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COLUMN — Democrat priorities have changed over the years

When I was growing up, I knew my father was a Democrat. In the ’50s and ’60s, if one wanted a voice in Virginia’s government, they had to be a Democrat. The primary in June was when the real competition occurred. The general election in November was a mere formality.

It was the 1960 presidential election that brought things into clearer focus for a young kid. I was in town to get a haircut. I stopped by the John Kennedy storefront office and got a handful of lapel pins because I knew my dad was a Democrat. I will never forget the look on his face when I showed them to him. It was later that I learned that there was a difference between a Virginia Democrat and the national Democrat Party. That difference was very important to Virginia Democrats as they tried to stay away from the national candidates such as Hubert Humphrey and George McGovern.

Things have changed drastically since those days. The Virginia Democrats of today are much more reflective of their national counterparts. They are far less conservative on raising taxes and government spending issues than their forbears. On social issues they are possibly more liberal than even the national Democrat Party.

This is proven with their legislative proposals this year, even more so than the two sessions last year. Consider the legislation they are pushing through on a straight party vote line with not a single Republican vote.

MARRIAGE; REPEAL OF SAME-SEX MARRIAGE PROHIBITION

A decade ago, you, the voters, overwhelmingly approved an addition to the state constitution that a marriage in Virginia was between a man and a woman. They voted to not just reverse your vote but to affirm that any marriage, no matter what, between two or more will be legal.

ABOLITION OF THE DEATH PENALTY

Despite the fact that the death penalty is rarely used, they voted to end it. The floor debate focused on the most horrible examples of why it should remain an option. One case cited was of the prison inmate who tied up and beat his cellmate to death, then went to breakfast. At lunch time he ate his and his cellmate’s lunch before the body was found in the cell. He assured staff that he would do it again if he was not executed.

ELIGIBILITY FOR IN-STATE TUITION

They voted to allow in-state tuition regardless of one’s citizenship or immigration status. This was done with no regulation as to how long they have been in Virginia or even if their families are paying any Virginia taxes. This is something that those 100 yards across the state line in North Carolina would not qualify for. They wouldn’t qualify because they don’t pay Virginia tax. Yet you, the Virginia taxpayer, picks up part of the cost of each student’s tuition.

ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE

They voted to create a new category of regulatory red tape for projects that are designed to serve the public. This will drive up the cost of projects because of new costs of more lawyers and engineers. These regulations would even cover wells for water. Notices for public meetings would have to be made in multiple languages and two months in advance.

These are some of the most questionable bills that made it from the Senate and now will be considered by the House. There are just as many bad ones coming from the House for Senate approval. Any one of these would not have seen the light of the day in past generations of Democrats when they were in the majority for the many years before the 2000s. It will be up to the voters this November to determine the future of Virginia.

FRANK RUFF JR. serves as the 15th District senator in Virginia. He can be reached at Sen.Ruff@verizon.net, (434) 374-5129 or P.O. Box 332, Clarksville, VA 23927.