HERE ARE SOME GOOD BILLS THAT REQUIRE YOUR ACTION

The following is self explanatory. If we want some decent legislation passed, we are going to have to call some people.



Your Action Needed On Critical Bills

Bill of Rights Violations

HJ 558: The Rules Committee met this past Thursday but did not recommend any action on this bill which studies federal government compliance with the Bill of Rights in its treatment of Virginia citizens.  No one made a motion to pass or kill HJ 558!

The bill would identify and recommend remedies for (i) any unauthorized acts of the federal government, (ii) actions that amount to noncompliance by the federal government with the terms of the United States Constitution in respect to Virginia citizens, and (iii) acts of Congress that are outside of the enumerated powers specified in Article I, Section 8 of the United States Constitution and the Bill of Rights as they affect Virginia citizens and residents. The idea for this bill came from a US citizen who emigrated from Russia. With enough lobbying from the grass roots, it is possible the full Committee would consider passing the measure.  

Alternative Virginia Monetary System if Federal Reserve Fails 

HJ 557:  The Rules Committee met this past Thursday but did not recommend any action on this study which was supported by Professors of Economics from George Mason University, and a 2004 Economics Nobel Prize winner.  

The purpose of the bill is to study a possible alternative constitutional legal tender system or state currency system in the event of a breakdown of the Federal Reserve causing excessive inflation.  Food and energy prices have risen significantly in the last 18 months.  The U.S. Labor Department, masks inflation from consumers by removing energy and food price increases from the “official” Consumer Price Index.  Fed Reserve Chairman Bernanke told a Congressional Committee recently that, “the federal government is on an unsustainable fiscal path.”  

 China is seeking to replace the US Dollar as the international trade currency.  We are still running huge deficits even with Republicans in the House of Representatives.

The question is whether passengers on the Titanic needed to think about life boats.  Prudence says yes.  No one made a motion to pass or kill HJ 557!

Please ask Rules Committee members to vote in favor of HJ 557 and  HJ 558:

Delegate Bill Howell delbhowell@house.virginia.gov 804-698-1028

Delegate Lacey Putney dellputney@house.virginia.gov 804-698-1019

Delegate Steve Landes delslandes@house.virginia.gov 804-698-1025

Delegate Kirk Cox delkcox@house.virginia.gov 804-698-1066

Delegate Terry Kilgore deltkilgore@house.virginia.gov 804-698-1001

Delegate Lee Ware dellware@house.virginia.gov 804-698-1065

Delegate Bill Janis delbjanis@house.virginia.gov 804-698-1056

Delegate Rob Bell delrbell@house.virginia.gov 804-698-1058

Delegate Bev Sherwood delbsherwood@house.virginia.gov 804-698-1029

Delegate Wat Abbitt delegatewabbitt@house.virginia.gov 804-698-1059

Delegate Johnny Joannou No E-mail 804-698-1079

Delegate Joe Johnson deljjohnston@house.virginia.gov 804-698-1004

Delegate Ward Armstrong delwarmstrong@house.virginia.gov 804-698-1010

Delegate Kenny Plum delkplum@house.virginia.gov 804-698-1036

Delegate Kenny Alexander delkalexander@house.virginia.gov 804-698-1089

Mandatory Virginia Urban Development Areas (UDA’s) Made Optional:

HB 1721 makes urban development areas (UDA’s) optional instead of mandatory.  The bill passed the House Counties, Cities and Towns Sub-committee #2 by a vote of 7-4 on January 20th, but was stalled on January 21st by the full committee at the request of  the Speaker.  The bill will be heard in the full committee this Friday, February 4.  If it passes it will go to the House Floor for a vote and if passed there will go over to the Senate on February 8th.  The Home Builders Association, Southern Environmental Law Center, the Sierra Club, and the League of Conservation Voters oppose the bill because these urban development areas concentrate population in stacked dwellings on less land which brings higher profits for builders while ostensibly keeping other space open.  However, If HB 1721 is defeated Virginia will continue to force UDA’s  in EVERY locality including rural counties, whether or not local citizens agree.

If you can, please attend the Committee meeting in House Room D in Richmond on Friday, February 4, at 8:00 AM.

Some talking points in support of HB 1721:

1. Allows localities to choose whether the local market can bear more development in a soft market when foreclosure rates are high. (Goochland County had foreclosures up 25% in 2010)

2. Allows localities to decide if UDAs are appropriate for their community.

3. Allows local government, rather than the state, to manage growth.

4. Stops localities from being forced to replace low cost housing in communities targeted for smart growth with high priced housing that will drive the elderly on fixed incomes and low-income families out of their homes.

5. Stops localities from being forced to impose very restrictive energy and water regulations that will ration resources.

6. Protects the individual right to own and control the use of one’s own property in Virginia Counties, Cities & Towns

Please ask Counties, Cities & Towns Committee members to vote for HB 1721:

Chairman Riley Ingram delringram@house.virginia.gov 804-698-1062

Delegate Danny Marshall deldmarshall@house.virginia.gov 804-698-1014

Delegate Sal Iaquinto delsiaquinto@house.virginia.gov 804-698-1084

Del. Annie Crockett-Stark delacrockett-stark@house.virginia.gov 804-698-1006

Delegate Charles Poindexter delcpoindexter@house.virginia.gov 804-698-1009

Delegate Donald Merricks deldmerricks@house.virginia.gov 804-698-1016

Delegate Barry Knight delbknight@house.virginia.gov 804-698-1081

Delegate Will Morefield delwmorefield@house.virginia.gov 804-698-1003

Delegate James Edmunds deljedmunds@house.virginia.gov 804-698-1060

Delegate Chris Stolle delcstolle@house.virginia.gov 804-698-1083

Delegate James LeMunyon deljlemunyon@house.virginia.gov 804-698-1067

Delegate Tony Wilt deltwilt@house.virginia.gov 804-698-1026

Delegate Lionell Spruill dellspruill@house.virginia.gov 804-698-1077

Delegate Onzlee Ware deloware@house.virginia.gov 804-698-1011

Delegate Albert Pollard delapollard@house.virginia.gov 804-698-1099

Delegate Delores McQuinn deldmcquinn@house.virginia.gov 804-698-1070

Delegate Algie Howell delahowell@house.virginia.gov 804-698-1090

Delegate Scott Surovell delssurovell@house.virginia.gov 804-698-1044

Delegate Kaye Kory delkkory@house.virginia.gov 804-698-1038

Delegate Luke Torian delltorian@house.virginia.gov 804-698-1052

End the Practice of Adding Taxes & Fees and Removing Tax Deductions in Budget

HJ 496:  I pre-filed this Constitutional Amendment on July 19, 2010 to end the practice of hiding fees and taxes in the budget.  I spoke all around Virginia and my son designed a four-page glossy brochure to educate citizens. We printed, mailed and distributed nearly 10,000 brochures about the need for this Constitutional Amendment. Despite the tradition that when two virtually identical bills are introduced, the lower number bill passes, my bill was instead incorporated into Delegate Janis’ Bill, HJ 615 which was filed one day before session started.  My bill was before the subcommittee the first week of session, but was passed over until Del. Janis was able to have his measure before the subcommittee.

While this was an abuse of process (Delegate Janis is the Subcommittee Chair) imitation is a form of flattery.  I thank you all for helping move the substance of my bill forward, even if the bill number does not bear by name, as it will promote the common good for Virginia.  

End Mandatory Federal “Green” Home Inspections

HB 1397 passed the House of Delegates thanks to your help!  This bill sets up another challenge to the federal government’s overreach which could require inspections by the Environmental Protection Agency to conduct mandatory “green” energy audits and mandatory remodeling before selling your home.  It is now in the Senate Agriculture Committee.  

Sincerely,


Delegate Bob Marshall
R – 13th District of Virginia
www.delegatebob.com

FACT CHECK

Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli provides a little fact check in today’s edition of the Cuccinelli Compass.

 
Dear Friends,

On January 17th, Ken was speaking at a political rally about a number of the EPA’s job killing regulations.

In that speech, Ken said:

“[Tailpipe emissions rules], if fully implemented with all the regulations that go with it, they will keep the temperature from rising nearly five one-hundredths of a degree Fahrenheit. By 2050.”

As many of you know – the media has taken issue with Ken’s statements about the EPA (including this one!), and claimed that they are false and attempted to discredit Ken’s work to educate Virginians about the regulatory abuses being committed by the EPA.

PolitiFact Virginia, a non-partisan fact check source run by the Richmond Times-Dispatch analyzed that statement and found it to be true (click here to see the whole article!).

PolitiFact said:

“The EPA said the reductions would be between 0.011 degrees Fahrenheit and 0.027 degrees Fahrenheit and would occur by 2100. The agency’s claim is even more modest than Cuccinelli suggested.”

What’s the big deal with this?

According to PolitiFact:

“The agency says these new rules would add about $950 to the price of each new car but that the higher price would be offset by lower fuel costs over three to five years.”

Let’s recap:

The EPA wants to impose $950 per car in regulatory costs – to affect a change of, at most, .027 degrees Fahrenheit by the year 2100.

Many in the media have tried to discredit Ken’s statements on this issue – so please pass this along to your friends today and let them know – Ken’s right!

Click here to see the entire PolitiFact article and then forward this message on to your friends!

Sincerely,

Noah Wall
Political Director
Cuccinelli for Attorney General

OBENSHAIN ON THE SECOND WEEK

Here is last Friday’s The Obenshain Report.

We are edging closer to crossover, the day when all Senate bills are transmitted to the House and vice versa. In the Senate alone, 741 bills and 136 resolutions have been introduced, with many hot-button issues represented.

I haven’t shied away from those issues.

Eminent domain reform (SJ 307), for instance. It was heard by the subcommittee this week. Unfortunately, the subcommittee failed to report the bill – not a huge surprise, as the subcommittee is actually more hostile to property rights than the full Privileges & Elections (P&E) Committee.

Fortunately, in the Senate, bills aren’t supposed to be able to die in subcommittee; they get a vote in full committee whatever the recommendation of the subcommittee. Or at least that’s how it used to be – but more on that later. Suffice it to say, Democrats on the committee threw out the rule book to kill eight bills and amendments on which they didn’t want to cast recorded votes, and my eminent domain reform amendment is slated to be the next victim.

A revised version of the bill I’ve carried to close the “triggerman loophole” (SB 1200) received a positive recommendation in subcommittee this week and goes to the full committee next week. Under this bill, accessories who share the willful, deliberate, and premeditative intent to commit a rape-murder, but did not himself pull the trigger, can be prosecuted for capital murder. This is a scaled back version of the triggerman bill that I have carried in the past that would close the loophole altogether.

My bill (SB 1195) ensuring that slots parlors don’t take hold in Virginia under the guise of “sweepstakes” is also moving forward. This bill, which is supported by the Attorney General and enjoys broad bipartisan support, passed subcommittee with a favorable recommendation yesterday, and I am very optimistic of its chances of passage.

If you want to know more about this issue and the problems these ventures pose to our communities, take a look at this article.

Elsewhere, I carried legislation designed to improve educational opportunity for children in struggling public schools. My SB 1320, a bill to make charter schools viable in Virginia, was heard before an Education and Health subcommittee earlier this week, but three Democrats and the Virginia Educators Association (I know, it’s redundant) said no.

The bill contained several tweaks, modest in themselves, that removed huge roadblocks to creating successful charter schools. For example, even though charters are public schools, their employees are not eligible to participate in the Virginia Retirement System – this despite the fact that they receive paychecks from the public school division.

These are modest changes, but they would have helped create a framework of real, workable public charters in Virginia, like they have in Philadelphia, New Orleans, Minneapolis, Washington, D.C., and elsewhere The left has hobbled the charter school movement here: while charter schools elsewhere in the country serve over 1.5 million children across 5,000 schools, Virginia has but three charter schools – and that number hasn’t moved for a long time.

Of course, nobody said carrying conservative bills in a Democrat-controlled Senate would be easy, but I was hoping it would be fair. The other day, however, we witnessed a strikingly raw exercise of power when, in a clear violation of the rules that govern the Senate, the Senate Committee on Privileges & Elections (P&E) refused to allow an up-or-down vote on eight bills that received a negative recommendation in subcommittee.

In fact, the bills were not even on the agenda. When I made a simple and routine motion to add the bills to the calendar, the committee chair, Senator Howell,  immediately ruled it out of order. Such a motion is never out of order.

I asked the Chair to state the basis of her ruling – why is it out of order? What rule or authority do you rely upon? I must admit that the reply was not very revealing. Or perhaps it was, in its own way: “Because I believe it’s out of order.”

(As an interesting side note, Majority Leader Dick Saslaw had a bill he wanted to add to the agenda of another committee the other day. I asked whether the motion to add a bill to the calendar was in order; apparently there are two sets of rules, one of the majority and the other for the minority.)

A transportation lockbox (SJ 353 – Obenshain), charter school expansion (SJ 360 – Obenshain), a Right to Work Amendment (SJ 323 – McDougle), the Repeal Amendment (SJ 280 – McDougle), voter identification (SB 808 – Obenshain; SB 864 – Martin) and more – vanished from the committee docket on the whim of the chair.

Thomas Jefferson, in his Manual of Parliamentary Practice, which still governs proceedings in the Senate of Virginia, spoke to just such violations, noting that “the only weapons by which the minority can defend themselves against similar attempts from those in power, are the forms and rules of proceeding which have been adopted … by a strict adherence to which, the weaker party can only be protected from those irregularities and abuses which these forms were intended to check, and which the wantonness of power is but too often apt to suggest to large and successful majorities.”

To his great credit, the Democratic president pro tempore, Senator Chuck Colgan, delivered a compelling lecture to his fellow Democrats, telling them that even though it was common to steamroll the minority in years past, “It was wrong then and it is still wrong today.” If only the rest of his caucus had been taking notes.

Finally, just a quick note about a small bill I carried which would have affixed a sticker to each fuel pump in Virginia (SB 1210) – at no cost to either the state or the service stations – showing our gas tax rates. Some, of course, think our gas taxes are too low. Others think they’re too high. My point is only this: the sales tax shows up on your receipt, but the gas tax is completely hidden. We deserve the same transparency.

This one really should have passed – it was approved unanimously in the Transportation Committee, but on the floor, Senate Majority Leader Dick Saslaw (D-Fairfax) sent it back to the Senate Finance Committee, pledging to kill it there. Apparently even a little tax transparency is too much for some people.

Even the craziest of weeks, however, have a daily silver lining – the groups from the district that stop by to encourage me, challenge me, sometimes disagree with me, but always to bring that hometown spirit to Richmond.

This week, I met with friends from Eastern Mennonite University, Blue Ridge Community College, from great local organizations like RESPONSE and the Blue Ridge Arts Council, and with local representatives – many of them long-time friends – of the credit unions, our local banks, the Farm Bureau, the Chamber, and from dedicated public servants like our law sheriffs and police and treasurers. I appreciated each visit, each opportunity to sit down with friends from back home.

There’s still plenty of time to pay us a visit here in Richmond.  If you’re coming to Richmond during session, please make sure to stop by our offices in Room 429 of the General Assembly Building.  And as always, if you hear about an issue that you’d like to weigh in on with your opinion, please drop me an email at mark@markobenshain.com.

I’ll have more to tell you in next week’s column.  Until then, I hope you have a great week.

With best regards,
Mark D. Obenshain
Virginia State Senator

P.S. Don’t forget to take my online survey

Mark D. Obenshain
Virginia State Senator

P.S. Don’t forget to take my online survey

NEWS FROM THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY AND THE MIDDLE EAST

Here is what Delegate Scott Lingamfelter about the General Assembly and the Middle East. Apparently, he is in the unusual position of being able to talk about both subjects credibly.

Work in Richmond: Chaos in the Middle East


There is so much to write about this week. I have tons of work in front of me in Richmond as we are hip deep in bills and policy decisions. But events in the Middle East really have my attention too. To be sure, my first priority is my duty in the General Assembly. However, my graduate degree in Government and Foreign Affairs from the University of Virginia focused on comparative governments in the Middle East. So with that as a major study field, coupled with two tours in the Middle East (war and peace), you can imagine that I have an interest in what is transpiring there, particularly in Egypt. More on that below.

General Assembly News

We had another very busy week as we actually dove into a pile of bills in Committees I sit on including Appropriations, Education, and Militia, Police, and Public Safety.

On Appropriations we started the business of taking the Governor’s suggestions, applying what we are hearing from you (the people we work for), and shaping a budget that is (1) fiscally responsible, (2) focused on core government functions, and (3) postured to foster job creation. This week we will move forward on a transportation package that, unlike the Federal Government, will be one we can actually afford without putting more taxation on the backs of hard working moms and dads in Virginia. The package will include the prudent use of bonds, which were already authorized in 2007, and can be obtained at low rates we won’t see for years. In doing so now, not only will we speed up projects we need to relieve congestion, but save us millions in interest each year. And there is a lesson here. Because Virginia has a balanced budget requirement in our constitution (are you listening Washington?), and because we limit the amount of debt we will carry at any time to approximately 5% of general revenues (wake up Congress!), we are actually in a responsible place to take advantage of low interest bonds to build roads. Just like responsible home owners who have refinanced their homes at lower rates, we are taking a lesson from you. That said, there are a number of us on the Appropriations Committee who are watching our spending like a hawk. You can bet that the House will also be looking for ways to cut areas back that frankly should not take priority over core functions. As we move forward, I will report more details as the budget emerges.

On the other committees I sit on (Education and Militia, Police, and Public Safety), we are wading through a ton of bills. In my case, if they don’t actually result in better education and are a true enhancement to public safety (we see lots of feel-good bills that do utterly nothing), then I oppose them. My view is that a bill must be meaningful while not adding more spending.

Next week, we will have put a number of things through the House including major improvements to higher education that I will report back to you about.

The Middle East

Sadly, I am not surprised that once again, the Middle East is giving every sign that it continues to be the most volatile region in the world. It has been all of my life, which is why I wanted to study this region in graduate school. Ironically, I was in the Middle East 30 years ago when Egyptian President Anwar El-Sadat was gunned down by radicals. Then Vice President Hosni Mubarak stepped in and has been in power ever since. But just as radical Islamists killed Sadat, they are clearly behind the disruption in Egypt today. Not far away, both Jordan and Yemen are already feeling similar pressure.

What is of great concern to me is the seemingly tepid response of the United Sates in all of this. I can’t help but recall how then President Jimmy Carter failed to confront the circumstances resulting in the overthrow of the Shah of Iran in 1979. Instead of attempting to shape democratic reform in the years leading up to Shah’s overthrow, we did nothing. So when the revolution happened we were not in a place to shape a peaceful transition. Egypt is not Iran. And while many of the people in the street feel that Mubarak is a US puppet, we can still have a positive role. The problem is President Obama, beyond posturing, seems once again caught off guard by very dangerous world events. When Secretary of State Clinton called the Egyptian government stable this week, it was a stunning misinterpretation of the facts on the ground. Egypt is in revolt and President Obama needs to learn that actions speak louder than words. Obama should convene a summit of responsible world leaders to assist bringing peace and reform to Egypt. We have an opportunity to have a positive influence amid a lot of chaos. But if Obama reduces this to rhetorical flourishes lacking a meaningful response to the violence in Egypt, you can be sure that this will spread to other nations. And with it, the potential that the entire region will explode, including a precipitous increase in the cost of oil, another reason we need to expand exploration here at home.

Elections have consequences, folks. And America elected a President who frankly is not up to the task of dealing with a volatile world. He may be able to fire up empty-headed ideologues with chords of flowerily political prose, but radicals around the world see him as a naive pushover who will do nothing while nations, like North Korea, commit acts of war against its neighbors. Hasten 2012 and the election of a world leader in the White House, not a cheerleader.

Sic Semper Tyrannis


L. Scott Lingamfelter
Delegate, 31st District
Virginia House of Delegates