News

Wait, were these CNBC or MSNBC Rankings?

July 16, 2021

Friends,

You may have seen in the news recently that CNBC ranked Virginia as the top state in which to do business.

If you’re like me, your eyebrows rose when you read it. My mind immediately went to all of the liberal priorities that Governor Northam and his allies in Richmond have pushed through since taking control in 2019.

Higher taxes, increased minimum wage, burdensome regulations, higher energy costs, California style green energy mandates, more liability for employers…the list goes on and on.

So how – in spite of all of these anti-business policies adopted over the past year – can we still be the best state to do business? Steve Haner, from the Thomas Jefferson Institute for Public Policy wondered the same thing. In a column he wrote this week, he pointed to other factors adding to his perplexity, including Virginia’s cost of living and the cost of doing business rankings, which clocked in at numbers 32 and 24 respectively. Virginia ranked a mediocre 19 in job growth. Our “Business Friendliness” score also dropped from the top three in 2019 to eleventh this year. Not great trends if we want to grow Virginia’s economy. Steve decided to take a deeper dive into Virginia’s #1 ranking and what he found was enlightening.

It seems that Virginia was saved by a brand-new ranking category introduced by CNBC’s into its calculation. It’s a category called “Life, Health and Inclusion.” I guess we should have expected something like this from the sister network to MSNBC. There had to be a way to reward states like Virginia for their embrace of the woke and liberal initiatives now so in vogue among the media and liberal elite. In an effort to explain this new category, CNBC says “we have expanded our measures of inclusiveness, looking more deeply at protections against discrimination, as well as at voting rights and current efforts to expand or restrict access to the polls, based on legislation enacted as of June 1, 2021” As Steve point out in his column, the data shows that the “preference of actual businesses seems significantly at odds with CNBC’s rankings.”

Maybe Steve can do us the further favor of letting us know where Virginia would rank using last year’s criteria. It will not provide any cause for celebration.

If you’d like to help out our cause in the fight to stand up for our conservative values and common sense policies, click below to donate securely online or send a check payable to Friends of Mark Obenshain to P.O. Box 555 Harrisonburg, VA  22803.

CLICK HERE TO DONATE

Best,

Mark Obenshain

Businesses Unable to Fill Job Openings

June 4, 2021

NFIB’s chief economist William C. Dunkelberg, issued the following comments on NFIB’s May 2021 Jobs Report


NFIB Chief Economist
William Dunkelberg

A record-high 48% of small business owners in May reported unfilled job openings (seasonally adjusted), according to NFIB’s monthly jobs report. May is the fourth consecutive month of record-high readings for unfilled job openings and is 26 points higher than the 48-year historical reading of 22%.

“Small business owners are struggling at record levels trying to get workers back in open positions,” said NFIB Chief Economist Bill Dunkelberg. “Owners are offering higher wages to try to remedy the labor shortage problem. Ultimately, higher labor costs are being passed on to customers in higher selling prices.”

Sixty-one percent of owners reported hiring or trying to hire in May. Owners have plans to fill open positions with a seasonally adjusted net 27% planning to create new jobs in the next three months.

A net 34% of owners (seasonally adjusted) reported raising compensation, the highest level in the past 12 months. A net 22% of owners plan to raise compensation in the next three months, up two points from April.

Small business owners continue to report finding qualified employees remains a problem with 93% of owners hiring or trying to hire reported few or no “qualified” applications for the positions they were trying to fill in May. Thirty-two percent of owners reported few qualified applicants for their positions and 25% reported none.

Eight percent of owners cited labor costs as their top business problem and 26% said that labor quality was their top business problem, the top business concern.

Forty percent of small business owners have job openings for skilled workers and 27% have openings for unskilled labor. In the construction industry, 51% of job openings are for skilled workers. Sixty-six percent of construction businesses reported few or no qualified applicants.

Click here to view the entire NFIB Jobs Report

The full Small Business Economic Trends report will be released on Tuesday, June 8th.

Opinion: Time for Virginia to reject federal COVID-19 unemployment benefits

May 29, 2021

By BRYAN K. STEPHENS and BOB MCKENNAFOR THE VIRGINIAN-PILOT |MAY 29, 2021 AT 6:05 PM

After 15 months of varying levels of shutdown and mandated restrictions on our businesses, our economy is ready to boom once again, and we’re all ready to get back to living a normal life heading into the summer. That obviously includes reconnecting with friends and family at restaurants and bars and heading to the beach or mountains for well-deserved breaks and missed celebrations of life’s events.

Hampton Roads Chamber President and CEO Bryan K. Stephens
Hampton Roads Chamber President and CEO Bryan K. Stephens (Helen’s Place Photography 757-229-1702/Courtesy of Hampton Roads Chamber)

Many people have built up rainy-day funds that they are ready to spend, patronizing those businesses (such as restaurants, theme parks and hotels) that had to scrape by and adapt to the shutdowns and restrictions just to survive. Now with the pandemic subsiding, they are ready to open to full capacity.

Bob McKenna
Bob McKenna (Courtesy photo)

So we should all be looking forward to a great summer filled with fun, travel, celebrations, amazing food and great fellowship, right? Whoa, not so fast! Restaurants, bars, hotels, entertainment venues and amusement parks (among many other retail-type businesses) are struggling mightily right now to find enough employees to keep their doors open under the COVID-19 restrictions, much less to open to full capacity.

We have a unique and counter-intuitive situation where unemployment is relatively high, yet there is also a labor shortage. Job fairs are empty, job interviews are missed, and “we’re hiring” signs are in the window of just about every restaurant and retail business in town. Restaurants such as McDonald’s offer signing bonuses and cash just to get people to show up for interviews. And, still, they are desperate to hire more.

How can this be? Here’s the problem: the federal government, through the best of intentions, is providing enhanced federal unemployment benefits to the tune of $300 per week extra. So, essentially, not working is being subsidized. This cannot continue if we are going to have a thriving summer and beyond.

After spending trillions of dollars on pandemic relief, we can no longer afford to pay people to stay at home. Mask mandates are going away, pandemic restrictions are being loosened or eliminated, and the vaccine is widely available. It’s time to encourage people to get back to work and back to normal, not stay at home and do nothing. Numerous states have already decided to opt-out of this extra money. Those states also see their unemployment levels shrink back to pre-pandemic numbers and businesses opening to full capacity.

Numerous regional organizations are trying to solve this problem with training programs and employment assistance. For instance, the Hampton Roads Workforce Council provides tremendous support for job seekers. So even for those individuals who lost their jobs due to the pandemic and feel they are unqualified to seek other employment, there are plenty of job training opportunities and assistance available in Hampton Roads. Reach out to them. Get the training and assistance you need. Get employed.

Gov, Ralph Northam can help too. It’s time for the commonwealth to say “no thanks” to the federal government and opt out of further federal unemployment compensation related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Currently, the benefit is scheduled to run out on Sept. 1, but that’s too late for us, especially for those in the restaurant, lodging and tourism industries.

The summer of 2021 should be a memorable, less stressful one in Hampton Roads, one in which our businesses experience a tremendous recovery from the pain of last summer. However, we need our businesses to be fully up and running for that to happen. And for them to be fully up and running, they need employees.

Let’s ensure all who visit Hampton Roads this summer know we are open for business.

Bryan K. Stephens is president and CEO of the Hampton Roads Chamber of Commerce. Bob McKenna is president and CEO of the Virginia Peninsula Chamber of Commerce.

Texas governor signs law banning abortions early as 6 weeks

May 19, 2021

Fox News | May 19

Law prohibits state officials from enforcing the ban, but allows lawsuits against abortion providers.

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) – Texas became the largest state Wednesday with a law that bans abortions before many women even know they are pregnant, but with a unique provision that essentially leaves enforcement to private citizens through lawsuits against doctors or anyone who helps a woman get an abortion.

The law signed by Republican Gov. Greg Abbott puts Texas in line with more than a dozen other states that ban abortions after the detection of a fetal heartbeat, as early as six weeks. Federal courts have mostly blocked the measures from taking effect.

But with the Supreme Court this week agreeing to take up a Mississippi law that bans abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy, abortion rights activists worry that a ruling favorable to the state could lay the groundwork for allowing even more abortion restrictions, including so-called heartbeat bills.

Texas’ version is unique in that it prohibits state officials from enforcing the ban. Instead, it allows anyone — even someone outside Texas — to sue an abortion provider or anyone else who may have helped someone get an abortion after the limit, and seek financial damages of up to $10,000 per defendant.

Critics say that provision would allow abortion opponents to flood the courts with lawsuits to harass doctors, patients, nurses, domestic violence counselors, a friend who drove a woman to a clinic, or even a parent who paid for a procedure.

Texas law currently bans abortion after 20 weeks, with exceptions for a woman with a life-threatening medical condition or if the fetus has a severe abnormality. More than 90% of abortions take place in the first 13 weeks of a woman’s pregnancy, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The Supreme Court will probably hear the Mississippi case in the fall, with a decision likely in spring 2022.

EDITORIAL: Don’t eliminate advanced diplomas

May 18, 2021

BY THE EDITORIAL PAGE STAFF OF THE FREE LANCE-STAR May 18, 2021

UBLIC school students in Virginia are entitled to an education that best fits their specific needs. This applies not only to students who are struggling academically, but also to students who are willing and able to do accelerated work.

Last month, a committee of the Virginia Department of Education looked at the possibility of consolidating the commonwealth’s standard and advanced diplomas as a way to achieve racial equity. “There does continue to be a stark difference in which students we see earning which diploma,” said Leslie Sale, director of the VDOE Office of Policy. She noted that in 2019, 79 percent of Asian students earned advanced diplomas, compared with 63 percent of white students, 44 percent of Hispanic students, and 40 percent of Black students.

But the most stark difference between them is not race. It’s how much effort students put in to earn an advanced diploma instead of a standard diploma.

The minimum requirements for a standard diploma are four years of English, three years of mathematics, three years of a lab science, and three years of history and social science in addition to physical education and various electives, for a total of 22 credits. However, earning an advanced diploma includes an extra year of mathematics, laboratory science, history and social science and three years of a foreign language, for a total of 26 credits.

A 2014 VDOE-sponsored study by the Virginia College and Career Readiness Institute found that 83 percent of students who earned an advanced diploma enrolled in college and remained enrolled until they earned an associate’s or bachelor’s degree, compared with just 46 percent of students who earned a standard diploma.

And VDOE’S own 2012 study, “High School Predictors of College Readiness,” noted that research “showed unequivocally that when [racial/ethnic minority] students reach higher levels of achievement in high school, their chances of success in college are much closer to those of other students who have the same level of achievement.”

The reason for this is simple: “These diploma types demand vastly different requirements of students during their four years in high school,” according to the study. And since an advanced diploma is also better aligned with college-level coursework, minority students arrive on campus better prepared to succeed.

Turning the clear difference between diplomas into a racial equity issue does a great disservice to all students, including minority students, who take on the challenges of a harder course load in high school. All students should be told the truth as freshmen that, as the CCRI study points out, “diploma types matter,” not only in preparing students for college and helping them earn a degree, but also in finding a well-paying job in the increasingly technological workplace beyond college as well.

If a disproportionately low number of Black and Hispanic students are signing up for the advanced studies diploma, the solution is not to get rid of the diploma, but for educators in elementary and middle schools to ask themselves some difficult questions:

Are they identifying and mentoring smart minority kids? Are they sufficiently challenging these students and steering them into advanced work, or are they accepting average or sub-standard work from them due to what former President George W. Bush called “the soft bigotry of low expectations?” Have they explained to parents how important it is to make sure their minority child is on grade level well before they get to high school?

It’s much easier to lower the bar than to raise student achievement. But that doesn’t promote equity for anyone.

Skepticism persists over new admissions policy for Thomas Jefferson High School

May 18, 2021

BY ANUJ KHEMKA / For InsideNoVa May 18, 2021

Krish Bommakanti spent two years preparing to apply to the Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology.  Costly test prep courses and countless hours of studying would be worth it if it meant admission to the top-ranked public high school in the nation. 

But on Nov. 9, the Fairfax County School Board moved to remove the standardized test that students work so tirelessly to ace. Weeks later, the board decided that socioeconomic status and region would factor into the admission process. 

“The changes are a bit disheartening because I spent a lot of time preparing for the actual standardized test,” said Bommakanti, an eighth-grader at Longfellow Middle School in the Falls Church area.

As Thomas Jefferson – a magnet school attended by students from across Northern Virginia – prepares to offer admission to the first class selected under the new guidelines, community members and policy-makers continue to be skeptical of the changes. 

From June through December last year, factions of parents, alumni and policy-makers fiercely debated the merit of proposed changes to TJ’s admissions process. As dual advocacy groups – the Coalition for TJ and the TJ Alumni Action Group – formed, spirited protests took place on campus, infighting emerged within school Facebook groups and once-mundane Parent Teacher Student Association meetings became tense battlegrounds. 

And the School Board’s decision Dec. 17 to transition to a holistic review system didn’t end the doubt and division.

The parent-led Coalition for TJ, for example, filed a lawsuit in December to combat the removal of a standardized test and launched another case March 10 aimed at admissions criteria that take into account region and socioeconomic status. Both cases currently await hearings in court. 

Meanwhile, both prospective and current students also hold reservations about the changes. In previous years, admissions officers used a combination of teacher recommendations, grade-point average, the standardized test and four timed short essays to evaluate applicants. With the School Board’s decision, teacher recommendations and the standardized test have been removed from the mix, although the timed essays remain. 

“I think standardized tests do well to show where you rank among your peers. Implementing one is a good way of determining a hierarchy,” Bommakanti said. 

However, eighth-graders Dhruv Chandna and Daniel Campos – both of whom also took test prep courses in anticipation of applying to TJ – approve of the change. Chandna attends Robert Frost Middle School, while Campos goes to Luther Jackson Middle School. 

“I like the way they did it, and I think it will improve diversity,” Chandna said. Test prep classes are expensive, he noted.  “Some people don’t have that money, so it’s very hard for them to get into TJ.”

In place of the tests and teacher recommendations, students’ socioeconomic status and other so-called “experience factors” will now be taken into account. It’s here, however, that Campos believes the School Board made a mistake. 

“Why would you need [to consider] socioeconomic status?” Campos said. “The most important thing is the student, and if they’re going to excel at the school. I don’t think their background and how much money their family has has anything to do with it. It should be based on the student’s capacity and knowledge.”

However, TJ senior Dinan Elsyad, one of the few Black students who attend the school, worries that the School Board did not go far enough in this aspect, even though she acknowledges that legally race cannot be a factor in the decision.  

“The process itself doesn’t really take into account the inequities that come along with a specific race that you’re a part of,” Elsyad added. “I went to a wealthy middle school. I am not part of a lower socioeconomic status group. Technically, I shouldn’t have had issues, but I was harassed by several teachers during my middle school years just because of my race.” 

One of the most significant changes to the TJ admissions process is the implementation of individual-school quotas. At a minimum, the number of students admitted from each public middle school will be equivalent to 1.5% of their eighth-grade student population. For example, a middle school with 800 eighth-graders would send a minimum of 12 students to TJ, assuming that at least 12 eighth-graders out of the 800 choose to apply. The county has 23 public middle schools, with student populations as high as 1,500. In total, 550 prospective students will be offered seats at TJ for the fall. 

The change seeks to correct a longstanding lack of geographical diversity at the school. More than half of the students admitted to TJ’s Class of 2019, for example, came from just five of the public middle schools in Fairfax. 

“There was concern that TJ didn’t reflect geographic diversity in our county – that we were disproportionately drawing from certain middle schools,” School Board member Megan McLaughlin said. “By these changes, going school by school, we will certainly see improved access to TJ for students who are dealing with poverty.” 

During the 2019-20 school year, just 2.4% of TJ students qualified for free or reduced lunch. Countywide, the percent of students eligible for free or reduced lunch stood much higher, at 32%. 

However, McLaughlin believes that the individual-school quotas may underrepresent students at Advanced Academic Program centers as well as students at known feeder schools into TJ – where families often move to increase their children’s chances of admission to the magnet school. 

“Students at AAP centers are getting the same number of allocated admission seats at TJ as all of the other middle schools. This gives me pause,” McLaughlin said. 

Having completed their timed essays in March, TJ’s newest applicants now wait anxiously for their results, expected in June.  For many, the prevailing question is whether the changes will solve the issues that they sought to address in the first place. 

“We just have to wait and see,” Elsyad said. 

Anuj Khemka is a junior at Thomas Jefferson, where he is the online editor-in-chief of the student news outlet tjTODAY. 

Supreme Court agrees to hear challenge to Mississippi abortion law

May 17, 2021

May 17 | Fox News

State’s ban had been blocked by lower courts as inconsistent with Supreme Court precedent

WASHINGTON (AP) – The Supreme Court agreed Monday to consider a major rollback of abortion rights, saying it will decide whether states can ban abortions before a fetus can survive outside the womb.

The court’s order sets up a showdown over abortion, probably in the fall, with a more conservative court seemingly ready to dramatically alter nearly 50 years of rulings on abortion rights.

The court first announced a woman’s constitutional right to an abortion in the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision and reaffirmed it 19 years later.

The case involves a Mississippi law that would prohibit abortions after the 15th week of pregnancy. The state’s ban had been blocked by lower courts as inconsistent with Supreme Court precedent that protects a woman’s right to obtain an abortion before the fetus can survive outside her womb.

The justices had put off action on the case for several months. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, an abortion-rights proponent, died just before the court’s new term began in October. Her replacement, Justice Amy Coney Barrett, is the most open opponent of abortion rights to join the court in decades.  

Barrett is one of three appointees of former President Donald Trump on the Supreme Court. The other two, Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, voted in dissent last year to allow Louisiana to enforce restrictions on doctors that could have closed two of the state’s three abortion clinics.

Chief Justice John Roberts, joined by Ginsburg and the other three liberal justices, said the restrictions were virtually identical to a Texas law the court struck down in 2016.

But that majority no longer exists, even if Roberts, hardly an abortion-rights supporter in his more than 15 years on the court, sides with the more liberal justices.

The Mississippi law was enacted in 2018, but was blocked after a federal court challenge. The state’s only abortion clinic remains open. The owner has said the clinic does abortions up to 16 weeks.

The case is separate from a fight over laws enacted by Mississippi and other states that would ban most abortions as early as six weeks — when a fetal heartbeat may be detected.

A central question in the case is about viability — whether a fetus can survive outside the woman at 15 weeks. The clinic presented evidence that viability is impossible at 15 weeks, and the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said that the state “conceded that it had identified no medical evidence that a fetus would be viable at 15 weeks.”  

The Mississippi law would allow exceptions to the 15-week ban in cases of medical emergency or severe fetal abnormality. Doctors found in violation of the ban would face mandatory suspension or revocation of their medical license.

Editorial: Thorough review of parole board events needed

April 28, 2021

By THE VIRGINIAN-PILOT & DAILY PRESS EDITORIAL BOARD THE VIRGINIAN-PILOT |APR 27, 2021 AT 6:15 PM

It’s been evident for months that a thorough, transparent investigation into the actions and procedures of the Virginia Parole Board is not only warranted, but necessary to ensure public confidence in that agency.

How to conduct such an inquiry focused on public safety without it devolving into partisan, political grandstanding is less certain. But given the need for clarity over how the board made its decisions, with an eye toward clarifying procedures going forward, Virginia officials should find a workable solution.ADVERTISING

The parole board is accused of a host of errors in its decisions last year to grant parole to several individuals convicted of violent felonies. A report by the Office of the State Inspector General found the board did not follow state law in notifying victims’ families or prosecutors, and did not keep accurate minutes of its meetings, among other missteps.

That controversy, already simmering, reached a boil when the OSIG released a report about the matter that was so heavily redacted that it was all but unreadable. Instead of transparency and insight into what happened, the public received pages of blacked-out text.

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Predictably, that only raised more questions and gave voice to calls by Republican lawmakers that the Northam administration was covering for the parole board. Those calls grew louder with release of an earlier draft of the report, this time unredacted, which leveled new accusations against members of the board.

The draft report and recording of an August meeting involving State Inspector General Michael Westfall and members of the governor’s staff were leaked to the media, drawing the administration’s ire. Northam then proposed a budget amendment to conduct an investigation, but was narrow in scope to only include the OSIG’s review and not the parole board’s action.

Lawmakers approved that measure earlier this month and the office of Attorney General Mark Herring announced Saturday that Nixon Peabody LLP had been hired to conduct the inquiry. That work should be illuminating but will not deal with the more pressing public concern — the parole board’s conduct.

Prominent Republican lawmakers, including Senate Minority Leader Thomas K. “Tommy” Norment, Jr. of James City County, last week called on House Speaker Eileen Filler-Corn and Senate Rules Committee Chair Mamie Locke to convene a special session to appoint a bipartisan commission of lawmakers to investigate.

The question, of course, is whether this is a matter of political posturing or a genuine attempt to improve the policies and practices of the parole board.

So long as Virginia has a system of parole, decisions about who to release will be subject to disagreement. Some of those under consideration have committed abhorrent acts which must be weighed against their conduct in prison and the potential to make meaningful contributions to society following release.

If the question before Virginia is whether existing policies are functional and adequate, whether the board it operating as intended or whether the proper protocols are in place, then an inquiry into this subject can be a productive undertaking. It can lend confidence to the board’s decisions and the justice system in general.

Similarly, an examination of the OSIG might return useful information as well. That office was created less than a decade ago and there are still doubts about the effectiveness of consolidating the various inspector generals in the executive branch under one umbrella.

But if this is simply an exercise driven by retribution and partisanship — by the administration against the OSIG or by Republicans against the governor — then Virginia needn’t bother.

These are serious policy questions deserving of serious answers. If a bipartisan investigation can provide them, let it be launched quickly.

Shenandoah County supervisors could consider letter opposing LFCC name change

April 16, 2021

By Brad Fauber The Northern Virginia Daily | Apr 16, 2021

Shenandoah County’s Board of Supervisors could soon consider whether or not to issue a letter in opposition to the decision made by Lord Fairfax Community College leadership earlier this year to change the Frederick County school’s name.

Supervisors briefly discussed the topic during Tuesday’s meeting, with District 5 Supervisor Dennis Morris suggesting they invite LFCC President Kim Blosser to their next meeting on April 27 to further discuss the name-change decision. Morris stated on Tuesday that Blosser had offered to meet with Shenandoah County supervisors to answer any questions they may have.

A vote on whether to issue a letter in opposition to the name change could take place during the Board of Supervisors’ May 11 meeting. Tuesday’s meeting agenda included copies of two letters opposing the name change sent to the State Board for Community Colleges: one signed by Virginia state senators Mark Obenshain and Jill Vogel and delegates Todd Gilbert, Michael Webert, David LaRock, Bill Wiley and Mark Cole, and another by the Rappahannock County Board of Supervisors.

LFCC, located in Middletown, announced in February that it was seeking a new name because its namesake – Thomas, the 6th Lord Fairfax of Cameron – was a Colonial-era slave owner. The school’s decision, according to the Winchester Star, followed months of study and focus-group discussions and was prompted by a resolution passed last summer by the State Board for Community Colleges asking all community colleges in the state to review their names.

To begin Tuesday’s discussion on the LFCC name change, Shenandoah County supervisors heard a 17-minute speech from film director Ron Maxwell, who lives in Rappahannock County and directed the Civil War films “Gettysburg” and “Gods and Generals,” and who called on Shenandoah County supervisors to join those in Rappahannock County in formally opposing LFCC’s decision.

Maxwell stated during his speech that society is witnessing an “exhibition of the woke trying to outdo one another in the woke sweepstakes” and that “history teaches us that each and every time the righteous urge to destroy is loosed upon a society, it is always cloaked as an improvement and is in every case regretted and deplored by subsequent generations.”

Maxwell further added that an “inescapable fact of history is that we … are the inheritors of all who came before, and that “as inheritors of this legacy it is our responsibility, in our brief moment on Earth, to safeguard the entirety of our past with all its content, art and history, the good, the bad, the ugly and the beautiful,” and that “to live only in the present tense is to live an impoverished life.”

“It is incumbent upon us, the living, to see people as they once were, in their full humanity … just as it’s incumbent upon our descendents 240 years from now to look on us the same way,” Maxwell said. “Otherwise, we have no culture, no history, no heritage, no shared humanity. We are simply set adrift, floating on an imaginary foundation made up of little more than this thin air of our own puritanical rectitude and moral narcissism.

“By the standards of the Lord Fairfax college board,” he continued, “we will soon embark on a renaming crusade as cities, counties, towns, parks, roads, schools and institutions of higher learning named after any of the generation who founded this country are removed and replaced one-by-one.”

Also on Tuesday, Shenandoah County supervisors discussed an amendment to the board’s meeting rules of procedure that would revise language in the order of business pertaining to the public comment section so that it matches a subsequent section in the rules that prohibit “public presentations on a matter for which a public hearing has been or will be held.” The public comment section in the order of business currently reads “Public Comment (other than matters previously the subject of a public hearing).”

The proposed amendment stems from the March 23 meeting during which Board of Supervisors Chairman Steve Baker prohibited public comments on the fiscal year 2022 budget, citing the public hearing on the matter scheduled for the following week.

– Contact Brad Fauber at [email protected]

Veto Session Wrap Up

April 8, 2021

Dear Friends,

As you may or may not know, a few weeks after Session ends each year, my fellow Senators and I gather for a one-day meeting called Reconvene Session. On this day, we vote yea or nay on any bills for which the Governor offered amendments and vote to overturn any bills he vetoed.

This year because Democrats in Richmond passed so many of his liberal priorities and defeated so many of the bills we sought to implement as conservatives, the Governor did not veto a single bill. 

However, he did offer amendments to a few bills, perhaps most significantly the bill to legalize recreational marijuana. 

Let me be clear, I remain opposed to the legalization of marijuana. 

And the fact that the legalization under this bill would not take place until 2024 did not change my opinion. That is why I was appalled when Governor Northam – in a fashion all too similar to the arbitrary and dictatorial way he yielded his authority during the COVID shutdown – decided to amend the bill to move legalization up to July of 2021 – yes, that is THIS July, less than 90 days from now. He bucked all the input and research that went into the 8,000-line bill, that his office actually crafted, he reversed course and determined that legalization should occur immediately. 

As if that was not bad enough, he slipped 4 lines of language into the bill that are wholly unrelated to this topic to throw a bone to the job-killing, left wing organized labor interests from whom he has received millions of campaign dollars. 

These are 4 lines provide that licensees who grow, manufacture or sell marijuana products will lose their licenses if they do not “remain neutral” in response to efforts of union organizers to unionize their businesses or if they do not pay a “prevailing wage” dictated by the U.S. Department of Labor. It is even worse than it sounds, as these businesses can be shut down if they block union organizers from trespassing on their property to solicit employees in their organizational efforts. This is a serious infringement upon the property rights of farmers and other business owners and it undermines Virginia’s status as a right-to-work state. 

Licensure of marijuana businesses was supposed to be a means of ensuring the safety of marijuana products being grown, manufactured and sold to the public — not a tool to force the unionization of the work force. 

Requiring business owners to allow union organizers to trespass on their property to solicit their employees has become a hot-button issue for right-to-work and property rights advocates. Only two weeks ago an appeal brought by the Pacific Legal Foundation on behalf of a California nursery owner was argued in the United States Supreme Court. There, union organizers trespassed on the business’s property asserting it as their right under a California state law that allows private-sector unions to come onto private property for three hours a day, 120 days out of the year, to recruit workers into joining their ranks. The language slipped into Virginia’s marijuana bill may be even more intrusive and disruptive. I hope that the Supreme Court will rule for the California businesses. For more information on that case click here

This bill is bad and this amendment is bad. Period. 

The Senate voted 20-20 and Justin Fairfax, the Lieutenant Governor and Democratic candidate for Governor, made the tie-breaking vote to pass these amendments.  Remember when Democrats and certain editorial pages urged Virginians to vote against the Constitutional Amendment to place Right to Work in our Constitution arguing that nobody wants to undermine our right to work laws? This action demonstrates the falsity of those assertions. 

In other news from yesterday’s session, the Democrats predictably voted to adopt the Governor’s $250,000 budget amendment to hire outside counsel to do a very limited and partisan “investigation” in response to the Parole Board scandal. The “investigation,” of course is a sham. It authorizes an investigation of the Office of the State Inspector General (OSIG), not the Parole Board.  What is needed is a real investigation; one that covers all of the widely reported incidents of Parole Board misconduct, the targeting and firing of the OSIG whistleblower, as well as the involvement, if any, of members of the offices of the Governor or the Attorney General in a cover-up.  Instead, now we will end up with a sham “investigation” that is nothing more than window-dressing designed to divert public attention from this serious and potentially dangerous breach of public trust.  For more on this you can read the Senate GOP Caucus statement below and the RTD story from last night here

As we conclude the 2021 Session, I will continue to fight for our shared conservative values and freedoms – support our small businesses, and our right-to-work laws. I support a strong and fair criminal justice system that keeps our communities safe while showing respect to victims, and those in law enforcement. It is an honor and privilege to serve the citizens of the 26th Senate District. 

I’m back in my district office in Harrisonburg and look forward to serving my constituents on state government related issues.  Please feel free to contact me at 540-437-1451 or at [email protected] .

Best,

Mark Obenshain