National Controversy and the Budget Process Begins
Crossover Week at the General Assembly found us in the national media spotlight of Saturday Night Live, CNN and the Rachel Maddow Show. Over 1,000 demonstrators appeared at the State Capitol this week.
On Monday and Tuesday, the House of Delegates passed legislation redefining a “person” for purposes of the Code of Virginia as beginning at conception. This has been called the “Personhood” bill. Given that the word “person” is used 25,000 times in the Code of Virginia, this would have far-reaching consequences. This would include taxes, child support, life insurance, health insurance, the practice of medicine, criminal statutes, civil liability, or even High Occupancy Vehicles (e.g. HOV-2).
My caucus attempted to add an amendment to the bill to clearly exclude FDA-approved contraception from this legislation. That amendment failed on a 64-34 vote.
We also passed legislation requiring an ultrasound within twenty-four hours of having an abortion. Given that many abortions occur in the first trimester and a fetus cannot be properly visualized in the first trimester with an external sonogram, this would require a medically-unnecessary transvaginal or what some are calling as vaginally penetrating ultrasound.
We offered an amendment to clarify that the invasive ultrasound procedure could only be performed with the consent of the woman. That amendment failed on a 64-34 vote.
I supported the amendments and voted against both bills. While I recognize that these issues invoke strong emotions on both sides, I have consistently felt believed that a woman’s right to make a decision is best left between the woman, her doctor, and her conscience. Our existing laws as interpreted by the Courts are adequate and I believe that granting a fertilized egg the status of a person would have far-reaching unpredictable consequences.
Banning contraception is archaic. While the ultrasound supporters have consistently decried “big government” programs and “nanny state” rules such as federal health insurance reform, the same delegates are now proposing that the Government mandate a medically unnecessary probe inside a woman’s body for purposes of exercising her constitutional right. Mandating ultrasounds is hypocritical and just plain mean.
Many pregnancies are terminated due to complications. Requiring a mother who has been previously diagnosed with an anencephalic baby (forming without a brain), deformed, or medically dead (without a heartbeat) to undergo a repeat imaging procedure to again show her a malformed fetus is the equivalent of state sponsored torture. I will continue to fight these bills as they continue to work through the legislature.
The House and Senate money committees released their competing budgets over the weekend. The Governor’s budget cut $54 million of special money for Northern Virginia called “cost to compete” funding to help us pay our teachers salaries to compete with other D.C. Metropolitan area jurisdictions. The House Budget refused to reinstate this money. The Senate now under downstate control due to the party change only reinstated two-thirds of it.
The House Budget also diverts over $100 million of funding for schools, public safety, health care, and safety net programs to transportation projects by dedicating part of existing sales tax revenue to the Transportation Trust Fund. I will oppose this for several reasons.
First, the General Fund is starved. Adding roads into the competition for funds with schools, public safety, health care and safety net programs is bad policy. Second, thirty-percent of gas taxes are paid by out-of-state users and nearly 100% of sales taxes are paid by Virginians. All road users contribute, not just Virginians. Also, under the proposed distributions, the Governor is proposing that Northern Virginia receive about half as much for roads if this sales tax revenue was run through the Transportation Trust Fund. We are shortchanged enough already by the state and need new revenue in the system.
This battle will continue to percolate and some fear that we are headed for a stalemate given the 20-20 situation in the Virginia Senate.
Please continue your feedback on legislation this session. I have written about twenty articles in the last 60 days about this session on my blog – The Dixie Pig – at scottsurovell.blogspot.com. You can also visit my website (www.scottsurovell.org) , or send me email at email@example.com.
It is an honor to serve as your state delegate.