We are now more than halfway through the session and I am extremely disappointed with what has passed the Senate. Last November, the voters of our Commonwealth elected 20 Democrats and 20 Republicans. But Republicans have claimed a majority they did not earn and have stacked the Senate’s committees. Their power grab has resulted in the Senate passing some of the most extreme, divisive legislation that I can recall.
Some of these bills are so extreme, they are making us the laughingstock of the nation. (This legislative session has made great material for Saturday Night Live; Bill Maher; the Los Angeles Times; the New York Times etc.)
The General Assembly has taken a hard turn to the right – and Virginians will be worse off for it. Never mind that during campaign season, all they wanted to talk was jobs, jobs and jobs. Now, that mantra seems to have vanished. Sadly, I believe many of the laws being passed by this legislature are unfounded in fact, science or compassion.
Some of these bills single out the hard working men and women of this Commonwealth. The Republicans have voted to dismantle the teachers’ contracts and to disadvantage our school systems when it comes to recruiting and retaining quality people tasked with preparing and training Virginia’s future work force and leaders.
Now let’s talk about the Republicans’ extreme assault on women’s health care. Particularly egregious is a bill that would force women seeking abortion to undergo an ultrasound. But because most ultrasounds happen quite early in pregnancy, this ultrasound would have to be invasive. I’m not talking about simple “jelly on the belly” ultrasounds, but rather an incredibly invasive transvaginal ultrasound. I don’t understand how small government conservatives can vote for a bill that forces a doctor to perform a medically unnecessary invasive procedure on a woman against her will.
Beginning in January, conservatives have introduced nearly 40 gun-related bills. I was unaware that Virginians had so much trouble exercising their second amendment rights!
Republicans are even overturning laws that have kept our families safe for the past generation. Twenty years ago, Governor Douglas Wilder successfully pushed for a one-gun-per-month law to reduce crime in the Commonwealth and keep gun-runners out of our state. For the past 20 years Virginians have been able to buy a single handgun each month – definitely enough for your self-protection. And with this law on the books, we moved away from being the gun running capital of the East Coast.
But this current crew of legislators doesn’t respect that tradition. They voted to overturn Governor Wilder’s one-gun-per-month law, and Governor McDonnell is expected to sign that bill soon. This isn’t what the people of Virginia signed up for.
I am also making sure that the budget, which the Senate started discussing this week, reflects the highest priorities of Virginians and the people of our district. As I wrote in my last column, our region’s economy will only get stronger in the coming years, and I am committed to ensuring that the Commonwealth’s budget takes our needs in Northern Virginia into account.
In particular, I continue to fight for our colleges and universities. Higher education has always been a ladder into the middle class for ordinary, everyday Virginians. We need to ensure that we fund a robust university system, so that young people today are prepared for the challenges of the new global economy.
As always, I appreciate hearing from you. I am constantly impressed with how engaged our friends and neighbors in the 35th Senate District are in the legislative process. My office is always open and we welcome seeing you when you are at the Capitol.
Senator Saslaw represents the 35th District in the Virginia State Senate. He may be e-mailed at [email protected]