Manassas Journal Messenger | Youth advocates grade legislators

For those Prince William County delegates who voted against the 2005 state budget, report card grades weren’t exactly something to write home about.

Of the county’s five delegates, Republican Delegate Harry Parrish, R-Manassas, scored the highest GPA — a 3.7 — on Virginia21’s report card on educational funding and reform.

Virginia21, a young voter activist group, graded each member of Virginia’s House of Delegates based on the voting record on higher education issues.

Delegate Robert Marshall, R-Manassas, received 1.3; Delegate Jeffrey Frederick, R-Woodbridge, received 1.5; Delegate L. Scott Lingamfelter, R-Dale City, received 1.7; and Delegate Michele McQuigg, R-Occoquan, received 2.8.

Delegates received GPAs based on their 2004 and 2005 voting records, and the GPAs are meant to help college students decide whom to vote for at the polls, said Dan Solimini, communications director for Virginia21.

State delegates are up for re-election in November.

“All of our issues, for instance textbook issues … come straight from what are the new issues affecting their lives on campus,” said Solimini.

Virginia21 based its scoring on bills that, for instance, provide more money to professors and decrease the cost of textbooks.

Two of Prince William’s delegates called Virginia21 a liberal, or Democratic front group.

“They’ve got a right to evaluate people, but I wish they would put all the cards on the table,” said Marshall, who said he supports higher education despite his low score.

Frederick agreed.

“Some of us are very supportive of higher education and of giving college kids access to vote,” Frederick said. “Those of us who have those views are very much [misrepresented] by their agenda to raise taxes and increase voter fraud.”

Solimini said Virginia21 stayed away from hot button issues just to avoid being labeled a “liberal” group.

“It’s not like we took a bunch of liberal bills and are scoring Republicans on them,” Solimini said. “They were are all introduced by Republicans.”

He noted that eight of 14 delegates on the “dean’s list,” which shows those who scored more than 4.0 GPA, are Republican.

One-third of the scores were based on whether or not the delegate voted for the state budget, which included $164 million for higher education and $860 million for public schools.

Parrish, who has been criticized by fellow Republicans for leading support for the budget and accompanying half-cent sales tax increase, earned the highest score of the area’s delegates on educational issues.

“You have got to make a determination as to what needs to be expended for the well being of the citizens of the Commonwealth of Virginia,” Parrish said.

He said he was glad to hear that he’s “doing well” in educational issues.

But Lingamfelter, Marshall and Frederick, each of whom lost points in their “funding higher education” class, said there were other reasons they voted against the state’s budget.

Lingamfelter said he voted against the budget because it had no money programmed for transportation.

Basing an elected official’s support for higher education on a budget worth billions of dollars with thousands of line items was “imprecise,” Lingamfelter said.

“If nothing else they could have sent out surveys,” he said, adding that he supports paying college professors more. “I’ve got two kids in state colleges. Where do you think I stand on additional teacher pay?”

Thirteen percent of a delegate’s score was based on one bill that would have given students the ability to request absentee ballots online.

The bill was turned down, with none of Prince William’s delegates voting for it.

Delegate Jeffrey M. Frederick called it “a disaster case for election fraud” and all five delegates agreed that the proposed bill did not address voter verification and security.

All of Prince William delegates scored 100 percent or higher on their “protecting students” class. The survey offered “extra credit” for sponsors of legislation.

Their scores were calculated on their support for approved bills that mandate studies on campus crime and the cost of college textbooks.

Marshall was Prince William’s only delegate to score low on the “higher education reform” class for casting one of 17 votes against a bill that provides state colleges autonomy in developing capital improvement plans and other ways of dealing with student population growth.

Marshall said that he voted against the bill, hailed by Virginia21 as legislation to eliminate red tape, because it increases tuition.

Still, he lauded Virginia21 for providing students information on his voting record.

“I like the fact that you have groups out there that are trying to shine some light on the legislative process,” he said.


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