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Virginia school board bars team from wearing ‘Pray for Peace’ shirts for Ukraine: ‘Defies all logic’

April 12, 2022

Montgomery County school board says lacrosse team’s shirts too ‘political’ and ‘religious’

By Bailee Hill | Fox News

Virginia student-athletes are pushing back after their school board prohibited them from wearing “Pray for Peace” shirts in support of Ukraine, deeming the shirts too “political” and “religious.”

Blacksburg High School Lacrosse Captain Elise Levison and her mother Clare Levison discussed the backlash from the Montgomery County school board’s decision on “Fox & Friends First” on Tuesday. 

“The team was pretty upset,” Elise told co-host Carley Shimkus. “All we were trying to do is just spread a positive message that was really our only intention, and we’ve actually gotten a lot of support from the school.”

A man rides a motorbike past a house damaged by shelling in Chernihiv, Ukraine, Thursday, April 7, 2022. (AP Photo/Evgeniy Maloletka) 

A man rides a motorbike past a house damaged by shelling in Chernihiv, Ukraine, Thursday, April 7, 2022. (AP Photo/Evgeniy Maloletka) 

“I’ve had teachers stop me in the hallway and say what we’re doing is the right thing and that they support us, so the community feedback has been really great,” she continued. 

Elise said her lacrosse team wanted to support their coach, who volunteered at orphanages in Ukraine, as Putin’s assault continues to send millions fleeing from their homes in fear for their lives. 

“I just can’t believe that the interim superintendent actually said that peace is political because peace comes from war and war is about people with different views,” Clare said, adding it “defies all logic.”

The lacrosse team proposed changing the shirt to say “Play for Peace,” but that slogan was also rejected, according to Elise. 

“The school has really doubled and even tripled down on their stance, so I hope that this issue continues to get national attention because I think people do need to know what’s taking place in the schools. And this one is just completely beyond the pale,” Clare said. 

The wife, center, of 44-year-old soldier Tereshko Volodymyr, second right, prays and mourns his death before his funeral ceremony, after he died in action, at the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul Church in Lviv, western Ukraine, Monday, April 4, 2022. (AP Photo/Nariman El-Mofty)

The wife, center, of 44-year-old soldier Tereshko Volodymyr, second right, prays and mourns his death before his funeral ceremony, after he died in action, at the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul Church in Lviv, western Ukraine, Monday, April 4, 2022. (AP Photo/Nariman El-Mofty)

The school board chair, Sue Kass, and Interim Superintendent Whitaker released a joint statement on the matter to CBN News. 

“The concerns about the warmups are not related to student speech as the team members did not initiate the discussion or purchase the shirts,” the statement reads. “The role of the School Board is to implement our policies in an unbiased way. Staff-led activism is a topic our Board has been discussing throughout the year, including flags, posters, and clothing that show support for specific groups or issues. It is not permissible for school-issued, staff-sponsored apparel to promote specific causes, groups, or beliefs.”

Bailee Hill is an associate editor with Fox News Digital.

Youngkin signs bill regulating explicit content in schools

April 8, 2022

By SARAH RANKIN | April 8, 2022

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — A bill that will require Virginia schools to notify parents if their children are assigned books or other materials with sexually explicit content was among more than 100 measures Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin signed into law this week, his office said Friday.

Youngkin held up the measure as part of an effort to fulfill a campaign pledge to empower parents’ involvement in their children’s education.

In a statement, he said he was pleased to sign it into law, “along with many other bipartisan bills that will enhance education, improve public safety, provide tax relief, and make government work better for the people of Virginia.”

The bill, sponsored by Republican Sen. Siobhan Dunnavant, was one of Youngkin’s legislative priorities. It tasks the Department of Education with developing model policies for parental notification and making them available to school boards by July 31. Each school board must adopt the policies by Jan. 1, 2023, according to the measure, which uses a definition of sexually explicit content that already exists in state law. It also requires that students be given an alternative assignment at a parent’s request.

Democrats who objected to the bill argued that it smacked of censorship and that valuable pieces of literature would be targeted. Supporters emphasized that no books were being banned or censored and that the bill simply allows parents to be notified of explicit materials.

The measure cleared the Democrat-controlled Senate after two moderate Democrats joined with Republicans to advance it. It passed the GOP-controlled House on a party-line vote.

Youngkin faces an action deadline next week for measures passed during this year’s regular session of the General Assembly. Youngkin can sign or veto bills or send them back to lawmakers with proposed amendments. He has vetoed only one so far, according to the online legislative information system — a local policing oversight measure that involved only Arlington County.

Among the other measures the governor signed into law this week:

— A bill extending for at least two years the ability for dining establishments to sell cocktails to go. That flexibility was initially offered as a way to help businesses struggling with the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

— A bill permitting hunting on public land on Sundays, as long as it takes place more than 200 yards (180 meters) from a place of worship.

— A series of animal welfare bills proposed in the wake of violations uncovered at a Cumberland County dog-breeding facility.

Commentary: Gov. Youngkin’s tax plan can lift us out of recession

March 30, 2022
  • Chris Braunlich
  • Mar 28, 2022

“I urge you again to contact your Senators and Congressmen. … Tell them you believe this is an unequaled opportunity to help return America to prosperity and make government again the servant of the people.”

—Ronald Reagan

July 27, 1981

Richmond, like Washington, has always been a place where an “insider’s game” is played—not in a pejorative sense, but simply as the way things are done.

Relationships are paramount, people speak in the arcane language of lawmaking, agendas are confusing for outsiders, and the activities of a subcommittee for an obscure commission are followed in detail because those in the know understand that what happens there will end up as a new regulation.

But in July 1981, President Ronald Reagan did something no president had done since Franklin Roosevelt: He reached beyond the insiders and appealed directly to the public, asking for their help in securing approval of his tax rate cut of 25 percent over three years. Reagan’s ploy worked. When passed, the tax cuts led to an economic recovery lasting 92 months without a recession.

Now comes Gov. Glenn Youngkin, launching a six-figure television campaign with a commercial laying out his own tax proposals and implicitly, if not explicitly, asking Virginians to weigh in.

This is not “the Virginia Way” of decision-making unhindered by the voices of voters and taxpayers, and Senate Finance Committee Chair Janet Howell immediately declared the ad “counterproductive.”

Counterproductivity, however, is in the eye of the beholder. So, too, is fairness. Despite holding only a one-vote majority in the Senate, Sen. Howell sits astride a committee with 12 Democrats and five Republicans. Because of that one vote majority, Senate Democrats are empowered to “stack the deck” and stack it they have, with one committee holding a four to one majority for the Left.

If the Youngkin tax agenda fails, it will be on purely political grounds. National Democrats may deride the independence of West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin declaring him “one lone man obstructing the President’s agenda” but in Virginia one senator empowers the obstruction of … well, everything. Joe Manchin is a piker.

Having lurched so far and so quickly to port during the preceding two years that the electorate rejected their state-wide and House of Delegate candidates in 2021, the Left holds only the Senate … and that most likely because the body was not up for reelection. Describing themselves as a “brick wall,” they’ve not been hesitant about exercising their right to obstruct nearly everything.

Which is why Youngkin’s public focus on the tax issue is so dangerous for their future. With voters facing not only the worst inflation in 40 years but also higher taxes resulting from recent tax law changes, the public is unlikely to be sympathetic to the Senate Democrats’ argument that they have to block tax reductions in order to meet “unfunded needs”—especially when Virginia sits on a surplus of more than $16 billion, and even the House/Youngkin proposal would leave most of it untouched.

Doubling the standard deduction alone means that every working Fredericksburg area couple would see an immediate and permanent tax reduction of $517. Add to it the short-term boost of a gasoline tax break and elimination of the grocery tax and we’re not talking “billions.” For Fredericksburg families, we’re talking “real money.”

The opponents’ case is weak, made weaker by a Biden-fueled inflation and their own past tax policies. A contest in which citizens decide whether government or they, themselves, know better what should be done with their earnings, is usually no contest at all.

But for Gov.Youngkin, there are risks as well. Once the gauntlet is thrown, it will be harder to turn back, and success depends on Virginians responding. Will they? Those favoring the economic stimulation coming with lower taxes should identify their elected officials now, and let them know where they stand.

In so many ways, it is a time for choosing.

Chris Braunlich is president of the Thomas Jefferson Institute for Public Policy, a state based think tank devoted to building prosperity by lowering economic and regulatory barriers for all Virginians. He may be reached at [email protected].

Virginia Tech’s Reka Gyorgy criticizes NCAA over transgender swimmer

March 25, 2022

Virginia Tech women’s swimming standout Reka Gyorgy, who competed in the NCAA championships event that was won by a transgender swimmer last week, has written a letter of complaint to the NCAA.

Transgender swimmer Lia Thomas of Penn gained national attention when she won the 500-yard freestyle title Thursday at the NCAA Division I women’s swimming and diving championships in Atlanta.

Gyorgy, a Hungary native who has twice earned first-team All-America honors during her Tech career, wrote in her letter that she wanted to “address something that is a problem in our sport right now and hurting athletes.”

“I respect and fully stand with Lia Thomas,” Gyorgy wrote. “I am convinced that she is no different than me or any other D-I swimmer who has woken up at 5 a.m. her entire life for morning practice. She has sacrificed family vacations and holidays for competition. She has pushed herself to the limit to be the best athlete she could be. She is doing what she is passionate about and deserves that right.

“On the other hand, I would like to critique the NCAA rules that allow her to compete against us, who are biologically women.”

Gyorgy posted her letter on her private Instagram account. Websites such as swimmingworldmagazine.com and swimswam.com reprinted the entire letter Sunday, prompting some news websites to pick up the story of the letter.

Gyorgy, a fifth-year senior in terms of college swimming and a graduate student academically, finished 17th overall in the 500 freestyle prelims Thursday with a time of 4 minutes, 41.06 seconds.

The top eight swimmers in the prelims advanced to Thursday night’s “A” final, meaning they got to race again for the NCAA title through eighth place and earned first-team All-America honors.

The swimmers who were ninth through 16th overall in the prelims moved on to the “B” final, meaning they got to race again for ninth through 16th place and earned All-America honorable mention.

So by finishing 17th in the prelims, Gyorgy finished one spot short of making the “B” final.

“This is my last college meet ever and I feel frustrated,” she wrote. “It feels like that final spot was taken away from me because of the NCAA’s decision to let someone who is not a biological female swimmer compete.

“I know you could say I had the opportunity to swim faster and make the top 16, but this situation makes it a bit different and I can’t help but be angry or sad. It hurts me, my team and other women in the pool. One spot was taken away from the girl who got ninth in the 500 free and didn’t make it back to the A final, preventing her from being an All-American.

“Every event that transgender athletes competed in was one spot taken away from biological females throughout the meet.”

Gyorgy took 12th in that event at the NCAAs last year, earning All-America honorable mention.

After finishing first in the prelims last Thursday, Thomas finished first again in the “A” final to win the title with a time of 4:33.24. Emma Weyant of the University of Virginia was second with at time of 4:34.99.

“Thursday was not a specific athlete’s fault. It is the result of the NCAA and their lack of interest in protecting their athletes,” Gyorgy wrote. “I ask that the NCAA takes time to think about all the other biological women in swimming, try to think how they would feel if they would be in our shoes. Make the right changes for our sport and for a better future in swimming.”

The NCAA did not respond to a request for comment Tuesday.

Tech coach Sergio Lopez Miro said in a text message that Gyorgy sent her letter to the NCAA on Saturday, which was the final day of the four-day NCAA championships.

“I am writing this letter right now in hopes that the NCAA will open their eyes and change these rules in the future,” Gyorgy wrote. “It doesn’t promote our sport in a good way and I think it is disrespectful against the biologically female swimmers who are competing in the NCAA.”

Gyorgy competed for Hungary in the 2016 Olympics.

She won the ACC title in the 400-yard individual medley as a Tech freshman in 2017. She finished eighth in that event at the NCAAs that year, earning All-America honors. Gyorgy won the ACC crown in the 400 individual medley again as a sophomore in 2018. In 2019, she was 12th in the 400 individual medley at the NCAAs.

She took an Olympic redshirt year in the 2019-20 season to train for the 2020 Olympics, which did not wind up being held that year.

At last year’s NCAAs, she earned All-America honors with an eighth-place finish in the 400 individual medley.

In addition to her 17th-place finish in the 500 freestyle at last week’s NCAAs, Gyorgy was 10th in the 400 individual medley. She was also part of a 14th-place relay team, a 16th-place relay team and a 17th-place relay team.

Thomas not only won the 500 freestyle last week but also earned All-America honors in two other events, finishing fifth in the 200 freestyle and eighth in the 100 freestyle.

Thomas once competed as a man for Penn before beginning her transition in 2019 by starting hormone replacement therapy.

The NCAA’s approved testosterone threshold for those competing in the NCAA women’s swimming and diving championships was higher than the maximum set this year by USA Swimming, which is the sport’s national governing body. The NCAA has not yet adopted the new USA Swimming policy.

Former Olympic gold medalist Nancy Hogshead-Makar told Associated Press sports columnist Paul Newberry on Friday that Thomas’ biological advantage “has not been mitigated.”

“She didn’t go from being 500th as a male to 500th as a female,” Hogshead-Makar told Newberry. “She went from not being able to even qualify for the NCAAs as a male to being a national champion as a female. That’s not fair.”

But Laurel Powell of the Human Rights Campaign shared a different viewpoint with Newberry.

“There have been instances of trans people playing sports for a long time,” Powell, a transgender woman, told Newberry. “None of them ever became champions, because champions are rare. You have to be very, very good at what you do to win a championship. I don’t think a trans person being successful is anything other than a reason to celebrate.”

Thomas became the first transgender woman to win an NCAA swimming championship.

“The NCAA knew what was coming this past week,” Gyorgy wrote. “They knew opinions and minds will be divided and chose to do nothing.”

Reka Gyorgy’s letter

Dear NCAA,

I would like to address this past week’s events and express my thoughts. First, I would like to remind everyone that I am a human being and that as a human being I experience feelings and emotions.

My name is Reka Gyorgy from Hungary. I am a 2016 Rio Olympian, represented Virignia Tech for the past 5 years, a 2 time ACC Champion, 2 time All-American and 3 time Honorable Mention All-American.

With all due respect, I would like to address something that is a problem in our sport right now and hurting athletes, especially female swimmers. Everyone has heard and known about transgender [athlete], Lia Thomas, and her case including all the issues and concerns that her situation brought into our sport. I’d like to point out that I respect and fully stand with Lia Thomas; I am convinced that she is no different than me or any other D1 swimmer who has woken up at 5 a.m. her enteire life for morning practice. She has sacrificed family vacations and holidays for a competition. She has pushed herself to the limit to be the best athlete she could be. She is doing what she is passionate about and deserves that right. On the other hand, I would like to critique the NCAA rules that allow her to compete against us, who are biologically women.

I’m writing this letter right now in hopes that the NCAA will open their eyes and change these rules in the future. It doesn’t promote our sport in a good way and I think it is disrespectful against the biologically female swimmers who are competing in the NCAA.

I swam the 500 free at NCAA’s on March 17th, 2022, where I got 17th, which means I didn’t make it back to the finals and was first alternate. I’m a 5th year senior, I have been top 16 and top 8 before and I know how much of a privilege it is to make finals at a meet this big. This is my last college meet ever and I feel frustrated. It feels like that final spot was taken away from me because of the NCAA’s decision to let someone who is not a biological female compete. I know you could say I had the opportunity to swim faster and make the top 16, but this situation makes it a big different and I can’t help but be angry or sad. It hurts me, my team and other women in the pool. One spot was take away from the girl who got 9th in the 500 free and didn’t make it back to the A final preventing her from being an All-American. Every event that transgender athletes competed in was one spot taken away from biological females through the meet.

The NCAA knew what was coming this past week. They knew opinions and minds will be divided and chose to do nothing. This week has been more about reporters, media and division in our sport than things like two women going under 21 seconds in the 50 freestyle, 3 women going under 50 seconds in the 100 butterfly and the first women IN HISTORY to go under 48 seconds in the 100 backstroke. Thursday was not a specific athlete’s fault. It is the result of the NCAA and their lack of interest in protecting their athletes. I ask that the NCAA takes time to think about all the other biological woman in swimming, try to think how they would feel if they would be in our shoes. Make the right changes for our sport and for a better future in swimming.

Thank you for reading,

Reka Gyorgy, Virginia Tech swimmer

More Republicans than Democrats would stay and fight if what happened in Ukraine occurred in US: poll

March 23, 2022

Overall, a majority of Americans would not flee if they were in the position Ukrainians are in now

By David Aaro | Fox News

If Americans were in the same position as Ukrainians right now, more Republicans than Democrats would stay and fight, according to a poll released Monday. 

Of the Republicans surveyed in the Quinnipiac University Poll, 68% said they would stay and fight compared to 40% of Democrats. Among Democrats, 52% said they would flee the country, compared to 25% of Republicans. 

While the hypothetical question was polarizing between parties, the majority of Americans (55%) would still stay and fight if they were in the same position as the Ukrainians are now. Only 38% of those surveyed said they would leave the country. 

People protest the Russian invasion of Ukraine during a rally outside of the White House, Sunday, March 6, 2022. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)

People protest the Russian invasion of Ukraine during a rally outside of the White House, Sunday, March 6, 2022. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)

“When confronted with a terrible hypothetical that would put them in the shoes of the Ukrainians, Americans say they would stand and fight rather than seek safety in another country,” said Quinnipiac University Polling Analyst Tim Malloy.

According to the poll, 66% of Republicans and 91% of Democrats said they supported accepting Ukrainian refugees into the U.S.

At least 1.7 million refugees have fled Ukraine since the start of the Russian offensive nearly two weeks ago, according to data from the UN refugee agency, UNHCR. 

A Ukrainian volunteer Oleksandr Osetynskyi, 44 holds a Ukrainian flag and directs refugees after fleeing from Ukraine and arriving at the border crossing in Medyka, Poland, Monday, March 7, 2022. (AP Photo/Visar Kryeziu)

A Ukrainian volunteer Oleksandr Osetynskyi, 44 holds a Ukrainian flag and directs refugees after fleeing from Ukraine and arriving at the border crossing in Medyka, Poland, Monday, March 7, 2022. (AP Photo/Visar Kryeziu)

According to the poll, 60% of Americans also believe Russian President Vladimir Putin is mentally unstable and willing to use nuclear weapons against NATO countries.

When asked if Putin’s actions against Ukraine were comparable to Adolph Hitler’s actions against Austria and Czechoslovakia before the outbreak of World War II, half of Americans surveyed agreed. 

If Putin decides to go beyond Ukraine and attack a NATO country, 79% approved a U.S. military response, including 82% of Republicans and 88% of Democrats. 

According to the poll, 83% of Republicans and 91% of Democrats don’t believe the Russian people have a say in what Putin and his government choose to do. Of those surveyed, 74% also feel that the Russian people don’t have a full understanding of what is happening in Ukraine.

“Russians are largely in the dark about and unable to halt the destruction being wrought by Putin, say Americans who see the Russian leader as mentally unstable. And half of Americans liken Putin to modern history’s darkest villain, Adolf Hitler,” added Malloy. 

Nearly half of Americans (49%) also say the attack on Ukraine has contributed to them feeling anxious, according to the poll. 

A woman feeds her daughter after fleeing Ukraine and arriving at the border crossing in Medyka, Poland, Monday, March 7, 2022. (AP Photo/Visar Kryeziu)

A woman feeds her daughter after fleeing Ukraine and arriving at the border crossing in Medyka, Poland, Monday, March 7, 2022. (AP Photo/Visar Kryeziu)

When asked how long they expect the war in Ukraine to last, 19% of those surveyed believe it will be over in weeks, 44% feel it will end in months, and 23% believe it will last years. 

The Quinnipiac University Poll surveyed 1,374 U.S. adults nationwide from March 4-6, with a margin of error of plus or minus 2.6 percentage points.

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

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 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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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.