Author Archive

General Assembly Session winds down

March 4, 2022

Friends,

These last two weeks have been packed with positive updates at the General Assembly. 

February 15 was what we referred to as “Crossover,” when the House and Senate completed work on all bills originating in each respective chamber. The Senate is now acting on House bills and the House is acting on Senate bills. In these last few weeks, we will begin bill conferences where differences are hammered out in bills that have passed both chambers.

Seven of my bills passed the Senate so those are now making their way through the House. 

We had a great victory for the Commonwealth when Governor Youngkin signed into law the bill requiring school districts across Virginia to adjust their policies to remove any requirements for students to wear masks. That law was amended to add what is called an “emergency clause” and it became effective on Tuesday, March 1.

Senator Siobhan Dunnavant (R-Henrico) and Senator Chap Petersen (D-Fairfax), in a show of refreshing bipartisanship, worked together to get the bill passed in the Senate and the House so that Governor Youngkin could put his signature on it to make it law. In a related action, the Senate unanimously adopted a measure to repeal Governor Northam’s mask mandate for business and workplaces – including schools – thus allowing teachers and other school employees to join their students in making their own masking decisions.

The other notable news last week was regarding the state budget. The House and Senate unveiled their respective versions of the 2022-2024 Biennial Budget, initiating a process that will last through the end of session – and beyond.

The big story this year – and the major difference between the House and Senate budgets – is the amount of tax relief being offered in them.  As you might expect, the Republican-majority House’s plan includes virtually all of the tax relief Governor Youngkin proposed when he was campaigning.  The Democrat-majority Senate’s plan offers a smaller subset of that relief. Consequently, I prefer the House plan that returns more money to the taxpayers and funds key priorities, highlighted below…

  • $5.3 billion in tax relief
  • $2 billion loan fund to repair and replace crumbling schools
  • $51.6 million to hire resource officers in every school
  • $150 million for lab schools to increase school choice
  • $101 million to improve care at our nursing homes for seniors and $251 million to boost Medicaid provider compensation

The philosophical difference between a Senate controlled by Northern Virginia Democrats and a House of Delegates led by Speaker Todd Gilbert were brought into focus by many of the votes that took place on Monday of this week. On Monday, many bills that passed the House of Delegates made it to the Senate only to be cut down in either the Judiciary Committee or the Commerce and Labor Committee. Here’s a sampling:

  • Delegate Tony Wilt’s HB 827 which would have repealed the authority for local governments to regulate firearms
  • Delegate Chris Runion’s HB 1000 which would have added an element of fairness to the law-enforcement civilian oversight boards that were a creation of the “Defund the Police” crowd during the last General Assembly Session
  • Delegate Marie March’s HB 509 which would have repealed the red flag law passed last year
  • Delegate Nick Freitas’ HB 118 which would have repealed the Virginia Clean Economy Act – Virginia’s version of the Green New Deal
  • Delegate Dave LaRock’s HB 790 which would have been a step in the right direction to repealing legislation allowing collective bargaining for public employees

These past few weeks my office and I had the opportunity to meet with a number of visitors, including representatives of Americans for Prosperity, the Virginia Association of Realtors, and the Greater Piedmont Realtors. I also met with the General District Court Clerks in my district.

It was also Hokie Day at the General Assembly.  I met with Virginia Tech Corps Commander Major General Fullhart to get an update on the Corps of Cadets.  Coach Pry was in the house and we presented a commending resolution for VT’s 150th Anniversary on the Senate Chamber floor. Go Hokies!

And finally, it was my pleasure to chat with students from Rappahannock Middle School in Rappahannock County.

We only have a little more than a week left in Session…it is amazing every year how time flies. As always, if you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to email me at [email protected] or come by my office in the Pocohontas building, 5th Floor, Room 502E.

Best,

Mark Obenshain

Obenshain Statement on Passage of Elder Abuse Prevention Bill

February 25, 2022

RICHMOND – Today, Senator Mark Obenshain (R-Rockingham) released the following statement following the passage of Senate Bill (SB) 124.

“I’m happy to report that my SB 124 passed the House of Delegates unanimously yesterday afternoon and is headed to Governor Youngkin’s desk for his signature. It’s a travesty that financial abuse of our elderly is more and more prevalent every year. Protecting this vulnerable population has long been a priority of mine and this bill is one more step in holding bad actors accountable for financially exploiting an incapacitated adult.”

SB 124 creates a new criminal offense for people who misuse a power of attorney to exploit the person who they were supposed to be helping and protecting.  When someone gives a power of attorney to another, he or she is entrusting that person with a position of trust and great responsibility. The opportunity for abuse is significant and when that happens, there should be an additional charge for the breach of trust, above and beyond that which applies to simple theft.

The federal government estimates that the costs of financial fraud against seniors exceed $2 billion annually. According to a recent elder needs survey, nearly one in five Americans aged 65 and older have been victims of elder financial abuse. The survey claims that over $36 billion is lost each year to financial exploitation, criminal fraud and caregiver abuse. 90 percent of perpetrators of fraud are known to their victims.

The closer the tie between perpetrator and victim, the greater the damage. A detailed study of elder financial abuse in Utah found that the amount stolen by people who knew their victim averaged $116,000 — nearly triple the haul taken by strangers. Criminals within the family got even more: $148,000. And the thieves who stole the most money — $262,000, on average — were the victims’ children.

Obenshain concluded, “Facts matter and the reality is that this combination of vulnerability and financial means puts elders in enhanced danger of exploitation. I’m grateful to my colleagues in the House of Delegates and the Senate for their support of this bill. I look forward to this becoming Virginia law so that we can continue to tamp down on elder abuse in our society.”

Senator Obenshain represents the twenty-sixth district in the Virginia Senate.  The district includes the city of Harrisonburg and the counties of Warren, Shenandoah, Page, Rappahannock and Rockingham (part).  He serves on the Senate Judiciary; Commerce & Labor; Agriculture, Conservation and Natural Resources; and Transportation Committees.

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Week 4 Session Update

February 10, 2022

Friends,

We are in our fourth week of the 2022 Session and committees in the Senate and House have had full dockets with robust debates on numerous bills daily.  Believe it or not, we are only about a week from the mid-point of Session, known as Crossover.  

Most of the bills that I have patroned this year have been heard in committee, some favorably and some unfavorably. On Thursday, I presented one of my top priorities this year: an expansion to our charter schools laws in the Commonwealth. I want to thank Education Secretary Amy Guidera for testifying in support of my bill.

It’s unfortunate that my colleagues were not amenable to my bill. A few weeks ago, I described the work I was doing with Governor Youngkin to give more flexibility to schools and teachers and families. Last week, the Senate Education and Health Committee voted 8-7 to defeat the bill. One Democrat Senator, Lynwood Lewis, broke ranks and supported the bill. If you would like to read my statement about the bill’s failure to pass, please click here.

I also carried a bill to repeal the pro-union legislation allowing the government to close bids to all but union shops and repealing last year’s bill allowing unionizing or collective bargaining for public employees. With a Commerce and Labor Committee stacked with twelve Democrats and three Republicans it was no surprise that the bill failed. This was another bill with which I was working with Governor Youngkin to ensure that employees are not forced to join unions and contractors are not forced to pay inflated wage rates in public contracts. The primary effect of last year’s legislation was to allow large out-of-state contractors to compete for and win contracts from Virginia businesses. To read the bill, click here

SB 122 (click here to read it) is a bill about which I care deeply. This is known as Caleb’s Law and would have created an involuntary manslaughter (felony) charge for any person who kills the fetus of another accidentally, contrary to the intention of the parties and while engaged in conduct so gross, wanton, and culpable as to show a reckless disregard for human life.  This bill was brought to me by a Rockingham County woman who survived a horrible automobile accident, caused by a man fleeing police. Tragically, because of the accident, she lost her son with whom she was six months pregnant and would have been named Caleb. Under current law, if Caleb and his mother had both died in the accident, the perpetrator could have been charged with two counts of homicide.  But because the mother lived, the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s only option was to charge the perpetrator with two counts of malicious wounding. I believe that the prosecution in cases like this should be able to pursue an involuntary manslaughter charge. What happened to Caleb and her mother is devastating and I hope that this bill will rectify this unjust inconsistency in our law. To read more about this legislation and Caleb’s story please click here.  

Caleb’s mother, Taylor, was brave enough to testify in front of the Committee with a moving account of her experience. If you’d like to listen to her testimony, click the video below.

The bill was reported from the Judiciary Committee and is headed to the Finance Committee for further evaluation.

If you wish to see the full list of the bills I am introducing this year, click here

Recently, we welcomed several groups and individuals to our office – both in person and virtually. Some of our visitors included advocates from the Virginia Farm Bureau, Shenandoah Valley and Rappahannock Electric Cooperatives, Virginia Dental Association, and members of our local school boards. 

We also met constituents who visited on behalf of the Virginia Charitable Gaming Council and my good friends John Shaffer from Luray Caverns and Debbie Donehey, Rappahannock County Board of Supervisors member and owner of The Griffin Tavern in Flint Hill. 

And finally, it was great to catch up with my good friend Dr. John Downey as well as ambitious and driven students from Blue Ridge Community College. 

If you would like to meet with me or my office representatives, please email me at [email protected] or come by our office in the Pocohontas Building, office 502E. 

I’ll have another update next week so stay tuned.  As always, it’s my honor to represent the Shenandoah Valley in the Senate of Virginia.  

Best,

Mark Obenshain

Mask Mandate Update

February 9, 2022

Friends,

One of the most highly charged political issues to emerge so far during the General Assembly Session is the statewide school mask mandate.  Governor Youngkin has endeavored to lift the mandate and to leave the choice to parents as to whether to send their children to school with a mask.  Yesterday, a large bipartisan majority approved an amendment to SB 739 that would prohibit local schoolboards from imposing a mask mandate on students or punishing students for not wearing a mask.  Republican Siobhan Dunnavant (Henrico County) and Democrat Chap Petersen (Fairfax City) joined forces and put together a coalition that advanced the bill with 29 votes in favor and only 9 in opposition.

While most legislation becomes effective on July 1, this bill will now go to the House of Delegates, where it is expected to gain swift approval.  The bill will then go to the Governor who is expected to offer an amendment that will make the law effective immediately.  This is called “an emergency clause.”  Bills with an emergency clause typically require a supermajority, however, if an emergency clause is added by a gubernatorial amendment, it only requires a majority vote by the House and Senate to approve it. 

This is good news for families across Virginia.  Even Democrat governors in New Jersey, Delaware, Oregon and Connecticut are lifting their statewide mask mandates, which may have had some impact upon the broad support the bill has received from Virginia Democrats.  The passage of this bill should put an end to the litigation filed by a handful of local school divisions challenging the Executive Order issued by Governor Youngkin in which he sought to lift the mask mandate through an exercise of his executive authority.  The legislation may be effective within the next two weeks.

Best,

Mark Obenshain

Obenshain Statement on Failure of Charter School Bill in Senate Committee

February 3, 2022

RICHMOND – Senator Mark Obenshain (R-Rockingham) issued the following statement in response to the failure of the Senate Education and Health Committee to  report the charter school bill, SB 125 on a vote of 7-8 earlier today. 

“I am extremely disappointed by our failure to pass the regional charter school bill this morning.  It is always hard for good policy to overcome political interests.   Sadly, those paying the highest price for this action are children in a handful of localities with failing schools,” Obenshain said.

“I believe all children deserve a quality education regardless of their zip code.  I consider myself an ‘all of the above’ guy when it comes to improving our education system and charter schools is just one piece of the puzzle. My bill would have extended a lifeline to areas with underperforming schools, giving parents another option for their children to receive better educational opportunities.   There are only 7 charter schools in Virginia.  To me this is completely unacceptable.  We had an opportunity today to really make a difference in the lives and education of children but due to the party line vote, the Democrats in the Senate turned their back on our children,” Obenshain added. 

SB 125 (which can be viewed here) would have created regional charter school divisions made up of two or three school divisions. A division would be eligible to participate if it meets two sets of criteria:  they have an enrollment of greater than 3,000 students and their SOL scores for English and Math in grades 3-8 are in the bottom quartile of the Commonwealth. 

45 states and the District of Columbia have charter schools.   Charter schools have only been around since the 1990s and studies show that they are most successful in school divisions that are not performing well.  They can free up constraints that have been imposed on school divisions and work “outside the box” to provide a quality education to the students they serve. 

“I will not give up the fight for education reform, charter schools and opportunities for Virginia’s children.  I believe that this will make the most difference in the lives of our children, more than anything else that we do here at the General Assembly,” Obenshain concluded.

Senator Obenshain represents the twenty-sixth district in the Virginia Senate.  The district includes the city of Harrisonburg and the counties of Warren, Shenandoah, Page, Rappahannock and Rockingham (part).  He serves on the Senate Judiciary; Commerce & Labor; Agriculture, Conservation and Natural Resources; and Transportation Committees.

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Obenshain Statement on Failure of Charter School Bill in Senate Committee

February 3, 2022

RICHMOND – Senator Mark Obenshain (R-Rockingham) issued the following statement in response to the failure of the Senate Education and Health Committee to  report the charter school bill, SB 125 on a vote of 7-8 earlier today. 

“I am extremely disappointed by our failure to pass the regional charter school bill this morning.  It is always hard for good policy to overcome political interests.   Sadly, those paying the highest price for this action are children in a handful of localities with failing schools,” Obenshain said.

“I believe all children deserve a quality education regardless of their zip code.  I consider myself an ‘all of the above’ guy when it comes to improving our education system and charter schools is just one piece of the puzzle. My bill would have extended a lifeline to areas with underperforming schools, giving parents another option for their children to receive better educational opportunities.   There are only 7 charter schools in Virginia.  To me this is completely unacceptable.  We had an opportunity today to really make a difference in the lives and education of children but due to the party line vote, the Democrats in the Senate turned their back on our children,” Obenshain added. 

SB 125 (which can be viewed here) would have created regional charter school divisions made up of two or three school divisions. A division would be eligible to participate if it meets two sets of criteria:  they have an enrollment of greater than 3,000 students and their SOL scores for English and Math in grades 3-8 are in the bottom quartile of the Commonwealth. 

45 states and the District of Columbia have charter schools.   Charter schools have only been around since the 1990s and studies show that they are most successful in school divisions that are not performing well.  They can free up constraints that have been imposed on school divisions and work “outside the box” to provide a quality education to the students they serve. 

“I will not give up the fight for education reform, charter schools and opportunities for Virginia’s children.  I believe that this will make the most difference in the lives of our children, more than anything else that we do here at the General Assembly,” Obenshain concluded.

Senator Obenshain represents the twenty-sixth district in the Virginia Senate.  The district includes the city of Harrisonburg and the counties of Warren, Shenandoah, Page, Rappahannock and Rockingham (part).  He serves on the Senate Judiciary; Commerce & Labor; Agriculture, Conservation and Natural Resources; and Transportation Committees.

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Obenshain Releases Statement on Bridgewater College Shooting Today

February 1, 2022

RICHMOND, VA – Senator Mark Obenshain (R-Rockingham) issued the following statement today in response to the shooting at Bridgewater College.

“The events this afternoon at Bridgewater College are devastating and heartbreaking. I join countless others in our community and across Virginia as we pray for peace and comfort for the families of those affected by these events, their loved ones and for our community.

I do not know what evil is responsible for this terrible and heartbreaking event. It is clear that something is wrong in our society when tragedies like this occur. Whether it is hate, drugs, mental illness or some other underlying factor, these are urgent priorities on which we must work together. The Shenandoah Valley is a caring, God-loving and supportive corner of Virginia, but this event is a terrible reminder of the evils that can lurk in the shadows of any community,” Obenshain said.

Senator Obenshain represents the twenty-sixth district in the Senate of Virginia. The district includes the city of Harrisonburg and the counties of Warren, Shenandoah, Page Rappahannock and Rockingham (part).  He is a member of the Senate Judiciary; Commerce & Labor; Agriculture, Conservation, and Natural Resources; and Transportation Committees.

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It’s time for Virginia to embrace charter schools

January 20, 2022

Friends,

We are one week into Session and it has been an eventful week here in Richmond. On Saturday, I was joined by my colleagues and hundreds of supporters and friends at the State Capitol to participate in the inauguration of our 74th Governor of the Commonwealth of Virginia, Glenn Youngkin. We also witnessed the swearing in of our new Lieutenant Governor Winsome Sears and Attorney General Jason Miyares. 

I tell you what – watching these three conservative leaders and public servants take office was one of the most satisfying occurrences in recent memory. We all worked so hard this past election season to elect these three fine individuals and I am excited to get to work in partnering with them to legislate effectively.

I am proud to bring a host of bills this year to protect our liberties and advocate for efficient, limited government.

First, I am working with Governor Youngkin on a bill to help expand Virginias’ access to charter schools. It’s time for Virginia to open its arms and embrace public charter schools. Who could oppose giving more flexibility to schools and teachers and more choice for families? It’s an honor to partner with this new administration in this important effort. To read more about my Senate bill 125, click here

I am also carrying two bills to increase voter confidence in the integrity of our elections.  My first bill, Senate bill 390 (click here to read it), would require the local electoral boards and general registrars to annually conduct a post-election audit of at least one fifth of all ballot scanner machines. This measures will undoubtedly help restore confidence in our elections – a confidence that has been eroded by Democrat policies over the past few years.

The second bill had to do with voter identification. Democrats here in Virginia repealed the mandate requiring a photo identification to vote. There’s no doubt this repeal undermined voter confidence in the fairness of our elections. My Senate bill 127 (click here to read it) would have reinstated the mandate to require a photo ID to vote. Unfortunately that bill met a quick death by “PBI” (an acronym that stands for “passed by indefinitely”) in the Democrat-controlled Senate Privileges and Elections committee.

I am deeply concerned with the increase in the financial exploitation of elderly and vulnerable adults. Preventing this exploitation has been a priority of mine for years and this year I have introduced two bills to address it. First is, Senate Bill 124 (click here to read it), which creates a new class 1 misdemeanor for someone who knowingly or intentionally abuses power of attorney to financially exploit an incapacited adult. Seocnd is, Senate Bill 126 (click here to read it), to expand the definition of “incapacitated adult” in the law to provide more financial protection for the elderly.  I’m proud to say that both these bills are supported by our Attorney General Jason Miyares.

If you wish to see the full list of the bills I am introducing this year, click here.

In addition to sponsoring legislation, I am also responsible for voting on my colleagues’ proposed bills in the committees on which I sit. These include Agriculture, Conservation and Natural Resources, Commerce and Labor, Judiciary, and Transportation. From time to time in this weekly update, I will highlight bills of note on which I voted in committee. This morning, the Judiciary committee met for the first time.

One bill in particular worth noting from Judiciary this morning was SB 105 that effectively eliminates ALL mandatory minimum sentences from the Code of Virginia. Mandatory minimums have long since provided closure and security to victims of crimes and their families as well as Virginians as a whole. This blanket repeal will make our streets and communities less safe.

The elimination of these mandatory minimums hits close to home for those of us who have lived in the Shenandoah Valley for a few decades. It arose from the case of Daniel Lee Zirkle, who was executed in 2002 for the killing of his 4-year-old daughter and her 14-year-old half sister (read about the murders here). Zirkle committed these heinous acts in a fit of rage, after being released from jail days after violating the terms of a protective order for the 4th time. That minimum sentence would have kept Zirkle in jail longer allowing him to cool off and may have prevented these awful deaths. 

While I would consider the elimination of some mandatory minimums, this blanket repeal goes way too far. Take for example, it repeals the sixty-day mandatory minimum sentence for the repeat violation of domestic violence protective orders. This mandatory minimum was adopted in 2009 by unanimous vote in the House and Senate and it was signed into law by then-governor Tim Kaine.

The passage of this bill out of committee this morning was lauded by liberal groups like the Progressive Prosecutors of Virginia who proclaimed it as an “excellent moment in Virginia history.”  This liberal driven approach represents a missed opportunity to review some mandatory minimums that should be reconsidered.

The one silver lining about the passage of this bill is that Republicans in the Virginia Senate are no longer the last line of defense for liberal bills like these (like we have been for two years). I’ve said for years that elections have consequences and a positive one of the 2021 elections was that we now have a Republican majority in the House of Delegates and a Republican governor in Glenn Youngkin who will have an opportunity to veto liberal bills like these.

This week, we were honored to welcome a number of individuals to our office – both in person and virtually. Some of our visitors included advocates from the Virginia Citizens Defense League and members of the Virginia Federation of the Blind. If you would like to meet with me or my office, please email me at [email protected] or come by our office in the Pocahontas Building, office 502E.

I’ll continue to provide regular updates throughout the session so stay tuned!

Best,

Mark Obenshain

It’s a new day in Virginia

January 12, 2022

Friends,

Happy New Year! I hope that you and your families had a safe and healthy holiday and that you are starting 2022 off on a positive note.

2021 certainly was full of highs and lows.  In November, Virginia sent a very loud and clear message that we need new leadership for our Commonwealth to get moving in the right direction once more. The House of Delegates is now back to a Republican majority.   Governor-elect Glenn Youngkin, Lt. Governor-elect Sears and Attorney General-elect Jason Miyares will be sworn into their new posts this Saturday.  I am looking forward to working with them over the course of the next four years to bring about positive changes to critical issues like education, public safety, the business climate, and more.  One thing is for sure, they are ready to go to work for you on Day One.  It’s a very exciting and refreshing time for Virginia!

This year’s General Assembly Session began today and will continue for the next 60 days. During that time, the legislature will be working on a new state budget for the next two years along with about three thousand bills that will be filed and debated over the coming weeks.  Committee meetings and floor debates will get underway in full next week and the pace for the next two months will be fast moving.

You will remember that last year’s session was like no other.  Due to the pandemic, the Senate met in person but it was at the Science Museum of Virginia where we could spread out. The House of Delegates, however, had completely virtual meetings. Testimony from the general public in support of or in opposition to all bills in both chambers was done via Zoom. I did not support the lack of transparency this process afforded but am happy to report that this year, it will be back to business as usual – live and in person – at the Capitol.

The Senate will hold committee meetings in person at the Pocahontas Building and the daily floor sessions will be held in the Senate Chamber in the state Capitol.  The Pocahontas Building will be open to the public again (maximum capacity limits will be monitored by the Capitol Police).  Testimony from the general public on bills will be allowed in person, and a virtual option will be available for those not able or comfortable to come to Richmond.

I promise you that I will continue to stand up for our conservative ideals for you and your family.  While the Democrats still have a slim majority in the Senate, we have a Republican House and Republican Governor.  After two years of complete Democrat control, there is a lot that needs to be corrected.  We will work to roll back many of the liberal policies that have detrimental to our Commonwealth – burdensome business regulations, pro-labor union bills, so-called social justice reforms that actually make our most vulnerable communities less safe, and climate change policies that make Virginia look more like California than the Commonwealth that we know and love.  It is a new day in Virginia.  The core values on which my viewpoint on the world is built – small government, lower taxes, less regulation and the freedom to bear arms and worship – will continue to guide my voting and actions this session. 

I have a number of bills that I will be introducing this session that will deal with charter schools, small businesses, right to work, elections, elder abuse prevention and public safety.  I will be covering these more extensively in future updates along with other bills of interest the legislature takes up. To follow my legislative package, click here.

Even though this session still may look and feel a bit different, one thing that remains unchanged is my stellar legislative team.  We will again have two offices operating during General Assembly:

Richmond Office- Room 502E Pocahontas Building

Connor Smith

[email protected]

804-698-7526

Harrisonburg District Office

Jenni Aulgur

[email protected]

540-437-1451

If you have scheduling requests, constituent concerns or would like to let me know what you think about a piece of legislation please reach out to my office at the contact information above or email me at [email protected]  As always, I appreciate hearing from my constituents on issues that are important to you.

I am grateful for the privilege of serving the Shenandoah Valley in the Virginia Senate!

Best,

Mark Obenshain

Opinion: Exiting RGGI is a win for Virginia producers and consumers

January 3, 2022

Gov.-elect Glenn Youngkin announced his intention to make energy more affordable for Virginians by withdrawing Virginia from the controversial 11-state Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. 

He recently told the Hampton Roads Chambers of Commerce he’ll remove Virginia from the initiative by executive action once he enters office in January. 

“RGGI describes itself as a regional market for carbon, but it is really a carbon tax that is fully passed on to ratepayers. It’s a bad deal for Virginians. It’s a bad deal for Virginia businesses,” Youngkin said. “I promised to lower the cost of living in Virginia, and this is just the beginning.” 

On the merits, Youngkin is correct. A timely withdrawal from this flawed carbon market, which isn’t inherently market-based, will benefit all Virginians given its vast shortcomings. 

The most notable problem with RGGI is its overall negligible impact on carbon emissions. In 2019, the Congressional Research Service observed that nine partner states “account for approximately 7% of U.S. CO2 emissions and 16% of U.S. gross domestic product” and called carbon emissions reductions “arguably negligible” at best. 

When those numbers are broken down, it only accounts for a measly 1.4% in total U.S. emissions reductions. And even this reduction is largely attributable to the transition from coal to natural gas in the state. 

Not only will RGGI membership fail to reduce carbon emissions in a meaningful way, it will raise costs for Virginians. The CATO Institute assessed electricity demand between non-RGGI and RGGI-participating states and concluded the former added more wind and solar generation than the RGGI states while having lower electricity price increases during the same time. 

When the market sets prices, demand for renewable energy naturally happens, and consumers pay lower prices for clean energy. Ultimately, the CATO Institute found “no added reductions in CO₂ emissions, or associated health benefits, from the RGGI program.” 

Virginia’s continued participation in RGGI will result in residents paying more for their electricity bills. According to recent State Corporation Commission filings, participation in the RGGI program will raise energy costs to $4.37 a month, or $52.44 per year, if enacted on Sept. 1. When paired with the new — and costly — Virginia Clean Economy Act, the net-zero law slated to raise energy bills $800 a year by 2030, this spells disaster for Virginians currently paying more to heat and power their homes. 

Additionally, as Youngkin aptly noted, RGGI levies a carbon tax on all carbon-intensive goods. This added cost associated with carbon emissions is meant to disincentivize producers and consumers from making and using carbon-intensive goods, respectively. 

But here’s the catch: Virginia’s economy, still reeling from the COVID-19 pandemic, could suffer setbacks and lose its No. 1 Top State for Business ranking if discouraged from producing carbon-based goods. Due to the demands required of RGGI, Virginia businesses could ultimately shift their operations out-of-state — or worse, overseas. That’s terrible for our state’s economy. 

RGGI proponents are similarly dishonest about the impact of carbon taxes on consumers. The nonpartisan Tax Foundation says these taxes don’t just affect producers; the costs are ultimately passed down to consumers who purchase carbon-intensive goods. When prices of goods and services increase under a carbon tax, taxpayers’ incomes reflexively diminish as well. 

Virginians would see diminished purchasing power because they already pay a premium on electricity and gas. Worse, carbon taxes would disproportionately hurt lower-income Virginia households since they rely and depend on carbon-intensive goods and energy sources for sustenance. Electricity costs would skyrocket in more economically depressed regions of the commonwealth, including southwestern Virginia. According to the U.S. Energy Information Agency, Virginia’s electric grid is primarily powered by natural gas (61%), nuclear energy (29%) and coal (4%). The reality is demand for solar and wind isn’t here yet. 

Youngkin’s critics allege he’ll upend environmental policy. But he’s on-record pledging to pursue practical all-of-the-above energy policies, coastal resiliency, and fight sea-level rise and flooding. 

Virginia shouldn’t rely on RGGI membership to achieve its emissions goals. Instead, our state can continue to innovate and develop technology — including carbon capture — without embracing more burdensome taxes and regulations. 

Gabriella Hoffman is a visiting fellow with Independent Women’s Forum and the host of the District of Conservation podcast. She lives in Alexandria.