NEWSLETTER: Week 1 in the books

January 13, 2020


The Virginia General Assembly began its fifth century on Wednesday.  Clearly, “the oldest continuous law-making body in the New World” will have a 401st year that will be a stark contrast from its 400th.

For the first time in 26 years, the House and Senate have Democrat majorities with a Democrat serving as governor.  One-party control has been an exceptional occurrence over the last quarter century.  Republicans enjoyed this status in 2000 and 2001, and again in 2012 and 2013.  Except for those four years, Virginians have elected governments that were divided between the two parties since 1993.

While the House of Delegates is experiencing some pronounced changes, things are somewhat more stable in the Senate.  Our chamber has five new members this year, three of whom previously served in the House.  The majority has shifted from the Republicans to the Democrats by a margin of 21-19.  But both parties retained their leadership teams. 

As the Democrats have not had complete control of government for a very long time, substantial and consequential changes are unfortunately coming. They are more uniformly and ideologically to the left than they were when they last held power, so these changes have the potential to be more extreme.  From what the Governor and the Democrats promised this week, they will be.    

 Two days before session began, the Governor laid out his agenda for the 2020 session.  If you’ve managed to watch any of the debates between the Democrat presidential candidates, you would have recognized much of the Governor’s rhetoric.  Bernie Sanders or Tom Steyer would have been perfectly comfortable delivering these proposals….and they might have even made Elizabeth Warren blush.

On guns, they are pushing universal background checks, even for gifts between family members, “red flag” laws that would allow confiscations with little or no due process, imposition of quotas or limits in the form of “one gun a month” on the sale of handguns, and a so-called “assault weapons ban” that would render unlawful the sale or even possession of a wide array of rifles and a staggering percentage of the full sized semi-automatic handguns. Just Friday, the Democrats on a party line vote with little notice and no discussion passed a new policy banning guns at the Capitol and at our legislative office buildings.  Not even members of the General Assembly can conceal carry now while at Session.

The Democrats even called in former NYC Mayor, Michael Bloomberg to come to Virginia the day before session to collect on his dividends for funding his liberal candidates.  You can read about that here.

In addition to gun legislation, their listed priorities also include increasing the minimum wage by more than 100% from $7.25 to $15.  Senate Majority Leader Mamie Locke (D-Hampton) has introduced legislation calling for this increase by December of 2022. 

Look also for a revival of the Delegate Kathy Tran bill to remove all restrictions on abortions.  This is the legislation that shocked America last year when Governor Northam explained in cold clinical terms how this legislation should allow doctors to allow babies to die even after they are born.

They are also calling for an expansion of taxpayer and utility consumer subsidies for trendy green energy projects and housing subsidies.

On the education front, they plan to move forward to provide in state tuition to undocumented students.

Finally, on voting, expect broad changes that remove important safeguards to ensure the fairness of Virginia’s elections.

There are many other bills that have been introduced by members of this new liberal Democratic majority that aren’t included in their publicized agenda but which they are going to push just as hard.  Some of those will include the evisceration of Virginia’s Right to Work laws and legal reform to allow class action lawsuits in Virginia.  While Republicans controlled the Virginia General Assembly and held many of these liberal initiatives at bay, Virginia gained the reputation as the best state in American in which to do business and we created hundreds of thousands of high paying jobs.  These and other changes put that status at great risk. 

Here, you can read an article that further highlights the aggressive Democrat agenda this Session. 

Elections certainly have consequences and if the Democrats are able to hold together, they have the votes to make Virginia look a lot more like left coast states and to do great damage to our individual rights and our economy.  Rest assured that I plan to do everything in my power to block these liberal agenda items and to bring to light their consequences for Virginia.  I will not vote to weaken our Second Amendment rights.  I will not vote to put small business out of business by repealing our Right to Work Laws.  I will vote for any measure that threatens our individual liberties.

I do, however, need your help.  Share this and future messages with friends and family.  We need to let our friends and neighbors know what’s at stake and to enlist them in our effort.  You can also help by sharing this on social media or making your own post on social media.  You can help by writing letters to the editor or calling talk radio.

Hats off to the Democrats.  They did a great job of identifying, registering and getting to the poles new liberal voters, especially in Northern Virginia and Richmond.  We need to do the same thing in identifying new conservative voters across Virginia, motivating them and keeping them informed.  We can do this together and start winning statewide elections again in Virginia.  Until then, as this General Assembly Session is likely to show, we are going to have some bitter pills to swallow.

On a lighter and more positive note, I received my Committee Assignments this week.  I will remain as a member on the Senate Courts of Justice – now call the Judiciary Committee, Commerce & Labor; Agriculture, Conservation and Natural Resources, and will be a new member on the Senate Transportation Committee. 

The majority party gets to decide on committee assignments.  With a disproportionate number of their members coming from Northern Virginia, the Democrat majority shortchanged large swaths of the Commonwealth in doling out these assignments.  Southwest Virginia, Virginia Beach, and the Richmond area were especially discounted in the assignments.  Consistent with what has become the Democrat Party’s base of support, Northern Virginia will be decidedly over-represented on key committees such as the Finance & Appropriations and Commerce and Labor committees.

Friendly faces from home came early to the General Assembly this session, as the Virginia Federation of Republican Women held their annual legislative day on the session’s second day.  Additionally, we had bankers from First Bank & Trust and Farmers and Merchants Bank visit this week on Banker’s Day.  I also enjoyed seeing many of my agriculture friends at the Annual Agribusiness Banquet, one of highlights of the Session.

We are here in Richmond until at least March 7.  My staff and I welcome the opportunity to see you if you are visiting the General Assembly.  My office is Room 502E in the Pocahontas Building.    You can always let me know your views on any of the issues before the General Assembly by emailing me at [email protected] or by calling my district office in Harrisonburg at 540-437-1451 or my General Assembly Office in Richmond at 804-698-7526.

Have a great week and more updates coming soon!


Mark Obenshain