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Sanctuaries and budget

The Second Amendment Sanctuary movement continues to pick up speed. Across Virginia, residents are already sending a strong message to Richmond that they are deeply concerned with proposed and potential Democratic efforts to restrict their Second Amendment rights. As of this writing more than 100 localities have passed resolutions.

Reaction from elected Democrats to these votes has been negative at best. Gov. Northam has warned there will be “consequences” for localities that don’t enforce new gun laws, while Congressional Democrats like Reps. Gerry Connolly and Don McEachin have suggested prosecuting law enforcement officials who refuse to comply, and mobilizing the Virginia National Guard to enforce new laws.

Incoming Democratic Majority Leader Charniele Herring has suggested that localities who pass such resolutions could lose state funding for law enforcement.

Attorney General Herring issued an opinion on Friday in response to a request from Del. Jay Jones, holding that the Second Amendment Sanctuary resolutions passed by more than 100 localities in Virginia are of no effect, and that any new gun control measures passed by the General Assembly will be enforced.

Mark Herring’s opinion is crystal clear: elected officials have no role in determining what laws are or are not constitutional. “It has long been the indisputable and clear function of the courts … to pass upon the constitutionality of legislative acts,” he wrote in today’s opinion. This opinion is in direct contradiction to his own words and actions.

In 2014, Herring was tasked with defending a Virginia law in federal court — a task given to him by state statute. But Herring said no and chose to oppose the law in court. “ … If I think the laws are adopted and constitutional, (then) I will defend them …,” he told the Richmond Times Dispatch in 2014.

Since then, a number of Democratic commonwealth’s attorneys have said they will not prosecute simple possession of marijuana, despite the fact that state law still makes possession illegal.

Democrats can’t have it both ways. Either elected officials have authority to determine which laws they will follow and enforce, or they don’t.

If Mark Herring’s opinion today is correct, he acted improperly in 2014, and the prosecutors who balk at prosecuting possession of marijuana are also acting improperly. If his opinion today is wrong, the prosecutors are correct — but so are the local officials who have declared that they will not enforce unconstitutional laws.

I look forward to the attorney general following up with the commonwealth’s attorneys and commonwealth’s attorneys-elect in Arlington, Fairfax, Loudoun, Portsmouth and Norfolk about the supremacy of state law over the policy preferences of local elected officials.

Gov. Northam presented his budget for the 2020-2022 biennium on Tuesday, and it largely fell in line with expectations — higher taxes and significant new spending. Most of the new spending is focused on K12 education and fighting climate change. The bill also includes $200 million in additional, unallocated funds to be spent by the House and Senate as they see fit.

The governor’s budget does exactly what we thought it would with a Democratic majority — it spends hundreds of millions of dollars raised from higher taxes. Taxes on gasoline and cigarettes will go up, and the Taxpayer Relief Fund that we established last year will be repealed, sending the revenues to the General Fund.

Total tax increases in the governor’s proposed budget amount to more than $500 million, while the end of the Taxpayer Relief Fund takes hundreds of millions more out of the pockets of taxpayers. Governor Northam’s plan increases revenue so much that his budget leaves $200 million unallocated for the House and Senate to spend on unidentified items.

Not all in the proposal is bad. Our booming economy has created more than $2 billion in additional revenue, which can be invested in schools, transportation, public safety and other important core functions without raising taxes.

Republicans successfully passed a 5% teacher pay raise last year, and some ran on raising teacher pay to the national average over four years. The governor’s proposed budget includes a 3% raise.

Meanwhile, the governor’s budget stops well short of the money requested by the Board of Education. Red for Ed VA, a grassroots teacher’s group, has already called his funding level “unacceptable.”

Budgets are massive documents, and Republicans will continue to pour through the governor’s proposal line by line to ensure tax dollars aren’t wasted.

Republicans priorities remain what they’ve always been — a balanced, fiscally responsible, and on-time budget that funds the needs of the commonwealth.

We look forward to finalizing an on-time, balanced budget that reflects the priorities of our commonwealth.

DEL. C. MATTHEW FARISS represents Buckingham in the Virginia House of Delegates. His email address is DelMFariss@house.virginia.gov.