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COLUMN — House begins budget work

Last Friday, Sept. 25, the budget bill was passed out of the House Appropriations Committee.

Democrats have spent $251 million over and above the governor’s request and are also cutting $8 million from our local law enforcement budgets.  The majority has all but ignored public K-12 education during the special session. We’ve spent hardly any time talking about getting our kids back in school.

That’s why Republicans are offering floor amendments to fix these oversights. Republicans will put forward amendments that will provide a bonus to Virginia’s law enforcement officers. We will also put forward an amendment to restore the $8 million cut in the Democrats’ defunding scheme. Additionally, we will put forward an amendment to make the READ fund a reality.

A fund of $100 million is available to help students. The funds could be used for computers, tutoring, supplies — things parents need for their children so they don’t fall behind. Democrats have shown no interest in helping students struggling with virtual learning.

Other amendments will move to bring accountability to the Virginia Parole Board by stopping the release of any killers who have not told us where they dumped their victims. We will also put forward an amendment addressing the Department of Health’s “Birds and Bees” anonymous sex information service.

While we don’t expect all these amendments to be accepted, we do expect them to make it clear what the priorities are of the Democrats.

Only a handful of school systems are now back open in person. Our kids are falling behind in virtual schools, and the Democrats haven’t even taken time to talk about that problem. Instead, the majority has decided to spend this session making life harder for police and easier for criminals.

In the House, Democrats voted to make it easier to sue police officers, to let potentially thousands of criminals out of jail early and end “Truth in Sentencing.” They passed a bill that would permanently bar an officer fired for something unrelated to his duties — such as uniform violations — from working at any law enforcement agency.

Democrats could have had a great deal more Republican support if they’d only been willing to accept some common-sense amendments.

A ban on no-knock warrants could have passed with an emergency exception. A ban on neck restraints could also have passed with a “life or death” exception. Instead, they refused to even debate some of these measures and rammed them through the House. The end result is that we’ve seen morale among our law enforcement community as low as it’s ever been.  Agencies are having a hard time recruiting, and vacancies are going unfilled. No one in their right mind would want to work as a police officer under the conditions put forward by Virginia Democrats. 

Recall that this is the same Democratic caucus that spent much of the last session telling us that we should count on police to protect us from criminals — and that we don’t need firearms for personal protection. Now they’re busy making it harder for police to do their jobs. There’s a reason Democrats have a reputation for being soft on crime — they’re soft on crime and choose criminals over police and victims every time.

Early in-person voting began Sept. 18. Virginians will see two proposed amendments to the state constitution on this year’s ballot.

Question 1: The Redistricting Commission Amendment would change the way Virginia handles political redistricting. A “yes” vote supports transferring the power to draw the state’s congressional and legislative districts from the state legislature to a redistricting commission made up of state legislators and citizens.

This is about fair maps, not hyper-partisan maps. This is something that has been a decade in the making. It’s an extraordinary accomplishment to even get it onto the ballot. This amendment is set up so that no one group or party can game the system. Don’t let the politicians rig the system. Vote “yes” on Amendment 1.

Question 2: The Motor Vehicle Property Tax Exemption for Disabled Veterans Amendment asks if one automobile or pickup truck owned by a U.S. military or Virginia National Guard veteran with a 100% service-connected disability should be exempt from state and local property taxes. A “yes” vote supports the exemption.

The 59th District is composed of five counties and all information for your registrar’s office is listed below to aide you in voting for the Nov. 3 elections. In addition to their normal business hours, all offices plan to open the last two Saturdays in October (24 and 31) from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Buckingham County Registrar’s Office is located at 13360 W. James Anderson Highway, Buckingham, VA 23921. Operating hours are 8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday and the phone number is (434) 969-4304.

Del. C. Matthew Fariss represents Buckingham in the Virginia House of Delegates. His email address is DelMFariss@house.virginia.gov.