by Tucker Davis
After four weeks of being called into a special session to reconcile the Commonwealth’s budget woes, Virginia legislators have yet to tackle the $2.7 billion budget shortfall. Instead, the new Democrat majority in the General Assembly is hyper-focused on cutting $51 million in law enforcement funding.
Unlike the Senate, who chose to continue to meet in person at the Virginia Science Museum, House members have chosen to hide behind their computer screens while voting to gut law enforcement budgets and soften jail sentences for violent criminals.
The House Special Session has been rife with technical errors with legislators being booted from the video conference feed while others left their microphones off mute during Gov. Northam’s address to both chambers. The Virginia General Assembly is the oldest continuous law-making body in the Western Hemisphere. It’s where leaders like Thomas Jefferson and Patrick Henry charted the birth of a nation. Now, under the new majority, parliamentary procedure along with open, honest debate over legislation that impacts the lives of millions of Virginians has gone by the wayside. While Democrat leaders have pushed for virtual classrooms for Virginia students, they have proven that a virtual meeting is no way to educate a student and is certainly not a way to govern an entire state.
Not only has the House Democrat Leadership chosen to work from home while tackling these issues, they have also voted to accept their $219 daily stipends which are meant to offset lodging and travel expenses while in regular session in Richmond.
Instead of debating on how to fund Virginia schools and keep them open, the new majority in the General Assembly is focused on removing the school resource officer program. The program was started after a bi-partisan committee on school safety was formed and made a number of school safety recommendations after the tragic Parkland High School shooting in Florida. Now that the political winds have shifted, it has become more apparent that the new leftist leadership in Richmond will callously throw anyone and everyone under the bus for the sake of political expediency–even if that means endangering the lives of Virginia students.
The new majority pushed through legislation that would reduce the penalty for assaulting a police officer from a felony to a misdemeanor. They have passed bills requiring law enforcement to wear body cameras but provided no funding mechanism to pay for the cameras. According to Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police Executive Director Dana Schrad, legislators won’t have to worry about defunding the police this legislative session.
“The vast majority of Virginia police officers are dedicated public servants who want to serve and protect their communities,” said Schrad. “Tragically, we expect to see many officers leave policing and very few new applicants. The General Assembly won’t have to defund our agencies if our people walk away from public service.”
For decades, Virginia has held a AAA bond rating, an accomplishment few states are able to achieve, as well as being named one of the best managed states in the nation and the best state to work, live and raise a family. All of that is on the verge of becoming a distant memory if Virginia Democrats continue down their reckless path of patchwork policymaking and political posturing.
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Tucker Davis is the Executive Director of Virginia Rising Action, a grassroots organization focused on holding liberal groups and their special interest networks accountable and advancing conservative principles. Learn more at VirginiaRisingAction.org.
Photo “Virginia State Capitol” by Ron Cogswell. CC BY 2.0.