“Snowpocalypse” is melting away down here in Richmond. We didn’t get anywhere near as much snow as the northern part of the Commonwealth, but late Thursday afternoon, around 4:00, a camera-like flash lit up my office. Snow was still falling, and I glanced around to see who was taking pictures. A few seconds later, a long rumbling crash echoed outside; we were getting lightning in a snowstorm.
Inside, over the last weeks, our Legislature is maneuvering for what may be an epic battle over issues that are key to Virginia’s future. While many of us are working to promote job growth, strengthen our economy, and help businesses in Virginia prosper, substance from the Senate side continues to be missing.
Candidate Terry McAuliffe ran on the slogan of “Putting Jobs First,” yet more than halfway through our first session our executive has endorsed a scant few legislative measures, and virtually none that would create jobs. Instead, McAuliffe (and his fellow Democrats in the Senate) are gearing up to fight to bring social changes to Virginia which either don’t help or will actively hurt our economy.
• Repeal Informed Consent Ultrasound- FAILED
The Senate poured time and energy into restructuring the Health and Education Committee. Unfortunately, this won’t promote anyone’s health or education, but instead allowed the Committee to give the go-ahead to a bill to repeal Virginia’s law allowing pregnant mothers the opportunity to see their unborn child before deciding whether or not to abort the life. Senate Democrats even forced one of their own members to vote against his conscience. While the bill will most certainly die in the House, it’s a shame the Senate is willing to work to keep information away from women before they make a life or death decision like abortion.
• Medicaid is shaping up to be a storm on the horizon. Virginia has, unlike our counterparts in Washington, never failed to pass a budget in a timely fashion. However, there are serious concerns that Medicaid advocates (including the Governor) could try to hold the budget hostage until a Medicaid expansion happens. The numbers show that even without an expansion, Medicaid is poised to devour a simply unsustainable proportion of our resources over the coming years. To insist on expanding a program like this in the face of the challenges Medicaid already poses to Virginia just doesn’t mesh with reality. I sincerely hope our colleagues who espouse an expansion will steer clear of trying to impose a budget shutdown to make their wishes come true.
The Silver Lining:
Every cloud has a silver lining, right? The dust-up down here this session is no exception. Several bills that promise to move our economy in the right direction are moving forward with strong bi-partisan support.
• Senate Bill 628 creates a grant program for community colleges that successfully get students through their instruction and completion of high-demand certifications that they can use to get a job. This grant program is funded at the discretion of the legislature each two years.
• House Bill 63 (which I co-patroned) would give school districts the freedom to allow homeschoolers to participate in interscholastic sports. This bill is still alive in the Senate, and I think this might be the year it passes.
• House Bill 156, (which I also co-patroned) would clarify and expand the property owned by churches and religious bodies that is exempt from taxation. This bill has already passed the House and Senate in separate versions, so it looks like final passage is probable.
Meetings and Events
I had the opportunity to meet with:
• Secretary of Education Anne Holton at a meeting of about 8 legislators in the Rural Caucus. Sec. Holton, the daughter of former Virginia Governor Linwood Holton and wife of former Virginia Governor and current U.S. Senator Tim Kaine, spoke to the group about her passion for Virginia’s Community Colleges, and made it clear she shares the Caucus’s priority of advancing workforce training and development by rewarding the colleges whose success is measured by the number of their graduates who move into jobs they have trained for.
• Many, many 4-Hers! Several of my kids have been active in 4-H, and I have deeply appreciated the time and care that 4-H leaders pour into these kids as well as the great things they’ve had the chance to do and learn. 4-H rocks!
Loudoun County 4-H students and staff
Clarke County 4-H students and staff
• Students from Lord Fairfax Community College! Four of my 7 kids have attended LFCC, and we’ve been very pleased with the results. Virginia’s whole community college system is a great asset to the Commonwealth, and LFCC is a solid educator of many young adults in our district.
Lord Fairfax Community College students and staff
• Senators Obenshain, Peterson, Stanley, Stuart, Vogel, and the staff of Senator Edwards to discuss my HB 878 (and in some cases HB 652 as well). Although not all of these Senators voted favorably, I believe we laid solid groundwork for success for this bill in the near future.
Supporters who testified on behalf of HB 878 in the Senate Courts of Justice Committee