News

NEWSLETTER: Free, open and (un)fair elections

April 15, 2020

Dear Friend,

Once upon a time in Virginia, we had free, open and fair elections. This year, the Governor and the liberals running the General Assembly unilaterally decided to be drop “fair” from the equation.

Particularly troubling was the bill signed last week by the Governor repealing Virginia’s photo ID requirement. In recent years, Democrats have tried to convince voters that photo ID was part of an effort by conservatives to suppress the vote by traditional Democrat voters. Notwithstanding this empty rhetoric and years of efforts to prove that photo ID really does suppress votes, Democrats have come up completely empty. There is no evidence that photo ID ever suppressed a single vote – except perhaps fraudulent ones.

In reality, photo ID first gained serious traction in 2005 when none other than President Jimmy Carter championed it. President Carter served as co-chair of the Carter Baker Commission convened after voter confidence in the integrity of our system of elections crashed after the debacle of the 2000 Presidential election. You see, a mere 15 years ago, when the Democrats were on the losing side of a close election, they protested that the very survival of the United States faced this existential threat – voters who had lost faith in the integrity of our elections.  

It’s apparent that the concerns of 2000 era Democrats have been discarded in favor of stacking the deck and dismissing the cries of “foul” by Republicans. Who knows whether voter fraud will run rampant with the repeal of the photo ID requirement? I think it is a very real risk and so do many other voters – Republicans, Democrats and Independents.

To me, the fact that there are no reports of epidemic voter fraud should be viewed as a good thing. It certainly should not serve as an invitation to throw the doors open to unscrupulous political organizers or operatives on either side who would undermine the integrity of our elections. Remember, every fraudulent vote case dilutes the value of every other vote.

In addition to the repeal of photo ID, the Governor signed a bill to make Election Day a state holiday. To offset this change, the bill removes Lee-Jackson Day as a state holiday. Setting aside my concerns with the rewrite of history, a majority of Virginians who get a state holiday off are unionized employees. And who do unionized employees vote for in large blocs?

Yep, you guessed it – Democrats.

The political motivation that the Governor tries to hide behind civic motivations to increase voter turnout is not lost on me or on other Virginians.

Lastly — and perhaps most outrageous — is a bill to allow for same day registration and voting. This law allows anyone to visit a polling place on Election Day, register to vote that day and vote in that election. It is truly a “vote early and often” law that would have made even Boss Tweed blush. With polls now open from 6am until 8pm, predominately older and retired poll workers and no money to upgrade our technology and a demonstrated lack of interest in removing dead or out of state voters from our voting rolls, Virginia is not equipped to deal with same day registration.

In order for Virginians to have confidence in the integrity of our elections, we know that they expect them to be free, open and fair. By signing these bills, the Governor has significantly undermined these principles that should be embraced by every American.

And just as a quick update on the email blast I sent last week regarding Governor Northam’s proclamation of his intent to move local elections from May to November, it looks like he is following through on that plan. Unbelievably, to do this he actually slid that plan into his amendments to the Commonwealth’s budget.

He released his amendments this week to House Bill 29. This is what we call the “caboose bill”…the budget bill that funds the state government from now until the end of the fiscal year – June 30.

One of the amendments to this bill is adding language to not only move local elections to November but also to throw out tens of thousands of  ballots already cast across Virginia in these local elections that are now supposed to be less than 3 weeks away! His plan will also reopen the field in all of these local elections, thereby completely changing the rules and the playing field literally as time was running out in these important contests. It goes without saying that his decision to propose throwing out ballots that hardworking Virginians have already taken the time to fill out and cast is astounding and just plain wrong.

Best,

Mark Obenshain

Local Republican lawmakers respond to Virginia governor’s proposal to postpone elections

April 10, 2020

HARRISONBURG, Va. (WHSV) — Republican politicians in the Shenandoah Valley are opposing Virginia Governor Ralph Northam’s decision to try and postpone municipal elections scheduled for May to November.

Governor Ralph Northam announced earlier this week, intentions to postpone May’s scheduled municipal elections to November.

in an official statement by Virginia State Senator Mark Obenshain (R-Rockingham), Obenshain, along with fellow Shenandoah Valley delegates John Avoli (R-Staunton), Ronnie Campbell (R-Fairfield), Chris Runion (R-Bridgewater) and Tony Wilt (R-Harrisonburg), responded to Northam.

Obenshain told WHSV on Friday that he does not think the election needs to be moved to November, but supports postponing it a few months and taking social distancing precautions that are needed.

“We shouldn’t move it to November. There’s absolutely no reason we can’t move it back to late June, July, August, September and achieve those ends,” Obenshain said. “Protect the integrity of the ballots that have already been cast and protect that right of self determination that we’ve given to local governments across the Commonwealth of Virginia.”

Obenshain also that absentee ballots that are already cast should be counted.

RELEASE: Shenandoah Valley Legislators Respond to Proposed Election Date Change

April 10, 2020

Shenandoah Valley Legislators Respond to Governor’s Proposal to Move Municipal Elections from May to November

General Assembly Members Oppose Governor’s Plan to Move Municipal Elections to November

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

CONTACT: Jennifer Aulgur

PHONE: (804) 833-1081

EMAIL: jennifer@markobenshain.com

HARRISONBURG, VA  – Today, Senator Mark Obenshain (R-Rockingham), along with fellow Shenandoah Valley Delegates  John Avoli (R-Staunton), Ronnie Campbell (R-Fairfield), Chris Runion (R-Bridgewater) and Tony Wilt (R-Harrisonburg), issued the following joint statement in response to Governor Northam’s announcement earlier this week to move the municipal elections scheduled for May to November.

“I support delaying the election until June, to be held at the same time as the Primary elections. I also hope the Governor will not order absentee votes already cast to be discarded,”  said Delegate Avoli. 

Delegate Campbell added, “There are fair and reasonable concerns that Virginia could be hitting the peak of its COVID-19 curve around May 5, and that we should therefore follow social distancing and other containment methods urged by the CDC and Virginia Coronavirus Taskforce. I support postponing the May 5 date –but not to November.” 

“The Governor has suggested that absentee ballots already cast for the May election be thrown out.  This is not the best solution to this problem. Our voter registrars are more than capable at ensuring these ballots are kept safe and are counted at the appropriate time,” said Delegate Runion.    

Delegate Tony Wilt added, “The Governor has already moved the June 9 primary date to June 23, and there is no reason why municipal elections could not also take place on that same day.”

Senator Obenshain concluded, “We sincerely hope the Governor will reconsider his proposal.  There is an option that keeps Virginians safe and healthy, keeps local self-determination in place, does not subordinate local issues to the furor and din of a Presidential election, and maintains the high level of integrity that our electoral system requires and that our citizens expect.”

You can read the Governor’s full news release 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).

Delegate Avoli represents the twentieth district in the Virginia House of Delegates.  The district includes the cities of Staunton and Waynesboro and the counties of Augusta (part), Highland and Nelson (part).

Delegate Campbell represents the twenty-fourth district in the Virginia House of Delegates.  The district includes the cities of Buena Vista and Lexington and the counties of Amherst (part), Augusta (part), Bath and Rockbridge.

Delegate Runion represents the twenty-fifth district in the Virginia House of Delegates.  The district includes the counties of Albermarle (part), Augusta (part), and Rockingham (part).

Delegate Wilt represents the twenty-sixth district in the Virginia House of Delegates.  The district includes the city of Harrisonburg and the county of Rockingham (part.)

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NEWSLETTER: Protecting Local Election Integrity

April 10, 2020
Friends,

      On Wednesday, Governor Northam announced that he would ask the General Assembly to move the date for all municipal elections across Virginia from May to November.       

Historically, localities around Virginia have had the autonomy to choose whether they would prefer their elections for Board of Supervisor, City Council, Town Council and Mayor be in May or in November. The localities that choose to have them in May have done so for a reason. Most do so in order to avoid the hyper partisan rhetoric that overshadows all November elections – especially in a Presidential election year. With the billions of dollars being spent on advertising and the 24-7 media coverage of the federal elections, the important local issues impacting many localities are going to be absolutely lost in the torrent.       

I would actually support moving the municipal elections from their originally scheduled date of May 5 – but not to November. There are fair and reasonable concerns that Virginia could be hitting the peak of its COVID-19 curve around May 5, and that we should therefore follow social distancing and other containment methods urged by the CDC and Virginia Coronavirus Taskforce.       

I do not, however, agree with the decision by the Governor to move these local elections to the fall to coincide with the Presidential, U.S. Senate and Congressional races. This move would completely override a locality’s self-determination of what date would be best for their elections. I would suggest that a date in late June or July would suffice to maintain health guidelines and social distancing but not placing locality’s discretion at risk of being taken away.  The Governor has already moved the June 9 primary date to June 23, and there is no reason why municipal elections should not also take place on that same day.       

Last – but certainly not least – is the issue of what to do about absentee ballots already cast for May elections. In 2018 in Fairfax City, for example, voters requested fewer than 100 absentee ballots. To date in 2020, voters have requested more than 1,500 absentee ballots and a significant number have already been returned and officially cast. What happens to these ballots and the potentially thousands of absentee ballots cast across the Commonwealth in local elections scheduled for May 5?       

I suppose the Governor is suggesting that we throw them out. I cannot fathom why this would be the proposed solution as to how to handle these cast ballots. Were we to move the elections to June or July, these ballots could be kept safe by our general registrars or Virginia Department of Elections and counted.       

I sincerely hope the Governor will reconsider. There is an option that keeps Virginians safe and healthy, keeps local self-determination in place, does not subordinate local issues to the furor and din of a Presidential election, and maintains the high level of integrity that our electoral system requires and that our citizens expect.  

Best,


Mark Obenshain

COVID-19 Update and Resources

March 14, 2020

Friends,

      This past week has been one for the history books.  I was in Richmond on Thursday to finish the 2020 GA Session and vote on the state budget (which I will send an update on next week,) but the dominant public focus has been on the Coronavirus and how it will affect our local communities.

The situation has been rapidly changing.  

      Yesterday, the President declared a National Emergency in order to speed the response to the virus.  Earlier this week, a state of emergency was declared for the Commonwealth of Virginia.  In doing so, the Governor laid out steps that our state agencies are taking to limit the spread of the virus.  Yesterday, all Virginia public schools were directed to close for at least two weeks. You can read the Governor’s news release on the closings here.   Many private schools are also following that lead.  Most of our higher education institutions have made announcements in recent days that they are suspending classes and going to online or distance learning for the immediate future. 

      In light of the school closings, and with many schools focusing on online or distance learning, internet cost and connectivity could be challenging.  Comcast announced yesterday that they will be ramping up their Internet Essentials program to meet the needs of their low income clients in Comcast service territory.  You can read more information here about that program.   

     In the latest update as of 8:00AM this morning the Virginia Department of Health has confirmed 30 cases of COVID-19 in our Commonwealth. There has been 1 presumptive positive case in Harrisonburg.  The VDH website is an accurate and excellent source of information on how to prevent the transmission of the virus, and to see the latest number of cases.  It even shows a regional breakdown the number of cases. 

      VDEM (Virginia Department of Emergency Management) also is another informative site on COVID-19.  You can click here for their website.

      The CDC (Center for Diseases Control) website is an excellent source of information on prevention, FAQs and more.

      Additionally, to find out how our area hospitals are prepared and handling visitors, you can visit Sentara’s website here and Valley Health’s website here.

Here is a list of common sense daily measures we all can take in an effort to curb the spread and fight COVID -19: 

·         Stay home when sick. This includes staying home from work, school, errands, and travel for at least 24 hours after a fever is gone.

·         Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Especially after going to the bathroom, before eating, and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.

·         If soap and water aren’t available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.

·         Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.

·         Avoid close contact with people who are sick.

·         Cover a cough or sneeze with a tissue, throw the tissue in the trash and wash your hands.

·         Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces like phones, keyboards, and doorknobs.

·         Get plenty of sleep, be physically active, drink lots of fluids, and eat nutritious food.

      My legislative office remains open to assist constituents with matters concerning state government.  As we hear of any other resources over the coming days and weeks ahead I’ll be sharing those on my social media pages.   If we may be of service to you please call 540-437-1451 or email us at mark@markobenshain.com

Best,

Mark Obenshain

NEWSLETTER: We’re Halfway There…

February 14, 2020

Friends,

      We’re officially past the halfway mark of Session that we call “Crossover” where all bills that originated in the Senate cross over to the House to be debated in Committee and vice versa.

      Every year around this time, I like to take a step back and take stock of what we’ve seen so far. The bills I’ve introduced have had varying amounts of success in terms of getting through the Senate but overall, I’m grateful for the support I’ve received from my Senate colleagues on my bills.

      I’m particularly thankful for the support for my two good government bills that passed and are headed to the House. In light of the recent Warren County EDA scandal, I introduced SB 701 and SB 703 to ensure government transparency and accountability by requiring Executive Directors and members of Economic Development Authorities (EDA) to take ethics training and submit Statements of Economic Interest (SOEI). EDA’s provide critical economic initiatives for our communities in the Valley and around the Commonwealth and the citizens deserve their trust and confidence. These bills seek to ensure they will have it.

      In addition, I’m honored to have carried a bill that passed the Senate dealing with protecting child victims of human trafficking. Oftentimes in these horrific instances of trafficking, whether for sex or labor, it is the parents or legal guardians who are unfortunately the ones participating in the illegal activity. My SB 706 is a Virginia State Crime Commission proposal and allows for local departments of social services to interview victims without the consent of and outside of the presence of such victims’ parents, guardians, or legal custodians.

      These bills and the others of mine that passed the Senate are headed to the House where our counterparts will hear them in Committee and then on the floor of the House of Delegates if they are voted out of Committee.

      Unfortunately, a number of other bills that will significantly and detrimentally affect Virginians have passed the Senate as well. The new Democrat majority in Richmond has advanced a startling number of liberal bills that will impact every single Virginian. It was almost as if they couldn’t stand the success Virginia has experienced over the past 20 years, and they were eager to make the same mistakes as California and Maryland have made.

      When their litany of bills become law and go into effect on July 1, it is going to cost your family a lot more to live in Virginia than it does today.

      The Democrats have a new transportation scheme that raises the gas tax by 15-cents per gallon over the next two years in most of the state. Those living in the areas where higher gas taxes are already in place because of the 2013 transportation tax hike will see their gas taxes rise a little less, since they’re already paying higher taxes. But, most of Virginia will see an 86% increase in the gas tax over the next two years. And, the tax will continue to automatically increase every year thereafter.

      They also approved a “Green New Deal” energy bill that will result in higher prices on electricity.  The plan is to have consumers pay more in their monthly electric utility bills to finance “renewables” like wind and solar. The estimates of what the average family will pay for this range from $23 to $50 on their power bill per month.

      In addition to the gun control bills that will severely limit our Second Amendment rights which I have covered in depth in previous updates, Democrats in the Senate have passed numerous pieces of legislation that will hurt small business owners and impact the pocket books of every hardworking Virginian family.

      On Tuesday – the last day to hear Senate bills that actually concluded at 12:50 AM on Wednesday – the Democrat majority in the Senate flexed its newfound majority power to pass priorities like prevailing wage legislation and collective bargaining for public employees.

      Despite touching on this last week, I want to highlight again how damaging these bills will be to Virginia.

      Because of the prevailing wage legislation that requires construction companies and other trade jobs to meet a certain level of wages and benefits, we will see fewer schools, fewer affordable housing units and fewer wastewater treatment facilities. Did you know that in 2018, Richmond discharged more than 3.4 billion gallons of raw sewage into the James River? With construction companies having to pay a prevailing wage that is 10% – 25% more than the market rate for construction workers, local governments like Richmond are going to have less money to pay for needed sewage system upgrades. Other localities will have less money available to pay for school construction.

      This new prevailing rate is really just an attempt by out of state contractors to win Virginia construction contracts that were out of reach because their union pay scales kept them from competing with Virginia businesses.

      Another bill we saw pass on Tuesday was the minimum wage bill. If I listed all the negative impacts that this will have on young people entering the workforce, small business owners, mom and pop retail shops, etc., this weekly blast would turn into a short novel.

      But to name just a few… requiring employers to pay a minimum wage will raise unemployment levels, depress wages, make it harder for young people to find an entry level job and it will significantly hurt the cashflow of our small businesses.

      The sadly ironic reality of proponents of minimum wage legislation is that it will end up harming the very people that they want to help. Sure, workers may make more money hourly but when an employer is strapped for cash and capital because of the mandate to pay more in wages, they are going to end up cutting their workers hours.

      Generally speaking, when it comes to liberal, California/New York style economic policies like collective bargaining for public employees or forced union membership that comes from repealing or gutting Right to Work, these policies truly end up creating more economic hardship for those in our communities for which they are trying to raise economic prospects.

      Not to mention that the left has done a good job claiming the moral high ground on these issues. Proponents seek to paint economic conservatives as heartless, money-grabbing capitalists in the pockets of big businesses. And this attempt to claim moral high ground on economic issues again only seeks to create less economic prospects for the families in our community who have the most potential to grow economically.

      We will continue to hear debates on these important issues and more until our time here in Richmond concludes on March 7. My staff and I welcome the opportunity to see you if you are visiting the General Assembly. My office is Room 502E in the Pocahontas Building. I appreciate hearing your views on pending legislation. We have received thousands of emails this session already and hundreds of calls. Thank you for your advocacy on issues that are important to you.  You can always let me know your views on any of the issues before the General Assembly by emailing me at mark@markobenshain.com or filling out my survey at https://www.markobenshain.com/2020-survey/. Or if you prefer to call, my district office in Harrisonburg is 540-437-1451 or my General Assembly Office in Richmond is 804-698-7526.

More updates coming soon!

Best,

Mark Obenshain

RELEASE: Obenshain Bill Helps Elder Abuse Prevention

February 5, 2020

 Obenshain’s Elder Abuse Prevention Legislation Passes Senate

Legislation Would Increase Interagency Communication Dealing with Elder Financial Exploitation

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

CONTACT: Jennifer Aulgur

PHONE: (804) 833-1081

EMAIL: jennifer@markobenshain.com

RICHMOND, VA  – Today, Senator Mark Obenshain released the following statement regarding the passage of SB 695 in the Virginia Senate.  SB 695 directs the Office of the Attorney General to establish ongoing communication with the Department for Aging and Rehabilitative Services  to ensure that adults 60 years of age or older or 18 years of age or older and incapacitated have access to information regarding the prevention of potential patterns of financial exploitation.

Obenshain said, “Sadly, financial exploitation in Virginia is on the rise.  My bill will increase communication between the agencies that deal with consumer protection and elder financial abuse and prevention.  Hopefully, this will promote better awareness, education and perhaps increased analysis of trends in elder abuse financial exploitation.”

SB 695 was modeled after similar legislation passed last year in Pennsylvania.   

According to a recent report from the Virginia Department of Aging and Rehabilitative Services, in FY 2018 Adult Protective Services had 12,000 substantiated abuse, neglect, or exploitation cases.  Financial exploitation jumped by about 30% in 2018 compared to the previous year. Data from the Federal Trade Commission’s Do Not Call Data Book for 2019 shows that in Virginia, over 178,000 telemarketing complaints were filed, and Virginia ranked #8 in number of complaints.

Earlier this week, the Rockingham County Sheriff’s Office warned of a new telephone scam targeting Shenandoah Valley residents where the caller pretends to be a member of the sheriff’s office and tells people they have missed court, have a warrant, or owe a fine and must pay over the phone.

“Senior citizens are one of our most vulnerable populations.  Unfortunately, when they become victim of a financial scam it’s often difficult to recover any of the money which they have lost.  It is my hope that this bill will help our seniors stay vigilant and not fall victim to frauds and scams,” Obenshain continued. 

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 Commerce & Labor Committee.

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NEWSLETTER: General Assembly Update Vol. 2

February 5, 2020

Friends,

      We’re almost halfway through Session with what we call Crossover fast approaching.  By next Tuesday, the Senate must act upon all its legislation which is still outstanding.  The bills that pass will “crossover” to the House of Delegates where they will go through the same process as they did in the Senate.  

      Since this Session began, it has become abundantly clear that the Democrats’ California modeled liberal agenda will not only negatively impact our Second Amendment rights, and the common sense limits on abortion, but they are also determined to disrupt our energy sector and business environment. 

      Four issues in particular took center stage – all of which will be costly for our Commonwealth and fall on the backs of hard working Virginians.

      First was the issue of prevailing wage. In 1931, Congress passed the Davis Bacon Act, which required contractors to pay the “prevailing wage” to employees on most federally funded construction projects. The Davis Bacon Virginia version that was passed out of committee this week is essentially the Democrats’ attempt to legally price fix the wages of construction workers in government projects.

      Putting aside the fact that the Act was originally passed back in the 1930s to prevent non-unionized black and immigrant laborers from competing with unionized white workers, the Davis Bacon Act prevents smaller contractors, of which there are many at home in the Shenandoah Valley, from being able to afford to pay this “prevailing wage.”

      The bill that came out of committee that establishes Virginia’s version of the Davis Bacon Act is bad for Virginians, particularly those at home here in the Valley that will no longer be able to compete with large out of state unionized contractors.

      The next issue that Democrats pushed out of committee this week was collective bargaining for public employees. This bill would repeal the prohibition on public employee collective bargaining for local government employees (including teachers and school board employees.)  It’s important to note that teacher collective bargaining has been shown to have a negative impact on student achievement.  A study done in the Yale Law Journal suggests that any positive impact that unions have on high performing students, if indeed there is any, is gained at the expense of lower performing students. Moreover, a 2018 study in the Economics of Education Review suggests that teacher collective bargaining is associated with lower overall student achievement and that great proportions of students are scoring at the bottom of the performance distribution and smaller proportions score at the top tail.  Overall, collective bargaining isn’t about helping improve our education system or help our students — it’s only about money. Take a look here at one of the worst consequences of collective bargaining in New York.

      The final piece of this liberal trifecta dealt with energy and utility bills – the Virginia version of AOC’s Green New Deal.

      Virginia Democrats are determined to bring a California styled environmental makeover to Richmond. California passed its own “Climate Action Plan” over a decade ago.  Let me tell you how that’s worked out for California:  CA’s residential electric rates are 40% higher than the national average, 70% higher than Oregon and 50% higher than their neighboring states of Nevada and Arizona.  The state’s wind and solar resources (which have been the primary source beneficiaries of its energy policy mandates, subsidies, and tax schemes) provided about only 1% of consumption in 2006 and only 7% in 2016. 

      The Democrats’ bill mandates that Virginia must generate 100% carbon free energy by 2050 but they do not care what it will cost taxpayers and customers.  Electric and utility bills will skyrocket to offset the costs of these mandates and renewable projects.  This is not a good direction for the Commonwealth and I will oppose these initiatives.

      Next up will be efforts to repeal or eviscerate Virginia’s Right-to-Work law by adopting the so-called Fair Share Act.  Sen. Majority Leader Dick Saslaw’s Fair Share Act (SB 426), would require non-union workers at some businesses to pay labor union dues as a condition of employment.

      While right-to-work laws don’t prohibit unions from organizing in Virginia, they do establish precedent that Virginia workers can’t be fired for refusing to join a union or pay its dues. In Virginia, 4% of workers are union members, compared to 10.3% nationally, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

      Saslaw’s bill would authorize employers to require non-union workers to pay a “fair share fee” to a related labor union to reimburse that union for representing the interests of the nonmember employee.

      Bills like this one is the first step to repealing Virginia’s Right-to-Work status which would stifle our economy, cripple our AAA bond rating, and be detrimental to job growth. Chambers of Commerce, the Virginia NFIB, and a number of other business coalitions oppose repealing our Right-to-Work law and the Fair Share Act, as do I.

      The Governor has said publicly he can’t “foresee” Virginia repealing its right to work laws….well we shall see. With the direction that the Democrats at taking thus far, I have little confidence in the Governor’s prior statement.

      On a positive note, we have had a great group of visitors over the past two weeks.  It was Electric Cooperative Day last Monday and we enjoyed meeting with representatives of Rappahannock Electric and Shenandoah Electric Cooperative.  Also stopping by were our Commissioners of the Revenue, Rappahannock Board of Supervisors, Harrisonburg Boys & Girls Club, Shenandoah Music Festival, Bridgewater College, JMU Occupational Therapy, VAIL, and educators from Rockingham County.   I also enjoyed getting to see my good friends from Luray Caverns and the VA Beer Wholesalers Association.

      We are here in Richmond until March 7. My staff and I welcome the opportunity to see you if you are visiting the General Assembly. My office is Room 502E in the Pocahontas Building. I appreciate hearing your views on pending legislation.  We have received thousands of emails this session already and hundreds of calls.  Thank you for your advocacy on issues which are important to you.  You can always let me know your views on any of the issues before the General Assembly by emailing me at mark@markobenshain.com, calling my district office in Harrisonburg at 540-437-1451 or my General Assembly Office in Richmond at 804-698-7526.

      More updates coming soon!

Best,

Mark Obenshain

RELEASE: Obenshain’s Bills for Warren County Economic Development Authority Pass Senate

January 29, 2020

Obenshain’s Bills for Warren County Economic Development Authority Pass Senate

Bills to Improve Accountability, Transparency and Oversight Head to House for Hearing

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

CONTACT: Jennifer Aulgur

PHONE: (804) 833-1081

EMAIL: jennifer@markobenshain.com

RICHMOND – Senator Obenshain (R-Rockingham) today announced an update on legislation that has passed the Senate.

Obenshain’s SB 701 requiring executive directors and members of each economic development authority to complete the Virginia Conflict of Interest Act (COIA) and Virginia Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) training passed out of the Committee on General Laws and off the floor of the Senate to the House of Delegates unanimously.

Also passed unanimously was Obenshain’s SB 703 which requires executive directors and members of each economic development authority to file the Virginia Statement of Economic Interest (SOEI) with the clerk of the local governing body.

Obenshain said of the two bills, “These bills requiring EDA directors and members to take ethics training and submit SOEI is a step in the right direction in ensuring government transparency and accountability. We want to do our best to try and prevent what we saw in Warren County from happening again – these bills attempt to do that.”

“Our EDA’s solve complex solutions and bring crucial economic initiatives to our districts. The work they do are much needed shots in the arm to our communities’ economies,” Obenshain continued. “The citizens deserve our trust and confidence and these bills help ensure they will have it.”

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).  

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NEWSLETTER: Week 1 in the books

January 13, 2020

Friends,

The Virginia General Assembly began its fifth century on Wednesday.  Clearly, “the oldest continuous law-making body in the New World” will have a 401st year that will be a stark contrast from its 400th.

For the first time in 26 years, the House and Senate have Democrat majorities with a Democrat serving as governor.  One-party control has been an exceptional occurrence over the last quarter century.  Republicans enjoyed this status in 2000 and 2001, and again in 2012 and 2013.  Except for those four years, Virginians have elected governments that were divided between the two parties since 1993.

While the House of Delegates is experiencing some pronounced changes, things are somewhat more stable in the Senate.  Our chamber has five new members this year, three of whom previously served in the House.  The majority has shifted from the Republicans to the Democrats by a margin of 21-19.  But both parties retained their leadership teams. 

As the Democrats have not had complete control of government for a very long time, substantial and consequential changes are unfortunately coming. They are more uniformly and ideologically to the left than they were when they last held power, so these changes have the potential to be more extreme.  From what the Governor and the Democrats promised this week, they will be.    

 Two days before session began, the Governor laid out his agenda for the 2020 session.  If you’ve managed to watch any of the debates between the Democrat presidential candidates, you would have recognized much of the Governor’s rhetoric.  Bernie Sanders or Tom Steyer would have been perfectly comfortable delivering these proposals….and they might have even made Elizabeth Warren blush.

On guns, they are pushing universal background checks, even for gifts between family members, “red flag” laws that would allow confiscations with little or no due process, imposition of quotas or limits in the form of “one gun a month” on the sale of handguns, and a so-called “assault weapons ban” that would render unlawful the sale or even possession of a wide array of rifles and a staggering percentage of the full sized semi-automatic handguns. Just Friday, the Democrats on a party line vote with little notice and no discussion passed a new policy banning guns at the Capitol and at our legislative office buildings.  Not even members of the General Assembly can conceal carry now while at Session.

The Democrats even called in former NYC Mayor, Michael Bloomberg to come to Virginia the day before session to collect on his dividends for funding his liberal candidates.  You can read about that here.

In addition to gun legislation, their listed priorities also include increasing the minimum wage by more than 100% from $7.25 to $15.  Senate Majority Leader Mamie Locke (D-Hampton) has introduced legislation calling for this increase by December of 2022. 

Look also for a revival of the Delegate Kathy Tran bill to remove all restrictions on abortions.  This is the legislation that shocked America last year when Governor Northam explained in cold clinical terms how this legislation should allow doctors to allow babies to die even after they are born.

They are also calling for an expansion of taxpayer and utility consumer subsidies for trendy green energy projects and housing subsidies.

On the education front, they plan to move forward to provide in state tuition to undocumented students.

Finally, on voting, expect broad changes that remove important safeguards to ensure the fairness of Virginia’s elections.

There are many other bills that have been introduced by members of this new liberal Democratic majority that aren’t included in their publicized agenda but which they are going to push just as hard.  Some of those will include the evisceration of Virginia’s Right to Work laws and legal reform to allow class action lawsuits in Virginia.  While Republicans controlled the Virginia General Assembly and held many of these liberal initiatives at bay, Virginia gained the reputation as the best state in American in which to do business and we created hundreds of thousands of high paying jobs.  These and other changes put that status at great risk. 

Here, you can read an article that further highlights the aggressive Democrat agenda this Session. 

Elections certainly have consequences and if the Democrats are able to hold together, they have the votes to make Virginia look a lot more like left coast states and to do great damage to our individual rights and our economy.  Rest assured that I plan to do everything in my power to block these liberal agenda items and to bring to light their consequences for Virginia.  I will not vote to weaken our Second Amendment rights.  I will not vote to put small business out of business by repealing our Right to Work Laws.  I will vote for any measure that threatens our individual liberties.

I do, however, need your help.  Share this and future messages with friends and family.  We need to let our friends and neighbors know what’s at stake and to enlist them in our effort.  You can also help by sharing this on social media or making your own post on social media.  You can help by writing letters to the editor or calling talk radio.

Hats off to the Democrats.  They did a great job of identifying, registering and getting to the poles new liberal voters, especially in Northern Virginia and Richmond.  We need to do the same thing in identifying new conservative voters across Virginia, motivating them and keeping them informed.  We can do this together and start winning statewide elections again in Virginia.  Until then, as this General Assembly Session is likely to show, we are going to have some bitter pills to swallow.

On a lighter and more positive note, I received my Committee Assignments this week.  I will remain as a member on the Senate Courts of Justice – now call the Judiciary Committee, Commerce & Labor; Agriculture, Conservation and Natural Resources, and will be a new member on the Senate Transportation Committee. 

The majority party gets to decide on committee assignments.  With a disproportionate number of their members coming from Northern Virginia, the Democrat majority shortchanged large swaths of the Commonwealth in doling out these assignments.  Southwest Virginia, Virginia Beach, and the Richmond area were especially discounted in the assignments.  Consistent with what has become the Democrat Party’s base of support, Northern Virginia will be decidedly over-represented on key committees such as the Finance & Appropriations and Commerce and Labor committees.

Friendly faces from home came early to the General Assembly this session, as the Virginia Federation of Republican Women held their annual legislative day on the session’s second day.  Additionally, we had bankers from First Bank & Trust and Farmers and Merchants Bank visit this week on Banker’s Day.  I also enjoyed seeing many of my agriculture friends at the Annual Agribusiness Banquet, one of highlights of the Session.

We are here in Richmond until at least March 7.  My staff and I welcome the opportunity to see you if you are visiting the General Assembly.  My office is Room 502E in the Pocahontas Building.    You can always let me know your views on any of the issues before the General Assembly by emailing me at mark@markobenshain.com or by calling my district office in Harrisonburg at 540-437-1451 or my General Assembly Office in Richmond at 804-698-7526.

Have a great week and more updates coming soon!

Best,

Mark Obenshain