Lawmakers short on cash, not legislation

Virginia’s General Assembly begins its 2003 session tomorrow, and by all indications it will be another ho-hum affair. There are two reasons for this. First, the lawmakers are finding it is almost impossible to introduce new programs, since the commonwealth is still dealing with the Republican-induced budget crisis. Second, as in previous years, many lawmakers are choosing to push narrow measures that will advance their personal religious and social views rather than broader measures that will benefit everyone. This is especially true in the Virginia House of Delegates. Consider:

Delegate Robert G. Marshall, R-Manassas, widely regarded as the most annoying delegate to ever serve in Richmond, is sponsoring an astounding 32 bills or resolutions. As in previous years, many of his bills have a dark, misogynistic tone. For example, Marshall is sponsoring HB 1541, which will subject physicians to felony charges if they perform a medical procedure known as intact dilation and extraction, even if the woman’s life or health is at risk. He is also behind HB 1547, a measure that will make felons of physicians who perform abortions on women under age 18 who do not have parental consent (not just notification). The fact that the woman had an easily obtained false identification card with a different birth date will not protect the doctor from prosecution. Delegate Marshall is also sponsoring HB 1549 and HB 1645 measures that could significantly reduce the number of women’s outpatient clinics that provide abortion and ob/gyn services.

Delegate L. Scott Lingamfelter, R-Dale City, the carpetbagger from Lake Ridge, is sponsoring 22 bills or resolutions, some of which have a pro-military or pro-religion theme. For example, he has introduced HB 1392, which waives the fee for concealed firearm permits, but only for active-duty or retired military (“law abiding” citizens take note!). He also wants special license plates for members of the American Legion, the Veterans of Foreign Wars and for rowing teams (rowing teams?) But this delegate will be known best for HB 1498, which he says will promote “character education” in the public schools. This measure will require, among other things, that the following statement be posted in all public schools: “That religion or the duty which we owe to our Creator…can be directed only by reason and conviction…and that it is the mutual duty of all to practice Christian forbearance, love and charity.” This is a strange proposal, coming from someone who supposedly believes that character education and religious instruction for youngsters should be handled by parents rather than by teachers and other government officials.

Delegate Harry J. Parrish, R-Manassas Park, perhaps mindful that the workload of the politicians is directly proportional to the number of frivolous bills introduced by the members, is introducing only seven bills, not one of which is significant or controversial. Parrish gets polite nods from other lawmakers, but they still regard him as the Cellophane Man (see the musical “Chicago”).

Delegate John A. Rollison, R-Woodbridge, true to his reputation as a moderate, is introducing only three bills, all of which have to do with transportation issues. Over the years, Delegate Rollison has distinguished himself as a shirtsleeves worker who avoids the limelight while working to pass bipartisan measures that favor the broad public interest. That hasn’t changed for this year.

Delegate Michele B. McQuigg, R-Lake Ridge, is introducing oops, we can’t easily tell, can we? The only way a constituent can view her legislative proposals on the Internet is to qualify first for a User ID and a Password. Well, no matter. She hasn’t sponsored any worthwhile legislation since 1998, when she first went to Richmond. There is no reason to assume that will change now.

Gary Jacobsen lives in Woodbridge.

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