2021 Crossover Update

February 3, 2021

Friends,

This Friday marks crossover in the General Assembly.  This is the traditional midpoint of Session, marking the day that the House and Senate each begin addressing legislation originating from the other Chamber. 

The first half of Session this year has been dominated by more Democrat initiatives geared towards so called “social and environmental justice.”  These include the repeal of the death penalty, efforts to restore Virginia’s liberal and lenient system of parole, and eliminating all mandatory minimum sentences for crimes.  Over the past 20 years, Virginia has successfully reversed disturbing increases in the rate of violent crime and recidivism.  Virginia Democrats seem determined to reverse all of the policies that led to that success.  

The marijuana legalization efforts demonstrate Virginia Democrats’ detachment from the concerns of most Virginians, who are worried about getting the economy back on track, getting schools fully reopened, and getting the Covid-19 vaccine.  Instead, the Democrats have rolled out a premature and unworkable marijuana legalization plan. A plan rife with racial preferences, quotas and inconsistencies.  Incongruously, the plan would make it legal to possess marijuana but illegal to grow.  It provides for dispensary licenses, but preferences for those licenses will be given to persons convicted of drug offenses, who will also be receiving taxpayer funded grants and government loans.  While I know that many of my Libertarian-minded friends take a different view towards marijuana legalization than I, most of us will agree that if this is going to happen, this is not the way to do it.

Conspicuously absent from the Governor’s legislative agenda is any meaningful legislation addressing the COVID pandemic, vaccinations or the reopening of schools.  Virginians have been reminded at every turn that we are the only state in the nation with a physician as Governor.  Shamefully, however, Virginia’s rollout of the vaccine has been dismal at best.  The Commonwealth consistently has been in the back of the pack in the administration of vaccines.  In an article just published on realclearpolitics.com, it was pointed out that our Doctor/Governor has willfully injected an overdose of politics and social justice into his vaccination program to the detriment of those most at risk of infection, hospitalization and death.

As for education, there is an increasing drumbeat from parents across Virginia to reopen schools; however, the Administration consistently has demonstrated slavish devotion to teachers unions, who seemingly come up with new excuses at every turn for keeping schools closed.  In Fairfax County, school employees were catapulted to the front of the vaccine line, irrespective of age or the absence of any underlying health problems.  This prioritization was presumably for the purpose of reopening schools, but since the administration of those vaccines, the teachers union has announced that it won’t support a return to school until after next fall!  We cannot allow Virginia’s schools to remain closed to in-person instruction for the better part of two years.  

On the COVID vaccine front, I was pleased to co-patron was SB 1445 which passed the Senate and House unanimously.  This bill would mandate VDH to use an “all hands on deck” approach to get Virginians vaccinated faster.  All qualified healthcare professionals would get training and could  begin to vaccinate citizens.  It would also make it easier for private sector entities to volunteer their open areas to be used as vaccination sites.  The bill now goes to the Governor’s desk for his signature.  I’ll have more about my thoughts on the vaccine rollout in a separate email later this week.

SB 1303, patroned by Senator Siobhan Dunnavant, would make in-person learning available to Virginia students by choice of the student’s parent or guardian.  The CDC has stated that schools can reopen safely if precautions are taken. This is a step in the right direction to get children back in school.  I voted for this bill which passed the Senate yesterday on a vote of 26-13 and now moves onto the House. 

It’s these priorities that make our elections this year so important. I was honored to start work this week as the Co-Chair for my good friend Pete Snyder’s Gubernatorial Campaign. Pete’s a rock solid Republican who’s ready to disrupt the liberal establishment in Richmond. I hope you’ll take a few minutes and check out his website and learn more about why he’s running for Governor. As you may know, we have 100 House of Delegates elections this year as well as the Governor, Lieutenant Governor and Attorney General races this fall. 


With the second half of Session approaching, the legislature is going to be working on fine tuning bills that have passed and weeding out the bad ideas.  As always, I am grateful for input from friends and constituents.  Do not hesitate to contact my office with comments, concerns or suggestions about pending legislation.  My legislative aides Jenni Aulgur and Connor Smith can be reached at jennifer@markobenshain.com and connor@markobenshain.com or by calling my district office in Harrisonburg at 540-437-1451.

Until my next update, stay safe and healthy!

Best regards,

Mark Obenshain