Press

Obenshain Releases Statement on RTD Bail Report

May 16, 2022

New Report Shows Democrats’ 2021 Bail Law Eroding Public Safety

HARRISONBURG – Today, Senator Mark Obenshain (R-ROCKINGHAM) released the following statement:

The report out today from the Richmond Times-Dispatch regarding violent criminals being released with little to no bond is deeply disturbing. Senate Democrats in 2021 pursued liberal so-called criminal justice priorities with such fervor that they ignored clear warnings that Virginians would suffer the consequences.

When we warned Democrats, who unanimously supported the measure, that this would be the result, they demurred. Now they say the judges must be wrong. That, however, is of little comfort to victims of rapes, robberies and other violent crimes whose attackers are being released immediately after arrest.

The RTD reports that in Chesterfield County, 48 people charged with assaulting a family member were released without having to post bond in the past 60 days. Additionally, criminals charged with assaulting police officers and malicious wounding have been released within a span of two months in Chesterfield County.

These are a result of the 2021 Democrat law that removed all presumptions against granting bail to criminal defendants, irrespective of the seriousness of their crime. Republicans sounded the alarm then and I opposed this bill when it was before us last year.

I hope that the Democrats in the Senate who pushed for this bill will think twice about opposing efforts to reinstate presumptions against bail for serious offenses after seeing these consequences. We warned against this sweeping approach, but Democrats insisted. Now it’s time to fix this horrible mistake and refocus on protecting the safety of our neighborhoods and Virginia families,” Obenshain said.

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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).

Obenshain Releases Statement on Failure of Senate to Confirm Parole Board Appointments

March 10, 2022

RICHMOND, VA – Today, Senator Mark Obenshain (R-Rockingham) released the following statement following the failure of Senate Joint Resolution 169:

“Today, Senate Democrats voted to kill SJ 169 which would have confirmed 4 out of 5 of Governor Youngkin’s appointments to the Parole Board. The Privileges and Elections Committee reported the bill on March 1 which typically would have been followed by two consecutive days of voting to pass the resolution, resulting in these nominees being confirmed. However, Senate Democrats delayed the vote until today (the penultimate day of Session) presumably with an intention all along of voting down Youngkin’s nominees but a motive to wait as long as possible so as to limit retribution from the chamber down the hall.”

Obenshain continued, “I call it like I see it…this decision is cutting off the nose to spite the face. By torpedoing this resolution, they are ensuring that no paroles are granted until replacements are seated on the Parole Board. Filing a resolution with the intention of killing it is the height of cynicism. It certainly is not consistent with the manner in which the Senate prides itself in conducting its business.”

“I find it puzzling,” said Obenshain, “that this demonstration represents an attempt by the Senate Democrats to double down on Governor Northam’s scandalized Parole Board. Let’s not forget the multiple reports of knowing or reckless violations of the law allegedly committed by members of Northam’s Parole Board. In particular, the allegations that Chair Adrienne Bennett violated the state constitution by not remaining impartial in the Martin case and requesting an examiner to falsify a report.” 

Last year, credible accusations were made detailing violations of Northam’s Parole Board including:

  • Releasing parolees without notifying victims as required by law
  • Releasing parolees without notifying Commonwealth’s Attorneys as required by law
  • Efforts by Parole Board to cover up actions of former Chair Adrienne Bennett who abused her power as Chair
  • Violating an executive order requiring all executive agencies to cooperate with a state inspector general investigation

Obenshain concluded, “Despite the Inspector General refusing to investigate further complaints against Northam’s Parole Board, I’m grateful that we have an Attorney General who takes the allegations of misconduct seriously and urges further investigation and, if proper, prosecution against those responsible for these violations. I just wish Democrats in the Senate would stop playing with the future and career of these qualified nominees which will only serve to hinder the rights of those who deserve to be evaluated for parole eligibility.”

Senator Obenshain represents the twenty-sixth district in the Virginia Senate.  The district includes the city of Harrisonburg and the counties of Warren, Shenandoah, Page, Rappahannock and Rockingham (part).  He serves on the Senate Judiciary; Commerce & Labor; Agriculture, Conservation and Natural Resources; and Transportation Committees.

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

CONTACT:  Jennifer Aulgur or Connor Smith

PHONE: (540) 437-1451 or (804) 698-7526

EMAIL:  [email protected] or [email protected] 

Obenshain Statement on Passage of Elder Abuse Prevention Bill

February 25, 2022

RICHMOND – Today, Senator Mark Obenshain (R-Rockingham) released the following statement following the passage of Senate Bill (SB) 124.

“I’m happy to report that my SB 124 passed the House of Delegates unanimously yesterday afternoon and is headed to Governor Youngkin’s desk for his signature. It’s a travesty that financial abuse of our elderly is more and more prevalent every year. Protecting this vulnerable population has long been a priority of mine and this bill is one more step in holding bad actors accountable for financially exploiting an incapacitated adult.”

SB 124 creates a new criminal offense for people who misuse a power of attorney to exploit the person who they were supposed to be helping and protecting.  When someone gives a power of attorney to another, he or she is entrusting that person with a position of trust and great responsibility. The opportunity for abuse is significant and when that happens, there should be an additional charge for the breach of trust, above and beyond that which applies to simple theft.

The federal government estimates that the costs of financial fraud against seniors exceed $2 billion annually. According to a recent elder needs survey, nearly one in five Americans aged 65 and older have been victims of elder financial abuse. The survey claims that over $36 billion is lost each year to financial exploitation, criminal fraud and caregiver abuse. 90 percent of perpetrators of fraud are known to their victims.

The closer the tie between perpetrator and victim, the greater the damage. A detailed study of elder financial abuse in Utah found that the amount stolen by people who knew their victim averaged $116,000 — nearly triple the haul taken by strangers. Criminals within the family got even more: $148,000. And the thieves who stole the most money — $262,000, on average — were the victims’ children.

Obenshain concluded, “Facts matter and the reality is that this combination of vulnerability and financial means puts elders in enhanced danger of exploitation. I’m grateful to my colleagues in the House of Delegates and the Senate for their support of this bill. I look forward to this becoming Virginia law so that we can continue to tamp down on elder abuse in our society.”

Senator Obenshain represents the twenty-sixth district in the Virginia Senate.  The district includes the city of Harrisonburg and the counties of Warren, Shenandoah, Page, Rappahannock and Rockingham (part).  He serves on the Senate Judiciary; Commerce & Labor; Agriculture, Conservation and Natural Resources; and Transportation Committees.

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Obenshain Statement on Failure of Charter School Bill in Senate Committee

February 3, 2022

RICHMOND – Senator Mark Obenshain (R-Rockingham) issued the following statement in response to the failure of the Senate Education and Health Committee to  report the charter school bill, SB 125 on a vote of 7-8 earlier today. 

“I am extremely disappointed by our failure to pass the regional charter school bill this morning.  It is always hard for good policy to overcome political interests.   Sadly, those paying the highest price for this action are children in a handful of localities with failing schools,” Obenshain said.

“I believe all children deserve a quality education regardless of their zip code.  I consider myself an ‘all of the above’ guy when it comes to improving our education system and charter schools is just one piece of the puzzle. My bill would have extended a lifeline to areas with underperforming schools, giving parents another option for their children to receive better educational opportunities.   There are only 7 charter schools in Virginia.  To me this is completely unacceptable.  We had an opportunity today to really make a difference in the lives and education of children but due to the party line vote, the Democrats in the Senate turned their back on our children,” Obenshain added. 

SB 125 (which can be viewed here) would have created regional charter school divisions made up of two or three school divisions. A division would be eligible to participate if it meets two sets of criteria:  they have an enrollment of greater than 3,000 students and their SOL scores for English and Math in grades 3-8 are in the bottom quartile of the Commonwealth. 

45 states and the District of Columbia have charter schools.   Charter schools have only been around since the 1990s and studies show that they are most successful in school divisions that are not performing well.  They can free up constraints that have been imposed on school divisions and work “outside the box” to provide a quality education to the students they serve. 

“I will not give up the fight for education reform, charter schools and opportunities for Virginia’s children.  I believe that this will make the most difference in the lives of our children, more than anything else that we do here at the General Assembly,” Obenshain concluded.

Senator Obenshain represents the twenty-sixth district in the Virginia Senate.  The district includes the city of Harrisonburg and the counties of Warren, Shenandoah, Page, Rappahannock and Rockingham (part).  He serves on the Senate Judiciary; Commerce & Labor; Agriculture, Conservation and Natural Resources; and Transportation Committees.

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Senator Obenshain and Delegate Gilbert Announce DMV Connect Program in Strasburg

May 25, 2021

Legislators to Bring DMV Services to Constituents

HARRISONBURG, VA – Senator Mark Obenshain (R-Rockingham) and Del. Todd Gilbert (R- Mt. Jackson) are pleased to announce that they are partnering with the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to host a DMV Connect program on June 7,8, and 9 at the Town Hall in Strasburg (174 East King Street Strasburg, VA 22847.)  Services will be by appointment only and priority will be given to residents of the 26th Senate District and 15th House District. Appointments will be available in fifteen-minute increments from 9am until Noon and 1pm until 4pm each day.   

“We have heard from many constituents that they are still unable to schedule DMV appointments for two months or more.  These delays are a result of the Governor’s unwillingness to fully re-open DMV offices across the Commonwealth.  Citizens need to be able to efficiently access DMV services and I am proud that Delegate Gilbert and I were able to partner with the Town of Strasburg to bring the DMV Connect program to our districts, “ Obenshain said.

“I am pleased that Senator Obenshain and I are able to bring the DMV Connect program to the Strasburg area. With many of our constituents experiencing unduly delays in attempting to schedule timely appointments at the DMV, we appreciate the collaboration with the Town of Strasburg to help provide this service,” Gilbert said.

DMV Connect can assist individuals with driver’s licenses, REAL ID, i.d. cards, disabled parking placards, vehicle titling, address changes, vehicle registration and other essential services. Road testing and vital records requests cannot be accommodated at a DMV Connect program. More information can be found at the DMV Connect website.

Individuals can call Senator Obenshain’s office at 540-437-1451 thru June 4 to make their appointment.

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 is a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee and is the former Chairman of the Virginia State Crime Commission.

Delegate Gilbert represents the fifteenth district in the Virginia House of Delegates, which includes all of Shenandoah and Page, and portions of Warren and Rockingham counties. Delegate Gilbert serves as the House Republican Leader and is a member of the Rules and Agriculture, Chesapeake, and Natural Resources, and Finance committees.

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

OBENSHAIN CONTACT:  Jennifer Aulgur

PHONE: (540) 437-1451

EMAIL:  [email protected]

GILBERT CONTACT:  Jeff Walters

PHONE: (540) 459-7550

EMAIL: [email protected]

Obenshain Calls on Governor Northam to Fully Lift Statewide Mask Mandate

May 14, 2021

CONTACT:  Connor Smith

PHONE: (904) 235-3562

EMAIL:  [email protected]

Today, Senator Mark Obenshain (R-Rockingham) released the following statement in response to Governor Northam’s limited modifications to his statewide mask mandate lifting it in some circumstances and only for those adults who are fully vaccinated.

“At this point, everyone in Virginia has had an opportunity to sign up for a vaccination. Virginians can be trusted to decide for themselves whether or not to wear a mask.”

“States like Texas and Florida lifted their mask mandates and reopened their states nearly 3 months ago – after their states’ most vulnerable citizens had an opportunity to secure vaccinations. And they did it without experiencing the surge predicted by the liberal political class and pundits. We need to quit succumbing to crazy pseudo-science and the political weaponization of COVID.”

“Common sense, experience, and science have converged here, yet Governor Northam has persisted in his stubborn refusal to adopt anything but half measures. I am calling on the Governor to end the mask mandate in its entirety, to trust Virginians to make the right choices for themselves and their families.”

“Remember that the mandate covers anyone 5 years or older. Lifting the mask mandate for only those who have been vaccinated still leaves it in place for 5-year-olds, despite a total lack of science to support masking kindergarteners – or at least they would be kindergarteners if the Governor would reopen schools.  The Governor should lift the mask mandate, in its entirety, and proceed to reopen Virginia – now.”

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Senator Obenshain Calls on Governor and NCAA to Relax Restrictions for College Football Games in the Commonwealth

April 21, 2021

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

CONTACT:  Jennifer Aulgur

PHONE: (540) 437-1451

EMAIL:  [email protected]

Obenshain Calls on Governor and NCAA to Relax Restrictions for College Football Games in the Commonwealth

Restrictions Should be Amended in time for VMI v. JMU College Playoff Game this Weekend

HARRISONBURG, VA  – Today, Senator Mark Obenshain (R-Rockingham), issued the following statement regarding this weekend’s upcoming VMI v. JMU College Football Playoff game in Harrisonburg and the current restrictions with regard to attendance. 

“This weekend is a very exciting one for athletics in Virginia.  VMI will be playing in its first ever college football play-off game against JMU in the first round of the FCS College Playoffs.  Unfortunately, due to the Governor’s current edicts on capacity for outdoor sporting venues, and the more stringent restrictions set by the NCAA, very few fans from either school will even be able to attend this game.”

Governor Northam, via his fourth version of EO 72, limits attendance at outdoor sporting venues to 30% of stadium capacity. Furthermore, the NCAA is even more strict with a limit for football stadiums at 25% capacity.  The capacity of Bridgeforth Stadium at JMU is 25,000; and because of these limitations, only about 6,000 fans will be permitted to attend.

“I have strong ties to both great schools and I just want more fans from both schools to be able to show support. My grandfather was a member of the VMI Class of 1930, JMU is in my Senate district, where I was also a tuition-paying parent.  Invoking the same spirt that led Governor Mark Warner to fight for Virginia Tech to join UVA as a member of the ACC, I call on the Governor to go to bat today for JMU and VMI and to get more fans of both schools seated in that stadium on Saturday. The players have earned it.  They deserve to have more fans there to cheer them on in this game.  The Governor is a doctor and he knows it can be done safely! Maybe JMU even can find it in their hearts to allocate another great Virginia institution — VMI – a few more than 500 tickets it has been allocated out of the more 6,000 available.”

Obenshain concluded, “I call on the Governor, a graduate of VMI, to immediately loosen his arbitrary capacity restrictions for outdoor sporting venues.  Moreover, the NCAA has no business setting capacity restrictions in Virginia’s stadiums.  Nor should their limits be more restrictive that those established by state health officials.  Relax the limits and let more fans of both teams attend the game on Saturday! The players and fans deserve 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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Obenshain Says Governor’s Call for Investigation of OSIG’s Parole Board Inquiry is a “Pure Partisan Whitewash”

April 1, 2021

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

CONTACT:  Connor Smith

PHONE: (904) 235-3562

EMAIL:  c[email protected]

Obenshain Says Governor’s Call for Investigation of OSIG’s Parole Board Inquiry is a “Pure Partisan Whitewash”

HARRISONBURG – Today, Senator Mark Obenshain (R-Rockingham) released the following statement about Governor Northam’s announcement of a budget amendment to pay for a so-called independent investigation of the Office of the Inspector General.

“Today the Governor released many of his proposed amendments to the budget, including one to add $250,000 for an ‘independent’ investigation of the Office of the Inspector General (OSIG) and its investigation into Vincent Martin’s parole case,” said Obenshain.

He continued, “To be clear, while the Governor and his clique have seemingly been promising an investigation of the Parole Board and its actions, this is not such an investigation. The amendment clearly states that it will be an investigation of the OSIG investigators who had the temerity to reveal pervasive misconduct by the Parole Board.”

The amendment states that the “investigator” (law firm) is going to be hired by the Attorney General in consultation with the Governor’s office, the Speaker of the House and the President pro tempore of the Senate.

“There is nothing independent about the investigation,” said Obenshain. “It is nothing more than a partisan whitewash of a scandal that has dogged this Administration for the past year. It is pure partisan damage control. There appear to be nearly a dozen official inquiries into misconduct by the Governor’s Parole Board and this will address none of that. It is carefully cabined to inquire into the OSIG’s actions in looking into a single complaint.”

Obenshain concluded, “If the Governor were serious, he would have called for an investigation into the Parole Board misconduct as well as the allegations of an organized cover-up. If he were really serious, he would fire the whole Parole Board.”

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 is a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee and is the former Chairman of the Virginia State Crime Commission.

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Senator Obenshain Comments on Democrats’ Campaign to Block Parole Transparency

February 27, 2021

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

CONTACT:  Jennifer Aulgur

PHONE: (540) 437-1451

EMAIL:  [email protected]obenshain.com

Senator Mark Obenshain Comments on Democrats’ Campaign to Block Parole Board Transparency 

RICHMOND, VA, February 26, 2021 – Senator Mark Obenshain (R-Rockingham) commented today on the General Assembly Democrats to water down legislation (HB2167 and SB1104) requiring accountability and transparency from Governor Northam’s Parole Board.

“Today, Democrats passed a conference report on so-called parole transparency legislation that does little but give the illusion of reform. The Northam Administration is desperate to look like it is doing something to address the growing Parole Board scandal and it urged Democrats to pass a bill that won’t provide any additional transparency until long after Northam and his Parole Board are but tiny specks in the rearview mirror.

House Bill 2167 contains a provision that will delay the implementation of any additional transparency until July 1, 2022. I could have lived with any of the other changes proposed to the bill, but I will not be complicit in a cynical effort to give the Governor the ability to claim that he supports more transparency when we all know that he does not.

This Governor and his administration have consistently endeavored to shield his Parole Board from criticism for its pattern of improper actions. The executive branch has circled the wagons, hidden reports from the state’s watchdog, engaged in efforts to silence dissent and now has enlisted his allies in the legislature in efforts to advance a “transparency” bill that is anything but transparent.

This is part of an effort by the Governor and his accomplices to block any legislation that remotely resembles any meaningful reform that would expose the actions of the Parole Board to any additional sunlight or accountability. I will not be a party to this effort.

Revelations about the Parole Board – both from last May and October, as well as the recent allegations that surfaced this week – point to the need for Governor Northam to clean house and immediately fire the Parole Board members.  Additionally, these repeated transgressions necessitate we act now to impose measures that will ensure accountability and transparency for the Board moving forward.

This is what I attempted to accomplish by filing legislation in the 2020 Special Session, and again this year with my SB 1104.  This legislation received unanimous bipartisan approval in the Senate last year and again this year.  However, the House of Delegates amended the bill to make the provisions within it little but window dressing with phony transparency. SB 1104 has died because I would not agree to these amendments.

The Democrats’ amendments to the bills, would no longer require the Parole Board to confirm or certify to anyone that it has complied with its obligations to notify victims and Commonwealth Attorneys of the impending release of felons convicted of serious crimes. These are the very laws that the Parole Board has been accused of consistently violating and this is the one provision in the legislation that could have prevented further releases of criminals without providing notice to crime victims.

I declined to sign the conference report and asked that it be rejected so that we could get a new conference that would strip the delayed enactment clause. That effort failed on a 20-18 vote*,” Obenshain said.

*One Senator failed to vote on the conference report, but filed a statement that his intention was to vote against the conference report, which would have resulted in a 20-19 vote.

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 is a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee and is the former Chairman of the Virginia State Crime Commission.

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Senator Obenshain Comments on New Parole Board Revelations

February 25, 2021

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

CONTACT:  Jennifer Aulgur

PHONE: (540) 437-1451

EMAIL:  [email protected]

Senator Mark Obenshain Comments on New Parole Board Revelations 

HARRISONBURG, VA, January 24, 2021 – Today, Senator Mark Obenshain (R-Rockingham) commented on WTVR Channel 6 reporter John Burkett’s explosive story detailing more wrongdoings by the Virginia Parole Board, the Office of Inspector General (OSIG), and the apparent attempts to cover up these wrongdoings:

John Burkett’s story revealed that the Virginia Inspector General excised seven pages from a report detailing the Parole Board’s wrongdoings with respect to the parole case of convicted killer Vincent Martin. The first version has been reported to contain shocking findings of lies, unethical behavior, and violations of law.

Obenshain said, “There are three main issues here: misconduct by the Parole Board, violations of the duty of the OSIG to maintain independence, and a clearly coordinated effort to cover up the misconduct to avoid political damage and embarrassment.”

Tuesday night’s story details charges that former Parole Board Chair Adrienne Bennett, now a Northam-appointed judge, asked at least two employees to falsify a report. It also suggests that the OSIG concluded she lied to Secretary of Public Safety Brian Moran. Further, the story refers to another finding that Bennett told at least one Parole Board employee she was purposely going to secure the release Martin and certain other inmates near the end of her term because of the backlash those decisions would bring.

The OSIG is statutorily obligated to study and report to the Governor’s Chief of Staff, the Speaker, Majority and Minority Leaders of the House, and the President Pro Tempore, Majority and Minority Leaders of the Senate problems related to the mismanagement or operation of a state agency.

“In direct contradiction to its statutory responsibilities, the Inspector General appears to have deliberately withheld highly relevant information and damning findings about its investigation of the Parole Board,” said Obenshain. “We should be demanding answers about how that report came to be sanitized. Was it at the instigation of the Governor’s office? Was it ordered by the Attorney General’s office?”

“An Inspector General is supposed to be an independent watchdog, free from political influence.  When an Inspector General is persuaded to whitewash his investigation report or to give a sanitized version to the opposition, nobody knows or learns about the fraud, waste, abuse or corruption.  That is certainly what seems to have happened here.  It smells like a deliberate and coordinated effort to keep the public from learning about corruption in the Parole Board.

“The Governor, the Inspector General and perhaps the Attorney General have a lot of explaining to do. So do Judge Bennett, current Parole Board Chair Chapman, and any other member of the Parole Board who has been complicit in this growing web of misconduct and deceit.”

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 is a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee and is the former Chairman of the Virginia State Crime Commission

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