16th House District
During his 2017 campaign for governor of Virginia, Republican nominee Ed Gillespie would regularly warn audiences of how critically significant the political choices made in that election, and those immediately following, would be to our Commonwealth. Either Virginia would, with Republican leadership, remain the “northernmost southern state” or, with Democrats in charge, Gillespie explained, become the “southernmost northern state.” The quip has proven to be remarkably prescient.
Of course, Gillespie suffered defeat to Democrat Ralph Northam, who, initially restrained by a Republican legislature, would sparingly exercise the veto and began his term with examples of negotiated compromise. As witnessed, that approach dramatically shifted following the advent of new Democrat majorities in the state House and Senate that coincided with backlash from the governor’s scandalous comments supporting infanticide and the revelation of his racially offensive past conduct. Surviving an array of calls to resign from members of his own party, the governor continued in his post, but has yielded to the most “progressive” agenda yet witnessed in our state.
And now, the Virginia House of Delegates has passed legislation, currently pending in the Senate, that would make this Commonwealth the first “southern” state to, among many other significant changes, eliminate the death penalty and legalize marijuana, respectively. These sizable policy shifts are each considerable in their own right, but that both bills may become law in the same year following a “short session” (the shortest and “virtual” – with another special session attached), is nothing short of remarkable. Moreover, as I touched upon in my column for last week, these consequential measures follow a cascade of other proposals more culturally aligned with those in “northern” states.
In the 2020 regular session, this remaking of Virginia customs began with unprecedented attacks on the second amendment right to keep and bear arms as exercised by law abiding citizens. Although to a lesser extent this year, that effort has continued in the House of Delegates, where bills were passed to criminalize the lawful possession of firearms on public grounds in proximity to the Capital and at any polling place, without regard to holders of concealed weapon permits or circumstances where guns are kept in a vehicle.
Likewise, Virginia has long protected religious liberty and the right of conscience. As a matter of public policy, that is rapidly changing. Continuing with last year’s model to punish people of faith under the guise of “fighting discrimination,” Democrats in the House passed a bill that would repeal conscience protections for religiously affiliated child placement agencies. Another bill seeks to punish employers and employees with new “workplace harassment” descriptions that would encourage complaints based on “sexual orientation” or “gender identity.”
The current Democrat majority has also passed legislation to allow coverage for abortion in health insurance plans under Virginia’s Obamacare health exchange, managed by taxpayer dollars. Our efforts to deny taxpayer funded abortions with budget language used in years past under Republican majorities were denied. With many serious practical challenges facing our communities, it is regrettable that governance with such ideological divisiveness continues.