Edwards Announces for the 20th

Today, on the steps of the Augusta County Courthouse in Staunton, Virginia, Michele Edwards announced her intention to seek the Democratic nomination for the 20th district seat in the House of Delegates. Below is a video of her announcement.  Sorry that it is a bit shakey.  In retrospect, I should have worn gloves as it was cold outside.

Republican Dickie Bell has represented the 20th district since 2010.  He has not had a Democratic opponent since 2011 when Laura Kleiner challenged him.  This year, he is facing Libertarian Will Hammer and now Democrat Michele Edwards.

To learn more about Michele Edwards and her campaign, I suggest you visit her website.

Round Two: Hammer Vs. Bell

Images from Dickie Bell’s and Will Hammer’s websites

Two years and two days ago, Will Hammer announced his candidacy for the House of Delegates in the 20th district.  He ran as the Libertarian candidate against Dickie Bell, the Republican incumbent.

Delegate Bell emerged victorious in the 2015 contest, but today Hammer has announced his plans for a second go at the office.

In his press release, Mr. Hammer states, “I believe that my strong showing in 2015 and growing distrust and distaste for the two major parties, specifically incumbents, represents a great opportunity to go to Richmond as a third party candidate.”

Will Hammer highlights some of his campaign issues adding, “When elected, I will fight against the Dominion pipeline because property rights are sacred, to end gerrymandering and corruption, bring transparency to Richmond and publish a reasoning for every vote that I place. I will hold online and in person public forums for my constituents. I will protect your gun rights as I was given an A grade from Gun Owners of America and “very pro-gun” rating from Virginia Citizens Defense League. I will fight for judicial reform and marijuana legalization, which will reduce government expenditure and create a booming new industry which means thousands of jobs. I will walk the walk, not talk the talk. If you are tired of business as usual and the duopoly of the Republicans and Democrats, join me and let’s seriously drain the swamp known as Richmond.”

Presumably, Mr. Hammer will be able to collect the signatures of 125 valid and registered voters in the 20th district to make the ballot.  Assuming he is the Republican nominee once more, Delegate Bell will not be required to collect signatures.  The 20th district includes the cities of Staunton and Waynesboro as well as all of Highland County and parts of Augusta and Nelson Counties.  Right now, there are no other candidates in this race and Will Hammer is the only Libertarian candidate running in the Shenandoah Valley.

If you’d like to learn more about either of the two candidates, you can find information about both Bell and Hammer on their respective websites.

Good Bills, Bad Bills in 2017

January 11th marks the start of the 2017 Virginia General Assembly session.  As is typical, there is a whole host of legislation being proposed.  Some that are good for liberty, some are bad, and many that aren’t all that interesting, such as honoring an individual or business, or technical changes to the law that don’t make much of an impact.  Now, as there are thousands of bills, I won’t share them all, (nor, to be fair, have I read them all).  However, I’d like to share some of the ones I find interesting. Please note that the summaries of the bills are provided by the Virginia Legislative Information System.

Bills I’d like to see passed

HB 1578 Rob Bell (R-58) – Students who receive home instruction; participation in interscholastic programs. Prohibits public schools from joining an organization governing interscholastic programs that does not deem eligible for participation a student who (i) receives home instruction; (ii) has demonstrated evidence of progress for two consecutive academic years; (iii) is in compliance with immunization requirements; (iv) is entitled to free tuition in a public school;(v) has not reached the age of 19 by August 1 of the current academic year;(vi) is an amateur who receives no compensation but participates solely for the educational, physical, mental, and social benefits of the activity;(vii) complies with all disciplinary rules and is subject to all codes of conduct applicable to all public high school athletes; and (viii) complies with all other rules governing awards, all-star games, maximum consecutive semesters of high school enrollment, parental consents, physical examinations, and transfers applicable to all high school athletes. The bill provides that no local school board is required to establish a policy to permit students who receive home instruction to participate in interscholastic programs. The bill permits reasonable fees to be charged to students who receive home instruction to cover the costs of participation in such interscholastic programs, including the costs of additional insurance, uniforms, and equipment. The bill has an expiration date of July 1, 2022.

Students of parents who choose to homeschool ought to be afforded the same rights and privileges of parents who send their children to public schools.  After all, if someone is required to pay for public schools whether they use them or not for academic instruction, they should be able to enjoy the same benefits.

HB 1637 Glenn Davis (R-84) – Possession or distribution of marijuana for medical purposes; Crohn’s disease. Provides an affirmative defense in a prosecution for the possession of marijuana if the marijuana is in the form of cannabidiol oil or THC-A oil possessed pursuant to a valid written certification issued by a practitioner of medicine or osteopathy licensed by the Board of Medicine for purposes of treating Crohn’s disease or alleviating such patient’s symptoms. The bill provides that a practitioner shall not be prosecuted for distribution of marijuana for the treatment of or for alleviating the symptoms of Crohn’s disease.

Individuals who use marijuana as a medicine should be able to do so without fear of prosecution.

HB 1677 Ben Cline (R-24) – General Assembly; introduction of legislation; recorded vote. Requires all legislation introduced by a member of the House of Delegates or the Senate to be considered by the committee of purview or a subcommittee thereof and receive a recorded vote. All legislation reported from the house of introduction shall be considered by the committee of purview or a subcommittee thereof in the other chamber and receive a recorded vote.

Citizens ought to know how their elected officials vote, including in committees.  The fact that currently a legislator can kill or promote a bill secretly in a committee without any transparency or accountability is a huge problem.

HB 2028 Nick Freitas (R-30) – Industrial hemp production; authorization. Removes all restrictions on the production of industrial hemp, including licensing and regulations.

There is no reason that I can see why there ought to be any governmental restrictions on hemp.

HB 2265 Ben Cline (R-24) – Concealed handgun permits. Allows any person who is otherwise eligible to obtain a concealed handgun permit to carry a concealed handgun without a permit anywhere he may lawfully carry a handgun openly within the Commonwealth.

Although our right to bear arms is in the US Constitution, lawmakers often try to erode this right.  The right to self-defense among law-abiding citizens isn’t something that should require a permit.

HJ 622 Sam Rasoul (D-11) – Constitutional amendment (first resolution); General Assembly; term limits. Limits members of the Senate to three full terms (12 years) and members of the House of Delegates to six full terms (12 years). The limitations apply to service for both consecutive and nonconsecutive terms. Service for a partial term does not preclude serving the allowed number of full terms. In addition to any partial term, a person may serve 12 years in each house, or a total of 24 years in the General Assembly. The limits apply to terms of service beginning on and after the start of the 2020 Regular Session of the General Assembly.

The current political system presently heavily favors incumbents and seniority.  Creating term limits would help curtail these abuses and restore the idea of citizen legislators, not create a future class of career politicians.

HJ 629 Rob Bell (R-58) – Constitutional amendment (first resolution); charter schools. Grants the Board of Education authority, subject to criteria and conditions prescribed by the General Assembly, to establish charter schools within the school divisions of the Commonwealth.

Competition is good for the economic marketplace and I believe it good for schools as well as it will encourage more innovation and offer more choices and control to parents.

SJ 240 – Mark Obenshain (R-26) – Constitutional amendment (first resolution); charter schools. Grants the Board of Education authority, subject to criteria and conditions prescribed by the General Assembly, to establish charter schools within the school divisions of the Commonwealth.

Same bill as Bell’s HJ 629, same reason to support it.

 

Bills I’d like to see defeated

HB 1398 Delegate Richard (Dickie) Bell (R-20) – Hate crimes; acts against law-enforcement officers, firefighters, and EMS personnel. Expands the definition of hate crime for the purpose of reporting hate crimes within the Department of State Police to include acts against persons employed as law-enforcement officers, firefighters, or emergency medical services personnel.

Hate crime legislation often means that the lives and/or wellbeing of some individuals are more valued under the law simply based on race, class, gender identity, or, in this case, their profession.  Crime is crime and justice should be blind.  Punishments shouldn’t be more or less severe based upon the status of the victim involved.

HB 1429 Mark Cole (R-88) – Electors for President and Vice President; allocation of electoral votes by congressional district. Revises the process by which the Commonwealth’s electoral votes are allocated among the slates of presidential electors. The bill provides that a voter will vote for two electors for the Commonwealth at large and one elector for the congressional district in which he is qualified to vote. The candidates for President and Vice President receiving the highest number of votes cast statewide are allocated the two electoral votes for the Commonwealth at large, and the candidates for President and Vice President receiving the highest number of votes cast in each congressional district are allocated the one electoral vote for that congressional district. Currently, the candidates for President and Vice President receiving the highest number of votes cast statewide are allocated the total number of the Commonwealth’s electoral votes.

I discuss my opposition to this bill in this article.

HB 1444 Sam Rasoul (D-11) – Minimum wage. Increases the minimum wage from its current federally mandated level of $7.25 per hour to $10.00 per hour effective July 1, 2017, to $12.50 per hour effective July 1, 2019, and to $15.00 per hour effective July 1, 2021, unless a higher minimum wage is required by the federal Fair Labor Standards Act.

In a free marketplace, the government would not set any minimum wage.  In addition, raising it to the levels suggested in this bill will likely hurt small businesses in rural Virginia (who, given the differences in cost of living in their location, cannot afford them).  Lower skilled jobs may also end up disappearing hurting workers as well.

HB 1601 Matthew Fariss (R-59) Electors for President and Vice President; allocation of electoral votes by congressional district. Revises the process by which the Commonwealth’s electoral votes are allocated among the slates of presidential electors. The bill provides that a voter will vote for two electors for the Commonwealth at large and one elector for the congressional district in which he is qualified to vote. The candidates for President and Vice President receiving the highest number of votes cast statewide are allocated the two electoral votes for the Commonwealth at large, and the candidates for President and Vice President receiving the highest number of votes cast in each congressional district are allocated the one electoral vote for that congressional district. Currently, the candidates for President and Vice President receiving the highest number of votes cast statewide are allocated the total number of the Commonwealth’s electoral votes.

Same as my opposition to HB 1429.

HB 1771 Ken Plum (D-36) – Minimum wage. Increases the minimum wage from its current federally mandated level of $7.25 per hour to $10.10 per hour effective January 1, 2018, unless a higher minimum wage is required by the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). Effective January 1, 2020, the minimum wage shall be adjusted biennially to reflect annual increases in the consumer price index over the two most recent calendar years. The measure also provides that the Virginia minimum wage applies to persons whose employment is covered by the FLSA.

See HB 1444 above.

HB 1776 Ken Plum (D-36) Hate crimes; gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability; penalty. Adds gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, and disability to the categories of victims whose intentional selection for a hate crime involving assault, assault and battery, or trespass for the purpose of damaging another’s property results in a higher criminal penalty for the offense. The bill also adds these categories of victims to the categories of hate crimes that are to be reported to the central repository of information regarding hate crimes maintained by the Virginia State Police.

As with HB 1398, I oppose expanding hate crime legislation and believe that there shouldn’t be special penalties or exceptions for a crime based on the gender, race, creed, or employment status of the victim.

HJ 547 Scott Lingamfelter (R-31) – U.S. Constitution; application for a convention of the states. Makes application to Congress to call a convention of the states to propose amendments to the United States Constitution to restrain the abuse of power by the federal government.

Although I would like to see the federal government obey the law, drafting new amendments or even a new constitution seems like a poor idea given that the federal government is not really held accountable to the present Constitution.  Nullification by state governments would likely be a more proper remedy to this problem, rather than a fairly open-ended convention which could lead to a lot of unintended consequences.

HJ 634 Mark Cole (R-88) – Constitutional amendment (first resolution); authority of elected school boards to impose taxes. Provides that the General Assembly may authorize any elected school board to impose real property taxes.

This bill would allow another government entity to have taxing authority.  How about no!

SB 837 Amanda Chase (R-11) – Electors for President and Vice President; allocation of electoral votes by congressional district. Revises the process by which the Commonwealth’s electoral votes are allocated among the slates of presidential electors. The bill provides that a voter will vote for two electors for the Commonwealth at large and one elector for the congressional district in which he is qualified to vote. The candidates for President and Vice President receiving the highest number of votes cast statewide are allocated the two electoral votes for the Commonwealth at large, and the candidates for President and Vice President receiving the highest number of votes cast in each congressional district are allocated the one electoral vote for that congressional district. Currently, the candidates for President and Vice President receiving the highest number of votes cast statewide are allocated the total number of the Commonwealth’s electoral votes.

Like with Delegate Cole’s electoral vote bill, I explain my opposition here.

SB 902 Mark Obenshain (R-26) – Primary elections; voter registration by political party. Adds party affiliation to the information that an applicant is asked to provide when registering to vote. The applicant may indicate that he is an independent. The bill requires the State Board of Elections (State Board), in September 2017, to notify all registered voters of the new party registration law and send them a return card to indicate their party affiliation or independent status. Any voter who does not state a party affiliation shall be designated as independent in the registration records. Voters may change their party affiliation or independent status by written notice at any time before the registration records are closed in advance of an election. The bill (i) requires the state party chairman to notify the State Board by January 31 of each year whether the party will close or open its primaries, (ii) requires that primary candidate petitions be signed and witnessed by voters registered as affiliated with the party conducting the primary, (iii) sets the required number of petition signatures at one percent of the number of voters registered as affiliated with the party in the election district where the primary is being held, and (iv) allows an official political party to retain that status as long as at least 15 percent of the Commonwealth’s registered voters are registered as affiliated with that party. The provisions of the bill are applicable to primaries conducted after January 1, 2018.

The state government should not create or maintain a list of members of a private political party.  In addition, this list could be used to exclude some voters from primaries even though as taxpayers they still have to pay for these functions.  As an added thought, one could hardly call these additional costs to the state of these databases as fiscally conservative.

SB 925 Chap Petersen (D-34) – Plastic bag tax in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed. Imposes a five-cent per bag tax on plastic bags provided to customers by certain retailers in localities located wholly within the Chesapeake Bay Watershed and directs revenues to be used to support the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Implementation Plan. The bill also allows every retailer that collects the tax to retain one cent of the five-cent tax.

Although I don’t approve of littering and I believe that there ought to be penalties for those caught doing so, this bill would unnecessarily increase the cost of business for everyone, including those who do not litter.

SB 978 Rosalyn Dance (D-16) – Minimum wage. Increases the minimum wage from its current federally mandated level of $7.25 per hour to $10.00 per hour effective July 1, 2017, to $13 per hour effective July 1, 2018, and to $15 per hour effective July 1, 2019, unless a higher minimum wage is required by the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). The measure also provides that the Virginia minimum wage applies to persons whose employment is covered by the FLSA.

As mentioned with Delegate Rasoul’s bill, the government shouldn’t set a minimum wage, nor would the wages this bill suggests be proper for some rural parts of the state where the cost of living is lower and thus wages would also be lower.

Well, these are the interesting and important bills to me.  Eight that should be passed and twelve that need to be defeated.  However, given that there are over a thousand bills out there, I’m sure that I haven’t found them all.  Are there any others that you all think ought to be supported or opposed?

Tearing Out A Man’s Tongue…

Political dialogue is important, which is why I am Facebook friends with a variety of politicians and “like” a lot of political parties and organizations.  I try to maintain ties with a variety of Republicans, Democrats, Libertarians, Constitutionalists, and independents.  You shouldn’t simply surround yourself with people who agree with you all the time, as doing so places you in a very small circle and doesn’t allow much room for thought and the possibility of change.  However, I do insist that my contacts treat each other civilly.  For example, several years ago a fellow Ron Paul supporter I knew got into a heated argument with one of my Republican friends and ended up declaring that it would be better if his mother had aborted him.  Regardless of your political affiliations, such a remark is totally over the line.  One can have disagreements about policy without delving into personal attacks.

Photo from January 19th, 2015
Photo from January 19th, 2015

I appreciate my Facebook network of friends who are elected officials, but have discovered that several have gone missing.  After doing a bit of digging I determined that they have blocked me.  I believe Delegate Dickie Bell (R-Staunton) blocked me first.  Delegate Bell and I got into a scuffle on my blog back in late 2013 after he crafted a bill that would have drastically changed the opt-in program for organ donation.  I had argued that making this change would, in effect, mean that your body would be assumed to belong to the state unless a citizen declared otherwise.  As you might imagine, this article generated considerable negative press and he ended up pulling the bill, which I praised him for doing.  Since that time Delegate Bell and I have not really communicated (even though we posed for a photo earlier this year) and at some point in 2015 he took the step of blocking me.  I believe it was around the same time I wrote a piece chastising the Augusta County GOP for releasing an ad telling voters to vote Republican in order to “preserve our Christian heritage“.

IMG_2980Next was Marshall Pattie, a Republican Supervisor from Augusta County.  I first met Pattie as we were both running for office.  I was seeking a seat on the Harrisonburg City Council while he sought the Republican nod for the Virginia Senate in the 24th district.  Over about the next year and a half we had several conversations.  Although I did my best to remain objective about the race on this site, I discovered that sometimes he would tell me one thing and then later do or say something totally contradictory.  Here are two examples:  On June 30th, 2014, I attended Marshall Pattie’s official campaign kickoff in Waynesboro.  After the event, he came up to me and told me that he wanted to help my campaign for council but was worried that the Republican leadership would be upset if he did, especially as he was a recent convert to the party.  I explained that I appreciated his support but understood his situation and didn’t ask him for any public help.  However, the next time I saw one of his posts on Facebook, it was a photo of him wearing stickers of my opponents and going door-to-door on their behalf.  Shortly after the November 2014 election, I was told that he spoke at the local Young Republican meeting and declared that Harrisonburg would have elected two Republicans to council if only I had not been in the race.  I asked him if he actually said these words and he confessed that he did, but promised that he would not say it again because he did not believe it to be true.  I didn’t really communicate with him further as I felt these two events had amply proven him to be untrustworthy.  I am not alone in this sentiment, as I know other activists (Republicans and Democrats) who have had similar experiences with him and have drawn the same conclusions.  If you closely examine the figure in the middle of the photo from the 2015 July 4th parade in Staunton, you will see it is Marshall Pattie.  If looks could kill, eh?

The third, believe it or not, is the Republican Party of Virginia.  About once a month or so I would comment on something they posted either offering a factual correction (if they posted something in error) or urging them to actually adhere to the principles found in their creed.  I was also very troubled when the Virginia Republican Party recently took what I thought was an extraordinary step, kicking Delegate Mark Berg (now I-Winchester) out of the party.  I still believe that action was unjust.  However, on the evening of December 12, 2015 I discovered that the party had blocked me from commenting on anything else.

Delegate Mark Berg, local activist Laura Logie, and Delegate Ben Cline
Delegate Mark Berg, local activist Laura Logie, and Delegate Ben Cline

I’ve gotten into disagreements with just about every elected official from time to time.  Delegate Todd Gilbert (R-Shenandoah) and I have had differing opinions on what constitutes an isolationist.  I supplied a local paper with a photo from the announcement of Delegate Ben Cline’s (R-Rockbridge) Democratic opponent.  I believe Delegate Cline is one of the best delegates and I was not trying to hurt his reelection chances.  Instead, I did it because I felt the paper had fallen down on its responsibility to provide important news to their readers concerning their political choices.  I successfully lobbied the General Assembly to defeat Delegate Steve Landes’ (R-Augusta) party registration bill.  However, in none of those cases did either the elected official or I rush to block the other over these issues as they were, in my opinion, all political fair game.

In full disclosure, I have blocked four people on Facebook.  Three were Republicans staffers and one was a Libertarian (or perhaps better labeled as a former Libertarian).  In each case these people attempted to threaten me into silence.  Whether you agree or disagree with a position or an individual, the use of coercion, be it either through physical or emotional threats, is completely unacceptable.  There is a certain line I will not allow anyone to cross and therefore terminated all further interactions with these individuals.

Censorship+most+often+also+means+you+fear+the+truth+_3d2d1a4bbf6fcae55cdde627c46ab85bAfter I discovered the RPV block I was reminded of a moment at the end of the first season of Game of Thrones.  In the episode a bard had performed a song that King Joffery found offensive.  Acting as Joffery often did, the king presented the bard with a choice, for his insolence he would either lose his fingers or his tongue.  In response, Tyrion Lannister offered this thought on censorship:  “When you tear out a man’s tongue, you are not proving him a liar; you’re only telling the world that you fear what he might say.”

Yes, we all have differing opinions and sometimes these differences can strain or even destroy relationships.  I have not kept track of how many Facebook friends I have both gained and lost due to political conversations.  And, although unfortunate, that is fine.  However, the act of blocking a person, not because they are intentionally nasty, but due to disagreements does make one wonder if a person or group is simply afraid what would happen if other people knew this information and adopted these viewpoints.

Anyway, I want to thank the vast majority of elected officials and political parties who have not blocked me or anyone else simply as a result of posting something they didn’t like.  In the long journey ahead there will be times when we agree and times when we disagree.  However, I hope we can always remain civil and never sever the lines of communication without reasonable cause.

The Staunton 4th in Photos

IMG_2984Yesterday, the residents of Staunton, Virginia held their annual 4th of July parade in Gypsy Hill Park.

As is typically the case, politicians, candidates, and political parties representing Staunton and Augusta County marched to show their support.  And, like last year, Senator Emmett Hanger (R-Augusta) was separate from the rest of the Republicans.  In addition, Angela Lynn, the Democratic challenger in the 25th House of Delegates, was similarly apart from her party.  The other Republican elected officials pounding the pavement included: Delegate Dickie Bell (R-Staunton), Delegate Ben Cline (R-Rockbridge), Representative Bob Goodlatte (R-Roanoke), Delegate Steve Landes (R-Augusta), and Supervisor Marshall Pattie (R-Augusta).  Ellen Arthur, who seeks to replace Delegate Cline, walked with the Democrats.  The Libertarians were there for Will Hammer who is running against Delegate Bell.  In addition, the one Republican and three Independent candidates for Augusta County Sheriff also each had a float in the parade.  And, lest we forget, the Augusta County Alliance had an entry opposing the proposed Dominion Power pipeline.

 

Bell Vs. Hammer

Images from Dickie Bell's and WIll Hammer's websites
Images from Dickie Bell’s and Will Hammer’s websites

On Friday, Will Hammer of Staunton declared his intent to run for the Virginia House of Delegates for the 20th district.  As mentioned in his announcement, he plans to be the Libertarian Party candidate.  Also running is Delegate Dickie Bell of Staunton, the recently certified Republican candidate who has represented the 20th district since 2010.  The 20th district includes the cities of Staunton and Waynesboro as well as Highland County and portions of Augusta and Nelson Counties.

Mr. Hammer, as some readers may recall, ran as the Libertarian Party candidate against Representative Bob Goodlatte (R-6) in the 2014 election cycle.  To the best of my knowledge, he is the first ever Libertarian to run for House of Delegates in the Shenandoah Valley.  One can find the official press release of his announcement on his website.

Unlike most districts in the Shenandoah Valley, the 20th has seen quite a few races lately, being contested in two of the last three election cycles with Erik Curran running under the Democratic banner in 2009 and Laura Kleiner doing likewise in 2011.  However, so far, no Democratic candidate has announced this year and it is growing increasingly doubtful that anyone will do so.

On a lighter note, given their last names, I expect that we will see quite a few puns appear dealing with this race.

Bell’s Freedom of Information

Image from Delegate Bell's Facebook page
Image from Delegate Bell’s Facebook page

Transparency in government is something that every legislator and every citizen should work to enhance.  Therefore, it is always encouraging to find government officials push for greater public awareness.

Delegate Dickie Bell of Staunton has introduced a bill in the 2015 session of the General Assembly that furthers this goal.  According to Virginia’s Legislative Information System, Bell’s HB 1696 “Makes a public service corporation subject to the public records provisions of the Virginia Freedom of Information Act with respect to any project or activity for which it may exercise the power of eminent domain and has filed or prefiled for a certificate or other permitting document.”

Although we can certainly argue the merits and proper uses of eminent domain, I believe that land owners should have clear knowledge of who desires their land, for what purpose it may be used, how much land is in question, and what are the costs and benefits to the land owner, the public, the government, and the group attempting to acquire the rights to the property.  All of this information should be common knowledge before eminent domain can be employed.

As many already know, Dominion Power is pushing for a natural gas pipeline through Highland, Augusta, Nelson, and a multitude of other counties as they make their way through Virginia to North Carolina.  Many citizens who live in or near the pathway have expressed concern or outright opposition to this project.  One cannot travel to Highland County via Route 250 without seeing a multitude of yard signs speaking against a pipeline.

Hopefully, Delegate Bell’s bill will shed greater understanding and communication regarding the Dominion pipeline and future plans.  And, if I’m understanding this piece of legislation correctly, it is my desire that the members of the General Assembly will support HB 1696.

Organ Bill Struck

Yesterday’s piece on The Virginia Conservative regarding some rather curious potential changes in the organ donation process in the state of Virginia (HB 154) generated considerable amounts of confusion and anger.  I appreciated the opportunity to speak with Delegate Dickie Bell about this piece of legislation in addition to correcting an error I made in my article.

Picture from Delegate Bell's Facebook page
Picture from Delegate Bell’s Facebook page

This morning, as already reported by Bearing Drift, I have received a message from Delegate Bell stating, “HB154 has created a great deal of controversy and that was never my intention. I assure you that the bill will not go forward and I will strike it officially as soon as that is possible. Be advised that it may still show up until officially taken down in the process. My apologies for the confusion. I accept full responsibility.“.  Although I understand the need to spread awareness about organ donation, many of us were concerned that this bill would create many harmful consequences.

I thank Delegate Bell for his continued efforts on behalf of the citizens of the Shenandoah Valley as well as his decision to not promote this bill in next year’s General Assembly session.

In liberty!

Your Organs Belong…to Virginia?

In just a few short weeks, Virginia’s part-time legislature, the General Assembly, shall convene again in Richmond.  As such, news of proposed bills have been popping up all across the internet.  Today, a fellow constitutionally conservative activist named Sandy brought a potentially troubling piece of legislation to my attention.

HB 154 Presumed consent for organ donation doesn’t sound particularly liberty friendly, does it?  According to the summary as introduced, this bill “establishes a system of presumed consent for organ donation in the Commonwealth.”

The full text of the bill is available here.  Note this particular line with the italicized text replacing the crossed present law.  “inform the family of each potential donor of the option to donate organs, tissues, or eyes or to decline to donate (a) identify individuals who have registered a refusal to make an anatomical gift and revocation of presumed consent to an anatomical gift and (b) inform the family of individuals who have not filed a refusal to make an anatomical gift and revocation of presumed consent to an anatomical gift about the organ donation process. ”

And perhaps the most distressing part of the bill:

Ҥ 32.1-291.3:1. Presumption of anatomical gift.

Every resident of Virginia shall be presumed to have made an anatomical gift of his whole body, unless the individual has refused to make an anatomical gift pursuant to § 32.1-291.3:2. Such anatomical gift shall become effective upon the individual’s death without the need to obtain the consent of any survivor.”

From Delegate Bell's Facebook page
From Delegate Bell’s Facebook page

This piece of legislation is offered by Delegate Dickie Bell of Staunton.  Even though typically a fine legislator (with particularly excellent taste in facial hair), every so often he offers a bill (such as increasing state surveillance of the sale of precious metals) that causes advocates of limited government to cringe.  Edit:  Del. Bell has not sponsored a bill making failure to use seat belts a primary offense.  However, as reported by the Daily News Record, “a few years ago Bell said it was likely he would have considered mandatory seat belt laws a government intrusion.  But he now would probably support a mandatory seat belt law, citing numerous safety studies on their use.” Mellott, J. (2010, Feb. 8) Collision Course With Safety? Daily News Record.

Although organ donation is a fine option that helps improve or save the lives of a multitude of individuals, it should, like most parts of life, remain a choice.  To somehow presuppose that the Virginia government has first dibs on its citizens’ organs unless they specifically state otherwise is, quite frankly, terrifying.  Does Virginia somehow own its citizens’ bodies?  In this state are they merely on lease to the individual as long as he or she remains alive?  I hope the answer to these two questions is a definitive no!

Organ donation ought to remain an opt-in decision rather than allowing the state to simply assume consent  and control of our bodies unless stated otherwise.  For this reason, it is my hope that HB 154 does not pass.

Labor Day, Buena Vista, 2013

Yesterday, the city of Buena Vista held their 43rd annual Labor Day parade.  As in previous years, this event serves as the start of the countdown to Election Day.  However, unlike previous years, Monday’s parade was smaller than average in terms of both attendance and sign coverage.  Normally, one can find a thick blanket of yard signs from all of the candidates along Route 60 into the city.  By comparison, signs this year were restricted to the parade route itself.

All seven of the statewide candidates participated in the parade and the speeches that followed.  Besides Ken Cuccinelli, Terry McAuliffe, Robert Sarvis, E. W. Jackson, Ralph Northam, Mark Herring, and Mark Obenshain, other elected officials who attended include: Lacey Putney, the longest serving member of the Virginia General Assembly and grand marshall of the event, Representative Bob Goodlatte, Delegate Ben Cline, and Delegate Dickie Bell.

Much like the overall tone of the governor’s race, there seemed to be more anti-Cuccinelli signs than either pro-Cuccinelli or McAuliffe signs.  In addition, at the start of the parade, a plane flew overhead flying a message critical of the attorney general.  As for the winner of this year’s sign wars, both the Obenshain and Jackson campaigns shined.  Sarvis also did well, outpacing both his Republican and Democratic opponents.  Cuccinelli finished fourth and McAuliffe in fifth.  Neither Northam nor Herring had signs of any appreciable quantity.