The Virginia House GOP released a video earlier this week touting legislative accomplishments made during this year’s 46-day session on Bank Street in Richmond. Republicans pushed through nearly $1 billion in tax relief, K-12 and college education enhancements, government reforms, and a myriad of other measures amid the racial and sexual scandals blanketing the Commonwealth’s Democrat-led executive branch.
To recap February’s controversies:
Governor Ralph Northam (D) reportedly appeared in a photo in his 1984 Eastern Virginia Medical School (EVMS) yearbook either in blackface or in KKK robes. He first confirmed that he was in the photo – not saying which one – then backpedaled the day following at a very odd press conference, which included an attempt to “moonwalk” in front of reporters and his wife, Pam, telling him “inappropriate circumstances.”
A yearbook photo was also released of Northam while he was a cadet at the Virginia Military Institute (VMI) in the early 1980s. Placed underneath his head shot was his nickname, “Coonman,” a racial epithet.
Embarking on his racial “reconciliation tour” last week, the governor gaslighted America again, calling slaves brought to America in the early 1600s “indentured servants” during an interview with CBS‘s Gayle King, chalking up his blackface photos to “white privilege.” Moreover, the first stop on his tour had to be cancelled following widespread student backlash at Virginia Union University (VUU) continuing calls for his immediate resignation.
Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax (D) now faces at least two sexual assault accusations that has Republicans in the House of Delegates proposing an investigation into the matter, and Democrats declining to participate in the bipartisan process.
Dr. Vanessa Tyson, a Scripps College professor, has alleged that Fairfax sexually assaulted her at the 2004 Boston Democratic National Convention. In her statement published by the New York Times, Dr. Tyson said she came forward after the news of Fairfax’s likely elevation to the top political position in Virginia as the governor is embroiled in racial controversy, because it “flooded” her with “painful memories, bringing back feelings of grief, shame, and anger that stemmed from an incident with Mr. Fairfax.”
Meredith Wilson, a student at Duke University in 2000, while Fairfax also attended the North Carolina college, came forth days later with allegations that she was raped by Fairfax in a “premeditated and aggressive” fashion.
Fairfax has called the accusations “false and unsubstantiated,” a “totally fabricated story,” and “demonstrably false.” The lieutenant governor has also accused staffers of the embattled governor for leaking the allegations and engaging in a “vicious and coordinated smear campaign” to derail his pathway to the governor’s office.
Attorney General Mark Herring (D) also admitted to wearing blackface, trying to look like black rapper Kurtis Blow at a party at the University of Virginia (UVA) in Charlottesville in 1980. His admission came just a few days after he called for Northam’s resignation for appearing in racist photos.
Although the calls for Northam to step down from office are far-reaching, many have claimed that officials are backing off of Herring to resign for political reasons.
Nevertheless, amid the national embarrassment, Speaker of the House of Delegates Kirk Cox (R-Colonial Heights) reassured Virginians that although “our diverse Commonwealth has been deeply shaken,” it nevertheless “remains economically vibrant, fiscally sound, safe and secure.”
Finishing off the 2019 legislative session on Sunday morning, Republicans were able to deliver on a key promise to return $976 million from the federal Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) to taxpayers.
Under the plan, the Commonwealth’s standard deduction would be increased by 50 percent – the first such change for individual filers since 1989 – rising from $3,000 to $4,500 for individuals, and from $6,000 to $9,000 for couples, primarily benefiting lower and middle-income taxpayers. The plan also preserves existing state law on the deductibility of state and local taxes (SALT), provides additional tax refunds of $110 for individuals and $220 for couples, and much more.
Overall, 70 percent of rebates will go to taxpayers making $100,000 or less.
Despite providing tax relief, House Republicans were also able to secure a five percent pay raise for teachers, which will be included in the final budget.
Primed to increase security in schools across the Commonwealth and protect students, teachers, and staff from harm during emergencies, the GOP also worked to pass a myriad of legislation that created a multi-year blueprint for improving school safety.
Parts of the legislative package would require school counselors to spend at least 80 percent of their time counseling students, mandates that school officials set forth annual safety training in public elementary and secondary schools, develop a case management tools for school threat assessment teams, and provide approximately $12 million to fund school safety initiatives, including additional money for school resource officers (SROs), infrastructure improvements, and technology upgrades.
Built on the 24-point priority recommendation plan from the Select Committee on School Safety, Speaker of the House Cox called the work “groundbreaking.”
The statehouse also passed legislation to lift the age cap on autism health coverage. Under current Virginia law, insurers must cover treatments for autism spectrum disorder (ASD) from ages two through 10, which has placed a difficult burden on families as the average age of diagnosis is between six and seven years of age, according to a report from VCU’s Autism Center of Excellence.
Striking away ASD as the only medical condition subject to coverage limitations based on the age of the patient, the GOP-led legislation means that approximately 10,000 Virginians with autism will have expanded access to healthcare, requiring health insurers to cover treatment regardless of the patient’s age.
While the chaos from the Democratic executive branch may have rendered a stain on the “Virginia Way,” Republicans showed that leadership matters, providing good governance for the Commonwealth’s citizens.