An unlikely candidate on the road to Richmond

Salahi WWBT

Tareq Salahi’s celebrity merges with candidacy in gripping reality campaign

By Dan McDermott
Warren County Report

In terms of minority inclusion and outreach, the election of 2012 was a disaster for the Republican Party. Cemented by that infamous “47-percent video,” the GOP message wasn’t selling and minorities weren’t buying. Republicans even lost the once rock-solid Florida Cuban vote.

In his book “Why Romney Lost,” former George W. Bush speechwriter David Frum pulls no punches when describing the party’s almost deliberate effort to drive a wedge between their party and minority and lower income voters.

“To be a patriot is to love your country as it is,” Frum writes. “Those who seem to despise half of America will never be trusted to govern any of it. Those who cherish only the country’s past will never be entrusted with its future.”

Perhaps with this in mind, it was noteworthy that in our conversation with the unlikeliest of all candidates for Governor of Virginia, Tareq Salahi – yes, that Tareq Salahi from the White House State Dinner and Real Housewives of DC fame – made his efforts to embrace minority voters almost a central theme of our recent interview.

Salahi has two versions of his website, one in English and one in Spanish. He says he is the first Va. gubernatorial candidate to do so. When we spoke, Salahi was packing to head to the Richmond area to meet with a wide variety of businesses, media and groups including black and Latino community leaders.

The Tareq Salahi of the past few years was a mountain of stress, his world seemingly falling apart around him. He lost a father, his wife and the family business. The Tareq Salahi of 2012 seems calmer, more relaxed and focused like a laser beam on the road ahead. It is a refreshing change.

But there are two Tareq Salahis.

There is Tareq Salahi the candidate. There is also Tareq Salahi the celebrity who burst onto the national stage by attending a White House State Dinner without an official ticket, who had national television networks literally camped outside his Warren County home running a video feed so the morning shows could switch live in case “anything happened.” He forever added the term “gate crasher” to the first sentence of his biography. That same Tareq Salahi once called me to complain about the term in a story I had written. “I am an ‘alleged’ gatecrasher,” he said, ‘Alleged.’ ”

Well times have changed. – So much so that the former Fauquier County winemaker now embraces the term. You can tell by the name of his website: It is a central theme to his campaign which while unconventional, is surprisingly robust. As for the Crash the Vote moniker, “I’m just having fun with it,” he said.

While political candidates often have TV cameras around them, Salahi is often accompanied at events and on the road by entire production crew. “In It To Win It” is the working title of a reality documentary being made for a movie or series to be broadcast sometime after the November, 2013 election.

Truth is indeed stranger than fiction.

Salahi says he plans to gather at least 20,000 signatures to get on the ballot, twice the number required. While he is running for the Republican nomination and is currently on the road in an effort to line up delegates he says he will be on the ballot in November regardless of whether he wins at the state party convention.

In the meantime Salahi says he plans to attend every local Republican meeting where delegates are chosen in the months leading up to the convention.

Salahi’s agenda is a vague but populist one that few would oppose: working to promote the Commonwealth of Virginia; promoting business and jobs; promoting troops and defense personnel; promoting the agriculture industry; working for lower taxes and less regulation and promoting clean energy production.

In the months ahead, Tareq Salahi the candidate is likely to show up in your town. If you miss the road show you’ll be able to tune in to your TV in 2014 and watch the recap with Tareq Salahi the celebrity.

Dan McDermott:

Published in: on December 21, 2012 at 1:48 am  Comments (10)  

Schmookler’s vision of a non-partisan, cooperative future

Sixth District challenger’s revolutionary idea – politics as truth, not lies

By Roger Bianchini
Warren County Report

Andy Schmookler, Democratic candidate for Congress in Virginia’s 6th Congressional District issued the following statement Nov. 1, with his seemingly impossible task of unseating long-time Republican incumbent Bob Goodlatte in largely rural, central Virginia less than a week away:

“I’ve spoken often against the threat that I see to all that has made America great. And I’ve addressed many nuts-and-bolts issues that affect our district, including jobs and the budget and healthcare,” first-time political candidate Schmookler began. “Now I want to speak to the vision of the America I am fighting for.

“In some ways, it’s the America I grew up in.

“I am fighting for an America where government helps create a vibrant middle class—as it did after World War II by providing educational opportunities for veterans and by creating a more level playing field for companies and workers.

“I am also fighting for an America where our political leaders come together on the basis of the values we share, liberals and conservatives alike, to achieve our common purposes.

“Americans have always been guided by a vision of our best possibilities.

“Generations ago, a great American president, Franklin D. Roosevelt, articulated his vision. ‘I see an America,’ FDR said, ‘where no businessman can be stifled by the harsh hand of monopoly … I see an America where factory workers are not discarded after they reach their prime, where there is no endless chain of poverty from generation to generation.’

“I too support a market economy that maintains fair competition. I share FDR’s concern that average Americans be treated fairly and have the opportunity to better their condition.

“ ‘I see an America of great cultural and educational opportunity for all its people,’ ” FDR said.

“I agree with FDR that there is no more important investment for a society than developing its people’s potential, and that man does not live by bread alone.

“I see an America whose rivers and valleys and lakes – hills and streams and plains … are protected as the rightful heritage of all the people.

“Nature is not merely a means to private enrichment but belongs to us all and warrants our protection.

“Now let me share some of my own vision:

• An America where citizens get health care without fear of being bank-rupted.

• An America where people –including the most powerful–care as much about doing right as about getting what they want.

• An America that honors scientific fact, and where neither corporate powers nor political parties try to deceive people about truths important to their future.

• An America where the young are educated to be productive, but also to become more whole human beings.

• An America that leads toward a time when horrors like genocide cannot happen, because the world won’t permit it; an America leading humankind into harmony with our planet.

“We once had a sense that we were on a path of continual improvement, and determi-nation to strive along that path. I see an America where that is restored.

“We should always ask ourselves, “What do we want America to be like generations hence?” and try to find ways to make it so.

“As the Bible says (Proverbs 29:18), ‘Where there is no vision, the people perish,’ ” Schmookler concluded.

Andy Schmookler has run for Congress for the better part of two years on a platform of “Truth, for a Change.”

He told me about two months ago he didn’t know if he “had enough time” to turn the traditionally conservative Republican 6th District around – around toward the truth, rather than the expedient political lie so prominent at an estimated cost of $1 billion in political advertising in the post-Citizen United-fueled 2012 Presidential and related campaigns.

I guess it depends on how many people in this part of central Virginia are capable of seeing through the highly-financed political rhetoric, no matter how smoothly packaged and presented, unfortunately it seems, without any legal accountability to the truth …

Published in: on November 5, 2012 at 2:26 pm  Comments (3)  

Scary dog costumes on parade

Come out and have a “howling” good time at this 1.5 mile fun walk and costume contest to benefit the Humane Society of Warren County. Sunday, October 21.
Registration: 1:30 to 2:15 p.m.
Town of Front Royal Gazebo on Main Street; Doggie Bags to first 150 to sign in.
Walk: 2:15 to 3 p.m.
From gazebo down Main Street toward Royal Ave. cross Royal Ave. Left on Luray Ave. cross Criser Rd. to Dog Park at Eastham Park
Costume Award Ceremony, 3 p.m. at HSWC booth, Paw Pride Medallions and Top Dog Trophies to:
Funniest Dog Costume
Cuddliest Dog Costume
Scariest Dog Costume
Best Overall Dog Costume
Water, snacks, a raffle ticket for all registered walkers

A Celebration of Dogs: 3 p.m. Join us as we celebrate the Grand Opening of the Warren County Dog Park.

It is $25 to register (registration form available at the animal shelter or by email at Your entry fee includes your walker registration, doggie bag, entrance into the costume contests, one raffle ticket, water and snacks.
Walkers are encouraged to get additional pledges on behalf of their dog. Pledge forms also available.

Special thanks to our Early Bird Cash Sponsors:
$500 Aire Serve
$250 First Bank
$100 Little Red Dog Pet Services
$100 Radiant Child Yoga
$100 Handyman Connection
$100 ING Financial Partners
$100 Syntax Communications, Inc.

Published in: on October 19, 2012 at 5:03 pm  Leave a Comment  

A Virginia Political Campaign Made for Television

With cameras in tow, Tareq Salahi kicks off underdog bid for Governor’s mansion Sept. 16

By Dan McDermott
Warren County Report

Alleged White House gatecrasher and Real Housewives of DC star Tareq Salahi will have his entire gubernatorial campaign taped for a reality documentary to air after the November election, according to campaign officials.

It is perhaps the first-ever statewide political campaign filmed for an independent reality show. Public taping will begin at a campaign kickoff at Salahi’s Linden, Va. home Sept. 16.

Although he and his ex-wife and Real Housewives reality tv co-star Michaele refused to answer questions before a congressional panel probing their attendance at President Obama’s first state dinner, Mr. Salahi appears to have come around to embrace the incident that immediately thrust him into the national spotlight and global stage. The event is being billed as the “Crash the Candidate BBQ.” In addition to the media and a camera crew of four, the event offers “entertainment, a DJ, and a Hollywood green screen photo op.” Further homage to the state dinner incident can be found in his campaign website’s name:

The film is tentatively called “In It To Win It” and is being produced by veteran PBS executive John Campbell who now runs his own production company. In a statement Campbell said he approached Salahi about doing the project not out of any political motivation but rather to focus on the human interest element. “Here we have a guy who’s triumphs and tribulations have been aired globally…and he could have easily hidden for a few years…yet he didn’t,” Campbell said.

It is his first political film. Campbell’s previous documentaries have focused on a diverse range of topics from U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds to a Canadian folk/rock band to a trip through the Adirondacks in a 1976 motor home.

Salahi concedes that one of his motivations to run for governor occurred in April when one of his potential opponents, Va. Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli announced a lawsuit alleging that Salahi’s wine tour company had violated the Virginia Consumer Protection Act, a charge Salahi says he denies. Salahi filed paperwork to enter the Republican primary the next day. Salahi’s spokesman Eric Miller “took a shot at Cuccinelli” in a statement to CNN, saying the attorney general had wasted “huge sums of taxpayer dollars on witch hunt type investigations,” including the lawsuit.

Salahi says he plans to announce major pillars of his campaign platform at the BBQ kickoff but says that a large focus will be on supporting the military, both as an economic force in the state and of course the troops as well as boosting Virginia’s small businesses including the agriculture industry and the economy in general. Salahi’s family has decades of experience in the wine trade.

Salahi currently has two co-managers for the campaign, one of whom is a former DoD staffer, Mark Vargas and the other a former White House staffer during the Reagan administration, Andrea Ross.

Ross said the filmmakers aren’t paying for any of the campaign expenses and that royalties to Salahi, if any, will likely come after the election when the movie will air on an unnamed national television network or cable channel.

Ross describes herself as a fairly private person and isn’t quite sure what to expect when she ends up on a tv show. “This isn’t Real Housewives and I am not a drama queen. This is a serious business to us. We’re looking forward to getting out there and meeting people and getting people enthusiastic about not just the democratic process but about Virginia and her future. People havent seen this side of Tareq before,” she said. “Most people don’t even know that he has deep political roots in Virginia and has served three different Governors both Republican and Democrat.”

Ross says for now they are focused on the kickoff event. “We are all looking forward to having people in the local community be a part of this. Anyone in the local community. There is going to be a national television show and they are a part of what we booted a king out to be able to do,” she said.

“We are excited for them to be a part of that. Let’s face it, it is an exciting thing.”

The campaign event is Sunday, September 16th at 5 pm at 440 Scenic Overlook Drive, Linden, Va. For more information visit the website

Published in: on August 30, 2012 at 11:58 pm  Comments (8)  

Town of Front Royal Road Closures

Please be advised the Town of Front Royal Water & Sewer division will have the following roads closed for maintenance:

· Monday, August 13, 2012 from 8:30 am – 12:00 pm
Parkview at Criser Rd intersection, flaggers will be present for traffic control

· Tuesday, August 14, 2012 from 7 am – 3 pm
Blue Ridge Ave at E Main intersection, water off periodically

· Wednesday, August 15, 2012 from 7 am – 3 pm
Washington Ave from 6th St to Happy Creek Rd, water off periodically

· Thursday, August 16, 2012 from 7 am – 3 pm
8th St and Commerce Ave both turning lanes and median area closed, water off periodically

Please be aware of crews working in these areas and plan your travel accordingly. When the water is reinstated, note that the water outage could cause some temporary discoloration of the drinking water; however the water is safe to drink. To clear the water, a cold tap should be turned on and allowed to run until it clears. The water should also be checked for discoloration before running it into the washing machine.

If you have any questions, please call the Environmental Services office at 540-635-7819

Published in: on August 13, 2012 at 2:34 pm  Comments (1)  

Republicans says main focus isn’t social issues

Facing increased national scrutiny, state GOP downplays radical bills

By Brad Fulton
Capital News Service

RICHMOND – Facing mounting criticism and increased national attention for a spate of legislative initiatives of a social nature, House Republicans say they’re still focused on jobs, education, government reform and public safety – and dispute Democratic charges that they’re pushing a “social issues” agenda – even though by their own count less than half their bills this session deal with economic, public safety, public education and governmental reform.

Members of the House Republican Caucus discussed their priorities after “crossover day,” the mid-February, mid-session deadline for each legislative chamber to act on its own bills.

“Of 603 bills passed in the House, over 42 percent have dealt with issues of jobs, education, government reform and safety,” said House Speaker William Howell of Fredericksburg. “These are the four main points of the Republican Party.”

Democrats have accused Republicans of being obsessed with social issues such as restricting abortion and gay rights and expanding gun rights. They point to measures such as House Bill 1, which would grant “personhood” rights to a fertilized egg at the moment of conception. Some critics say HB 1 could outlaw abortion and even some contraceptive methods, but the bill’s proponents disagree.

At a press conference Wednesday, House Republicans acknowledged that bills involving social issues have received a lot of press coverage and commentary. But they said those bills are a small – albeit far reaching for individual freedoms – part of the GOP agenda.

“I think the proof in the pudding is in the fact that less than 2.5 percent of bills introduced by Republicans have been social issues,” Howell said.

GOP leaders displayed a pie chart showing that only 2.2 percent of the bills approved by the House concerned social issues. In contrast:

42.3 percent concerned education, government reform, public safety and jobs.

12.3 percent involved judicial issues.

10.8 percent address local matters.

And the rest concerned transportation, energy, the environment, health care, veterans and other issues.

One of the education-related bills would end the tenure-like system for public school teachers. Under House Bill 576, new teachers and principals would receive three-year contracts instead of continuing contracts – making it easier to fire poor performers.

“It’s going to be a good thing for good teachers, and bad teachers may find that the profession is not for them,” said Delegate Richard Bell, R-Staunton, who sponsored HB 576.

In the Senate, Republicans also touted their record this session.

Of the 684 Senate bills, 403 were approved by the upper chamber by crossover, the Virginia Senate Republican Caucus said.

“Our members should be proud of what we have accomplished so far this session,” said Senate Majority Leader Thomas Norment of Williamsburg.

“We have approved important measures that will spur economic growth, streamline our government, and improve the quality of education in Virginia. And we have accomplished this by administering the legislative process fairly and transparently, allowing bills to be presented and discussed by the senators in full committee.”

The Senate approved several components of Gov. Bob McDonnell’s agenda, including his call to reduce and streamline the state’s boards and commissions. It also passed measures aimed at spurring economic development and creating jobs.

“The wide range of bills that were considered and approved is particularly impressive,” said Sen. Ryan McDougle of Mechanicsville, who chairs the Senate Republican Caucus.

“Bills on jobs and economic development, education, public safety, government reform, health care, and veterans’ affairs have all been approved by the Senate and are headed to the House. We are on track to have one of the most productive sessions in recent memory.”

Each house now will take up legislation passed by the other chamber. Moreover, the General Assembly must turn its attention to crafting a state budget for the 2012-14 biennium.

The session is scheduled to end March 10.

Published in: on February 22, 2012 at 10:50 pm  Comments (1)  

Jails can continue to shackle inmates giving birth

Legislature fails to act on policy to ease constraints on female prisoners

By Zack Budryk
Capital News Service

RICHMOND – Local jails and regional prisons in Virginia can continue to shackle female inmates during childbirth – a practice that Delegate Patrick Hope, D-Arlington, says is appalling.

Hope sponsored a bill this legislative session to prohibit the shackling of women prisoners while in labor or giving birth. However, the bill is dead for this session after failing to make it out of a subcommittee last week.

But Hope isn’t giving up on getting correctional facilities to stop the practice.

“Having been the father of three girls, I couldn’t understand why they felt the need to do that,” he said.

“And as I dug into the policies and what motivated the prisons and the local and regional jails to do this, [I found that] they really didn’t have a policy; they just shackled everyone … I thought there ought to be at least some law, something codified, that says they should use the least restrictive restraints … and use their discretion to make sure that safety’s not at risk.”

Katherine Greenier of the Virginia ACLU said the health risks posed by shackled delivery are well documented.

“Pregnancy can create problems with balance that are exacerbated by shackling,” said Greenier, whose Patricia M. Arnold Women’s Rights Project lobbied extensively for House Bill 836 before its demise.

“Leg and wrist restraints increase the likelihood that a pregnant woman could trip, and they compromise her ability to brace against a fall, risking miscarriage and injury.”

Ramey Connelly said she finds the practice abhorrent regardless of the health risks.

“I … believe that shackling women during labor is a violation of the right to be free from inhuman or degrading treatment, as set forth in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,” said Connelly, a women’s rights activist in Richmond.

“The process of birth is a natural one, and women are physiologically inclined to move during labor. There is extensive documentation that, given the freedom to do so, women will move into birthing positions which are most conducive to a safe, healthy labor and childbirth.”

The Virginia ACLU was joined in lobbying for the bill by several women’s rights and prison reform groups. The ACLU, which is known for supporting liberal causes, also found an unlikely ally: the Family Foundation of Virginia, which ordinarily supports conservative and religious causes.

Hope said it was natural for his bill to attract support from groups with different political views.

“If a woman wants to have a pregnancy, and she wants it to be carried out, then we need to make sure that it’s carried out in a safe and healthy manner. That’s why [pro-choice groups] are at the table,” Hope said.

“Virginia Family Foundation’s at the table for similar reasons. They see the pregnancy as a life, and we need to make sure that that pregnancy is protected so it is safe, and it is healthy, and everyone’s happy.”

HB 836 had been assigned to the House Militia, Police and Public Safety Committee. On Feb. 9, a subcommittee of that panel tabled the bill. As a result, the full House of Delegates did not have an opportunity to act on the measure. Any bill that did not clear its house of origin by Tuesday was declared dead for the session.

Hope said he plans to reintroduce the issue next session. In the meantime, he said, he is exploring non-legislative ways of achieving the same goal.

“The legislation that I introduced is already the procedure in the [state] prison system,” Hope said. “However, at the Board of Corrections level, in the regional jails … that’s not policy yet.”

“They put out a notice for rulemaking in January, and I suspect that that will be played out over the next 12 to 18 months. When the regulatory process plays out, I’m going to be watching that process closely to make sure that there are not so many holes in [shackling regulations] that this doesn’t become like Swiss cheese.”

Connelly said it was encouraging to hear the issue raised in the first place.

“It is always beneficial to keep the conversation going. That is one of the many tragedies of the ‘correctional’ system – that the people within them are locked away and essentially forgotten,” she said.

“We cannot let these conversations die, because when they do, the people who are suffering these monumental injustices fade away into the background.”
More about House Bill 836

Here is the full text of the bill:

“No state, regional, local, or juvenile correctional facility shall use restraints on any prisoner who is pregnant during labor, transport to a medical facility, delivery, or postpartum recovery unless the warden, superintendent, or jailor finds there is a compelling reason to believe that the prisoner poses serious harm to herself or others, is a flight risk, or cannot be reasonably restrained by other means. Such facility shall use the least restrictive restraints necessary on any inmate in the second or third trimester of pregnancy.”

To comment on the legislation, visit the Richmond Sunlight

Published in: on February 22, 2012 at 10:47 pm  Leave a Comment  

More than 1,000 protest ‘Personhood’, ultrasound bills

Largest public demonstration at state capital in quarter century

By Zack Budryk
Capital News Service

RICHMOND – More than 1,000 people turned out at the Capitol on Jan. 20th to silently protest a wave of legislation that they claim undermines women’s reproductive rights.

The demonstration focused largely on two measures: House Bill 1, which would give the legal status of a human being to a fertilized egg, and HB 462, which would require a trans-vaginal ultrasound before undergoing an abortion.

Both bills have passed the House of Delegates and are being considered by the Senate Education and Health Committee.

“We want the state legislators to know that we are angry, and we will not stand idly by as our rights to privacy and access to health care are eroded; we will not be told we do not know what is best for us, or that access to care should be limited to those who can pay,” said Sarah Okolita, who helped organize the event.

“We will not have medically unnecessary procedures forced upon us. We will not give up our right to plan our families,” said Okolita, a graduate student in social work at Virginia Commonwealth University. “These are distractions. Virginia needs economic growth and recovery, not repressive, regressive and dangerous control over our bodies.”

Another organizer, Jordan Romeo, a global studies and international social justice major at VCU, said he hoped the rally would send a message to the General Assembly.

“We have been telling people to contact their legislators, to call their legislators, to write emails, to be a presence at the Capitol as much as possible,” Romeo said.

Eileen Davis, a health care provider, said that the wording of HB 1 had potentially dangerous ramifications.

Scope of legislation

“The law of unintended consequences is all over this bill,” Davis said. “Women who have to take birth control or have a barrier method such as an IUD because they’re on cancer treatment, according to this bill, would be breaking the law.

“This bill says that women who have migraine headaches cannot take birth control pills … This is a law that was written by people that don’t understand health care, medical care and the medical consequences of it.”

Delegate Bob Marshall, R-Manassas, the sponsor of HB 1, has disputed such comments as fear-mongering. The bill states that “Nothing in this section shall be interpreted as affecting lawful assisted conception.” (WCR managing editor’s note: Typically, Marshall’s comment ignored the issue at hand – limits on medical treatment and restrictions on birth control.)

Virginia would become the first state in the nation to approve “personhood” at conception. Mississippi and one other state rejected such legislation in voter referendums in recent years.

The demonstration began at 11 a.m. as participants silently lined the walkways on the Capitol grounds and linked arms.

Around 12:30 p.m., the protesters dispersed before reassembling at the Bell Tower for a rally. The rally’s featured speakers included various legislators, as well as activists such as Ramey Connelly of the Richmond Reproductive Freedom Project and Victoria Bragunier of the Richmond chapter of the National Organization for Women.

“Virginia is better than this,” Delegate Alfonso Lopez, D-Arlington, told the crowd. “We represent something better. We have for 400 years. Let’s not go backwards. This is not what Virginia is.”

Participants and organizers said they were pleased with the turnout for the demonstration, particularly after Sunday’s snow.

“We were talking with the Capitol Police here,” said Vicki Yeroian, president of VCU Young Democrats and an advocate intern with Planned Parenthood. “And one of them was kind enough to let us know that in the 27 years that they’ve been working here, they have never seen a demonstration as big as the one that we’ve had today.”

Romeo said the size of the crowd reflected how strongly people feel about the issues.

“I think the turnout has been really wonderful,” he said. “I think the fact that the legislation is so absurd and so ridiculous [means] people are angry, which I think is a really good power to make people get involved.”

Published in: on February 22, 2012 at 10:43 pm  Comments (3)  

Divided senate OKs help for private schools

Repub Lt. governor pushes controversial funding initiative through

By Zack Budryk
Capital News Service

RICHMOND – In yet another bill that divided Republicans and Democrats down the aisle, on Feb. 17th the Virginia Senate passed legislation to provide tax credits for individuals and businesses that fund scholarships for low and middle-income students to attend parochial and private schools.

Senate Bill 131, sponsored by Sen. William Stanley, R-Moneta, would provide a 65 percent tax credit for individuals and corporations that donate money for such scholarships. The state would cap the total tax credits at $25 million per year. Sen. Mark Obenshain, R-26th, sponsored a bill capping the tax credits at $50 million.

SB 131 was debated on the Senate floor for nearly an hour. Then all 20 Republican senators voted for it; all 20 Democrats voted against it. The bill passed when Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling, a Republican, cast the tie-breaking vote.

Proponents of such “school choice” legislation assert that it would give students access to a quality of education that their families otherwise could not afford.

Low income help?

Under the bill, scholarships supported by tax credits must go “only to students whose family’s annual household income is not in excess of 300 percent of the current poverty guidelines or eligible students with a disability.”

That means a student from a family of four with an annual income of $69,150 would qualify for a scholarship. (Under the federal government’s 2012 guidelines, the poverty level for such a family is $23,050.)

The tax credit program would fund about 7,300 private-school scholarships, according to an analysis of SB 131. The bill would establish “Education Improvement Scholarships Tax Credits.” These credits would go to taxpayers “making monetary donations to scholarship foundations” approved by the Virginia Department of Education.

State funding of religion?

Senate Democrats condemned the bill, saying it amounted to taxpayer subsidies for religious schools and a violation of the principle of separation of church and state.

Sen. J. Chapman Petersen, D-Fairfax, argued that the bill would violate the Virginia Constitution, which forbids “any appropriation of public funds, personal property, or real estate to any church or sectarian society.”

“The purpose behind that [article] in our 1971 constitution is quite clear: We don’t appropriate to private entities; we give the money to public entities,” Petersen said. “That’s why we’re a public body.”

Sen. Janet Howell, D-Reston, said SB 131 would undermine the public school system.

“I think if you were to look at any history of this county … the reason why people have been lifted out of poverty is the public school system,” Howell said. She said the bill is part of an effort by Republicans to sap resources from public education.

“Right now it’s a trickle of blood,” Howell said. “But if we keep this up, this will be a hemorrhaging of blood from our public schools.”

Sen. Creigh Deeds, D-Charlottesville, expressed similar sentiments.

“Our public education system has issues; it needs more funding. But what we don’t need to do is run away from it,” Deeds said. “That’s what this bill does.”

Republican social agenda

“We have heard for quite a while from many that it takes a community to raise and educate a child. And paradoxically, the burden has been placed on the state to do just that with taxpayer dollars managed by a distant government agency,” Stanley said. “This bill will initiate the real change needed to encourage investment by offering solutions tailored to solve specific problems as determined by those closest to the situation.”

Gov. Bob McDonnell has long been a proponent of such legislation. The Republican governor, who headlined a rally for “school choice” earlier in the month, praised the vote.

“Virginia students deserve a world-class education regardless of their ZIP code and socio-economic status. Public and private-sector entities must come together to provide every possible opportunity for students to get the education they need to fill the good jobs available in the 21st century,” McDonnell said in a statement following the vote.

“This legislation will increase the ability of nonprofit organizations to provide education improvement scholarships so low-income students or students with disabilities can attend the nonpublic school of their choice. It is a common-sense measure that will spur private support in educating the leaders of tomorrow and will give students a new opportunity to learn the skills they need to be successful in the future.”

SB 131 is the latest in a series of bills this session concerning hot-button issues for social conservatives; others include abortion, voter identification and drug testing for welfare recipients. This was the 10th tie-breaker Bolling has cast.

On Tuesday, the House passed its own bill providing tax credits for private-school scholarships. The 64-35 vote also was along party lines.

House Bill 321, sponsored by Delegate Jimmie Massie, R-Richmond, would support scholarships for students eligible for the free and reduced-price lunch program. (A family of four qualifies for that program if its annual income is below $41,348.)

Under the House legislation, corporations would receive a tax credit equal to 70 percent of their donations to the scholarships.

On the Web

To monitor or comment on Senate Bill 131, visit the Richmond Sunlight website:

Here are the 2012 poverty guidelines published by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Under SB 131, scholarships supported by state tax credits could go to students from families that make up to three times the poverty levels:

How They Voted

Here is how the Senate voted Friday on “SB 131 Income tax, corporate; tax credits for donations to organizations, etc.”

Floor: 02/17/12 Senate: Read third time and passed Senate (20-Y 20-N)

YEAS – Black, Blevins, Carrico, Garrett, Hanger, Martin, McDougle, McWaters, Newman, Norment, Obenshain, Reeves, Ruff, Smith, Stanley, Stosch, Stuart, Vogel, Wagner, Watkins – 20.

NAYS – Barker, Colgan, Deeds, Ebbin, Edwards, Favola, Herring, Howell, Locke, Lucas, Marsden, Marsh, McEachin, Miller, J.C., Miller, Y.B., Northam, Petersen, Puckett, Puller, Saslaw – 20.

Mr. President (Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling): YEA

Published in: on February 22, 2012 at 10:38 pm  Comments (19)  

Governor urges revisiting of ultra sound bill

A pregnant woman, who is expecting twins, at the Women's Clinic of Leipzig's Karl Marx University. Before the birth, specialist Dr. Renaldo Faber and his colleagues used the Doppler ultrasound method to check the red blood cells in mother and child. The hospital has a perinatal center specializing in the care of premature babies (including twins and multiple births).

By Roger Bianchini
Warren County Report

On Feb. 22nd Governor Bob McDonnell urged caution and a revisiting of mandatory ultrasound legislation (SB 484) proposed in this legislative session of the Virginia General Assembly.

Legislation on the table mandates intrusive, internal, physical procedures invading a woman’s body to assure she can see medical imaging of her fetus prior to a decision on abortion.

The governor qualified his statement by asserting his “pro-life” political and moral leanings. However, he also addressed growing concerns that legislation championed by fellow Republicans in this session crossed personal boundaries not justified by medical necessity (nor dare we suggest, legislative authority).

“Over the course of my 20-year career in elected office, I have been glad to play a leading role in putting in place common-sense policies that protect and defend innocent human life in the Commonwealth. One of those bills was Virginia’s informed consent statute, of which I was the chief patron in the House of Delegates, finally seeing its passage in 2001 …

“Over the past days I have discussed the specific language of the proposed legislation with other governors, physicians, attorneys, legislators, advocacy groups, and citizens. It is apparent that several amendments to the proposed legislation are needed to address various medical and legal issues which have arisen.

“It is clear that in the majority of cases, a routine external, transabdominal ultrasound is sufficient to meet the bills stated purpose, that is, to determine gestational age.

“I have come to understand that the medical practice and standard of care currently guide physicians to use other procedures to find the gestational age of the child, when abdominal ultrasounds cannot do so. Determining gestational age is essential for legal reasons, to know the trimester of the pregnancy in order to comply with the law, and for medical reasons as well.

“Thus, having looked at the current proposal, I believe there is no need to direct by statute that further invasive ultrasound procedures be done. Mandating an invasive procedure in order to give informed consent is not a proper role for the state. No person should be directed to undergo an invasive procedure by the state, without their consent, as a precondition to another medical procedure.

“For this reason, I have recommended to the General Assembly a series of amendments to this bill. I am requesting that the General Assembly amend this bill to explicitly state that no woman in Virginia will have to undergo a transvaginal ultrasound involuntarily.

“I am asking the General Assembly to state in this legislation that only a transabdominal, or external, ultrasound will be required to satisfy the requirements to determine gestational age. Should a doctor determine that another form of ultrasound may be necessary to provide the necessary images and information that will be an issue for the doctor and the patient. The government will have no role in that medical decision.

“I have requested other amendments that help clarify the purposes of the bill and reflect a better understanding of prevailing medical practices. It is my hope that the members of the General Assembly will act favorably upon these recommendations from our office. We will await their action prior to making any further comments on this matter.”

Published in: on February 22, 2012 at 10:27 pm  Leave a Comment  
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