Inside The Mansion

After Bloggers’ Day a few weeks ago, I wrote a lengthy post regarding the experience.  Upon a bit of reflection, I decided not to use the piece, as it was mainly a rant against the high priced parking in Richmond.  $20 for more than two hours?  That’s nothing short of highway robbery!  OK.  I’m done with that topic.

Anyway, during my trip to the capitol, Governor McDonnell invited the bloggers to a reception in the executive mansion.  As it is likely that many of you haven’t gotten a chance to visit the mansion yet (it was my first experience), I wanted to share a handful of pictures with you.  I don’t know about you, but when I hear the word mansion, I envision a massive building, ornately decorated, and brimming with servants.   Although the interior was quite nice, it wasn’t large enough to fit my preconceived notions of a mansion.  Nevertheless, I would assume that it serves our Governor’s needs and therefore a larger structure would be a waste of taxpayer money.

I hope you enjoy the pictures!  They include most of the rooms on the ground floor.  Oh, and before I forget, I sincerely want to thank Lieutenant Governor Bill Bolling for hosting Bloggers’ Day 2011 as well as Governor Bob McDonnell for ensuing reception.

George Allen Returns!

Today former Governor and Senator George Allen announces his bid for Virginia’s Senate seat in 2012.  For most of those following the election, the question was not if he would run, but rather when he would run.  I’m glad to hear both through this video and his visit during the Americans for Prosperity tour last week that he is central message thus far seems to be the same kind of limited government conservatism that so many people in the Commonwealth support.  And so fellow Virginians, our front runner has arrived.  The GOP nomination should be interesting, so stay tuned!

Metal Bell

About a week ago, I received a pretty troubling email from another political activist.  It concerned a pre-filed bill for the upcoming legislative session, HB 1528 sponsored by Dickie Bell of Staunton.  According to the email, this bill “requires every dealer to prepare a daily report” of precious metal transactions.  Furthermore, these reports would be available to both government and law enforcement agents.  As you would imagine, I found this news to be particularly troubling.  I would assume that more and more Virginians would look toward investing in precious metals given the continued weakness of the U.S. Dollar.  Isn’t it just a little bit disconcerting that the government would take such a keen interest in these transactions?  What do they plan to do with this data now or in the future?

Resisting the temptation to hastily write a letter to Delegate Bell regarding my concerns, I thought it prudent to do a bit of research first.  The most interesting point that I discovered is that the Virginia Code  (54.1-4101) already requires precious metal or gem dealers to keep a written record of both their transactions and customers that are available on request.  Delegate Bell’s bill would primarily change two points:

  1. “Every dealer shall prepare a daily report containing the information required by 54.1-4101 sold to him each day and shall file such report by noon of the following day with the chief of police or other law-enforcement officer of the county, city or town where his business is conducted designated by the local attorney for the Commonwealth to receive it.”  The dealer can submit his or her report electronically as opposed to mailing or delivering them in person, which is the current norm.
  2. Dealers can charge their customers a small service fee to cover the added costs associated with these filings.

As you can see, some of the most onerous parts of the law are already in place.  Delegate Bell’s bill just enhances them and provides a much closer and daily link to law enforcement.  As you can imagine, with this new information I was still against HB 1528 and looked for an opportunity to speak with the Delegate about it.  That opportunity came on Friday when Harrisonburg and Rockingham County Republicans gathered for lunch at our typical First Friday meeting.  All of the Delegates and Senators who represent any portion of the city and/or the county were invited.  Once I got to the gathering, I discovered that neither Senator Hanger could not attend nor could most of the Delegates.  Fortunately, both Delegate Bell and Senator Obenshain were there.

After the meal and a short speech by the Senator and Delegate, I patiently waited my turn to ask about HB1528.  Senator Obenshain moderated the questions from the audience and several times he passed over my outstretched hand.  Amazingly, after just about everyone else’s questions had been answered, the Senator ended the meeting, thus denying me my opportunity and primary reason for showing up to the meeting in the first place.  Although it would be easy to assume such a move as an intentional slight, I really hope it was merely an oversight.

As the crowd began to trickle away, fortunately Delegate Bell stuck around to speak with some of the guests and so I kept my eye on him.  Once the line dwindled, I finally got my chance.

The first thing Delegate Bell said to me was that he noticed that I had been waiting patiently for quite some time. I agreed and pulled out my printed copy of HB 1528 and asked him why he was proposing that bill.  He responded that local law-enforcement officials suggested the bill as an effort to further crack down on illegal trafficking of stolen goods.  However, after speaking with a number of interested parties, Delegate Bell stated that he no longer supports this bill and would be removing it from consideration very soon.  In addition, given the potential privacy violations already present in the law, he mentioned that he would be speaking to the Attorney General about deleting (or at least modifying) 54.1-4101 from the Virginia Code.

It is difficult to find the balance between security and liberty.  Although I’m sure that HB 1528 would aid Virginia police in catching criminals, is the added bureaucracy, hassle, and loss of privacy worth is?  I would say no.  In our post 9-11 world, far too many conservatives and liberals alike are willing to sacrifice just about every right in order to gain even the slightest feeling of security, even if doing so provides no tangible benefits.  For another example one needs look no further than the ridiculous nature of airport security.  First, why do we allow the federal government to look after airport safety?  Shouldn’t that role be the responsibility of the independent airport authorities or at least the states or the localities in which they are located?  Second, aren’t these body scanners and aggressive pat-downs a clear violation of our Fourth Amendment rights?  Must we give up our Constitutional protections in order to fly the not so friendly skies?  I could go on, but the simple fact is that once we surrender liberty in one facet, like travel, it will be that much easier to surrender it in another, like commerce, all in the false and misguided hope of greater security.

Now some activists might be upset by Delegate Bell’s HB 1528 proposal, but I think we should look at this event in a different light.  After all, Delegate Bell freely admits that HB 1528 is a blunder that he intends to correct immediately.  I believe that gesture shows volumes about his character.  He could have ignored the concerned letters and phone calls.  He could have not taken responsibility for this lapse in judgment.  After all everyone makes mistakes and the easiest and most widespread response is to simply deny their existence.  A true mark of strength is when we recognize missteps and correct them before the damage becomes irreversible.

Even though we share many conservative values, I’m sure that Delegate Bell and I will disagree on a few points in the future.  I’m just glad to know that the 20th district has a Delegate who listens to the people and will change course when he discovers he is in error.

The End of Primaries In Virginia?

With Virginia’s legislative session beginning next week, Delegates and Senators are busy getting all of their affairs in order.  If you check the Legislative Information System, you can find a wealth of pre-filed bills and resolutions from General Assembly members across the state.  A few moments ago, I received an email from my State Senator, Mark Obenshain.  In what promises to be the first part of his previews, he discusses some of his legislative priorities.  It reads as follows:

Perhaps January 12 isn’t circled on your calendar, but it is on mine – it is the first day of the General Assembly Session.  I know that what takes place in Richmond matters to you too, which is why I want to use the coming days to tell you about the bills I plan to introduce and some of the big issues facing the General Assembly this session.

Today, I would like to take the opportunity to outline some of my proposals for a leaner, smarter government. Honestly, we don’t have much of a choice: although the economy is starting to recover, state revenues remain low and need remains great. We have to prioritize, to come up with more efficient ways of doing the work of government, and to ensure that the true agents of recovery – individual Virginians – aren’t hampered by overbearing regulation.

If ever there was a time for government reform, this is it. Here are a few of the bills I will be introducing this year designed to change the way the Commonwealth governs for the better.

Creating a Transportation Lockbox

Here’s an idea: revenues specifically raised for and dedicated to transportation should be spent on … transportation!

Time and again, legislators have raided transportation revenues to pay for other projects. Often, less important functions are funded by revenues designated for far more important ones, on the theory that when the more essential program experiences a budget crunch, there will be no choice but to appropriate new monies to cover the shortfall.

No more: it’s a poor way to govern, and it’s bad faith with the people of Virginia. That’s why I’m proposing the creation of a “transportation lockbox” to ensure that revenues specifically raised for transportation are only spent on transportation projects. The time for dallying on fiscal responsibility is over – indeed, it ended long ago. It’s time to put transportation funds in a lockbox to help ensure the funds we need to make critical infrastructure improvements.

Getting a Better Deal on Government Contracts

When the Commonwealth puts a project or purchase order out to bid, it doesn’t always take the best deal – or anything close. Due to an entrenched system of preferential procurement, 40% of all requests for proposals are submitted to qualifying small businesses and women- and minority-owned (SWaM) businesses alone.

Whatever you think of preferential contracting, this is an incredibly bad way to go about it. Some states “score” bids on various factors – price, specifications, reputability – and include a preference component. Virginia, on the other hand, simply sets aside 40% of contracts exclusively for SWaM vendors, and we have no idea much it costs us since we have no other bids by which the contracts can be compared.

Under my proposal, bidding would be open to all vendors, and agencies will be permitted to enter into as many SWaM-preferred contracts as they wish so long as total project costs are not increased by more than 3% off the low qualifying bids. The question is this: can we really justify unquantifiable cost overruns at a time when we are asking so many to do more with less?

Ending Subsidies to Political Parties

Virginia is in a somewhat unique situation: we don’t allow voter registration by political party, but we still pay for party primaries. And the truth is, we pay through the nose, sometimes as much as $20 per voter.

There are perfectly good alternatives. Parties often choose to nominate via convention or party canvass, or through a “firehouse primary,” in which a limited number of polling places are opened in each locality, usually for fewer hours than in a government-run election. All of these methods are common, all are relatively affordable – and all are paid for by the political parties themselves.

If a political party wants a conventional primary, fine – but they can pay for it. Our localities are burdened enough as it is. If a party cannot or will not put up that much money, they can always go with a cheaper option. Our localities can ill afford it – and under my proposal, they wouldn’t have to.

Studying Options for a Fiscally Sustainable Future

It’s easy for an entity as large as state government to get stuck in the past, and sometimes the way forward is less than obvious. But we can’t just keep spinning our wheels; at very least, we should always be looking for ways to be better stewards of taxpayer dollars. That’s why I’m introducing legislation instructing Virginia’s Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission (JLARC) to study proposals for making state government smarter and more efficient.

As you probably know, federal health care legislation requires a massive expansion of state Medicaid programs by 2014, with substantial new financial burdens falling upon already cash-strapped states. Here’s what you probably don’t know: state involvement in Medicaid is optional.

Yes, I know what you’re thinking, and no, of course I would never support repudiating our obligations to low-income families in Virginia. I simply point out that we don’t necessarily have to provide these services through Medicaid, especially with a raft of new regulations and eligibility changes on the way.

Several states are looking at the possibility of running their own programs independent of the federal Medicaid program – and it wouldn’t be the first time. Some states ran their own programs into the 1980s, when changes in federal funding ended the cost-effectiveness of such alternatives. With the nature of Medicaid set to change, it’s time to give that option another look to determine if Virginia could meet the needs of the Medicaid population more cost-effectively outside the federal Medicaid program.

The second study I am requesting deals with state employee pay. Recently, several studies have demonstrated that federal employee compensation routinely exceeds that of comparable private sector positions, raising the question of whether state pay scales are similarly disproportionate – something we should wish to know for future hiring.

Going beyond the value of compensation packages, moreover, we need to give a good long look at how we provide retirement benefits. The Virginia Retirement System’s default choice is a defined benefit plan which looks a lot like the pensions of the 1950s – ’70s, but bears little resemblance to the more cost-effective defined contribution plans and 401(k)s common in today’s workplace. If being behind the times is costing us, things need to change. That’s part of what my bill would instruct JLARC to study.

Of course, these are just a few proposals to make government more efficient and responsive. I will be carrying a number of other bills with similar themes, and look forward to working with my colleagues on further reform proposals, a number of which have emerged from the Governor’s Commission on Government Reform and Restructuring, of which I am a member.

In coming days, I will be sharing more with you about my legislative priorities, and about major issues facing the General Assembly this coming session, and as always, I welcome you to share your ideas, thoughts, and concerns with me now and throughout session.

With best regards, 

Banner
Mark D. Obenshain
Virginia State Senator
Authorized and paid for by Friends of Mark Obenshain

Now there is quite a bit of meat in this email.  However, one particular issue that stands out to me concerns political primaries.  As I’ve stated before, I believe primaries are a poor method to nominate party candidates.  Not only are they an added expense to the Virginia taxpayer, but they often create weaker nominees and ones less wed to their party’s supposed ideology.  Given that the costs of holding a convention falls squarely on the parties, I understand why political parties might choose a primary, but is it fair to defray these costs to average Virginians?  That doesn’t sound very fiscally responsible.

I was greatly disappointed when state Republicans decided upon a primary to select our 2012 Republican nominee for Senate.  Given that the decision has been thrown open to every Virginia voter, we will likely end up with a nominee that is not the most conservative (and some may argue not the most Republican), but rather the one who best panders to the liberals and the moderates.  After all, they will have as much of a say in choosing the Republican nominee as Republicans will.  What a great idea ladies and gentlemen!  Let’s let the Democrats pick the Republican candidate.  What could possibly go wrong?

Sigh.

Well, I’m glad to hear that Senator Obenshain is working to correct this issue.  If political parties still insist on holding primaries, it is high time that they cover the bill themselves.  Once the RPV and the DPVA have to front the cost of their own nomination process, if only for financial reasons, maybe they will come to realize that conventions (or canvasses) are a better method.  After all, as they say, “It’s the money stupid.”

The High Cost to Advance

On this coming Friday and Saturday, Republicans across the state will be gathering in McLean, Virginia, to celebrate the 27th Donald Huffman Advance.  For those who don’t know, Donald Huffman is a former chairman of the Republican Party of Virginia.  This year should an interesting event as many high name conservatives have reserved hospitality suites for Friday night.  For example, the three potential 2012 Senate candidates, former Governor George Allen, Delegate Bob Marshall of Manassas, and Prince William County Board of Supervisors Chairman Corey Stewart all will be currying support.  To name a few more, my State Senator Mark Obenshain of Harrisonburg and Representative Eric Cantor of Richmond will each have a suite too.  Then on Saturday, after breakfast, attendees will have the opportunity to attend numerous workshops followed by lunch and then additional workshops.  That evening, activists can also enjoy a dinner and a VIP reception for an additional cost.  Sounds like an interesting experience, no?  So what do you expect an event like this one to cost?  $25?  $50?  $100?  Regrettably, these two days cost a staggering $165 per person!

Until last year, I never attended the annual Advance.  Although I have been to two conventions, I couldn’t justify the price tag.  After all, besides the cost of the Advance itself, you also have to take into account the travel costs as well as the hotel.  If you caught the early bird special for lodging this year, that means tacking on another $85.  In late 2009, I decided to make the trek down to Williamsburg to see what the fuss was all about.  The Friday night hospitality suites were sort of like a family reunion as I was able to speak to many politicians and activists that I had met over the years.  Unfortunately, by the late evening, I grew increasingly unwell.  By the morning, I felt sick and it was difficult to concentrate so by the time I got over to the Advance I was feeling pretty miserable.  Therefore, due to my worsening condition and desire to not contaminate my fellow activists, I planned to leave.  While pondering my options, I asked if I was able get some sort of refund if I left.  The folks at the RPV said that I could and so I exited the convention hall to return to Harrisonburg.  Later however, I was told that my promise of a full refund was reduced to just a partial refund.  A few weeks after that, the idea of even a minor refund was completely rejected.  Obviously, this episode has soured my impression of the Advance.

I would expect that many Republicans will gather in Tysons Corner this weekend to celebrate this year’s Advance.  However, you will not find me there.  Even if I could afford to go, I believe the charge is far too high for what you get and, especially in these tough economic times, the average Republican activist will be repulsed by the fees associated.  I have no problem with a fundraising dinner and a VIP reception in order to raise cash from the high rollers among us, but $250 (including hotel) to attend a handful of workshops?  If you are looking to learn more about politics, given their lower outlay, I think the Leadership Institute provides far more bang for your buck.  Shouldn’t the Advance be more about celebrating our victories and working for the future rather than squeezing the faithful for funds?  Sure, I’d love to join you at the RPV’s Advance, but the costs are simply too high.

A Critical Step to Protect the Unborn

During my most recent adventure in retail, when one particular customer came into the store he regularly thanked me for my efforts on behalf of the pro-life community.  Although I’m uncertain how he knew of my work in Tennessee, I did appreciate his support.  Toward that end, he offered to donate to my political campaign should I ever seek office…but that is an issue for another day.  Now I know that while many of you aren’t as politically active as I, you are as intensely as pro-life.  Well, I’m pleased to announce that you can take a stand to help prevent the wholesale slaughter of the next generation.  On Friday, I received word from our friends in Botetourt that you can help in this noble cause.  The message is as follows:

According to our Attorney General, the state of VA could enforce
higher standards on abortion clinics in Virginia.  Planned Parenthood
says if these standards were enforced, 17 of their 21 abortion clinics
in the state could close.  The Governor has not done this yet.

Can you help me encourage the Governor to do the right thing?  We want
Gov. Bob McDonnell to instruct the state Board of Health to enforce
the regulations on abortion clinics that the Attorney General says is
within the Governor’s power to do.

You can read the Attorney General’s opinion at:
http://www.familyfoundationblog.com/2010/08/23/cuccinelli-virginia-has-legal-authority-to-regulate-abortion-centers/

So please:

1. Contact your GOP Delegates and state senators ask them to tell the
Governor to take a stand on this by instructing the state Board of
Health to enforce the regulations on abortion clinics.  You can find
and contact your state reps at:
http://conview.state.va.us/whosmy.nsf/main?openform

2. Contact the Governor: http://www.governor.virginia.gov/Contact.cfm

3. Write letters to the editor of you local paper & call in to radio talk shows

4. Pray

5. Ask others to do steps 1-4 – forward them this email.

Remember tell them you want Gov. Bob McDonnell to instruct the state
Board of Health to enforce the regulations on abortion clinics.

Thank you for taking the time to speak up for those who can not make
their voices heard.

Even though we’d like to eliminate all abortion facilities in the Old Dominion, this effort is a key step in the right direction.  Regardless if your Delegate or State Senator is a passionate advocate for the unborn or not, we must contact them about this matter.  Unfortunately, as you may have noticed, most politicians will only act when spurred by their constituents.  So here is your chance to join me as we work to shut down many of the so-called “clinics” in our Commonwealth.  Although one person can make a difference, an entire army of motivated citizens is worth far more.  You must call or write Governor McDonnell and your representatives in Richmond and tell your friends and family to do likewise.  We can save the unborn, but only if you’re willing to help.

Update:  I just sent an email to the Governor.  What are you waiting for?

Further Update:  An online petition is now available too.

Why I’m Voting No

As I stated in a recent post, tomorrow voters across Virginia will have the chance to vote on three amendments to the Virginia Constitution.  After considerable thought, research, and a bit of debate among the members of The Jeffersoniad, I have decided to vote against all of them.

To refresh your memory, the first proposed amendment reads, “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?”  Although I am of the opinion that the more localized government the better, I am leery of creating exemptions from property taxes.  I am concerned that once we start creating these blanket exemptions, they will continue to proliferate.  Property is property, regardless of the age, condition, or status of the person who happens to own it.  Once we set up these age or disability limitations, is it that big of a leap for someone in the General Assembly to move to create additional exemptions based on race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, or something else?  As all citizens should be equal under the law, I cannot support this amendment.

For the same reasoning as the first amendment, I cannot support the second one either.  To remind you, it reads, “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?” Again, I believe this amendment creates a slippery slope.  We should certainly honor and respect our veterans, but is tax exemption the answer?  So what about only partially disabled veterans?  They served our state and our nation.  Shouldn’t they be given some sort of benefits too?  And if we exempt some people from property taxes, will the General Assembly merely forgo the lost tax revenue?  Or will they raise some sort of new tax to cover the shortfall?  Lastly, should we compel widows and widowers to not remarry simply to reap tax incentives?  Again, I say no.

Finally we have, “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?”  Although, on the surface, this amendment sounds good, I believe it will ultimately lead to higher taxes and an increased size of the government in Richmond.  Rob Schilling addresses this issue when he writes,

Increasing the allowable size of Virginia’s “rainy day fund” by 50% is a colossally bad idea. The state is not a bank, an investment, or a savings account; it should hold as little of the people’s money as is practical.

Funds retained by government are unavailable to the state’s economy and thus stifle economic activity both of businesses and individuals.

In addition, fattening the state’s “slush” fund encourages growth in the size and scope of state government, and it is a disincentive to vital cost cutting and budget reform/reduction measures.

Although I am aware that most of the members of the General Assembly will disagree, I cannot support any of these amendments to the Virginia Constitution.  To borrow another quote from Mr. Schilling, “Don’t be fooled by seemingly sympathetic subjects.  Progressive taxation and government largesse have not benefited America in the preceding century.  The 2010 ballot questions are bad news for liberty loving Virginians, and if passed, they will result in greater state control over our everyday lives.”  Now if you haven’t made up your mind on these issues I encourage you to do so before you go vote tomorrow.  Amending the Virginia Constitution is serious business.  I cannot support these proposed amendments and so I encourage you to act likewise and vote no on each and every amendment.

Update:  As discussed, other members of the Jeffersoniad have weighed in on the amendments.  Rick Sincere, Crystal Clear Conservative, Yankee Phil, Brian Kirwin of Bearing Drift, and Tom White of Virginia Right! recommend Virginia voters reject all three too.  However such thoughts are not uniform among conservative bloggers as the Right-Wing Liberal supports the first and third while opposing the second and JR Hoeft of Bearing Drift will vote for the first and second and is against the third.

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?

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.

Ron Paul In Richmond

Photo thanks to RonPaul.com

For those of you who haven’t heard the exciting news by now, Dr. No is coming to Richmond!  He will be one of the central speakers at the Greater Richmond Convention Center during the 2010 Virginia Tea Party Convention.  His speech is scheduled for 2:25 PM on Saturday, so if you are planning on attending, make sure not to miss him.  Read more about it at http://www.vateapartyconvention.com/. Other speakers include Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell, Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling, AG Ken Cuccinelli, and former Senator George Allen.  It is encouraging to see so many Virginia leaders working alongside the Tea Party movement and Representative Paul.  I wish that I could join you all on Saturday, but as I’ll be about four hundred miles away, I guess I’m going to skip this one.  Nevertheless, many bloggers from the Jeffersoniad will be on hand for the event, so I’m sure there will be a lot of great coverage.  Once they have their posts up, I’ll link you to several.

So join the Tea Party crowd in Richmond this Saturday, October 9.  It should be a day to remember.