In marked contrast to years past, when bills, particularly progressive ones died quietly and by unrecorded voice votes. The General Assembly’s committee’s proceedings (and votes) are now being officially recorded for the first time.
And while Republican’s controlling the General Assembly would have you believe that they are finally responding to a long standing public outcry for transparency in how the Commonwealth’s legislative bodies conduct their business.
Another interpretation is that after being publicly shamed last year by the efforts of Progress Virginia, a nonprofit dedicated to furthering progressive causes, who started doing what the General Assembly has refused to do for years: video recording, live-streaming and archiving committee hearings, on their website; EyesOnRichmond.org.
This legislative session, despite having slim majorities in both the House and the Senate, Republicans in the Virginia’s General Assembly are determined to keep their thumbs firmly pressed down on the scale ensuring absolute control over which bills make it to the floor.
So expect to see many progressive bills like this, and like these die in plain sight in these committees, on federal holiday's like Martin Luther King day and in the days to come.
Where despite the heroic efforts of women from around the state, including Invisible Louisa, should there shouldn’t be much expectation that Senate Joint Resolution No. 4 (SJ4), House Joint Resolution No. 2 (HJ2), or House Joint Resolution No. 4 (HJ4) for the state of Virginia to Ratify the Equal Rights Amendment to the United States Constitution have any chance of making it out of these stacked committees.
Unlike years past; where ERA died because of the rampant sexism and misogyny and visceral reactions against “uppity women,” and their white male privilege being threatened, it will die because they are scared. Their near defeat in the House of Delegates last year awoke something deep within their reptilian …. ahem authoritarian brains.
Where at a subconscious level they understand that their entire ideology and rationale for existence is being challenged, and after years of blind faith support from unengaged and willfully blind voters, they are from all appearances reacting like tyrannical dictators to the fact they have been exposed as populist frauds and tools of their benefactors, and are willing to do anything to avoid coming to terms with that reality.
The first signs of their desperation will start on Martin Luther King day, where you should expect to see many important bills to die long before they reach the floor of either chamber. Like how SB 5 died by a party line Senate subcommittee vote to great fanfare.
One measure of depths of the Republican’s hypocrisy is how 7th Congressional District Congressman Dave Brat took time off from his busy schedule to show his “support” for the Senate Committee on Courts of Justice hearing after they killed Universal Background Checks for gun sales in Virginia.
Nor should anyone be surprised to see the Republican controlled Senate vote YES along party lines for SB 48, SB 372, and SB 493, all of which would allow blanket carry of concealed weapons in school and churches in the days to come, or for the House of Delegates to follow suite with similar bills.
Of greater concern for everyone in the Commonwealth, and the nation is a stealthy campaign backed by the Koch brothers, and other aspiring oligarchs along with their affiliates at the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) for a convention of the states, for the purpose of rewriting the constitution. Their dark money contributions are why many Republican controlled states over the past few years have passed legislation calling for a convention of the states.
So far, 28 state legislative bodies have already passed a call for a states convention, and four more Republican controlled states are on the verge of voting on this issue: South Carolina, Kentucky, Montana, and Idaho. Virginia, Maine, and Minnesota are other battleground states that the Koch's, Mercer's, and other oligarchs are pushing hard to pass this. And they are trying to justify this under the deceptive camouflage of enacting a Balanced Budget Amendment to the Constitution.
When even a staunch conservative like the late Antonin Scalia admits that a convention cannot be limited to one topic, and a visit to the website of Convention of the States Project, one of the most prominent organizations in favor of the convention, reveals that it would be nothing more than device for political and economic sabotage.
It's clear that by limiting a constitutional convention to radical Tenth Amendment solutions would for all practical purposes eliminate the government’s ability at the state and federal level to control any private enterprise. And if passed it would represent a return to Gilded Age economics coupled with a modern day version of the Confederate States of America.
Nor is it any coincidence that here in Virginia, Republican State Senator John A. Cosgrove, Jr. has introduced SJ 11, calling for "United States Constitution; application for a convention of the states; balancing the federal budget. Makes application to the United States Congress to call a constitutional convention for the purpose of proposing an amendment to the United States Constitution that pertains to the subject of balancing the federal budget."
Or that Republican State Senator, Emmett W. Hanger, Jr. has introduced a similar bill SJ 26 with virtually identical language, accompanied by Republican Senator Mark J. Peake’s SJ 31, which codifies the above by calling for the selection of Interstate commissioners and committee procedures.
For those readers living in Louisa County, it should noted that Senator Peake, who represents the most Republican portion of Louisa County, and unless they happen live in his district, they shouldn’t expect anything other than the usual Americans for Prosperity (AFP) & ALEC talking points should they ask him why he has introduced this bill.
Meanwhile over on the House side there is; HJ49 introduced by Republican Delegate Marc Cole, which also establishes how Interstate commissioners are selected and committee procedures are conducted. And it should be noted that in years past, his committee has long been known as an elephant’s graveyard where bills go to die.
Since Cole makes no bones about his role as the House’s designated hit man for progressive legislature, and the Party's determination to push their hard line ideology, I wouldn’t expect Louisa’s freshman Delegate, John McGuire III, or any his legislative assistants (804) 698-1056 to deviate from the Party line on this issue.
Keep in mind that we are seeing take place in the General Assembly this year and indeed with the radicalization of our own Louisa County Board of Supervisors is not happening in isolation. Collectively their actions represent the end stages of a decades long effort by individuals like the Koch Brothers, and organizations they and other oligarchs sponsor to shift and weaponize cultural, political and economic narratives.
Efforts which have been conducted in secret by deep pocketed, dark money groups like; Americans for Prosperity (AFP), the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), and their recent county/city level spin-off the American City County Exchange (ACCE) who are determined to make permanent legislative changes in their sponsors favor at every level, and are currently on the cusp of making their dreams a dystopian reality for all of us.
I would recommend that readers of this blog take a look at this revised piece submitted to our local paper, the Central Virginian back in April 4th, 2011 and ask yourself have things improved or gotten worse?