News

Obenshain Releases Statement on the 2022 Model Policies on the Privacy, Dignity, and Respect for All Students and Parents 

September 16, 2022

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

CONTACT:  Jennifer Aulgur

PHONE: (540) 437-1451

EMAIL:  [email protected] 

Obenshain Releases Statement on the 2022 Model Policies on the Privacy, Dignity, and Respect for All Students and Parents 

Updated Policy for Virginia’s Public School Systems

HARRISONBURG – Today, Senator Mark Obenshain (R-Rockingham) released the following statement in response to the just-released 2022 Draft Model Policies on the Privacy Dignity, and Respect for All Student and Parents from the Virginia Department of Education:

“I applaud the 2022 Draft Policy released today by Governor Youngkin and the Virginia Department of Education. This policy was crafted in compliance with the 2020 law signed by then-Governor Northam and patroned by Delegate Marcus Simon and Senator Jennifer Boysko.

Last year, when then-Governor Northam released his administration’s draft model policy, it flatly ignored the rights of students and parents. It went so far as to prohibit school staff from notifying a parent or guardian if a student requested affirmation of his or her gender identity. It even suggested that there was an obligation for school officials to report parents to the Department of Social Services if they suspected them to be insufficiently supportive of their child’s gender identity. The Northam model policy was so extreme and out of touch with communities across Virginia that it was adopted by only approximately 10% of the school divisions in Virginia.  This  notwithstanding the statutory mandate that it be adopted by every school division. The 2020 legislation requiring the adoption of this policy was just a bad idea and it accomplished little beyond making Virginia schools an even bigger cultural battleground than they already were.

Parents must be involved in their children’s education. Period. A child’s development is acutely susceptible to influence and it is the responsibility of parents to play a central role in shaping and molding that development.

To the extent that the law requires adoption of a model policy by school divisions across Virginia, I support this new draft model policy which fully complies with the Code of Virginia. And I strongly suspect that the 90% of school divisions across Virginia that were unwilling to adopt the old policy will find themselves much more comfortable with this policy.

I hope that parents, teachers, administrators, and school board members across Virginia will work together to adopt policies that will respect parents’ rights and ensure our children are treated fairly and equitably in a safe environment.”

The 2022 Draft Model Policy can be viewed by clicking here.

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 running to represent the new second district of the Senate of Virginia which includes the city of Harrisonburg and the counties of Rockingam, Augusta (part), Page, Bath and Highland.  

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News Laws Take Effect July 1

June 24, 2022

With the approach of July, I wanted to provide you with an update on new laws that are taking effect as well as an update on the Commonwealth’s budget.

Every year, the General Assembly passes bills during Session which starts in early January and goes for either 45 days or 60 days depending on if it’s a budget year or not. If bills pass the legislature, they go to the Governor and if he signs them into law, most will go into effect on July 1 of that year.

Additionally, every two years (on even numbered years), the General Assembly passes the Commonwealth’s two year budget which is then amended or signed by the Governor. Governor Youngkin recently sent back a short list of amendments on which the General Assembly then voted and on Wednesday, he signed the budget for the next two years.

Below is a list of some of the most notable and important items that will go into effect as well as items that would have been good for Virginians but were not passed this year.

If you have any questions about laws that are going to be taking effect in July or any bills that did not make it out of the General Assembly this year, don’t hesitate to email me at [email protected]

Gov. Youngkin proposes budget amendments on gas tax cut, lab schools and new felony for protests at justices’ homes

June 15, 2022

by: Dean Mirshahi

Posted: Jun 15, 2022 / 08:39 PM EDT

Updated: Jun 16, 2022 / 10:58 AM EDTSHARE

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s amendments to the state budget include proposals to expand the eligibility for lab-school funding, suspend the state’s gas tax for three months, prevent hundreds of incarcerated people from earning credits to reduce their sentences and more.

The Virginia General Assembly approved the two-year budget plan on June 1, but it was subject to proposed changes and vetoes by the governor. On Wednesday, Youngkin aides laid out the budget amendments put forward for consideration in a call with reporters.

Youngkin has proposed 38 total amendments to the biennial budget that takes effect July 1, the aides said. The governor did not veto any part of the budget approved by lawmakers.Youngkin revives gas tax holiday push as consumers see record prices

“Thank you for sending me a budget that offers almost $4 billion in tax relief at a time when Virginians are in need of it most,” Gov. Youngkin wrote in an introduction to his budget amendments.

Efforts to pass a gas tax holiday failed in the legislature, but Youngkin revived his push in a budget amendment. An aide said the suspension of the state’s gas tax of 26 cents a gallon would go into effect July 1 until Sept. 30 if approved by lawmakers.

The governor also proposed a restriction on using taxpayer funding in the biennial budget for abortion services unless it is required by federal law, a move criticized by Planned Parenthood Advocates of Virginia Executive Director Jamie Lockhart.Virginia lawmakers pass bipartisan budget deal

“This amendment will disproportionately impact people of color who will be forced to carry pregnancies that will result in a stillbirth or in the birth of a baby incompatible with life,” Lockhart said in a statement. “If this funding is cut, low-income Virginians will be the ones having to go without access to the life-saving health care they need.”

Youngkin did not propose incentives to revive the effort to bring the Washington Commanders new stadium to Northern Virginia, which appears dead after lawmakers decided to pull the legislation from consideration.

One amendment from Youngkin would keep 560 incarcerated individuals from being eligible to take advantage of Virginia’s new earned sentence credit program, one aide said on the call.

The new law, which was signed by former Gov. Ralph Northam and goes into effect in July, creates a four-level earned credit system that allows people to reduce their sentences up to 15 days for every 30 days served.This tax credit could give back hundreds to low-income, working Virginians

“Language amendment will also create a state-level felony for demonstrating outside of a home of justices, including Supreme Court justices with the intent to intimidate,” one aide said on the call, later adding that it includes justices on the U.S. Supreme Court and Virginia Supreme Court.

The deal passed by the General Assembly includes $4 billion in tax cuts over three years. There are one-time tax rebates of $250 for individual filers and $500 for families this year in the budget and public school teachers and state workers will see 10% raises over two years, including a $1,000 bonus in the first year.

Youngkin amended the budget to also give teachers at Governor’s Schools and regional learning specialists the bonuses, with aides saying they were “left out” of the approved plan.

The aides said the amendments from Youngkin also put aside more funding for Virginia’s historically black colleges and universities.Are abortion protests at Supreme Court Justices’ homes illegal in Virginia?

The budget approved by the General Assembly has $100 million for lab school funding for public, four-year universities in Virginia. Youngkin amended the budget to expand access to allow private universities and community colleges to use the funding and run lab schools, the aides said.

Another amendment from Youngkin calls on universities and colleges to sign off on a statement committing to create “a culture of free speech” on campuses.

State lawmakers are expected to return to the Capitol on Friday to take up Youngkin’s amendments.

“I hope that these amendments will be acceptable to Republicans and Democrats, Delegates and Senators, so that the budget can be reenrolled without returning to my desk,” Youngkin continued in his opening statement.

Budget Deal

June 2, 2022

Friends,

A few weeks ago, Governor Youngkin called a Special Session of the General Assembly to hammer out the details of our two-year budget for the Commonwealth.

Members of the Senate Finance and Appropriations Committee and the House Appropriations Committee have come to an agreement on a budget which brings me to Richmond today to vote on their proposal.

As I wrote about in a previous email, during the regular General Assembly session, I supported the House version of the budget due to the focus it had on tax relief and important priorities like school funding and resource officers. Coming into this budget cycle, Virginia was blessed with a projected budget surplus of more than $16 billion. This budget we just passed does much that I support and with which I strongly agree; however, it returns to the taxpayers only 25% of the surplus. With the developing fiscal train wreck in Washington, families are contending with financial challenges on all fronts — wages that just can’t keep up with record high gas prices, inflation at 30-year highs, rising interest rates, skyrocketing housing costs, and rising cost of food and electricity. We need to put those challenges of working Virginians first. We could do better, and with targeted amendments from the Governor, I am hopeful that we will. 

The compromise budget that the finance committees released this past weekend did contain some of those priorities… 

★     Over $4.2 billion in tax relief in the form of one-time tax rebates for Virginians and standard deduction increases

★     $730 million over two years for salary raises for teachers

★     $113 million for law enforcement salary raises

★     $100 million for lab school initiatives (although I would prefer charter schools rather than schools run by the universities responsible for teaching public school teachers)

★     $5 million for Operation Ceasefire funding

★     $45 million over two years in support for the School Resource Officer Incentive Grant Program

I am pleased to see general fund dollars being spent for transportation. For years, Democrats have argued that transportation must be funded exclusively from the Transportation Trust Fund (TTF) and that even in times of plenty, the expenditure of general funds for transportation is nothing more than a raid on education dollars. That argument has always been specious. The TTF consists primarily of gas tax revenues. The fact is that between increasing fuel economy and the advent of electric vehicles, our transportation dollars will need to come from somewhere else. I am disappointed, however, that all this general fund transportation money is being spent on widening the stretch of I-64 between New Kent and James City County and none on I-81.

I did not vote for this budget today for a few reasons. First, I believe in limiting the size and scope of government. This state budget is about two times the size of Governor McDonnell’s last budget. As Virginians continue to struggle with rising costs, we need to be diligent to limit government spending to the extent possible. We seem to aspire to a different goal — expanding government spending to the extent possible. A once in a lifetime opportunity to make major structural changes in Virginia tax policy was missed.

This budget also missed important opportunities and included many misguided spending initiatives: 

●      No gas tax relief was included in this budget

●      The grocery tax was not fully repealed

●      $210 million was set aside for I-64 but none for I-81

●      Tuition Assistance Grants for in-state students attending Virginia’s private colleges and universities was increased to $4,500, but students attending Virginia’s private Historically Black Colleges and Universities will receive an additional $5,000  ($9,000 total)

●      We found $100,000 for the Sports Hall of Fame but inexplicably  no money included to provide Virginia Line of Duty Act benefits for the families of the two fallen Bridgewater officers

●      $5 million for a CASA welcome center in Northern Virginia

●      $10 million in financial aid for undocumented students

I examine closely the line items to which we are allocating taxpayer dollars because I believe strongly in our responsibility to stick to conservative and disciplined financial principles. This year we had the biggest surplus in Virginia history but did not take the critical step to reform our tax code to return more hard-earned dollars to Virginians who need it. I am however, confident that the Governor will offer amendments to the budget to address some of the issues I have raised. I look forward to voting for those amendments.

If you have questions about the budget process or about the line items in the budget, you can visit budget.lis.virginia.gov or you can email me at [email protected].

Best,

Mark Obenshain

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