The 2014 session of the Virginia General Assembly is in full bloom. Pardon the botanical metaphor, but the abundant flowering that emerges from barren desert following the first rains of the season seems germane. During the “long session” (i.e., the second year of the biennial budget) we consider thousands of bills and resolutions, passing and sending forward hundreds to the Governor. Most legislative activity is very narrowly focused, reflecting the deliberate and incremental philosophy of governance on which our system is based. However, there are always a few proposals with much more ambitious intent.
Last Friday, January 31, the House Rules Committee heard arguments for HB 633 requiring future bills that have a “local fiscal impact” to be introduced by the first day of the new session and HB 529 authorizing the Commonwealth to fund ongoing operations of Virginia’s National Parks in a Federal government shutdown. The Committee also considered: the Commonwealth Commission on Civics Education, the Joint Health Care Commission, the World War I Anniversary Committee, the Advisory Board on Behavior Analysis, the Alzheimer’s and Related Disorders Commission, the Virginia Commission on Energy and Environment, the Joint Commission on Transportation and Accountability, the Commission on Reconveyance of Shenandoah National Park, the Center for Rural Virginia and the Autism Advisory Council.
The Committee also considered resolutions: HJ10, Acknowledging the value of Early Childhood Education and a goal of reaching 50,000 children by 2019 (Note: I introduced this resolution); HJ173, requesting Virginia DARS to support the “Village Concept” as an alternative to institutional care; HJ84 and HJ85 asking Congress and WMATA for tolls on the Dulles Access Road to reduce toll increases on the Dulles Toll Road; HJ175 requesting VCU to memorialize contributions of African American cadavers to training physicians in the 19th century; HJ 148 recognizing the importance of Oral Health for Virginians; HJ205 urging Congress to pass legislation easing access to benefits for Veterans with Agent Orange exposure; HJ 177 requesting Congress to pass the “Regulation Freedom Amendment” to the U.S. Constitution; HJ108, designating February 28 as Rare Disease Day; and 11 (yes, 11!) more, which space limitations prevent my describing. Each piece of legislation is important to at least one delegate and her constituents.
On this same day, the House Rules Committee considered three resolutions HJ27, HJ23, HJ9 and one bill HB 439 to initiate “a constitutional convention of the states limited to proposing amendments to the United States Constitution that impose fiscal restraints on the federal government, limit the power and jurisdiction of the federal government, and limit the terms of office for its officials and for Members of Congress.” According to HJ9 state legislators are “guardians of liberty against excessive use of power by the federal government…the federal government has created a mounting national debt exceeding $17 trillion through improper and imprudent spending…the federal government has usurped the legitimate roles of the states through unfunded federal mandates; and the federal government has ceased to operate under a proper interpretation of the 10th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States.”
I do not doubt the serious intent and constructive goals of the Delegates falling into line behind this national tea party agenda. Still, I must point out that the “remedy” proposed cannot seriously be labeled “conservative.” The grievances cited boil down into two areas: 1) unwise deficit spending of the past 13 years, including the Bush unfunded Medicare Part D expansion, the Bush unfunded wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the Bush Financial System Bailout, Obama stimulus and safety net-related spending and 2) the Affordable Care Act. Somehow, the idea of opening up basic pillars of the system to remedy disputes with actions of both major parties seems unwise.
The essence of conservative political philosophy is to respect existing institutions, law and governance processes. In other words, “change is guilty until proven innocent!” I do not agree with this view, but in this case I find myself on the same side as The John Birch Society. Their representative testifying on this legislation warned of the risks and potential disruptions the Country could face in the unlikely event that we move down this path.
Delegate Kory represents the 38th District in the Virginia House of Delegates. She may be emailed at [email protected]