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?

Lingamfelter on the Convention of States

Delegate Lingamfelter in Harrisonburg, April 2013
Delegate Lingamfelter in Harrisonburg, April 2013

VC Note:  Last night, Delegate Scott Lingamfelter, patron of HJ 497, (calling for a convention of states under Article V of the Constitution) sent out the following email in response to earlier messages from Delegate Bob Marshall and Senator Dick Black.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dear Friends,

I am sorry for the length of this, but it’s really important.

For those of you who are in support of an Article V Convention of the States, please read this important rebuttal by Michael Farris to Senator Dick Black’s email sent yesterday that is, I am sad to say, utterly untrue.

First, many of you know that I am the Chief Patron of this effort (HJ497) in the House of Delegates.  http://lis.virginia.gov/cgi-bin/legp604.exe?ses=151&typ=bil&val=HJ497&submit=GO

Those who are opposed to the states coming together to rein in Federal power have panicked, because we are on the verge of victory.  They are putting out blatant distortions to make people and their Delegates fearful.  Consider this:the following conservatives SUPPORT a convention of the states:

Ken Cuccinelli, Mat Staver, Governor Bobby Jindal, Randy Barnett, Sarah Palin, Mark Levin, Glenn Beck, David Barton, Colonel Allen West, Senator Ron Johnson, Retired Senator Tom Coburn, and countless other conservative leaders.  And we are joined by very brave Delegates in the House including Delegates Anderson, Morris, Ware, Berg, Bloxom, Cole, Cox, Edmunds, Fowler, Garrett, Greason, Head, Jones, LaRock, Massie, O’Bannon, Peace, Poindexter, Webert and Wilt.  They have the courage to take a stand and I hope you will also.  Others are signing on too as they come to realize that we must act now.

Do you think these conservative leaders are trying to scare you?  No, they are conservative leaders and they have the courage to stand up to Federal overreach and not cower to the fear tactics of the John Birch Society.

Second, there is an utter lie being circulated that the NRA opposes the Convention of the States.  The NRA has NOT taken a position and in fact their chief Counsel supports our effort.  So let’s be straight. Lies to scare folks won’t work.  Please call your delegate and senator this weekend, and tell them that this week when this comes up for a vote, to please act boldly and support HJ 497 and SJ 269, calling for a Convention of the States.

 

ANSWERING DICK BLACK: Michael Farris, J.D., LL.M., Constitutional Lawyer & Chancellor of Patrick Henry College

At the 1787 Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia, George Mason of Virginia insisted that there would come a day when the federal government would abuse the authority it was given under the Constitution. Mason therefore insisted that the States be given the power to propose amendments to the Constitution to rein in the Federal Government. Mason said that Congress would never propose amendments to restrict federal power. And he has been proven right.

Dick Black’s “Urgent” Appeal is false, deceptive, and demeaning to all Virginians. Here’s why:

 

1. BLACK CREATES A FALSE IMPRESSION OF IMPENDING CHANGE TO THE CONSTITUTION.

 

Black claims that “Virginia will vote to change the Constitution of the United States in a few days.” This is a far cry from the reality both as to the timing and as to the scope of the Convention. Virginia is set to vote on whether to begin the process of considering the proposal of specific amendments to the Constitution. We are years away from making any amendments (34 states must first approve the call, the convention must be held, and 38 states must ratify any proposals coming out of the convention before any change is made to the Constitution.

Black claims that Virginia could be the “tipping point” to get to 34 states. This is based on the idea that many states have already called for a convention, and that adding Virginia to the list would bring us to the needed number.

This claim is demonstrably false and nothing better than a blatant attempt to incite panic.

The two specific resolutions in front of the Virginia General Assembly are for an Article V Convention to limit federal power and jurisdiction (HJ 497) and an Article V Convention to propose a Balanced Budget Amendment (HJ 499).

Three states have passed the first application, and 24 states have passed the second. Virginia would not be the 34th state for either measure.

Black’s assertion that Virginia could be the tipping point is based on the clearly erroneous assumption that Article V applications can never be rescinded.

Every serious Article V legal scholar understands that rescissions are valid. I personally litigated a case regarding rescissions of ratifications of proposed constitutional amendments under Article V. The federal court holding is that rescissions of ratifications are indeed binding. Idaho v. Freeman, 529 F.Supp. 1107 (D.Idaho 1981).

The simple truth is that we are years away from voting on actual amendments to the Constitution. If these applications pass, Virginia will be the 4th state to call for a Convention of States to restrict federal power and the 25th state to call for a Balanced Budget Amendment. These applications can only trigger a convention where amendments will be debated, drafted, and then sent on to the states for ratification. They will “change” the Constitution only if ratified by 38 states.

 

2. LIBERAL ORGANIZATIONS CITED BY DICK BLACK ARE NOT “PUSHING FOR THIS.”

 

Black claims that George Soros, Code Pink, MoveOn.org, New Progressive Alliance and 100 other liberal groups “are pushing for this.”

None of these entities have endorsed or “pushed for” the Convention of States (HJ 497) or a Balanced Budget Amendment (HJ 499) in Virginia or any other state.

Not one of these entities even mentions Article V on their website (georgesoros.com, codepink.org, moveon.org, occupywallst.org, and newprogs.org). Not once. Moveon.org mentions Article V of the Wisconsin Constitution and Article V of the Geneva Convention. The Occupy Wall Street website includes reader comments discussing Article V. But not once is there any mention of Article V of the U.S. Constitution by these organizations. Pure silence.

Dick Black’s source for this claim is a website operated by a group that is seeking an Article V convention for a wholly different purpose. This group seeks to repeal the Citizens United decision by the Supreme Court. The organizations listed are endorsing the repeal of Citizens United. No organization with that movement has “pushed for” or endorsed either the Convention of States (HJ 497) or a Balanced Budget Amendment (HJ 499) in Virginia or any other state.

Black’s claim that these liberal organizations are “pushing for this”-referring to the bills slated to be voted on by the Virginia General Assembly-is a blatant falsehood.

 

3. WE DO KNOW HOW DELEGATES ARE CHOSEN

 

Dick Black says that there is no law which states how delegates to the Convention are chosen. There was no such law in place in 1787 when Virginia chose its delegates to the Constitutional Convention. The legislature had the inherent power to appoint delegates-who represent Virginia-and it did so. The Virginia General Assembly has that same power today, and it comes from Virginia’s sovereign power and Article V of the Constitution.

 

4. THE CONVENTION WILL BE LIMITED TO PROPOSING AMENDMENTS THAT LIMIT THE POWER OF THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT.

 

Black claims (citing a video by the John Birch Society) that a convention cannot be limited to the subjects identified in the state applications, but will necessarily throw open the entire constitution. In fact they claim that our original Constitution is invalid because it, too, was adopted by a “runaway convention.”

This argument has been thoroughly discredited.

Dick Black needs to explain why he is listening to and promoting these dangerous people, who have admitted that they will pursue secession if their “plans” for nullification are unsuccessful.

 

5. CONGRESS HAS NO CONTROL OVER THE CONVENTION ONCE IT IS TRIGGERED.

 

You can see from the text of Article V itself that Congress only has two duties with regard to the Convention mechanism. It aggregates the applications and “calls” the Convention once 34 states apply for a Convention to propose a certain type of amendments. Then it chooses between two specified methods of ratification for any amendment proposals that come out of the Convention-each of which requires 38 states to ratify.

The term “call” used in Article V is a legal term of art with regard to the Convention process. To “call” a Convention is not to control it, determine its rules or decide who represents the parties! Rather, to “call” a Convention is to announce the date, time and location for it to facilitate its occurrence. Virginia “called” the Constitutional Convention in 1787. But did it unilaterally determine the rules or select the delegates from other states? Of course not!

Some of the arguments made by Dick Black are matters of opinion, and as such, are not untruthful per se–even if they have been rejected by most legal scholars. But when he says that Virginia could be the “tipping point,” and when he says that George Soros and Moveon.org are “pushing for this,” he has spoken untruthfully about material facts.

If Black is not willing to play straight with the facts, then his opinions do not merit serious consideration.

The “questions” Black poses about the Article V Convention process have answers that are grounded in fact, history, and law. For him to suggest otherwise is to purposefully sow confusion and fear.

The conservatives who have endorsed this effort include:

Ken Cuccinelli, Mat Staver, Mark Levin, Glenn Beck, David Barton, Col. Alan West, Sen. Tom Coburn (ret.), and many others. These are the people who, in fact, are “pushing for this.”

Senator Dick Black, what is your plan to stop the abuse of power in Washington, D.C.?

The Looming Con-Con

Picture from bobmarshall2012.com
Picture from bobmarshall2012.com

According to an email from Delegate Bob Marshall sent a few moments ago, tomorrow two pieces of legislation regarding a constitutional convention will come before the Rule Committee in the Virginia House of Delegates.  They are HJ 497 sponsored by Delegate Scott Lingamfelter and HJ 499 by Delegate Jim LeMunyon.

Although many of us would agree that the federal government has grossly exceeded the authority granted to it by the U.S. Constitution, we have considerable reservations about a constitutional convention.  Given that the 9th and 10th Amendments are routinely ignored, why would the federal government decide to honor some new amendment that would limit its power?  Unfortunately, an Article V Convention, as proposed by these bills and others, could end up merely legitimizing the century and a half of usurpation that has already taken place.

As Delegate Marshall writes, “Once called by Congress, the Convention cannot be stopped or limited and will have complete authority to change any part of our Constitution!   The only other convention, held in 1787, re-wrote the Articles of Confederation, and changed the ratification requirements from unanimous to three fourths!  Yes, it gave us our present Constitution, but we had many statesmen of moral conviction who fought the War of Independence leading the nation at that time.  Madison said he trembled at the thought of a second convention after witnessing the first!”

He goes on to add, “The state legislators planning the Article V Convention rejected a motion that would have prevented Members of Congress, the US Senate, federal judges and governors from serving as convention delegates.  They also tabled a motion to restrict the subject matter of the convention.”

Anyone who cares about a constitutionally limited government certainly can be sympathetic to the aims of those proposing an Article V Convention.  However, so far the case has not been sufficiently made to do so.  It seems a far better remedy is to demand that our legislators in Washington adhere to the Constitution and replace though who have failed in this duty.  In addition, we need to elect representatives to the General Assembly in Richmond who are not afraid to draw the line and say no to the federal government, show how the feds have violated the Constitution, and fight against any and all encroachment when necessary.

Delegate Marshall concludes his email by saying, “Please also urge your own state delegate and senator to OPPOSE ALL APPLICATIONS ASKING CONGRESS TO CALL AN ARTICLE V CONSTITUTIONAL CONVENTION.”

Lobby Day 2015

IMG_2729Today, in an annual tradition, citizens from across Virginia converged at the state capitol in Richmond for Lobby Day.  The morning and afternoon consisted of rallies, protests, sitting in on sessions of the state government, and meeting with elected officials.

The day started relatively early as I traveled from the Shenandoah Valley with two local Republicans, Kaylene and Laura.  My first stop was to the General Assembly Building.  As I walked through the grounds, the Virginia Citizens Defense League was preparing for an event at the bell tower, passing out their traditional orange stickers proclaiming that “guns save lives.”  Many in the gathering crowd also wore stickers in support of Susan Stimpson, as she is seeking to unseat Speaker of the House of Delegates William Howell.

After making my way through security, I came across several local faces, such as Delegate Mark Berg (R-Winchester) as well as Dan Moxley and his daughter, Hannah.  Mr. Moxley is challenging Senator Emmett Hanger for the Republican nomination in the 24th district.

One of my first stops was to see Delegate Sam Rasoul (D-Roanoke).  He has proposed a bill that lowers the threshold for a political party to achieve official status in Virginia from 10% of a statewide vote to 4%.  As I believe doing so would allow for greater choices in elections, I wanted to learn more.  While there, I discovered that he has sponsored another bill that would change redistricting so that legislators would no longer be able to choose their voters.  It is a bill which requires further study.

Although many of the delegates and senators were not in their offices, I did set up an appointment to speak with Delegate Gordon Helsel (R-Poquoson).  I very much enjoyed my conversation with his aide, Ashley.  In addition, I ran across Virginia Libertarian Party Chairman Bill Redpath and later Virginia Republican Liberty Caucus Chairman Robert Kenyon.

IMG_2730When I approached the capitol entrance, a group marched outside protesting student loans.

Inside, both the Virginia Senate and the House of Delegates were in brief sessions.  I found it curious that one had to go through security a second time in order to watch the Senate; it seemed completely unnecessary.

After briefly speaking with a number of legislators including: Senator Obenshain (R-Rockingham), Senator Vogel (R-Fauquier), and Senator Hanger (R-Augusta), I made my way back to the General Assembly Building.  Outside stood a group advocating greater food and farming freedom.  There I ran across additional legislators including: Delegate Tony Wilt (R-Rockingham), Delegate Ben Cline (R-Rockbridge), Delegate Scott Lingamfelter (R-Prince William), and a second brief encounter with Delegate Berg.

Although I was tempted to visit the office of recently re-elected and convicted Delegate Joe Morrissey (D-Henrico), I decided against it.  I would have also liked to speak to Delegate Pogge (R-York).  Even though I saw her outside, I could not find her in the building, instead meeting with her legislative assistant.  I also said hello to Delegate Dickie Bell (R-Staunton) and his aide, Savanna.

Next, I spoke with Delegate Helsel.  I sought him out as I was interested to learn his opinions of the proposed changes in the party plan of the Republican Party of Virginia.  Now serving as a Republican delegate, in 2009 Helsel ran as an independent against the Republican nominee.  If the proposed changed had been in place at that time, Delegate Helsel would have been ineligible to run as a Republican in 2011 or participate in any of their party politics until the year 2017.  We also discussed the surprisingly differing responses from Republicans regarding former Delegate Phil Hamilton and freshly sentenced former Governor Bob McDonnell.

Afterward, I visited my state senator’s office to try and understand why he would push for party registration as well as to voice my objections and concerns about doing so.   I firmly believe that registration would lead to disenfranchisement and would further erode political freedom in Virginia.  I’m told that I should have a response from his office within a day.

Lastly, I met up with Robert Sarvis and a handful of fellow Libertarians who also came to Richmond for Lobby Day.  Apparently they spoke in a Senate committee in favor of a bill that would decrease signature requirements for ballot access, but I’m told the bill was killed 2-4 along party lines as all of the Republicans in the committee voted against it.

I must say that as I walked through the halls of the capitol today, I felt a return of excitement and enthusiasm that I first experienced during my early days of political involvement.

All in all, Lobby Day 2015 was another fun event here in Virginia and I was glad to be a part of it.

The 2013 Convention!

Shortly before 7 AM, a multitude of local Republicans gathered outside of the Harrisonburg GOP headquarters to depart for the 2013 state convention in Richmond.  The Obenshain campaign organized this gathering.  I led one of the two buses of 49 other activists.  We left around 7:15 with the second bus stopping in Staunton to pick up additional supporters.

IMG_1886About two hours later we arrived outside the Coliseum.  The scene that greeted us was daunting.  On both the left and right sides of the entrance, long lines stretched seemingly forever.  Outside, most of the campaigns had a table underneath a tent handing out materials.  The one exception was the Davis campaign which merely had a yard sign where one would expect to find her people.  This development did not bode well for the Davis campaign, which I had previously assumed would survive at least to the second ballot.  In addition, there were a fair number of protesters in pink shirts from Planned Parenthood deriding the candidacy of Ken Cuccinelli.

Inside of the building each of the campaigns had an additional informational table, as did a multitude of other organizations such as The Leadership Institute, Middle Resolution PAC, and others.

IMG_1900In the auditorium itself, each delegate was grouped according to the city or county from which he or she came.  This year, the placement of each locality depended upon the percentage of their delegates who paid the voluntary $35 fee.  This change resulted in Harrisonburg city holding the choicest spot on the convention floor, front and center.  Delegates from Rockingham and Augusta Counties, regions whose delegates also strongly supported Senator Mark Obenshain, flanked Harrisonburg.

After many lengthy speeches from Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, Ken Cuccinelli, and the various candidates running for the Republican nomination, voting could begin.  Although announced ahead of time, it was interesting that neither Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell nor Lieutenant Governor Bill Bolling attended Saturday’s convention.  As an additional note, former Representative Allen West spoke on behalf of Delegate Scott Lingamfelter and Ollie North encouraged delegates to support Pete Snyder.

Voting on the first ballot began about 1 PM or so, but the results were not announced until almost four hours later due to either technical difficulties or a recount requested by the Snyder campaign if the rumors circulating were true.  Although the official tallies were not released due to Delegate Rob Bell’s request to withdraw his candidacy, Senator Mark Obenshain became the official nominee for attorney general.  On the race for lieutenant governor, E.W. Jackson captured an early lead, winning 3,732 votes, about twice as many votes as his closest rival, Susan Stimpson.  Corey Stewart finished third, followed by Pete Snyder, Scott Lingamfelter, Jeannemarie Davis, and finally Steve Martin.  As no candidate received a majority of the votes, Martin and Davis were eliminated and delegates voted again.  Unfortunately, the official numbers for the first ballot were not announced until after many delegates had already cast their second ballot, which likely skewed the next results as we were erroneously led to believe that Stewart placed second instead of Stimpson.  Behind the scenes, the Davis campaign encouraged her supporters to rally behind Jackson.

About two hours later, voting from the second ballot was announced.  Jackson increased his totals to 4,558.38, while Snyder jumped to second with 2066.89.  Stewart finished third while Stimpson and Lingamfelter, with the two lowest totals, were eliminated.  Lingamfelter cast his favor to Snyder while the Stimpson campaign did not recommend any particular candidate.

SOThe results for the third ballot came one hour and forty-five minutes later.  Jackson’s vote total again expanded to 5,934.69 with Snyder second with 3,652.97.  At this point, E.W. Jackson had over 49% of the vote and thus his election on the next ballot was a virtual lock.  The Snyder campaign passed out fliers declaring that Corey Stewart had endorsed Snyder as had Mark Obenshain.  The latter revelation came as a complete shock given that Obenshain had remained silent in this race up until now, coupled with the fact that such an endorsement would be particularly foolhardy given that Jackson’s victory was all but a certainty.  I spoke with both Chris Leavitt, Obenshain’s campaign manager, as well as Suzanne Obenshain, his wife, who denied any endorsement.  In addition, Corey Stewart appeared and walked around the floor with Jackson with raised hands.  It was terribly unfortunate that in a desperate bid to win the Snyder campaign would resort to such dirty and dishonest tactics, ploys that were all too common in the closing days of the campaign.

Update:  Bearing Drift reports the following regarding the actions of the Stewart campaign.

A little after 10 PM, Pete Snyder withdrew his candidacy and thus E.W. Jackson was declared the victor.  With voting finally concluded, we returned to the bus and headed back west to our home across the mountain.

On a personal note, unlike many of the delegates, as I did not have a favorite candidate, I ended voting for three different LG candidates over the course of the day.  I intended to cast my final vote for Pete, but, after his campaign spread their misinformation, I couldn’t reward deception and thus proudly cast my vote for E.W. Jackson.

All in all, it was an exciting and tiring day that went much longer than needed.  However, it was filled with a bunch of surprises and uncertainty, regrettably marred by technical difficulties, a bit of misinformation, and a splash of deceit.

Given that the state central committee has selected a convention in 2014 to choose the Republican candidate for Senate, we’ll do it all again next year.  Hope to see you then!

A Peculiar Mailing

As we count down to the 2013 Virginia Republican Convention, campaigns, PACs, and special interest groups flood the mail with countless colorful pieces urging delegates to support their favored candidates or oppose others.

VLG2Today, I received what I think is a particularly peculiar mailer from Virginians for Limited Government (VLG).  The front of the mailing bemoans the rise of state spending by 66% over the last ten years.  Although there is little doubt that increased spending in the Commonwealth is a cause for concern, when pondering this statistic one should consider the rise in tax revenue and state spending as a result of population growth.  For example, in the last two years alone, according to the Census Bureau, Virginia has seen a growth rate of 2.3%, considerably higher than the national average of 1.7%.  Yes, I believe that the increase in state spending is a problem, but simply looking at that number without parameters isn’t particularly helpful.

However, what really got my attention was the back of the mailer.  First, it lauds Corey Stewart for his role in decreasing spending in Prince William County, which is an issue that ought to be considered.  However, it goes on to condemn Steve Martin, Jeanmarie Davis [sic], and Scott Lingamfelter. VLG

Now, you might ask, why does the mailer do so?  Did these three sponsor massive spending bills?  It doesn’t make this claim.  Well, do these three have a pattern of voting to increase state spending?  The piece doesn’t argue this idea either.  So then, what is the great fiscal sin of these three candidates?  Well, as you can read for yourself, “all three were members of the General Assembly when state budget increased by 66% in the last decade”.

With all due respect to Virginians for Limited Government (a great name and concept in my opinion), this mailer is nothing more that a load of crap.  According to their logic, should we condemn all members of the General Assembly who have served for the last ten years?  Is presumptive Republican gubernatorial and former State Senator Ken Cuccinelli likewise worthy of blame?  How about attorney general candidates State Senator Mark Obenshain or Delegate Rob Bell?  Give me a break!

Like Virginians for Limited Government, I too support the idea of curtailing the state budget.  However, the mailing they sent today is pure garbage.  If you want a candidate with state government experience, then you should support State Senator Steve Martin, former State Senator Jeannemarie Davis, or Delegate Scott Lingamfelter.  If you want a candidate from local government, then either Chairman Corey Stewart or Chairman Susan Stimpson is your choice.  If you prefer a candidate who has not held office, a supposed  “conservative outsider” as Virginians for Limited Government’s piece suggests, then Pete Snyder or E.W. Jackson is your man.

This mailer also begs the question of what is Virginians for Limited Government?  Their website offers few clues as there is no contact phone number or email listed.  Their Facebook page has not been touched since January 20th of this year and their Twitter account is likewise inactive, currently followed by no one.  I called Americans for Limited Government to see if they were somehow connected, but was told that Americans for Limited Government has no knowledge of this group.  Considering the lack of information, one does have to wonder if this organization is merely another shell designed to aid or hinder specific candidates in the 2013 convention.

Given all of the misinformation floating around, I’ll be glad when the Republican convention is over.  My advice to you remains the same; stay wary my friends, do you own research, and discover for yourself which candidate best represents your values.

Where is Susan Stimpson?

IMG_1677
Susan Stimpson M.I.A.

Last night, the Republican Women of Harrisonburg and Rockingham County hosted the seven campaigns for lieutenant governor.  Jeannemarie Davis, Senator Steve Martin, and a rather hoarse sounding Corey Stewart each attended the event while Suzanne Curran spoke on behalf of E. W. Jackson and Scott Lingamfelter and Pete Snyder sent a member of their staff.  Although I didn’t see anyone that I knew from the Susan Stimpson campaign, I assumed that one of her staffers or surrogates was in the audience.

For a few additional details about the evening, Corey Stewart explained that he nearly lost his voice after personally calling each of the Rockingham County delegates.  And, after the event, I appreciated the opportunity to speak briefly to Jeannemarie Davis about her campaign.  She asked about my work and so I spoke of a potentially exciting new development to expand my reach to local radio (hopefully I’ll have more details available soon!)

Getting back to Susan Stimpson, at the Lingamfelter meet and greet in Harrisonburg earlier that day, I had heard that she had to cancel her evening appearance at the last minute.  However, I figured that someone would speak for her that night.  Unfortunately, I arrived to the Republican Women meeting a few minutes late, during the speech of Jeannemarie Davis.  Once all of the candidates gave their presentation and I didn’t hear anyone from the Stimpson campaign, I simply guessed that her representative must have spoken first, before I arrived.  Only just this afternoon did I discover that her campaign was a no show.

Although I would recommend attending every event possible, especially the Republican Women, it is understandable that things do come up.  Regardless, it is natural that some of the local women would feel slighted by an abrupt cancellation.

Now, taken as an isolated incident, this oversight by the Stimpson campaign would be rather trivial.  However, it seems to be indicative of trend for the Stimpson campaign; last night marks their third absence in several months at previously scheduled campaign events in the central Shenandoah Valley.

Let me tell you that I’m not the only one around here who is starting to wonder.  Where is Susan Stimpson?

Lingamfelter in Harrisonburg

IMG_1848At 11:30 AM today, Delegate Scott Lingamfelter (R-31) came to Harrisonburg to speak about his campaign for lieutenant governor.  Later in the evening, the Republican Women of Harrisonburg and Rockingham County held an event featuring each of the seven Republican candidates.  However, as Delegate Lingamfelter was unable to attend this gathering in person, he decided to meet with the local delegates beforehand.

Prior to Delegate Lingamfelter’s speech, two Valley legislators offered their thoughts and praise for him, Delegate Tony Wilt (R-26) and Delegate Steve Landes (R-25).  Both men have previously endorsed his candidacy.

Expecting a similar message to his last trip to Harrisonburg, I did not record Delegate Lingamfelter’s words.  However, he offered a bit of a different message, focusing upon the proper role of government and ways in which he can make an impact as lieutenant governor to promote his philosophy.  He stressed that one should never abandon his or her principles for the sake of political power.

During the question and answer period that followed, I asked Scott Lingamfelter about one of my greatest reservations, his harsh condemnation of Ron Paul and his supporters after Paul’s unfortunate and ill-timed comments made after the death of a U.S. soldier.  Presumably quite a few Paul supporters would appreciate a good bit of the Delegate’s record and rhetoric if not for his anti-Paul rebuke.  Lingamfelter admitted that some of his words were written out of the anger stemming from the moment, given his personal experience dealing with the death of fellow soldiers and praised Paul for raising awareness for important issues such as auditing the Federal Reserve.  As he pointed out from his campaign card, Delegate Lingamfelter has been advocating an audit of the state government.  He also added that his greatest regret arising from that situation included his statement made against Senator Rand Paul, given Paul’s impressive effort to curtail the power of the federal government over the domestic drone issue.

Lastly, I briefly spoke with Delegate Lingamfelter’s campaign staff regarding American’s for Growth and Prosperity [sic], the group responsible for anti-Lingamfelter attack pieces.  Although I have no objection to criticizing the record of any candidate, I do not approve of a person or campaign that attacks a person anonymously.  Such a move is not only questionable from a legal standpoint, but also reeks of cowardice.  A word of advice to the other six candidates: if your campaign is behind this action, I urge you to admit it and come forward now.  Yes, point out your objections to Delegate Lingamfelter, but do so openly.  I doubt many undecided delegates, myself included, would look upon your campaign favorably should ties be unearthed between your candidacy and this anti-Lingamfelter front group.

Getting back to my main point, Delegate Lingamfelter seems have build up a considerable statewide following, though his previous statements immensely weakened his chance of capturing any segment of the pro-liberty/Paul delegates.  Will today’s comments in Harrisonburg help erase these misgivings?  Is more required?  Or is the damage simply irreversible?  We’ll find out in about a month, once the 2013 RPV Convention delegates select their nominee.

Jeannemarie Davis Handily Wins Poll

Jeannemarie Davis
Jeannemarie Davis

Since Thursday of last week, visitors to the Virginia Conservative have had the opportunity to voice their support for Republican candidates for lieutenant governor.  With the poll now closed and with 634 votes cast in total, Jeannemarie Davis emerged as the clear winner.

To give you some history, in the early hours of the poll, Susan Stimpson maintained a fairly sizable lead.  However, as the first day continued, Davis overtook Stimpson and continued to hold dominance throughout the remaining time window.  There were a few bursts of activity from Stewart supporters and a smaller influx from the Lingamfelter crowd, but nothing compared to the Davis surge.

The final results are as follows:

Jeannemarie Davis   262 votes or 41.32%

Susan Stimpson       121 votes or 19.09%

Corey Stewart          115 votes or 18.14%

Scott Lingamfelter   64 votes or 10.09%

Pete Snyder              42 votes or 6.62%

E. W. Jackson           26 votes or 4.1%

Steve Martin             4 votes or .063%

So what do these results mean?  Does a victory or a loss on a Virginia Conservative poll necessarily translate into success or failure in May?  Obviously, the answer is no.  As anyone could vote in this poll, (regardless of whether he or she happens to be a delegate), the votes are not weighted or sorted by city or county, and a vast majority of delegates did not participate, the outcome is not useful for this purpose.  You should know this fact already, but the poll is far removed from being anything remotely scientific.

In an amusing side note, on Saturday I spoke with Steven Thomas, the regional campaign representative for the Davis campaign, and asked if he knew of my poll.  He mentioned that he had voted in it, but added that online polls didn’t carry too much weight.  I told him that I agreed with his opinion, but also asked if he knew that his boss, Jeannemarie Davis, was winning at that time.

So, getting back to our previous question, what do these results mean then?  Well, they are fairly useful tools for assessing the online capabilities of a campaign.  Typically, when one of these polls pop up, the campaigns send out messages urging their supporters to go vote for their candidate.  Assuming that they did so, these results would indicate that the Davis campaign was most proficient at this task.  By comparison, I have seen little activity either here on the ground or online from Senator Martin’s campaign in over a month.  Given his total of a mere four votes, this result mirrors this observation.

So what were my expectations?  I’ll admit that when I created this poll, I expected one of two different outcomes.  First, given the relative strength and tenacity of her supporters in the Shenandoah Valley, Susan Stimpson would win this poll.  Although she performed well early and captured second place, Davis had more than twice the vote totals of any other candidate.  Second, given the impressive online capabilities of the Pete Snyder campaign, I wouldn’t have been surprised to see him win either.  However, given his fifth place finish, either the Snyder campaign took little to no notice of this poll, or his support isn’t quite as robust as I had predicted.  Now some people have accused Davis supporters of trolling, but I really hope that they have better things to do than resetting their cookies in order to vote multiple times.

Let me conclude by tipping my hat to the Davis campaign.  Yes, they won this relatively minor poll, but, far more importantly, they continue to show that they are one of the most active lieutenant governor campaigns in the Shenandoah Valley.  At just about every political gathering in this region either Davis or one of her staffers have been faithfully promoting her campaign.  And, whether you agree or disagree with Jeannemarie’s positions, a strong and active campaign is a critical element in political success.

So, once again, I offer kudos to the Davis campaign.

As a final note, if you are looking for a more in-depth questionnaire on the 2013 RPV convention, I strongly encourage you to check out Willie Deutsch’s new poll.  It should be exciting to see his results!

GOP Lt. Governor Poll

IMG_1670Everyone loves a political poll, right?  Especially when you get the opportunity to support your favorite candidate in a crowded field of seven.

So here is your chance, readers of the Virginia Conservative!  Who is your choice among the Republican candidates running for lieutenant governor?  And, if you feel like saying why you support him or her, leave a comment below.  That way everyone else can know why he or she is your top choice!