A Memo From Myself

I spent a good part of Saturday digging through boxes of old stuff that I’ve picked up over the years and it is quite amazing the stuff I found.  There are stacks of books, bumper stickers (Dole/Kemp baby!), yard signs, and employment rejection letters from members of Congress.  How many of you can say you have a letter signed by Idaho’s disgraced former Senator Larry Craig or one where former Representative Virgil Goode spells your name incorrectly?  But one of the most interesting items is a one page political brief written by yours truly.  Unfortunately, I cannot recall why I wrote it.  The only clues as to its purpose are its title and the fact that it bears my social security number.  Although I’d change quite few things if I were writing it today, I want to share my early political thoughts with you.  Again, these words are coming from thirteen years in the past, not today, though I have slightly modified a bit of the spacing, punctuation, and added just a few words for easier reading and clarification.

One social controversy that interests me greatly is the subject of abortion.  After spending much time researching the subject, I have written two essays on the subject and one poem.  Let me state that I am in the camp referred to as “Pro-life.”  I believe that abortion is wrong and should only be used when the mother’s life is in danger or the child is a product of rape or incest.

One concept needed when analyzing the issue of abortion is the question, “When does life begin?”  I believe that life begins at conception of sperm and ovum.  Now if we were to consider the question in terms of biology, the biologists’ school of thought states that a cell is the simplest unit of life.  There is no argument that when the two units combine, they form a single-celled organism.  Therefore, according to biology, this single-celled unit is, in fact, a living creature.  However, I find this case not to be true.  When I took biology in 10th grade, my teacher actively encouraged the practice of abortion and thought the procedure can be used to create “organ farms” that can be harvested in order to help humans with failing organs.  Although I do not deny that doing so would help many individuals with health problems, I object to the process of killing children so that others may live.  Not only that, my teacher went on to say that this process is not wrong because the fetus is not alive anyway.  This [viewpoint] strikes me as hypocrisy.  How can my teacher, who holds a college degree in biology, claim that organ farms would cause no problems because the fetus was not alive anyway?  Even though I wished to confront him publicly about his misconceptions, I unfortunately did not have the courage.  Since then, I have become much more self confident and assertive thus earning the rank of “most opinionated” senior.

Another problem facing us in the abortion dilemma is the idea of morality.  I consider myself a very moral person and like to promote my moral values to others.  When thinking of abortion as the killing of a human, then my belief system would forbid the practice of abortion.  I believe that all human beings are created by and in the image of God[;] therefore to kill a human would be a mortal sin.  My religion also dictates my above belief that life begins at conception as stated in Psalms 139.  It seems to me that since this country was founded on the motto, “In God we trust,” it is incomprehensible as to why this country has taken such a moral backslide.

Now, although some who heard my earlier speeches about abortion might think I am some kind of extremist, I say that this [claim] is not true.  I have no plans to picket [neither] abortion clinics nor plant bombs in them.  In essence, the people who commit such [murderous] acts  are no better than the abortion doctors themselves.  What good would come from the killing of another human life?  It would only renew tensions between the pro-life and pro-choice camps.  Instead, I think any such wars over abortion should take place in the floor of the United States Congress.  This [conflict] would result in less death and violence and would be legal.  In any case, I am opposed [to] the idea of abortion by my moral and scientific beliefs.

So what do you think of the 17 year old activist Joshua?  Moved at all by his words?  I should point out that although you might assume that he was opposed to the death penalty, I assure you he was (and still is) an avid supporter of the practice.  In addition, my position on abortion has changed slightly and I no longer view picketing abortion clinics as extreme.  Personally, I’m amazed at the folly of youth.  Back in those days, I thought a Bible verse and a bit of data were all you needed to win the day.  We have discovered that such tactics are grossly insufficient.  For the record, “In God We Trust” did not become the nation’s official motto until 1956.  And do any political poets even exist in the modern age?  Moving on, although I lamented my trepidation then, I regret to say that it still holds me back even today to some extent.  I think Thucydides gets it right in his History of the Peloponnesian War when he writes, with some people “ignorance makes them brave and thinking makes them cowards”.

Well, I hope you’ve enjoyed this look into my political past.  I’d like to say my writing has improved with thirteen years of practice.  Back then I had such high hopes for the future.  Unfortunately, those dreams have been horribly weakened by waves of political decay and moral relativity.  Will I be as passionate in 2028?  I’ll let you know when we get there.

A Bit O’ Tea

Earlier this evening, the Harrisonburg/Rockingham County Tea Party had a meeting in preparation for Election Day coming up next week.  Although I don’t have an exact count, it seemed to be pretty well attended.  Most interesting of all was guest speaker State Senator Mark Obenshain (R-26).  He spoke to the crowd on a number of subjects: life in Botetourt County many years ago, the excesses of eminent domain, the corruption of V-DOT, and politicians who are fighting against the growing encroachment of the federal government.

Personally, I believe his presence helps establish an important link between the Tea Parties and those in power.  Although some politicians try to ignore the Tea Party movement and hope it will go away, others like Senator Obenshain and former Governor Allen are  trying to work with the group.  I do not believe that the growing dissatisfaction with “politics as usual” is going to disappear anytime soon.  Some leaders in both the Republican and Democratic parties have sold out the founding principles of this nation and have unconstitutionally usurped power or abandoned their duties.  Therefore, members of the Tea Party argue that it is high time that these leaders were removed from power.

Like the Ron Paul Revolution before it, there are still a few conspiracy theories afoot.  For example, tonight one person suggested that either the Rothschilds or the Bilderbergers dominate the Federal Reserve.  Regardless of the validity or absurdity of such a claim, there are more important issues to consider.  Overall, I believe that a majority of folks are fairly levelheaded and simply want their country and their government back from the bureaucrats and career politicians who now ride roughshod over the Constitution.  Although it may be easy to dismiss these groups, we do so at our peril.  Despite a few bizarre rumors, I believe that these people, not the GOP proper, will have the greatest impact in the coming years, provided they are properly trained, informed, and organized.  They should not be quickly folded into the Republican Party, but rather act as a gadfly, insisting both the left and the right follow traditional American principles.  What they lack in experience, they make up for in enthusiasm and in numbers.

Like the GOP and the Democrats, the Tea Party too will be handing out information at the polls on Tuesday.  I don’t believe that they intend to distribute materials in favor of any particular candidate, but rather a statement of their principles and details regarding their meetings.  Then again, given the surprise appearance of Stuart Bain near the end of the gathering, maybe we will see some of his literature at the polling places too.

My advice to you is, if you are a conservative then you should get involved with your local Tea Party.  They could use your help and we, in turn, need more allies in the fight ahead.  My great hope is that they can help curb the abuses of the liberals and get the GOP back on the straight and narrow path.

Vanke’s Poll

Jeff Vanke

During the 6th district debate yesterday evening, candidate Jeff Vanke was looking to convince the crowd that he could beat Bob Goodlatte in the race for U.S. House of Representatives.  After all, it is a simple fact that a good number of people will not vote for a candidate that they know will lose, a trend often referred to as the wasted vote.  To prove his electablity, he presented the audience with poll results that showed Vanke in a virtual even election with Goodlatte.  In this poll, Goodlatte garnered 46% of the vote, Vanke 42%, and Bain 4%.  According to the data, he had about 1,000 random respondents spread across 14 cities and counties in the 6th district.  Sounds promising for Vanke huh?  The problem with the poll however, as Vanke freely admits, is that it is a push poll.

Although I have discussed push polls earlier on this blog, I feel I should refresh your memory.  The primary purpose of push polls are to highlight negative attributes of one candidate either to determine what sort of attacks will be successful against that candidate or to create a strong negative reaction in the minds of voters.  Given their wording, push polls are not a useful tool for determining the outcome of an election as voters are not similarly “pushed” by the generally straightforward nature of the ballot.  For the record, Vanke’s poll reads as follows:

There’s no Democrat in this race, but there is a choice.  Independent Jeff Vanke has drafted a balanced Federal budget, and he’s running for Congress because no one there has done it.  Eighteen-year incumbent Bob Goodlatte has taken more than $1 million in agribusiness political donations, and he has charged each of us over $2000 in extra taxes to pay for agribusiness subsidies.  Independent Jeff Vanke thinks we can do better.

If the election were held today, who would you vote for?  For Independent Jeff Vanke, press 1.  For the incumbent, Republican Bob Goodlatte, press 2.  For Libertarian Stuart Bain, press 3…

Of course if you demean one candidate and elevate another right before you ask for whom a person will vote, obviously the answer will be skewed in favor of the second candidate.  To use a common (and unsubstantiated) example, what if I told you that Barack Obama was not a U.S. citizen?  Would you be more likely to vote for Barack Obama or a Republican candidate?  Obviously the results would favor the Republican to far greater extent than they would if the respondent had not been told of Obama’s supposed nationality.

Now, I hope you don’t think I’m being overly hostile toward Mr. Vanke.  After all, I believe it takes considerable courage to run for office and I applaud Mr. Vanke for being a very active participant in our election process.  He’s also right in one important respect.  I strongly believe that we need a balanced budget and we need one now.  It is horribly unfair for the present generation to saddle future generations with past debt.

So, back to the question of the day, will Vanke get 42% of the vote next week as his poll suggests?  Don’t count on it.  The last time two independent candidates challenged Goodlatte, combined they only captured about 24% of the vote.  Here’s where I’d jokingly make a ridiculous wager against Vanke getting anywhere close to 42% but, given Representative Goodlatte’s efforts to curb internet gambling and my ignorance regarding these laws, I’ll refrain.  Regardless if you live in the 6th district of Virginia, or someplace very far away, I encourage you to learn about the candidates running and make and informed choice.  Yes, voting is a civic duty, but it must be done rationally and clearly.  Otherwise you may be fooled by the next push poll that comes along.

Debate Sans Goodlatte

On Monday, I got a brief email from the local Shenandoah Valley Tea Party.  It told me that the candidates for the 6th district House of Representatives Seat were having a debate.  Being the political animal that I am, I made certain to be free during that time so that I could participate.  Here was my chance to listen to all three candidates for office and ask them about specific issues.  I thought that the notice was written rather strangely.  It read, “At 7:30 PM, Tuesday, the 26th, Stuart Bain, Libertarian candidate for Virginia’s 6th district will be debating his opponents in the Memorial Hall Auditorium at James Madison University.”  Although I know that Representative Goodlatte did not return the Tea Party’s candidate survey, it seemed a bit strange to me that they did not mention the sitting Congressman by name in the debate announcement, but rather used the term “Bain’s opponent”.  Therefore, shortly before the debate, I called Representative Goodlatte’s Harrisonburg office to make certain that he would be attending the event.  Unfortunately, I was informed that he was not going to be there.  Despite this considerable disappointment, I still showed up.

Vanke on the left, Bain on the right

Overall, I thought the debate itself went pretty well.  Both Jeff Vanke and Stuart Bain tackled a number of issues ranging from balancing the federal budget, immigration, and various disagreements they have with Congressman Goodlatte’s positions.  As one of many questions from the audience, I appreciated the opportunity to ask the candidates about their positions regarding the war on terrorism. Before I conclude, I want to thank JMU and acknowledge their efforts in hosting the event.  For more coverage on the specifics of the debate, you can visit both hburgnews and whsv.

As I’ve stated many times in the past, in order for our form of government to survive, we must have an informed electorate.  Toward that end, before you vote on Tuesday I encourage you to visit the websites of all three candidates to learn more about them.  As the debate was supposed to highlight, you can choose between the Republican Goodlatte, the Libertarian Bain, or the Independent Vanke.  You should vote, but you should vote smart.

A Secretive Frank Detractor

Continuing our series on local politics and elections, I saw another sign today that sparked my interest.  While traveling down Port Republic Road in Harrisonburg, I came across an encampment of yard signs fluttering in the breeze.  Several were in support of Coffman for Council, others were for Baxter for school board, but a few were different.  Rather than encouraging citizens to vote for a candidate, it tells folks to vote against Carolyn Frank.

Strangely, as you can see, they do not bear the paid for and authorized tag line that other political signs display.  When I saw more of the signs on Neff Avenue as well, I stopped a local business to learn a bit more.  Although on their shopping center property, the business knew nothing of the signs.  They did not authorize them and did not know who placed them there.  Obviously some person or persons have a very strong dislike of Frank in order to go to such lengths as spending their own money for the signs.

Two questions linger, who and why.  Who made the signs?  Why does their creator find Carolyn Frank so objectionable?  I found this same question and a rather lengthy discussion on a recent article on hburgnews.com.  Apparently, a local developer by the name of Bruce Forbes created them.  Their discussion informs us that Mr. Forbes is someone who tries to buy and control politicians.  He assisted in Frank’s election efforts several years ago and turned against her when she wasn’t loyal to his designs.  Getting back to the signs themselves, although admittedly my knowledge of regarding laws for local elections are a bit shaky, I would expect that, like other political signs, they must bear the “paid for” tag line.  If that is indeed an unmet requirement, then the city should remove them as quickly as possible.

If Carolyn Frank, Bruce Forbes, any of their supporters or detractors, or anyone else who has some knowledge of this subject cares to comment further, I’m sure we would be interested in learning more.

A Funny Thing About Local Elections

Besides electing members to the House of Representatives and voting on Constitutional amendments to the Virginia Constitution in a couple of weeks, many cities and counties in Virginia will be holding local elections too.  In Harrisonburg, for example, we will be electing members to the city council and the school board.  What has always confused me about local elections is that political parties, citizens, and even candidates themselves never really take campaigning for these offices too seriously.  Sure, they put up yard signs, send out a single mailer, and might even try to knock on your door once, but that’s about it.  Although I won’t claim I’ve observed them all, I will admit that I’ve never seen a professionally run campaign for a city office here in Harrisonburg.  Where is the fundraising…or the volunteers…or the campaign manager?  Now I know what some candidates will say, that they don’t have the funds to run a full-scale campaign, but I believe it can be done fairly easily.  Unfortunately, tradition is tough to overcome.  For that simple reason, so many people ignore city and county elections and think that they are a joke.

In our last city council elections, we had three Democratic candidates, three Republicans, and two Independents vying for three seats.  Keep in mind that this election took place during the McCain vs. Obama election.  So guess who won?  All three Democrats did.  As far as I could tell, Tracy Evans, who is currently the Chairman of the Harrisonburg GOP, had the best-run campaign, but, with all due respect, it was still insufficient when compared to more traditional ones.  Unfortunately, it is likely that all three Republicans relied on the McCain campaign for support rather than running a separate and independent operation.  Given that the McCain campaign only garnered 41% of the vote in the city, the council candidates were defeated too.  In general, it seems as if city council and school board candidates place their trust in their own renown and fortune to win elections.  If the political winds are favorable, like in 2004, the Republicans will win.  If fortune turns against them, like in 2008, they will be destroyed.  Since the local elections are now tied with the state and national elections rather than being the traditional May event, it is even more important for candidates to set themselves apart from the state and national currents.  On the flip side, given the high negatives of Obama and the Democratic led Congress, if neither the Democrats nor the Republicans run a hard fought campaign, I would expect the Republicans to win at least one, if not both, of the seats on council this year.

City council and school board races are important for two reasons:  1. Some of these leaders go on to higher office.  2. Because of their relatively small constituency, they are supposed to be the easiest to contact and be closest to the people.   Do I want a conservative city?  Certainly, just like I want a conservative state and a conservative country.  When it is all said and done, elections rise and fall based upon candidates and their campaigns.  Given the low turnout and interest in these races, even a modest campaign can easily swing a couple hundred votes which can mean the difference between a loss and a win.  So candidates, if you are serious about winning, ask the loyal base for our money, ask for our time, and ask for our vote.  It’s that simple.  And get a decent campaign going for crying out loud.  Now I’ll freely admit that I could be wrong about Harrisonburg local elections, given that I’ve never really been fully engaged in one, but from what I’ve observed, as well as the fact that I’ve never been asked to really help out either, I truly doubt it.  State and national elections are very important, yes, but we cannot continue to allow local elections to simmer unwatched on a back burner.  They are real campaigns for real offices and must be treated as such.  In closing, I’m well aware that some liberals read this blog, and if they take this message to heart and conservatives do not, don’t blame me.  If Republicans continue to insist on running a joke of a campaign, then, like in 2008, Harrisonburg will soon receive a Democratic punch line.  I doubt many of us find that prospect a laughing matter.

Conservatives Against Allen?

A few moments ago, I received an invite to a new Facebook group.  Normally, I just ignore such requests as my inbox is flooded with all sorts of nonsensical junk, but this particular appeal caught my eye.  The name of this group is “Republicans Against a George Allen comeback” and bears the following picture.

Although I cannot tell how fast, or if, the Facebook group is growing, or can I see the entire list of supporters, it currently boasts 93 members.   Believe it or not, anti-Allen rhetoric in Republican circles is not a new trend.  Many years ago, during a political rally some group passed around fliers questioning his pro-life position.  Besides the abortion issue, this Facebook group questions his record on gun rights, property rights, and homosexual rights.

Now that contenders are starting to appear for the 2012 Senate Race, former Senator and Governor Allen is named as a possible candidate.  According to the information I have gleaned, there are currently three likely candidates:  George Allen, Bob Marshall, and Corey Stewart.  As a result, over at Virginia Virtucon, they are conducting a straw poll of readers and George Allen is running second behind Delegate and 2008 Senate hopeful, Bob Marshall.

So is this group a natural outgrowth of these camps starting to form or is there a significant number of conservatives who, like the picture states want “anybody but George Allen”?  Does this group represent the fringe or the mainstream?  I suppose it may be a little early to tell, but I’ll continue to monitor the situation to check to see how the numbers fluctuate and what other issues they raise.  But what do you think?  Is Allen’s star once again on the rise or is he merely yesterday’s news?  As a follow-up, are you pro- or anti-George Allen?

Political Motivations In Star Wars: Part I

Star Wars is, at its heart, a very political story: the corruption and decay of a republic, the rise of an oppressive galactic empire, a rebellion, the struggle for freedom, a brutal civil war, finally concluding with the creation of a new republic.  As the movies are plot and character driven, these series of posts will be a marriage of both, seeking to explore the political motivations of the characters.  The tale itself is currently spread over six movies (or novels), but for the purpose of this assessment, I will only be focusing on the original or classic trilogy.  To make it a little more manageable, this piece shall center only on the first film.  So, let’s get underway.

The very beginning of Episode IV: A New Hope draws us right into the heart of the conflict and it all hinges around the actions of Leia Organa.  She is a strong-willed Senator in the Imperial Government as well as a Princess of the planet Alderaan.  Fed up with the actions of the Empire, she travels into the outer rim of the galaxy to acquire the technical specifications to a new and massive battle station created to instill fear and obedience throughout the universe.  She hopes to discover a weakness in this Death Star in the hopes of destroying it and the eventual dismantling of the Empire itself.  By doing so, she risks her safety, her political career, her life, and even the lives of the people of Alderaan.  Thus there is fundamental question that should be addressed, is she a patriot or a traitor?  That inquiry alone colors your entire outlook of the film.  Does she owe allegiance to her government and whoever may be in charge, or should she support the higher ideals and original spirit of that government?  Obviously, as almost all of the film is shot from the Rebel’s perspective, George Lucas, the creator, strongly pushes you one way.  But back to our story, when captured, she sends out a request for aid, jettisons the plans, and kills a trooper that discovers her location.  Leia disavows all knowledge of the plans and of the Rebellion, even under torture. She remains defiant even with knowledge of her impending death until the entire planet of Alderaan is threatened.  She ends up lying to buy time, but her homeworld is destroyed anyway.

In this installment, we are not introduced to the Emperor himself.  Instead we only learn about him through other characters.  Similar to Caesar in Imperial Rome and with a name that sounds like one of the seven hills, Emperor Palpatine heads up the galactic government with a Senate of undefined but obviously limited power.  Early on, the Emperor quickly and easily dissolves the body using the excuse of the threat of Rebellion.  With the Republic now completely dismantled, the Governors and the bureaucrats wield the power.  In A New Hope, the Empire is represented by the white armored stormtroopers, Vader, and the highest-ranking Imperial, Grand Moff Tarkin. Tarkin makes his political philosophy, aptly named the Tarkin Doctrine, manifest through his actions.  Taking a page from Machiavelli, the Governor opts to rule through the primary motivation of fear.  Rather than using force directly, he relies on a fear of the use of force to promote his will.  Thus by using the Death Star, the Empire’s new battle station, twice to destroy the planets of Alderaan and Yavin IV (sort of like the use of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in World War II), he plans to force other planets to bend to his will without resorting to annihilating them as well.  As Tarkin is killed and the first Death Star is destroyed, we don’t discover if his doctrine is ultimately successful or not, whether the threat of the Death Star would compel other systems to accept Imperial rule without further need of violence.

The original film is rich with even more characters with political motives.  For example, there is the old Jedi Knight Obi-Wan Kenobi burdened with the memories of the decay of the Republic and the fall of Darth Vader.  He lives like a hermit on the outskirts of humanity dutifully watching over Luke Skywalker. As soon as he receives the call from Leia, he jumps into action, recruiting Luke and chartering a starship.  Once they are captured, he willing offers himself as a sacrifice in order to further the mission.  Although martyrdom for a political cause has become tainted due to fact it is presently associated terrorists whose main goal is to kill innocent civilians, Obi-Wan is perhaps the most noble of all of the characters.

When we first meet Han Solo, he is an amoral politically neutral smuggler.  He treasures freedom and wealth and only helps the Rebels for an excessively high fee.  Chewbacca, his first mate, bound to Han through a life debt, acts as the moral conscious of the pair.  Unlike most of the characters, Chewie speaks in a non-English tongue and his words are never translated, so we can only assess his thoughts by his tone and the reaction of the others.  By the end of A New Hope, Han, with pressure from Luke and Leia, comes to the realization that he can never really truly be free under the threat of an oppressive Empire.  Therefore, he signs on with the Rebellion in part, to further his own goals, but also to become part of a movement larger than himself.

The political motivations of the main character, Luke Skywalker, are far less clear.  At the beginning of the film, he strongly desires to go to the Imperial Academy to become a pilot, like his friend Biggs did some time earlier.  After meeting Obi-Wan and hearing the plea of Leia, he resolves to fight against this now hated Empire.  With the death of his Aunt and Uncle at the hands of stormtroopers, he is further provoked in the struggle.  Only by including information found in the radio drama do we discover Luke’s driving inspiration.  Although unfortunately cut from the movie, Biggs reunites with Luke so that he can inform him of his defection from the Empire and his plan to join the rebellion.  This revelation begs the question; at first was Luke only a mindless groupie, or an easily impressionable youth?  Did he originally join the Rebellion merely to gain the approval of others like Biggs, Leia, and Obi-Wan?

Don’t forget the droids!  C-3PO seems only vaguely aware of the great political struggle all around him.  He is primarily concerned with his own survival and displays loyalty to whichever party claims ownership of him.  In many ways, he displays the typical attitudes and interests of the average citizen.  R2-D2, on the other hand, forsakes concepts such as ownership and self-preservation in order to further the task set forth by Princess Leia.

One may be disappointed to find that Darth Vader makes only the briefest of mention in this article, but politically his role in this film was minor compared to what is revealed about him in the next two.  The Rebellion may have won the day, but the Emperor will not simply surrender to these so-called terrorists.  And so, in the next chapter, The Empire Strikes Back.

What Kind of Conservative Are You?

As a follow-up to my two-year-old post, “The 31 Flavors of Conservatism“, I just found a nifty little quiz that seeks to answer the question, what kind of conservative are you?  It’s only eight questions long, but as it covers a broad range of issues and includes a good number of choices, it should give you a pretty accurate answer.  Hopefully your response, like mine, will read,


You are Most Likely a Paleoconservative!”

So, go check it out for yourself! The quiz is part of U.S. conservative politics on about.com.

More Than Just Candidates

Although I was unaware until very recently, here in Virginia we will be voting for more than just candidates on next month’s ballot.  We have three, count ’em three, potential amendments to the Virginia Constitution.  Although I doubt many of us have read the Virginia Constitution, a great pity, I encourage you to check out this important document.  It can be found on the internet here.  In order to make the right decision concerning these three amendments, you need to know what each do.  Here to explain is my State Senator, Mark Obenshain.

Many voters will be surprised to see three Virginia Constitutional Amendments on the ballot when they vote in three weeks (or earlier if voting by absentee ballot).  I write this to provide a quick overview of the three constitutional ballot questions you will see when you vote.

All three amendments address taxation and revenue issues, and all three have passed the General Assembly two consecutive years (with nearly unanimous votes), as is required by the Constitution of Virginia, and they now go before the voters for final approval.

The first ballot question reads as follows: “Shall Section 6 of Article X of the Constitution of Virginia be amended to authorize legislation that will permit localities to establish their own income or financial worth limitations for purposes of granting property tax relief for homeowners not less than 65 years of age or permanently disabled?”

Currently, localities are only authorized to make exemptions for those who bear an “extraordinary tax burden,” or with the express approval of the General Assembly, which occasionally passes legislation authorizing specific localities to afford local property tax relief to senior citizens or the disabled. This amendment, if approved, would allow local governments to make the decision on their own, without going to the General Assembly for approval.

The second ballot question asks: “Shall the Constitution be amended to require the General Assembly to provide real property tax exemption for the principal residence of a veteran, or his or her surviving spouse, if the veteran has a 100 percent service-connected, permanent, and total disability?”

If approved, this amendment would require a statewide exemption from local property taxes for the primary residence of any 100% disabled veteran, provided that the veteran’s disability is service-related. A surviving spouse could continue to claim the exemption so long as the same home remains his or her primary residence, and s/he does not remarry.

Finally, the third ballot question says: “Shall Section 8 of Article X of the constitution of Virginia be amended to increase the permissible size of the Revenue Stabilization Fund (also known as the “rainy day fund” from 10 percent to 15 percent of the Commonwealth’s average tax revenues derived from income and retail sales taxes for the preceding three fiscal years?”

In other words, should we expand the allowable size of Virginia’s “rainy day fund,” to which state government contributes in good years to provide resources for lean years? Currently, the maximum size of the Fund – which is almost empty at present – is 10% of the Commonwealth’s average annual tax revenues from income and sales taxes for the preceding three fiscal years; this amendment would up the maximum allowable amount to 15%.

If you have any questions about these three ballot items, please do not hesitate to let me know – and please remember to vote on Tuesday, November 2nd!

Thank you Senator Obenshain with your words of insight.  Hopefully all Virginians, myself included, take the time to read and learn about these amendments to determine which, if any, are right for us.