Pausing from the hectic legislative calendar to draft this report, I suppose we should not be surprised that our legislative agenda is filled with relentless attacks on women’s reproductive health, on voter rights, immigrants and public education, as well as the promotion of gun rights, including one bill that affirmed the right to carry handguns in airports. We know these issues have reliably energized the conservative base for years. Still, it is appalling to reflect on the impact that the recent redistricting and subsequent 2011 elections have had on the politics of our Commonwealth.
It is difficult to convey the atmosphere in the House of Delegates this session. On the one hand, I know and respect many Republican legislators. I believe they are sincerely motivated by what they perceive to be the best interests of all Virginians and do not intend to trample on the rights of minorities or undermine the values of liberty, fairness and opportunity that are our core beliefs inherited from our Founding Fathers–many of them Virginians themselves. Yet they tolerate showboating floor speeches and harsh legislation introduced by the inflexible minority who are dedicated to imposing their personal social agenda on all of us.
To listen to the debate on the House floor, it would seem that the chief threats to this state are the vicious criminal acts by fictitious illegal immigrants, the non-existent and yet”widespread” voter fraud, and the need to codify exactly which invasive procedures must be used in women’s reproductive health care services. And add to this list the damage our children suffer from the “bad teachers” who seemingly are pervasive in our public education system. I barely exaggerate. Bills have passed in the House of Delegates addressing each of these subjects.The bill aimed at “bad teachers” is representative. HB 576 would mandate a series of exhaustive and expensive teacher evaluations at the end of each year, while eliminating “continuing contracts,” which when renewed by April 15th, as is the current practice, provide teachers the security that they will be employed for the following school year. Rather, the proponents of this bill favor, literally, handing so-called “bad teachers” pink slips on June 15th as they walk out the schoolhouse door for summer vacation. Of course, this is multi-layered evaluation procedure is another “unfunded mandate” requiring an ever-expanding education bureaucracy which the sponsors of the legislation would impose on local districts in the name of our children’s best interests.
Other notable legislation on the House agenda this year :
● HB 1- Personhood–defines a fetus (from moment egg and sperm unite) as a person –this could outlaw contraception
● HB 321 tax credits for corporate donations to private schools– expected (according to house finance staff) to cost as much as $25 million a year in lost revenue. The Governor has allocated $10 million in his proposed budget to cover some of this cost; but these dollars would debit the General Fund–the source of support for education, and health and social services.
● Anti-immigrant bills – HB 958, H B 1001
● Teacher contract bills: – HB 325 HB 1129
● Women’s health. HB 462. HB 1112
Frankly, so far this session does not seem governing.
Delegate Kory represents the 38th District in the Virginia House of Delegates. She may be emailed at [email protected].