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Letter To The Editor: Unite or Divide?

Del. Mark Keam says bills in Virginia House of Delegates have been divisive, stray from more important state issues

To the Editor:

As I spent this weekend at home in the 35th District, I ran into quite a number of constituents who asked me the same questions:

        "What is going on in Richmond with all this talk about abortion and contraception?"

        "With the economy still slow, why are you wasting so much time with bills on guns and gays?"

        "Don't you have anything better to do than debate the definition of 'personhood'?"

Well, I wished I had good answers to these and many other questions I received from constituents, but unfortunately, I don't.

You see, even though the Virginia General Assembly has voted on hundreds of bills this session, the only headlines you'll read about are these controversial social wedge issues.

And no wonder.

Ever since the Republican Party gained total control of the Commonwealth's government, cultural conservative issues have dominated their legislative agenda.  For example, here are some of the more controversial House bills that passed this session:

  • HB 1 would legally define “personhood” to include a fetus at every stage of development.  The bill passed the House on a mostly party-line vote of 66 to 32.
  •  HB 62 would prohibit state funds from going towards abortions, even in the case of a severe fetal deformity or mental deficiency.  The bill passed the House 64 to 35.
  •  HB 462 would require women to take very intrusive and medically unnecessary ultrasound without their consent, prior to having an abortion.  The bill passed the House 63 to 36.
  • HB 189 would allow adoption agencies using taxpayer funds to discriminate against gay families. The bill passed the House 71 to 28.
  • HB 940 would repeal the 25-year-old law that bans anyone from buying more than one handgun per month.  The bill passed the House 66 to 32.
  • HB 1060 would require state police officers to ask for immigration status of everyone they arrest.  The bill passed the House 75 to 25.

While the percentage of bills like these might be small compared to other more mundane issues, the intensity of emotions and rhetoric surrounding their debate makes it seem as if these are the only legislation that we're debating in Richmond.

You know a story is big when national political cable talk shows like MSNBC's Rachel Maddow and Saturday Night Live's Weekend Update make fun of the Virginia House of Delegates ...

It wouldn't be so bad if the worst thing about these bills is that they end up getting a few laughs on late night TV.  But sadly, many of these House bills could become law in Virginia this year.

When the House of Delegates and the State Senate were controlled by different political parties, I thought the system of checks and balances worked fairly well, and some of the more extreme legislative ideas were defeated.

But this year, same party controls the House and Senate and the Republican Governor has already announced that he will sign these bills into law.

I voted against all of these partisan measures because I believe these policies will take us back to a period when some Virginians enjoyed less opportunity than they do today.

As a legislator, I believe it is my role to move the Commonwealth forward by making progress, not going backwards.  My goal is to advance laws that expand the rights and create equal opportunities for all Virginians, instead of limiting them or treating different groups of Virginians differently.

I also believe that you sent me to Richmond to focus on the most pressing needs that you and other constituents face in Fairfax County and to propose common-sense solutions that provide real solutions.

That is why I continue to push for incentives to create more jobs and a strong environment for entrepreneurs and small businesses, fight for dedicated funding for transportation and transit infrastructure that help Northern Virginia traffic, and work on meaningful school reform ideas to keep our public schools and colleges top-notch.

I wished everyone of my colleagues in the Republican Majority would focus on these pressing kitchen table issues as well.

Virginians have always made progress when we work together for a common goal.  I'm proud of how far we've come since the days when the law condoned division instead of unity.

Yet we still have more work to do.  And we can do better than these divisive bills that we've seen in Richmond this year.

My life's work has been to bring people together. 

Perhaps we may never come together on some social wedge issues, and we’ll have to continue to agree to disagree.  But I sincerely hope that both sides can now come together to seek common ground on the key issues that matter to you, our constituents.

It is not too late even in this General Assembly session for legislators to focus our attention on creating more opportunities for all Virginians as I have been able to enjoy.  That is what you deserve from us.

Sincerely,

Mark Keam

KEA February 21, 2012 at 11:42 AM
I'm wondering if the voters who helped to elect these Republicans - who ran on a platform of jobs and economy, as I recall - feel like a bait-and-switch has been pulled on them, or if they understood the campaign code all along. It's rather icky either way. Thanks, Mark, for your focus!
KEA February 21, 2012 at 11:42 AM
I'm wondering if the voters who helped to elect these Republicans - who ran on a platform of jobs and economy, as I recall - feel like a bait-and-switch has been pulled on them, or if they understood the campaign code all along. It's rather icky either way. Thanks, Mark, for your focus!
Aimee Davis February 21, 2012 at 12:04 PM
We need to sign this petition http://signon.org/sign/stop-the-war-on-women-1.fb1?source=s.fb&r_by=2655739 and write to Governor McDonnell. He needs to know that we elected him to create jobs, educate our children, and build roads & to not let the social conservatives distract Richmond from this focus!
Joe Brenchick February 21, 2012 at 12:29 PM
Mark, just a reminder that not all of your constituents are Liberals. Some of us couldn’t care less what SNL or Rachel Mad-Cow thinks.
Susan Stillman February 21, 2012 at 12:43 PM
Well said, Mark. Thanks for speaking up. Everyone needs to write to the governor and tell him to veto these bills. http://www.governor.virginia.gov/Contact.cfm His VP hopes will be dashed if he supports these radical bills.
Carol Lewis February 21, 2012 at 12:57 PM
But on these particular issues,you might care what the women in your family and among your friends think. These are horrible laws to most everyone, not just liberals.
Joe Brenchick February 21, 2012 at 01:02 PM
And having read the six bills Mark listed, I see nothing in any of them that I would consider horrible. So I have no idea of what your talking about.
Carol Lewis February 21, 2012 at 01:09 PM
To Joe: HB 1 would legally define “personhood” to include a fetus at every stage of development. (This bill would also outlaw hormonal birth control; i.e., birth control pills.) HB 62 would prohibit state funds from going towards abortions, even in the case of a severe fetal deformity or mental deficiency. (Also outlaw them in cases of rape and incest) HB 462 would require women to take very intrusive and medically unnecessary ultrasound without their consent, prior to having an abortion. (This requires a doctor to use a transvaginal probe on a woman without her consent and even when it is medically unnecessary - technically it is rape: vaginal penetration without consent.) HB 189 would allow adoption agencies using taxpayer funds to discriminate against gay families (My son is gay. So what? Why should he not be allowed to adopt?) It's so hard to explain to some men (straight men) how painful these laws are for women and gays. Try to use a little imagination and see how you would feel if they were directed at you!
Joe Brenchick February 21, 2012 at 01:19 PM
Perhaps we’ll just have to agree to disagree.
Susan Stillman February 21, 2012 at 01:19 PM
Well said Carol. You nailed all the issues. Our legislature is inserting itself into people's lives rather than moving things forward. They are not moving us forward on renewable energy, they are not protecting our small businesses from monopolistic bullies like Dominion Power and many other business issues that would employ more Virginians in good, well paying jobs. We're being distracted from these issues by these ugly, divisive social issues.
Carol Lewis February 21, 2012 at 02:27 PM
Agreed! Have a good day, Joe.
Joe Brenchick February 21, 2012 at 07:35 PM
Meanwhile, my single priority issue is the Second Amendment. Without the Second, the rest can easily fall by the wayside. So it’s nice to see most legislators in office now are in agreement with restoring those rights. For the others I wonder if when they took the oath to uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States, what they were thinking. The Constitution and the Bill of Rights and the foundation our country was built on. Rights the People gave the Government, not what the Government decides the People should get.
Laura B. February 21, 2012 at 07:51 PM
Actually, I wish the ninth amendment got a lot more attention, especially when indignant idiots grunt out, "There is no right to privacy in the Constitution." As for the second amendment, out of curiosity, what's your militia and how well is it regulated?
Carol Lewis February 21, 2012 at 08:16 PM
I'm really not sure why is it necessary to be able to purchase more than 2 guns a month. Surely that's enough?
Carol Lewis February 21, 2012 at 08:17 PM
Oops, my bad. Why is it necessary to purchase more than 1 gun a month? Isn't 12 a year plenty?
Joe Brenchick February 21, 2012 at 08:21 PM
Oh please. That’s already be answered by our State and Federal Supreme Court. Not to mention basic sentence structure tells you, you can’t use a preposition to change the meaning of the sentence.
Joe Brenchick February 22, 2012 at 09:33 AM
Rationing a Right? Why do you need to read more than one newspaper? How many replies should we allow you per subject? Or do you think you should have access to what you want, when you want it?
Carol Lewis February 22, 2012 at 12:48 PM
Ok, I get it. All I wanted was someone to explain it to me. By your logic then, the laws before the Virginia Assembly are not allowing women to access what they want when they want it, all legal in this country, just as owning a gun is.
Bozo February 22, 2012 at 01:34 PM
Can't help feeling that these Republican bills are the best way for convince me to vote entirely Democrat in the next three elections. Any Democrat who will work to remove these regulations from Virginia, if they ever become law, will get my vote. I even promise to not pencil in "Mickey Mouse" when faced with the choice of more than one unliked Democratic candidate. The ones we sent to Richmond were elected to stimulate the economy and produce jobs, not find ways to intrude on women's rights and push their own social agenda. State mandated rape of women is only making a laughingstock of Virginia. And it is rape, no matter how one looks at it.
Joe Brenchick February 22, 2012 at 01:56 PM
Rather than point out the fallacy of your argument, I thought your chosen Nom De Guerre says it all.
Bozo February 22, 2012 at 02:19 PM
@Joe: It is seriously disturbing that you feel it is just fine that a woman will be required to have a foreign object shoved into her body when she dosn't want it to be. I hope you don't have a wife or daughters. Attitudes like the one you have always have a way of coming back and causing grief.
Joe Brenchick February 22, 2012 at 02:35 PM
As a matter of fact, I do have a wife and a daughter. Not that it would change the premise. However, your objection about one possibly uncomfortable medical procedure is in direct accompaniment of another medical procedure which has a 50% mortality rate. And it’s not that women are being deigned any perceived right, it’s that the State will not contribute to it financially. Heaven forbid you should be personally and financially accountable for your actions.
Carol Lewis February 22, 2012 at 02:46 PM
Bozo is exactly right (and I think we can dispense with the name calling, Joe). How can you think that what amounts to the legal definition of rape is a "possibly uncomfortable medical procedure." It's not medically necessary and it's done without consent. Insurance companies won't pay for it. How would it be for men if they had to have a rectal exam and an EKG to get an Rx for Viagra. And just because we disagree doesn't mean we are not personally and financially accountable for our actions. We ought to be able to have a discussion without casting aspersions or making assumptions.
Bozo February 22, 2012 at 02:58 PM
As you've stated in your second comment, you have no idea what the issue is. And I am not going to take any more time to spell it out for you. The other women who commented already described the problem very well.
Joe Brenchick February 22, 2012 at 03:16 PM
It’s always fun watching Liberals go into contortions when they loose a debate. Now I can light up a Marlboro, sip a bourbon and go back to cleaning my guns. My work here is done.
Carol Lewis February 22, 2012 at 03:24 PM
Who said we lost? Talk to your wife and daughter...
Laura B. February 22, 2012 at 04:12 PM
"Possibly uncomfortable"? I have endured an internal sonogram and found it bar-none the WORST medical experience of my life. Giving birth without medication, which I have done twice, was not nearly as bad.
J Anderson February 22, 2012 at 05:05 PM
And the question begging to be asked is why aren't vasectomies getting their due by the one's who want to manage the female focused birth control methods etc etc. Are vasectomies ok'd by the Catholic church? And so when Joe B goes into get 'snipped' (we can only hope right) - he probably should undergo a colonoscopy without any sedative first.
Carol Lewis February 22, 2012 at 07:28 PM
Agreed. What astounds me is this is government intrusion in women's lives to an extreme degree, proposed and supported by the very people who clamor against government mandates when it come to guns, health, and finances.
Julie Tisthammer February 23, 2012 at 04:24 PM
Hahaha. Joe!

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