General Assembly 2014 Underway!
Released: Friday, January 10, 2014
Have you ever wondered why it is that we choose to attend the Virginia General Assembly session each year? It’s because we want to play an integral part in the legislative process as bills are prepared, discussed in committee, and sent to the floor for a vote. This process requires constant vigilance and key relationships to ensure successful influence of key legislation. The report below includes our current session update. We also post our mid-session update on vaib.org.
General Assembly 2014 Underway!
The opening of the General Assembly was preceded by two important events. First, the Commonwealth Prayer Breakfast began at 7AM with nearly one-thousand in attendance, including legislators, business leaders, and various other concerned citizens. Second, the prayer walk included various pro-life groups praying for Virginia to protect life from beginning to end. The prayer walk concluded with the “Virginia Stands for Life” rally. Finally, what a blessing it was to begin the longest-meeting legislative body in Virginia with prayer!
After three weeks of deliberation, some pieces of legislation are no longer “moving forward” while others are still “alive.” Out of the nearly 2,400 pieces of legislation introduced, about thirty “high priority” bills are being targeted, tracked, and acted upon by VAIB with another 100+ bills monitored for potential impact. Some pieces of legislation aim to amend the Virginia Constitution and are being “carried over” to 2015 for consideration. Some of these bills would allow for same-sex marriage in the state, but we will wait until next year to actively address these. I do want to highlight a few current bills below.
What Other Legislation Is of Concern?
SB236 - Carrico, Bill (SB556 - Black, Richard incorporated into SB236); provides a limited public forum for student religious viewpoint expression, as when students address a graduation exercise. We support this bill, which passed Senate Education and Health as well as the full Senate on a 20-18 vote not strictly along party lines! There was much lively debate on the floor for this bill!
SB248 - McEachin, Don and Ebbin, Adam; Virginia Human Rights Act; prohibits discrimination for sexual orientation in public employment. We opposed this bill, which failed to get a majority vote (7-7), which means it can only be “resurrected” on the floor of the Senate by a majority vote. Thank you for praying for me as I spoke out against this bill. In committee, there were at least ten who spoke in favor of the bill while I was the only one who spoke against it!
The House also “tabled” all six bills that would provide special protection for sexual orientation. Much of the discussion focused on the need for this protection to bring “the best and brightest” represented by this class of individuals to jobs in Virginia, but rebuttal argued that Virginia is already consistently considered the best state in which to do business and find jobs without concern for discrimination, since many businesses already have such policies in place.
Senate Reorganizes with Democrats Controlling Committees for the Remainder of Session
Because Democrats Wexton and Lewis won the two open Senate seats, Democrats have reconfigured committee assignments with Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam as the tie-breaker on the floor of the Senate. Only time will tell how this will impact legislation that has already passed and legislation still to be considered. Governor McAuliffe has veto power over any legislation that comes across his desk, and a veto can only be reversed by a two-thirds vote in each house. It is very likely some bills that have passed will suffer an agonizing death at the hands of the new governor. Probably the most challenging area will be passage of a balanced-budget required by the Virginia Constitution.
Be a voice!
Many of you have been contacted by email or seen posts on Facebook (find us under our full name) regarding Attorney General Herring’s stand regarding same-sex marriage and upcoming Virginia court cases. If you have not yet done so, please contact the Attorney General’s office by phone at 804-786-2071 and by email at www.ag.virginia.gov/ContactUsForm/ContactForm.aspx to make your concerns known.
We also used the new CapitolALERTS system to activate Independent Baptists on this issue, and I am thankful for all those who responded. I hope to see hundreds more sign up for this email alert system.
Make “your voice for Christian liberties” heard!
Rev. Eddy Aliff
Virginia Assembly of Independent Baptists