Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Legislative Update: Session is Underway

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Robert —

Greetings from Richmond!  With week two of the 2015 General Assembly session underway, I would like to provide a quick recap of all that happened in week one.  Although it was a short week, with session officially kicking off last Wednesday, we had a lot packed into a three-day period.  As bills begin making their way through committees, the pace will pick up and the days will get longer.  This year is what’s commonly referred to as a “short session,” being that it is only 45 days.   

McAuliffe’s Speech

Each year, the beginning of session marks an exciting time as my colleagues and I gather in Richmond to work on making Virginia a safer, more prosperous place to live and raise a family.  For me, it’s a time to reflect upon the values that we hold dear as conservatives: personal responsibility, individual liberty, small government, and economic freedom.  My constituents sent me to Richmond to fight for a limited government that lives within its means, and I’m committed to doing just that.

I was elected in 2003 and have served under four governors, including three Democrats.  I’m no stranger to partisan politics, but I’ve never witnessed a more divisive, politically driven agenda than that of Terry McAuliffe.  His “State of the Commonwealth” address last week was nothing more than a shout out to his liberal base. 

His agenda includes Medicaid/Obamacare expansion, gun control, social issues and more government spending with no meaningful cuts – he knows this will never see the light of day.  In the meantime, my Republican colleagues and I will continue working on significant initiatives that will actually have a meaningful impact on the lives of Virginia families and businesses.  After all, that’s what the people expect and deserve.

Virginia Federation of Republican Women 

Last Thursday, I was honored to speak to the Virginia Federation of Republican Women on the pervasive problem of human trafficking and what we are doing in the General Assembly to combat it.  This is an issue that we have worked on for several years, and I am confident we will make new progress this session. Virginia is the only state in the nation without a stand-alone sex trafficking statute, and legislation that I have introduced this year will rectify that.

Virginia Agribusiness Council Banquet

Also last Thursday, I attended the Virginia Agribusiness Council’s Annual Legislative Appreciation Banquet where I was surprised, and honored, to receive their “Distinguished Friend of Agribusiness” award.  Agribusiness represents Virginia’s number one industry, responsible for nearly 415,000 jobs and contributing more than $70 billion to Virginia’s economy annually.  I have the privilege of representing Virginia’s number one Ag District, and I am humbled to receive this very nice honor.

Legislative Preview

As far as legislation goes, public safety and economic development are my top priorities.  Some of the legislation that I have introduced this year includes:

SB1187 DNA Expansion – This bill will expand DNA samples taken to those convicted of certain misdemeanor crimes (violating a protective order, sexual assault, etc.).  This expansion has the potential to help solve cold cases and prevent sexual assaults and related crimes in the future.

SB1182 Health Benefit Exchanges - I have never been a supporter of the Affordable Care Act, or “Obamacare.”  I think that we should reform health care to improve access, not endlessly expand a broken system.  However, there are those who are buying insurance through the Federal Exchange, and some are buying coverage only to face unpleasant surprises about their coverage – especially concerning their prescription drug coverage.  This bill will ensure that those Virginians experience a transparent process through which they are given a meaningful chance to review the plans and the benefits associated with each plan – before they buy it.

SB1063 and SJ256 Charter Schools – Once again, I am introducing legislation to enable and expand charter schools in Virginia.  Charter schools have enjoyed great success in expanding educational opportunities and in jumpstarting innovation in schools across the country.  They have been embraced in both Red and Blue states, but for some reason not in Virginia.  Here, it has become an annual pitched partisan battle in which the Republicans are fighting for kids – principally in areas where the existing public schools are failing – and the Democrats are fighting against them.  I hope this year we can find a couple of Democrats in the Senate who are willing to break ranks to join me in bringing Charter schools to Virginia in earnest. 

SJ255 Transportation – This resolution would finally create a binding “lockbox” on our Transportation Trust Fund thus preventing our road money from being raided for political pet projects.  If we are claiming that transportation is a priority, it’s time for us to step up and dedicate this revenue stream exclusively to roads.

During Session, if you have any concerns about legislation or want to schedule a meeting while you are visiting the General Assembly, please don’t hesitate to contact my legislative aide, Jenni Aulgur, at or 804.698.7526 (Capitol office).  I’m always happy to hear from my constituents on the issues that are important to Virginians.  

Best regards,

Mark Obenshain


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