Opinion — Making strides

Published 5:34 pm Thursday, February 10, 2022

Last week marked the fourth week of the 2022 General Assembly session.

We’ve made huge strides when it comes to restoring election integrity for Virginians. For years, we’ve been sold the myth that securing our elections is somehow at odds with protecting voter rights, when – in fact – the two go hand in hand. Voting, at its core, is the act of making our voices heard in the political process. We must nurture that and protect it.

On Thursday, the House of Delegates passed HB 544, legislation that allows voters to instruct registrars to only give their ballot to someone who presents photo ID. It’s a common-sense measure that makes elections safer, strengthens voter confidence, and restores trust in the most important institution in our constitutional republic.

We have also overhauled existing law to make students and schools safer.

As it stands, school personnel are not required to report violent crimes, stalking, threats against personnel, or sexual crimes to law enforcement. HB 4 changes that by restoring mandatory reporting for especially menacing crimes, while maintaining discretion for school officials when it comes to reporting relatively minor offenses. This is a game-changer when it comes to protecting our most vulnerable citizens in an environment where safety should never be a concern.

After a great deal of work over several years, Project Ceasefire is on the floor for final passage on Monday. Democrats have dug in their heels to oppose this bill, claiming against all evidence that it doesn’t work.

What sets this bill apart from the Democratic counterpart is one thing – it focuses funding on a program that has been proven to work. The US Department of Justice has studied this program and given it their seal of approval as an effective program.

Most people focus on the numbers from the Boston implementation — a 27% decrease in shootings, a 63% reduction in youth homicide. In Cincinnati, the program led to a 41% reduction in group-member involved killings. In Stockton, California, the program led to a 42% reduction in gun homicide.

Judge Louise DiMatteo of Arlington County Circuit Court issued a temporary restraining order against Executive Order 2 on Monday, reaffirming the rights of parents in the upbringing, education, and care of their children, which went into effect Jan. 24.

This ruling only applies to these jurisdictions and does not mean localities have to require masks. Local school boards can continue to make their own decisions and should continue to allow parents to make decisions.

The Commonwealth recognizes in § 1-240.1 of the Code of Virginia, that “a parent has a fundamental right to make decisions concerning the upbringing, education, and care of the parent’s child.” Ultimately that’s what this is all about — fighting for the rights of parents, and we won’t stop standing up for those rights.

If you’d like to view a complete list of legislation introduced or sponsored by me this session, feel free to follow this https://lis.virginia.gov/. You can also track other legislation in the General Assembly here. Additionally, you can watch all committee meetings and sessions live, at https://virginiageneralassembly.gov/house/chamber/chamberstream.php.

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