clue the Senate majority knew it had lost more than two defectors from its caucus. If it was only two, there would have been deal making, recesses to sweat them out, arm twisting, all of the above or more.
If there was a surprise, it was in how many Dems defected and who two of them were: Senators Ed Houck (D-17, Spotsylvania) and John Miller (D-1, Newport News). There were rumors about the former last week (acceptable, but believe-it-when-you-see-it) and hope about the latter (no way that's gonna happen). The third new vote, also rumored late last week, Senator Roscoe Reynolds (D-20, Martinsville), was a more likely possibility. Although the 23-17 margin was a pleasant shock, I rooted for a showdown 20-20 tie that Lt. Governor Bill Bolling would have broken in the affirmative. That would have been more headline grabbing.
Not that the debate wasn't sharp. The questions from Senate liberals to the bills’ patrons — Senators Fred Quayle (R-13, Suffolk), SB 283; Steve Martin (R-11, Chesterfield) SB 311; and Jill Vogel (R-27, Winchester), SB 417 — came from Senators Donald McEachin (D-9, Henrico), John Edwards (D-21, Roanoke), and Majority Leader Richard Saslaw (D-37, Springfield), as well as the more moderate Senator Chap Peterson (D-34, Fairfax). But their questions repeatedly missed the point, including questions about contracts, insurance requirements to join athletic clubs, and ex-spouses providing insurance in divorce settlements. Senator Quayle nailed it in his opening remarks when he said, "This bill attempts to reinforce the Constitution of the United States. … The Constitution doesn’t grant rights to anyone. It puts limits on what government can do to us."
Nothing more needed to be said. This being the Senate, of course, more was. Including this gem from the not-smarting-enough-from-his-November-trip-to-the-shed Senator Creigh Deeds (D-25, Bath), who complained that with the economy and employment in bad shape, the General Assembly should not be "legislating in theory." A LOL coming from a guy who was shredded primarily because of national issues involving government intervention. Besides, he should know that it's Washington liberals who have ignored the economy and jobs for an entire year in lieu of health care "reform." But it's not theory. The Constitution is the law of the land. Amazing he doesn't understand that, but his comments today make it clear why his campign was a case study in political disasters, prompting comparisons to other campaigns ("Deeds-like").
At the beginning of session, not many people gave this legislation a chance of getting out of a Senate committee, much less passing the Senate floor by a wide margin. But it happened thanks to a large coalition comprised of thousands of activists from across Virginia, many of whom have been here several times to lobby their representatives and attend committee hearings.
But this is the General Assembly, after all, and nothing becomes law until it is signed. So vigilence is needed. We will stay on top of this legislation — and encourage all supporters to do the same — until it passes both chambers and is signed into law.