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.


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.


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.

The Jefferson Journal: How California Now Controls Virginia Auto Market

December 10, 2021

By Stephen D. Haner

12/10/2021 — Virginia’s automotive sales market is now officially controlled in Sacramento, with the likelihood that no new internal combustion engines can be sold in the Commonwealth after 2035.

The Virginia Air Pollution Control Board, acting not with discretion but on orders from the General Assembly, voted December 2 to adopt Advanced Clean Cars Program regulations that delegate ultimate control to the California Air Resources Board. Virginia will simply follow Sacramento’s lead in dictating an ever-increasing percentage of new car sales be certified as low emission or zero emission by the CARB. 

Legally it would be similar to Virginia being forced to comply with federal regulations, except these rules will come from and be amended by California and its governor, regulators and legislature. Who in Virginia gets to vote for them? No one.

Legislation in 2021 directed the Air Pollution Control Board to adopt these rules with no deference to the regulatory processes. If you missed the usual public notices or hotly-contested public hearings, it may be because they didn’t happen.  Media coverage has also been sparse.

Low emission (think hybrid) and zero emission (generally electric) vehicles are popular with many buyers already and will likely continue to be subsidized in various ways. Their prevalence was going to grow regardless. But it is California’s goal to ban the sale of internal combustion vehicles and perhaps even low emission hybrids by 2035, as expressed in an executive order from its governor.

If and when that happens, under this new regulation it also happens in Virginia. No local action is required. Perhaps that explains this ecstatic quote from the meeting reported by the Virginia Mercury:

“That is a very significant regulation. It will have a very positive impact on Virginia’s environment,” Mike Dowd, chief of the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality’s Air Division, told the board after the measure’s passage. “If it wasn’t against state personnel regulations, I’d be popping a bottle of champagne now.” 

It was the language in the 2021 bill that overrode the Administrative Process Act’s required reviews and public input that made this rocket adoption possible. That and Section 177 of the federal Clean Air Act, which made it possible for a) California to adopt fleet emissions standards more stringent than federal rules and b) other states to piggy-back on California’s program. 

The Transportation and Climate Initiative, no longer under consideration in the key states, was an effort to control the supply of motor fuels. The CARB program seeks to reduce the burning of fossil fuels by limiting the supply of internal combustion engines. A good explanation of how it works can be found here.  Several of the northeastern states that were to join TCI have already aligned with CARB before Virginia did.

The CARB program applies to the manufacturers, grants them “credits” for the sale of certified LEV and ZEV new cars, and then demands they must expend credits in order to sell uncertified cars. Over time, the number of allowed uncertified internal combustion cars is to ratchet down. If a manufacturer doesn’t need credits for gasoline cars (think Tesla), they become a commodity which can be sold for profit. 

The Virginia regulation, which can found on pages 5 through 19 of the agenda for the recent meeting, exempts the sale of used cars, transfers of existing cars, emergency vehicles, military vehicles, or a car sold in Virginia for registration in a state outside the CARB’s reach. Basically it covers new cars and light trucks under 14,000 pounds.

The General Assembly also adopted a state-funded subsidy program for the purchase of electric vehicles but didn’t identify a funding source.  With the generous customer rebates on the table, Virginia’s auto dealers joined in pushing for both the subsides and the alignment with CARB. Auto Dealers Association President Don Hall put its arguments in a guest column for the Richmond Times-Dispatch during the session, and also advocated tax-funded charging infrastructure.

“If Virginia wants to emulate California, the commonwealth also must match California’s investment. A conservative estimate of California’s financial commitment to the EV market — primarily through incentives and infrastructure — roughly is $3.5 billion,” Hall wrote. He said Virginia needs to spend $720 million over five years.

Long-term operating costs may or may not offset the bite, but these hybrid and all-electric vehicles right now sell for a premium price over internal combustion vehicles. The financial benefit to auto dealers of forcing manufacturers to build more of the former and fewer of the latter is obvious.

The expected increase in electricity demand and related transmission expansions is not exactly breaking hearts among utility executives, either.  

The added gasoline taxes from the abandoned Transportation and Climate Initiative might have paid for the proposed Virginia electric vehicle subsidies or that charging infrastructure. Governor Ralph Northam, who embraced the subsides and this delegation of regulatory control to California, has one more budget to propose next week. Massive federal funds for those purposes are part of the Biden Administration “Build Back Better” proposal languishing in the U.S. Senate.

Northam could use his budget to propose a way to start paying the subsidies with state or federal funding. It will actually be telling if he fails to do so. But no additional state funding is needed to begin to implement the California vehicle fleet rules. It would take new legislation now to prevent it. 

Stephen D. Haner is Senior Fellow with the Thomas Jefferson Institute for Public Policy. He may be reached at [email protected]

Early In Person Voting Information

September 15, 2021

While Election Day is not until Tuesday, November 2, 2021in-person early voting begins Friday, September 17th. Your in-person early voting location is most likely different from your usual polling place on Election Day. To find out more details and where you need to go to vote early in-person here is the information for the localities in my district: 


You may vote early in City Hall (409 South Main St.) beginning 45 days before Election Day and ending the Saturday before Election Day. To vote absentee in person you must be a registered voter of Harrisonburg, provide your name and address, and show an acceptable form of ID. Early voting is open Monday through Friday, 8:30am until 4:30pm, and the last two Saturdays from 8:30am until 4:30pm.

*Curbside voting is also available in the main parking lot of City Hall. When you arrive call the Registrar’s office at 540-432-7707 to let us know that you need curbside service.

Learn more:


In-person, early voting for Rockingham County voters will be available at the locations, dates, and hours listed below beginning Friday, September 17, and ending Saturday, October 30.

20 East Gay Street, Harrisonburg 22802

Monday-Friday, 8:00 AM-4:00 PM.

This Voter Registrar’s office will also be open on Saturday, October 23, and Saturday, October 30, from 8:00 AM-4:00 PM, for in-person, early voting.

Learn more:—November-2-2021-General–Special-Elections


In-person, early voting for Page County voters will be available at the following location beginning Friday, September 17, 2021, and ending Saturday, October 30, 2021, from 8:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. Voting will not be available on Monday, October 11, 2021, because offices will be closed due to Columbus Day.

103 South Court Street, Luray (County Government Center) lower level. Watch for signs. If you need assistance, please call 540-743-3986 and someone will be available to help you.

Learn more:


In-person early voting will be available at the following location for the Nov. 2, 2021 General & Special Election:

Office of Voter Registration & Elections, 600 N. Main Street, Suite 103, Woodstock, VA 22644

Early voting will begin Friday, September 17 at the office and will continue Mon-Fri 8:30 AM to 4:30 PM until Oct. 30

Voting will not be available on Monday, October 11, 2021, because offices will be closed due to Columbus Day.

Learn more:


In-person, early voting will be available at the following location for the November 2, 2021, General and Special Elections:


In-Person Early No-Excuse Voting will begin on September 17, 2021 at the Office of Elections and Voter Registration. The hours are Monday through Friday from 9:00 AM – 5:00 PM, until Saturday, October 30, 2021.

The Warren County Office of Elections and Voter Registration will also be open on Saturday, October 23, 2021 and Saturday, October 30, 2021 from 9:00 AM – 5:00 PM.

Learn more:


Located at 262A Gay Street Washington VA 22747

Monday – Friday, September 17 – October 29, 2021: 8 a.m.-4 p.m.
Saturday, October 23 & October 30, 2021: 8 a.m.-4 p.m.

Saturday October 30, 2021: Last day to vote an In-Person (early) absentee ballot at the Rappahannock County Voter Registration Office.

 Learn more:

Other important election related dates to remember: 

October 12:  deadline to register to vote or update an existing registration

October 22:  deadline to apply for a ballot to be mailed to you. Not that your voter registration office must receive your request by 5:00 p.m.

October 30:   last day of in-person early voting

After voting against it earlier this year, Torian now says he supports repealing right-to-work

September 9, 2021

SEP 7, 2021 | VA Scope

In an election season reversal, a powerful Democrat in the House of Delegates now says repealing Virginia’s right-to-work law is a priority to him. This comes just months after he voted to kill the legislation that would have repealed the law earlier this year.

House Appropriations Chairman Luke Torian D-Prince William said in a newsletter sent to supporters on Labor Day that repealing Virginia’s right-to-work law is a priority for him. But that opportunity was before Torian earlier this year when Del. Lee Carter D-Manassas was able to get the bill on the House floor for a vote. The legislation was eventually killed on a vote of 83-13, with Torian being one of the 83 who voted against it.

The news of Torian’s reversal was first tweeted by Ben Paviour of VPM News. 

“It’s an incredible turn-around from chastising me for introducing the bill in 2019 to campaigning on it in 2021,” Carter said in an interview Tuesday. 

Carter is a self-described socialist and was defeated in his House primary earlier this summer by a more moderate candidate. He pushed for repealing the right-to-work for most of his two terms in the House. “I’m glad so many people are coming around,” he said Tuesday. 

But even after leading the charge for repealing right-to-work and losing his seat, Carter says the law still needs to be thrown out. “The law was designed to exploit racial tensions to stop working people from cooperating to fight for a better life,” Carter said. “It was terrible 70 years ago, it’s terrible now, and it’s got to go.”

Right-to-work is not a concept that is necessarily easy to grasp due to the misleading name. The law keeps unions from requiring membership at a place of employment which prevents the employees from effectively unionizing. Employees can still form a union, but they are not compelled to and employers are always free to hire non-union workers. 

28 states have right-to-work laws on the books. 

The House Republican Caucus sent out a statement Tuesday afternoon denouncing the statement from Torian. “When the Chairman of Appropriations speaks, members of the majority listen. This is a clear signal that if they hold the majority, House Democrats will push through Right to Work repeal, creating compulsory union membership for Virginians,” said Garren Shipley, a spokesman for the House Republican Caucus. “Workers who want to make their own choice on union membership should vote accordingly.”

Torian is a powerful Democrat in the House, chairing the committee that decides which legislation receives funding in the General Assembly. His campaign did not respond to a request for comment. 

The office of Speaker of the House Eileen Filler-Corn also did not respond to questions. 

“Luke Torian made clear that Virginia House Democrats are poised to repeal right-to-work if they win in November,” said Cally Perkins, a spokesperson for the Republican State Leadership Committee (RSLC). “The Democrats who voted against right-to-work repeal in February should stop pandering to their fringe base and denounce Torian’s new position.”

AFL-CIO, the largest federation of unions in the United States, says that this law makes life harder for working families. “The real purpose of ‘Right to Work’ laws is to tilt the balance toward big corporations and further rig the system at the expense of working families,” they say on their website

Torian also stated in the email to his supporters that he will prioritize paid leave for all, collective bargaining for employees, paid sick days, and increasing the minimum wage to $15/hr. He is facing a second challenge from Republican Maria Martin this November after defeating her by 47 points in 2019. 

All 100 House seats are up for election this November as well as governor, lieutenant governor, and attorney general. Early voting begins in less than two weeks on Sept. 17. 

James Madison University trains students that Christians, White males are ‘oppressors’

August 20, 2021

Student employees were taught oppressors have the power to define reality for themselves and others

By Jessica Chasmar| Fox News

FIRST ON FOX: James Madison University in Virginia is training student employees to recognize that people who identify as male, straight, cisgender, or Christian are “oppressors” that engage in the “systematic subjugation” of other social groups.

According to documents obtained by Fox News, student employees in charge of facilitating orientation for first-year students this fall at JMU underwent training in recent weeks to learn about social justice and inclusion. 

training video mandated for student staff, hosted by coordinators Jessica Weed and Jennifer Iwerks, described oppression as “the systematic subjugation of one social group by a more powerful social group for the social, economic and political benefit of the more powerful social group.”

The video defined an “oppressor” group as one that has the power to define reality for themselves and others, and in turn, the “target” groups “take in and internalize the negative messages about them and end up cooperating with the oppressors (thinking and acting like them).”

The presentation defined privilege as the “unearned social power accorded by the formal and informal institutions of society to ALL members of a dominant group at the expense of targeted groups.” It also said members of both the oppressor and target groups are “socialized to play their roles as normal and correct.”

The JMU training materials listed the various races and nationalities they considered “privileged” or “agents” and those they characterized as “oppressed” or “targets.” Among the privileged, according to the presentation, are people who identify as male, cisgender, heterosexual, heteroromantic, Christian, White, Western European, American, upper to middle class, thin/athletic build, able-bodied, or ages 30s to early 50s.

Among the oppressed groups, according to the presentation, are people who identify as Black, Asian, Latinx, non-Western European, LGBTQ+, homoromantic, Muslim, Jewish, working class, overweight, or disabled, among others.

After the training was completed, student employees were sent an email instructing them to “not share these materials with others.”

A JMU spokesperson told Fox News in a statement that the training was an “opportunity” for students who work in the Office of Student Affairs. 

“The training was held to help ensure that every student guide for freshmen orientation had the tools and understanding to work with incoming students, who might have a different background than their own,” the statement read. “At JMU, we strive to create an inclusive and welcoming community for all students. We also seek feedback on the training to constantly work on improving how we communicate and train student staff members.”

Defend Our Law Enforcement

August 5, 2021

I’m in Richmond for the Special Session that Governor Northam called to allocate the over $4 billion in federal relief money that Virginia received.

He might as well have just called the Democrats to Richmond because we Republicans have had little to no ability to advocate for any of our priorities. 

Despite this, we fought for increased funding for law enforcement – sheriff’s deputies, state police and local police departments. Over the opposition of nearly all Democrats in the Senate, we managed to carry the day for and win more funding for deputies, but not for the other men and women who are on the front lines, keeping our communities safe. Even the funding for deputies has a long way to travel. House Democrats unanimously rejected a similar proposal in constructing their budget. 

Will you chip in $100, $50, $25, or even $10 today to help us stand up to liberals who want to silence our support for law enforcement and continue to take away police funding?

This is an incredibly important issue as across the nation we see time and time again police officers disrespected, discredited, underpaid, and devalued.
 Chip in today if you can! 

Mark Obenshain

Wait, were these CNBC or MSNBC Rankings?

July 16, 2021


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

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

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

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

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

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

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



Mark Obenshain

Businesses Unable to Fill Job Openings

June 4, 2021

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

NFIB Chief Economist
William Dunkelberg

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Click here to view the entire NFIB Jobs Report

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