Opinion — In like a lion, out like a mess

Published 12:15 pm Wednesday, March 16, 2022

The saying about the month of March, “In like a lion, out like a lamb”, doesn’t describe the 2022 Session. It began with fair expectations. With the House and Senate controlled by different parties, predictably signature issues of both parties were killed if they had much political about them. This meant that many of the issues on which Governor Youngkin campaigned were killed by the Senate Democrats in committees. This left the issues that came to the full Senate only those bills that had limited opposition and several bills that rolled back some issues that had gone too far in the last two years. I will mention a few later in the column.

The last couple of days were much more like a lion’s roar. Both the House and Senate were mad at each other; each party, likewise, was irritated by the other. Each body seemed determined to outmaneuver the other, seemingly forgetting that we must operate as a team for the good of the state. That should have been more important than politics.

DIVERGENT OUTLOOKS

Because the Democrats had convinced themselves that Virginia is now a “blue state” and would win all statewide offices and the majority of the House, they were stunned and looked for revenge against those who won last November. The House Republicans and the Governor believed that they had a mandate to correct some of the actions taken by the General Assembly over the last two years and eight years of Democrat management of the Commonwealth. Coming from these two perspectives, we all knew that things would be confrontational.

APPOINTMENTS

It began when the Senate majority refused to approve the Governor’s choice for Secretary of Natural Resources. Despite a sterling record working for the federal government, their reason was that he had been part of the Trump administration. In turn, the House threatened to remove almost one thousand appointments that Governor Northam had appointed to various boards and commissions in the last part of his term in office. Wisely, they did not, choosing to instead only remove eleven. However, the Democrats were not able to focus on the nine hundred and fifty that were approved.

In the last days of the session, they took revenge by refusing to certify the appointments Governor Younkin had made to the Parole Board. To the shock of all, they publicly admitted that they “were going to teach the House a lesson”, regardless of the individuals involved.

The result of this hostility was some common sense bills that should have passed were left without being acted upon.

ROLL BACK ON 2020 LEGISLATION

As I have reported in previous columns, two years ago many vehicle laws were changed from primary to secondary offenses in the name of equity. This allowed drivers to thumb their nose at law-enforcement. These were laws originally written for safety reasons. We tried to reverse much of that action. We were only able to change two. Legislation was successful to crack down on jacked up “Carolina Squat” vehicles and those that have exceedingly loud exhaust systems.

Last year, legislation passed barring law enforcement from using facial recognition software to identify potential criminals. The argument was that the technology made too many mistakes. This year, we were able to modify that law. Officers still cannot use those images in court; however, they can use it to narrow down those that may be suspected of a crime. Additionally, the software must be certified that it is very reliable.

Governor’s schools around the state were established to allow those students who had applied themselves in their academic work to advance themselves, just as our school teams have tryouts. Students were accepted based on their past achieved success. Last year, that was reversed; instead they were forced to accept students on a quota system. We reversed this.

Two years ago, school principals were given the option of reporting crimes committed at school. This was reversed only after at least one rape occurred at a high school and the principal chose to not report it to law enforcement.

BUDGET UPDATE

We were unable to finish the budget before the session ended; however, the rules were changed giving conferees a little more time.

In the coming weeks, I will try to share additional information and insight.

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.