I am truly concerned as I watch how Virginia Democrats have moved away from focusing on the protection and promotion of family as the guiding principle in making laws for its citizens.
I think that we all can agree that family matters — and also that the family unit — is the cornerstone for the foundation of a good and just community. And yet last week, bills that would protect children, bills that would place parents as the center of their children’s educational choices and bills that would have even protected parents and their children from government intrusion, were defeated in Democrat-controlled Senate committees over and over again.
While the 2023 General Assembly session is a “short” session of 45-days versus a “long” session of 60-days, we will still consider over 1,900 bills, and it’s a lot of work.
And while many of these bills cover various topics that are not remotely partisan, this policy shift away from families by our Democrat state senators is just, well, unjust. Parents and their children matter, and we must always hold firm to the belief that the parent knows better than the government on how to raise and educate their children, period.
Additionally, the Senate Democrats managed to kill bills this week that would have created stiffer penalties for those who traffic and distribute the deadly drug fentanyl to our citizens, blocked the complete elimination of the grocery tax that would have saved an enormous amount for Virginians during this out of control inflationary period created by those in Washington and voted to let California write our environmental laws for the next decade, forcing Virginians to pay higher prices for energy and face stricter green energy standards that will have a devastating impact on the Virginia economy for years to come.
While it might have seemed like a good week for Virginia Senate Democrats, it was a bad week for Virginia in the Senate.
While bills are now dying in Senate committees left and right, I have drafted and submitted proposed legislation that, if given proper consideration by the full senate, can make a big difference in our region. Every legislator’s bills are first vetted in committees before going to their respective chambers for a final debate and vote on the merits of the proposed legislation. The surviving bills are then exchanged at cross-over on Feb. 7 where the Senate considers the House of Delegates bills and vice versa for the Senate bills being considered by the House. The last bills standing after the bicameral process finishes on Feb. 24, will then proceed to the governor for final approval, or not.
Out of the over 750 bills served up by the 40 Senators, my humble list of 13 bills cover a variety of bills with a focus on our region:
w A bill to create a permanent grant fund for high school robotics teams to be created and sustained in lower income rural and urban public high schools;
w A bill to add an additional General District Court Judge for the 22nd Judicial Circuit for Pittsylvania County;
w A bill to permit broadband fiber cable to cross railroad tracks unimpeded by Norfolk Southern or CSX so the “last mile” of fiber optic cable can be laid in Southside and Southwest Virginia;
w A bill that will create a gateway for our region to promote our green open spaces for residential land development (rather than solar projects);
w A bill that will stop the theft of Catalytic converters by eliminating the market place for them to be sold here in Virginia;
w A bill that empowers the Virginia Employment Commission to go after the fraudsters that ripped off our unemployment fund to the tune of 1 Billion dollars during the COVID-19 pandemic;
w A bill to create standards for our public school systems to modernize their schools in order to deliver all children an equal and 21st century education, regardless of their zip code; and,
w A bill to protect all Virginia children under the age of 18 from access to online internet pornography.
This past week the State learned more about an exceptionally outrageous scandal that occurred during the administration of Gov. Ralph Northam.
To refresh memories, the Virginia Parole Board in early 2020 started releasing violent felons. The 95 convicted offenders released in March 2020 was the highest number ever granted in a single month. Most of those released that month were serious offenders, including four capital murders, 31 first degree murderers, and eleven rapists.
In releasing convicted murderers and rapists, Northam’s Parole Board deliberately violated Virginia law and its own policies and procedures. It did so without notifying the victims and families of the victims of these crimes, and not giving them an opportunity to testify as required by law.
At the time Virginians were first learning about these outrages, Senate Republicans led the effort to get at the truth and to put safeguards in place to prevent a recurrence. At every turn, the Northam Administration stonewalled and thwarted efforts to learn the full story of what had transpired and opposed legislation that would have brought complete transparency to the Parole Board’s proceedings.
On Governor Younkin’s first day in office, he issued an executive order authorizing Attorney General Jason Miyares to conduct a thorough investigation of what had occurred. That report was issued this week and it confirmed our worst fears. The deliberate and determined violations of laws, long-established board policies and the rights of victims and families were jaw-dropping. Effectively, the Parole Board operated as a “Get Out of Jail Free” card.
Scandals like these undermine public confidence in government. In this instance, the conduct of the Parole Board also endangered public safety and confidence in our system of justice. Misguidedly, Senate Democrats exacerbated the situation last session by torpedoing Gov. Youngkin’s initial appointees to the Parole Board.
The attorney general’s report had specific and detailed actions the legislature needs to take in order to prevent anything like this from happening again. This week, Senate Republicans called for bipartisan action on the attorney general’s recommendations and for those responsible for the unmerited releases to be held accountable.