The General Assembly adjourned its 2012 session recently, and much of the talk was about what wasn’t accomplished: passing a state budget. Legislators returned to town today to begin the process of trying to overcome the obstructionism of Senate Democrats, and it’s anyone’s guess on how long it will take. During session, the media hysteria surrounding the ultrasound bill dominated the discussion. Lost in those two competing stories were all the other issues that legislators dealt with this year.
For The Family Foundation, this was one of the most successful policy sessions we’ve ever seen. In fact, each of our top four legislative priorities for this year passed the General Assembly!
Our most significant legislative victory was the passage of bills that provide conscience protections for faith-based private child placement agencies. These agencies do incredible work helping children and families, and have done so for decades. Unfortunately, homosexual activists attempted to shut these important ministries down because these agencies believe children should have both a mom and a dad! This tremendous victory for religious freedom comes as we are witnessing the Obama administration’s unprecedented attack on the free exercise of faith in the public square. As a result of this legislation, Virginia will be one of only two states in the nation to provide conscience protection for faith-based child placement agencies. We hope that our victory will serve as a model for other states.
In another major pro-family victory, legislation bringing school choice to Virginia finally passed the General Assembly! The bills, which provide a tax credit for donations to private scholarship programs, are based on wildly popular programs in other states, particularly Florida and Pennsylvania. This policy is an incremental step toward expansive school choice, an idea whose time has finally come! This is a true victory for the thousands of Virginians who have worked to bring education freedom to Virginia for over a decade, but it’s just the beginning. There is no doubt that this program will successfully help thousands of children get on a pathway to success, breaking down the barrier to true education freedom for Virginia families.
The legislature also passed bills that will give Virginians the opportunity to place property rights protections in the state Constitution in November. After fighting government special interests since 2007, and withstanding countless attempts by opponents to water down or kill the multiple bills on this issue, together with a host of like-minded organizations, we were finally able to bring this to victory! One of the fundamental purposes of government is to protect our right to private property, and now Virginians will have the opportunity to secure that right in our state Constitution.
Our priority pro-life bill, which amends Virginia’s informed consent law to require an ultrasound prior to a woman having an abortion, passed the General Assembly and was signed into law by Governor McDonnell. This bill is so threatening to the abortion industry that they went to incredible extremes to try to kill it, including disingenuous hyperbole that was carried by the media across the nation. Pro-abortion forces have held multiple rallies on the Capitol grounds and mobilized people across the globe to email legislators in Virginia. The real reason the industry is so livid over this bill is not the idea of a woman having an ultrasound, one of the most routine medical tests available, but the fact that women will be asked if they want to see the image of their unborn child and the possibility that women may change their minds about having an abortion. Such a decision will be a financial catastrophe for an industry that relies heavily on abortion revenue.
Not only were we able to advance our shared values, but we defended them as well. We were successful in defeating every bill that would have advanced the agenda of the homosexual rights groups and abortion groups, expanded gambling, or increased taxes on small businesses and working families.
Our work isn’t completed quite yet, as there are several bills on the Governor’s desk awaiting his signature that we will be asking him to amend to improve or strengthen those proposals. We will also be monitoring the budget talks and work to ensure that a budget amendment is included that protects taxpayers from subsidizing failed research that requires the destruction of human embryos.
Please accept my thanks if you were one of the thousands of Virginians who emailed or contacted your legislator during this year’s session. Election Day didn’t end our battle; legislators need to hear from you year round! While this was our most successful legislative session, it was also the most grueling and difficult in our history. We have been reminded once again that those who oppose our values will stop at nothing to silence us. We cannot be intimidated by their ranting and their threats, and we haven’t been. We will continue to advance our values regardless of what the writers at Saturday Night Live think of Virginia. If anything, we should be proud that they ridiculed us, it shows we’re moving in the right direction!