NEWSLETTER: We’re Halfway There…

February 14, 2020

Friends,

      We’re officially past the halfway mark of Session that we call “Crossover” where all bills that originated in the Senate cross over to the House to be debated in Committee and vice versa.

      Every year around this time, I like to take a step back and take stock of what we’ve seen so far. The bills I’ve introduced have had varying amounts of success in terms of getting through the Senate but overall, I’m grateful for the support I’ve received from my Senate colleagues on my bills.

      I’m particularly thankful for the support for my two good government bills that passed and are headed to the House. In light of the recent Warren County EDA scandal, I introduced SB 701 and SB 703 to ensure government transparency and accountability by requiring Executive Directors and members of Economic Development Authorities (EDA) to take ethics training and submit Statements of Economic Interest (SOEI). EDA’s provide critical economic initiatives for our communities in the Valley and around the Commonwealth and the citizens deserve their trust and confidence. These bills seek to ensure they will have it.

      In addition, I’m honored to have carried a bill that passed the Senate dealing with protecting child victims of human trafficking. Oftentimes in these horrific instances of trafficking, whether for sex or labor, it is the parents or legal guardians who are unfortunately the ones participating in the illegal activity. My SB 706 is a Virginia State Crime Commission proposal and allows for local departments of social services to interview victims without the consent of and outside of the presence of such victims’ parents, guardians, or legal custodians.

      These bills and the others of mine that passed the Senate are headed to the House where our counterparts will hear them in Committee and then on the floor of the House of Delegates if they are voted out of Committee.

      Unfortunately, a number of other bills that will significantly and detrimentally affect Virginians have passed the Senate as well. The new Democrat majority in Richmond has advanced a startling number of liberal bills that will impact every single Virginian. It was almost as if they couldn’t stand the success Virginia has experienced over the past 20 years, and they were eager to make the same mistakes as California and Maryland have made.

      When their litany of bills become law and go into effect on July 1, it is going to cost your family a lot more to live in Virginia than it does today.

      The Democrats have a new transportation scheme that raises the gas tax by 15-cents per gallon over the next two years in most of the state. Those living in the areas where higher gas taxes are already in place because of the 2013 transportation tax hike will see their gas taxes rise a little less, since they’re already paying higher taxes. But, most of Virginia will see an 86% increase in the gas tax over the next two years. And, the tax will continue to automatically increase every year thereafter.

      They also approved a “Green New Deal” energy bill that will result in higher prices on electricity.  The plan is to have consumers pay more in their monthly electric utility bills to finance “renewables” like wind and solar. The estimates of what the average family will pay for this range from $23 to $50 on their power bill per month.

      In addition to the gun control bills that will severely limit our Second Amendment rights which I have covered in depth in previous updates, Democrats in the Senate have passed numerous pieces of legislation that will hurt small business owners and impact the pocket books of every hardworking Virginian family.

      On Tuesday – the last day to hear Senate bills that actually concluded at 12:50 AM on Wednesday – the Democrat majority in the Senate flexed its newfound majority power to pass priorities like prevailing wage legislation and collective bargaining for public employees.

      Despite touching on this last week, I want to highlight again how damaging these bills will be to Virginia.

      Because of the prevailing wage legislation that requires construction companies and other trade jobs to meet a certain level of wages and benefits, we will see fewer schools, fewer affordable housing units and fewer wastewater treatment facilities. Did you know that in 2018, Richmond discharged more than 3.4 billion gallons of raw sewage into the James River? With construction companies having to pay a prevailing wage that is 10% – 25% more than the market rate for construction workers, local governments like Richmond are going to have less money to pay for needed sewage system upgrades. Other localities will have less money available to pay for school construction.

      This new prevailing rate is really just an attempt by out of state contractors to win Virginia construction contracts that were out of reach because their union pay scales kept them from competing with Virginia businesses.

      Another bill we saw pass on Tuesday was the minimum wage bill. If I listed all the negative impacts that this will have on young people entering the workforce, small business owners, mom and pop retail shops, etc., this weekly blast would turn into a short novel.

      But to name just a few… requiring employers to pay a minimum wage will raise unemployment levels, depress wages, make it harder for young people to find an entry level job and it will significantly hurt the cashflow of our small businesses.

      The sadly ironic reality of proponents of minimum wage legislation is that it will end up harming the very people that they want to help. Sure, workers may make more money hourly but when an employer is strapped for cash and capital because of the mandate to pay more in wages, they are going to end up cutting their workers hours.

      Generally speaking, when it comes to liberal, California/New York style economic policies like collective bargaining for public employees or forced union membership that comes from repealing or gutting Right to Work, these policies truly end up creating more economic hardship for those in our communities for which they are trying to raise economic prospects.

      Not to mention that the left has done a good job claiming the moral high ground on these issues. Proponents seek to paint economic conservatives as heartless, money-grabbing capitalists in the pockets of big businesses. And this attempt to claim moral high ground on economic issues again only seeks to create less economic prospects for the families in our community who have the most potential to grow economically.

      We will continue to hear debates on these important issues and more until our time here in Richmond concludes on 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. I appreciate hearing your views on pending legislation. We have received thousands of emails this session already and hundreds of calls. Thank you for your advocacy on issues that are important to you.  You can always let me know your views on any of the issues before the General Assembly by emailing me at mark@markobenshain.com or filling out my survey at https://www.markobenshain.com/2020-survey/. Or if you prefer to call, my district office in Harrisonburg is 540-437-1451 or my General Assembly Office in Richmond is 804-698-7526.

More updates coming soon!

Best,

Mark Obenshain