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House Democrats Laud Budget Passage

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February 28, 2009

House Democrats Laud Budget Passage
Federal Stimulus Funds Help Virginia Avoid More Devastating Cuts

Richmond, VA – Today, the Virginia House of Delegates passed Virginia’s budget in the midst of the worst economic crisis since World War II by an overwhelming vote of 90-8. The hundreds of millions of dollars provided by the federal stimulus package allowed Virginia to avoid thousands of additional state job cuts and significant additional cuts to core services such as education, public safety and health care.

“Without the American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan approved by Congress with President Obama’s leadership, we would have been in far more trouble than we already are,” said House Minority Leader Ward Armstrong.  “Being able to partially fill the massive budget shortfall with nearly a billion dollars in federal stimulus money was an absolute lifeline to the Commonwealth of Virginia.”

“Nearly $500 million in stimulus funds went into education,” said House Democratic Caucus Chairman Ken Plum.  “I am glad that we were able to get serious about our budget situation and go from using magic money supposedly in the Water Quality Improvement Fund to real money provided by the federal government to help staunch the fiscal hemorrhaging.”

“A majority of Republicans consistently opposed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan, but were more than happy to use the money to avoid more politically unpopular cuts,” said Legislative Black Caucus Chairman Kenneth Alexander.


Written by assemblyaccess

February 28, 2009 at 8:32 pm

Posted in Press Release

Delegate Ken Melvin Announces Retirement

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February 24, 2009

Delegate Ken Melvin Announces Retirement
Portsmouth Lawmaker Concludes Distinguished Career

Richmond – Today, Delegate Ken Melvin of Portsmouth announced that he would be retiring from the House of Delegates after 24 years of service. As one of the longest-serving members of the House Courts of Justice Committee, Delegate Melvin has earned a reputation as an arduous defender of civil rights and a strong voice for the disadvantaged.

“Ken Melvin has one of the sharpest legal minds of anyone I’ve ever had the privilege to work with,” said House Minority Leader Ward Armstrong. “He has devoted his career to the equal and fair distribution of the law, and this House will not be the same without him. I thank him for his service, and wish him the best of luck in his future endeavors.”

“I have had the joy of working with Ken for over two decades,” added Caucus Chairman Ken Plum. “He has served this body with honor and distinction, and we will dearly miss his perspective and innumerable contributions. The Commonwealth is a better place thanks to his work.”

Delegate Ken Melvin was elected to the House of Delegates in 1985 and is a senior member of the House Finance, Courts of Justice, and Commerce and Labor Committees.  The 80th House District encompasses parts of Portsmouth, Chesapeake, and Norfolk.


Written by assemblyaccess

February 24, 2009 at 2:12 pm

Posted in Press Release

Crossover Post-Mortem

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For Immediate Release

February 13, 2009

House Republican Record of Accomplishment

~House Republicans Prove They Can Do Something Well – Kill Commonsense Bills~

Richmond, VA –
Today the House Democratic Caucus released a list of bills introduced by Democratic members that failed to pass the Republican-controlled House during the 2009 legislative session. Many of the listed bills were not passed out of committee and some received no hearing at all. It is the prerogative of Committee Chairmen to decide which bills the committee considers and which go unheard.

“The Republican majority in the House of Delegates reminds me of a black hole,” said Democratic Caucus Chair Ken Plum, “Good bills go in, but they don’t come out. This session Delegates from both parties have introduced a number of bills aimed at improving the lives of Virginians. Unfortunately, for the legislators with a ‘D’ next to their name, even the best bills seem to enter the “Party of No” black hole, never to be seen again.

“As we begin the second half of the 2009 session, Democrats are going to continue to work for results for Virginia. I look forward to working with members of both caucuses to solve the problems we face as a Commonwealth, and I urge my Republican colleagues to put politics aside and work across the aisle to keep Virginia moving forward.”

Below is a partial list of bills, grouped by category, proposed by members of the House Democratic Caucus that failed to pass the House:


  • HB2439 (Del. Poisson – Ashburn) would have offered tax incentives for businesses hiring honorably discharged veterans.
  • HB2374 (Del. Englin – Alexandria) would have given an income tax credit to businesses that create jobs related to renewable alternative energies. Neither one was heard in committee.
  • HJ742 (Del. Hall – Richmond) would have established a two-year study to develop a strategic plan that aims to reduce the poverty rates, especially in those jurisdictions with rates above the state average.
  • HJ727 (Del. Bouchard – Virginia Beach) would have investigated ways to combat homelessness among Virginia’s veterans.


  • HB2588 (Del. Englin – Alexandria) would have eliminated the food tax and cut taxes for low income Virginians and small businesses.
  • HB2196 (Del. Watts – Fairfax) would have granted an income tax deduction for certified nursing assistants and home health aides who provide Medicare-authorized home health or long-term care services to individuals in their homes.
  • HB2512 (Del. Marsden – Fairfax) would have ensured that Virginia Military Family Relief Fund benefits would not be taxed.
  • HB2195 (Del. Watts – Fairfax) would have given tax credits to families who care for a mentally or physically impaired relative.
  • HB2522 (Del. Nichols – Woodbridge) would have allowed employers with fewer than 50 employees to participate in the state health insurance plan.
  • HB1903 (Del. Armstrong – Martinsville) would have prevented Virginia merchants from charging unconscionable prices for necessary goods during a shortage.
  • HB1997, HB1959 and HB1960 (Del. Bulova – Fairfax and Del. Mathieson – Virginia Beach) would have expanded access to Virginia’s Line of Duty act and make sure that public safety employees and their families receive full benefits to cope with the sacrifices they’ve made for us.


  • HB1093 (Del. Sickles – Fairfax) would have prohibited lenders from making a low-document, no-document, or stated-document mortgage loan unless they verified a borrower’s stated income.
  • HB77 (Del. Toscano – Albemarle) would have expanded the recordation tax exemption for certain nonprofit providers of affordable housing.


  • HB1608 (Del. Poisson – Ashburn) would have granted Virginia veterans who graduated at the top of their class automatic acceptance to in-state colleges, was defeated in committee with an unrecorded vote.
  • HB2295 (Del. Caputo – Fairfax) would have increased two-year college transfer grants, was also left to languish in committee.


  • HB2496, HB2301, HB1620, HB1621, HB1894, HB2307; HB1988, HB2110, HB2113; HB1644 (Multiple Patrons) Yet again, the House Republican majority quickly disposed of legislation to expand access to absentee voting and create a nonpartisan redistricting process. Democrats proposed a variety of no-excuse absentee voting and early voting measures in order to help assure that working men and women won’t be disenfranchised and ease the workload of local registrars. All were defeated in subcommittee.
  • HJ677, HJ623, HJ182, HJ628, HJ623 (Multiple Patrons) The GOP majority also squashed efforts to restore voting rights to former offenders who have paid their debt to society.
  • HJ702, HB1793, HB1685 (Multiple Patrons) House Democrats patroned several measures to broaden input into the re-districting process through either bipartisan or nonpartisan means – ensuring that voters choose their representatives, not the other way around. Unfortunately, all were again defeated before so much as reaching the House floor.
  • HJ668 (Del. Shannon – Vienna) would have directed the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission (JLARC) to study the legislature and state agences and recommend money saving improvements,.
  • HJ676 (Del. Armstrong – Martinsvile) would have directred JLARC to review the effectiveness of the Tobacco Indemnification and Community Revitalization Commission in its efforts in meeting its strategic plans and goals. Since its inception, the tobacco commission has never been audited.


  • HJ675, HJ704, HJ682, HB2387 (Multiple Patrons) The Republican majority defeated a variety of home energy and conservation measures this session, as well as further efforts to ensure new public buildings are as green as possible.
  • HB2157 (Del. Toscano – Albemarle) would have required all biodiesel sold in Virginia to contain at least 2% biodiesel by 2011.
  • HB2235 (Del. Valentine – Lynchburg) would have created a clean energy manufacturing grant program, in order to provide financial incentives to companies that manufacture or assemble equipment, systems, or products used to produce renewable energy, nuclear energy, or energy efficiency products.
  • HJ682 (Del. Vanderhye – McLean) would have directed the Virginia Department of Taxation to recommend options for restructuring the residential electric consumption tax to promote energy efficiency while remaining revenue neutral.


Written by assemblyaccess

February 13, 2009 at 5:19 pm

Posted in Press Release

House GOP Passes Budget with $133 Million Shortfall

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House Republicans Pass Budget with $133 Million Shortfall
Balanced Budget Required by Virginia Constitution

Richmond, VA -For the first time in its history, the House of Delegates voted yesterday for a budget requiring deficit spending, violating Virginia’s Constitution. The deficit results from an amendment proposed by the Republican controlled House Appropriations Committee, Item 3-1.01 #3h, which proposes a transfer to the general fund of $149 million dollars from a supposed cash balance in the Department of Environmental Quality’s Water Quality Improvement Fund.

According to the Commonwealth Accounting and Reporting System, the official system used to track all state expenditures, the Water Quality Improvement Fund balance as of Thursday, February 12th was $137,718,715.00. Bills for projects under this Fund continue to come in on a weekly basis. These projects are already under contract, under construction, and in many cases, nearing completion.

Between now and June 30th the Commonwealth will receive bills for an additional $121 million which it is contractually obligated to pay. The balance in the Water Quality Improvement Fund is expected to be a mere $16 million by June 30th.

“The budget passed by the House yesterday effectively has a $133 million dollar hole in it,” said House Minority Leader Ward Armstrong. “Including this amendment and passing this budget is highly irresponsible deficit spending. Virginia takes pride in its long tradition of passing balanced budgets as required by our State Constitution. We don’t need the practice of deficit spending coming across the Potomac into our Commonwealth.”

The budget amendment does authorize the use of bonds – however, every single dollar of bond money has been committed by the Commonwealth in contracts for other projects.

The amendment also stipulates that the transfer to the General Fund will not be made if the Commonwealth receives federal funds from a federal stimulus package. However, based on reports from Washington, it appears that Virginia will only get about $81 million in clean water funding from the federal stimulus package. Even if this money could be used to back fill the raid on the Water Quality Improvement Fund, the budget would still be $68 million dollars short. In addition, federal restrictions prohibit federal stimulus funds from being used for projects already funded and under construction. Therefore, federal stimulus funds could not be used to plug the budget deficit.


Written by assemblyaccess

February 13, 2009 at 4:07 pm

Posted in Press Release

Charniele Herring Takes Seat in House of Delegates

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January 26, 2009

Charniele Herring Takes Seat in House of Delegates
Recount Confirms Results of January 13th Special Election

Charniele Herring was sworn in as a member of the House of Delegates this afternoon, nearly two weeks after winning a special election for the 46th House District.

“I am happy to finally put this process behind us and get to work for the people of Alexandria and Fairfax County,” Herring said today. “These are challenging times for Virginia, and I am humbled to have earned their support.”

“We are thrilled to have Charniele with us,” said House Minority Leader Ward Armstrong. “She will bring a unique perspective to our team, and I look forward to working with her.”

“Charniele will be a dymanic represenative for the 46th District, and I’m delighted she’ll be joining our caucus,” added Caucus Chairman Ken Plum.

Herring, an attorney, is the first African-American woman from Northern Virginia to be elected to the House of Delegates.


Written by assemblyaccess

January 26, 2009 at 6:17 pm

Posted in Press Release, Video

GOP Kills Tobacco Commission Audit

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Republicans Defeat Measure to Ensure Effective Government Spending and Economic Growth

Party Line Vote kills audit of Tobacco Commission

Richmond, VA – Last week, House Republicans on a Rules subcommittee defeated HJ626, a measure that would have directed the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission (JLARC) to conduct a review of the effectiveness of the Tobacco Indemnification and Community Revitalization Commission (TICR) in its efforts in meeting its strategic plans and goals.

Delegate Ward Armstrong (D-Henry) introduced the bill based on recommendations from a Blue Ribbon Review Panel report requested by the Tobacco Commission to review its structure and operations. In its report, the Panel highlighted concerns over the Tobacco Commission’s structure and operations and made numerous recommendations including:

Ask JLARC, or other appropriate entity, to conduct a performance evaluation of TICR strategy and investments being made to meet the adopted strategic plan and goal of regional economic revitalization. Use JLARC, or other appropriate entity, to help recommend and implement suitable program accountability measures.

According the Blue Ribbon Panel report, “Using JLARC to evaluate the TICR economic revitalization strategy and assist with implementing outcome metrics and accountability measures would be helpful to the ongoing operations of the TICR.”
The mission of the Tobacco Commission is the promotion of economic growth and development in tobacco-dependent communities, using proceeds of the national tobacco settlement. To date the Commission has approved more than 1,049 grants totaling almost $502 million.

There has never been a performance audit of the TICR since its inception in 1999.

Although he was unable to be in attendance at the subcommittee meeting, Tobacco Commission member Jack Hite weighed in on the legislation stating, “As a member of the Virginia Tobacco Commission I supported the Baliles Commission’s recommendations including the JLARC review.”

“An objective audit by an independent group such as JLARC is not something that we should be afraid of,” said Delegate Armstrong. “Independent performance evaluations are considered a ‘best practice’ measure for private businesses and organizations. We owe it to the citizens of the Commonwealth, especially in these tough economic times, to engage in similar best practices to ensure that these large sums of money are being used and directed in the most efficient and effective ways possible.”

Philip Leone, Director of JLARC, testified before the subcommittee that JLARC was willing and able to conduct the review of the Tobacco Commission.

The Blue Ribbon Review Panel Report can be found online at:


Written by assemblyaccess

January 26, 2009 at 12:15 pm

Posted in Press Release

House Democrats Unveil 2009 Legislative Agenda

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January 21, 2009

House Democrats Announce 2009 Legislative Agenda

Vow to Fight for Middle Class Families

Richmond, VA – This morning, the Virginia House Democratic Caucus announced its agenda for the 2009 General Assembly session.

“Democrats in the House feel the pain of our citizens,” Democratic Leader Ward Armstrong said, “and we are committed to responding to the worsening economic crisis we face. House Democrats are fighting for middle class families in Virginia, working to balance the budget while protecting funding for K-12 education, and spurring our economy with investments in clean, renewable energies.”

“Our caucus agenda focuses on the needs and interests of our citizens,” Caucus Chairman Ken Plum added. “While the talented men and women of our caucus have introduced many worthwhile bills, we are highlighting just a few today.”

The Democratic agenda includes measures to reinvigorate the economy, promoting renewable energy investment and energy efficiency measures, ensure the best education possible for young Virginians, and meet commitments to our veterans.

The Economy

House Democrats believe that we must first examine the legislative branch’s spending to find cost savings. Delegate Steve Shannon has again proposed HJ 668, which directs JLARC to study legislative efficiencies and recommend money saving improvements. House Democrats will push for an additional $5 million in the budget for the Governor’s Opportunity Fund to allow the Governor to attract more businesses and good paying jobs to the Commonwealth. Also, Delegate David Poisson has proposed a bill providing tax incentives for businesses hiring honorably discharged veterans (HB 2439) and Delegate David Englin has proposed a bill that provides a state income tax credit to businesses that create jobs in the renewable energy field (HB 2374).

Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency

House Democrats also recognize the immense job creation potential in the field of renewable energy. Delegate Englin’s HB 2374 will incentivize job growth in renewable energy fields. Delegate Margi Vanderhye’s HJ 682 directs the Virginia Department of Taxation to recommend options for restructuring the residential electric consumption tax to promote energy efficiency while remaining revenue neutral.

Protecting Education from the Economic Downturn

House Democrats will once again oppose efforts to alter the Standards of Quality funding formula and place more of a burden on the already cash strapped local governments. House Democrats will work to make onetime cuts and to find payments to defer, like new textbook purchases, which do not have lasting negative effects on education funding.

Caring for our Veterans

In addition to the aforementioned HB 2439 from Delegate David Poisson, House Democrats are also focusing on protecting those at home who protect us abroad. In response to the homeless epidemic among our veterans, Delegate Joe Bouchard has proposed HJ 727 which instructs JLARC to study ways to combat homelessness in the veteran community. Also, Delegate Vivian Watts’ HB 2192 honors and recognizes those who have given the last full measure.

“We look forward to working with our colleagues across the aisle, the Senate, and the Governor to adopt these important measures,” said Delegate Ward Armstrong.


Written by assemblyaccess

January 21, 2009 at 3:40 pm

Posted in Press Release

House Democrats Score Another Victory for Open Government

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January 10, 2009

Speaker Agrees to House Democrats’ Transparency Initiative
Desperate GOP Again Tries to Rewrite History

House Speaker Bill Howell has announced that the upcoming General Assembly session will feature live floor video from the House of Delegates streamed over the Internet – an initiative House Democrats have proposed repeatedly in the face of GOP opposition.

In 2007, Del. David Englin carried HR47, a resolution directing the House Clerk’s office to broadcast the existing webcast of House floor video to the public at large, as the Democratic-controlled State Senate has done for several years. Currently, the House’s video stream is only available on state computers in Capitol Square.

Unfortunately, the resolution died on an unrecorded voice vote at the hands of Howell and his fellow Republicans in the Speaker’s own Rules Committee. House Majority Leader Morgan Griffith, who moved to kill the measure, argued that any public broadcasting of floor video would only be viable with a full-time legislature and that lawmakers would play to the cameras, as “they want everybody back home to think they’re running the place.” [YouTube video, 1/31/07]

On the opening day of the 2008 session, House Minority Leader Ward Armstrong revived the public webcast idea through a floor amendment to the proposed Rules of the House. “In furtherance of open government, it is absolutely imperative that what we do here be disseminated to the people at large,” Armstrong argued on the floor.

“I would urge that you defeat this amendment,” replied former Republican Caucus Chairman Terry Kilgore. “If you want to stay here a lot longer, than you will vote for the Delegate from Henry’s amendment, because that’s what we’d be doing… we’ll be just like Congress. Every night, somebody will be in here making a speech with nobody else in here and somebody else serving as Speaker up there as they do traditionally on C-SPAN at night.” [House floor, 1/9/08]

The Republican majority sided with Kilgore, killing the amendment on a 55-43 vote.

“I’m glad the Speaker has finally come around to an initiative we’ve been pushing for more than two years now – although it seems to me that his sudden commitment to transparency in government has more to do with Republican electoral prospects than the best interest of Virginians,” Del. Armstrong said today. “In either case, I hope Virginians will be watching.”

“We shouldn’t be too hard on the Speaker — after all, it takes courage for House Republicans to admit that House Democrats were right all along,” added Del. Englin. “Of course, President-elect Obama won the Speaker’s district, so maybe Republicans are adopting these long-held Democratic positions because they see the writing on the wall. House Democrats have championed these transparency measures for years, and I’m glad to see House Republicans now joining our efforts to shine a light on what happens in the General Assembly.”


Written by assemblyaccess

January 10, 2009 at 10:28 am

Posted in Press Release

House Democrats Prevail on Open Government Measure

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House Democrats Prevail on Open Government Measure
GOP Majority Finally Sees the Light on Public Accountability

According to news reports, Speaker Bill Howell has declared that the House of Delegates will record subcommittee votes during the upcoming General Assembly session. This represents a dramatic turnaround for the GOP, which has refused to record the votes since subcommittees were given killing power in 2006.

House Democrats have continually fought the undemocratic rule change since its introduction, but have been defeated on party-line votes each time. [HR48, 1/19/07; Floor amendment to Proposed Rules of the House, 1/9/08]

Delegate Ken Plum and Delegate Shannon Valentine even sent a letter to their colleagues earlier this month encouraging House Republicans to reconsider their position of opposing recorded subcommittee votes.

“Public support for transparency in government is overwhelming,” said Delegate Plum in response to today’s news. “Clearly, a vote in the House of Delegates without binding caucus rules would have resulted in this change. I am pleased that the Republican caucus has finally come around on this issue.”

“When citizens learn that votes are not recorded in subcommittees of the House of Delegates, they are surprised and disappointed,” added Delegate Valentine. “Open, honest government that is accountable to Virginians is critical if we going to address the serious issues facing our Commonwealth.”


Written by assemblyaccess

December 15, 2008 at 4:49 pm

Posted in Press Release

House GOP Proven Clueless on Jobs

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October 14, 2008

Budget Flashback: House Republicans Proven Clueless on Jobs
GOP Claimed Qimonda was ‘in Virginia to stay’

This week’s announcement that a computer chip manufacturer in Henrico County will be laying off over a thousand workers shouldn’t have surprised members of the House of Delegates – they were warned this would happen eight months ago.

Gov. Kaine’s proposed budget this year would have accelerated almost $14 million in grant payments due to Qimonda AG for meeting investment and job creation criteria under the Semiconductor Memory or Logic Wafer Manufacturing Performance Grant Program II.

Unfortunately, the Republican-controlled House Appropriations committee removed this provision, leading to an objection from Henrico Delegate Joe Morrissey on the House floor during the February floor debate. [HB30, Item 105 #1h, 2/21/08]

Del. Morrissey argued that the grant acceleration was needed to help Qimonda keep pace in the “ultra-competitive” field of chip manufacturing. He added that the company has invested $3.2 billion and 2,700 jobs in Henrico County while contributing $192 million in tax revenue.

Del. Morrissey specifically warned that “over a thousand jobs” may be lost if the request was delayed.

In response, GOP Whip Kirk Cox said that “I met with the representatives of Qimonda who were very clear with me that they would love to have this, but they are here in Virginia to stay.”

Henrico County Delegates Bill Janis, John O’Bannon, Riley Ingram, and Jimmie Massie voted with Cox to deny the grant acceleration, along with Richmond Delegate Manoli Loupassi and Republican Caucus Chairman Sam Nixon and Lee Ware of Chesterfield County.

Yesterday, Qimonda announced that it will be cutting 40 percent of its Henrico work force, leaving 1,200 employees out of work by January. Today’s Richmond Times-Dispatch reports that the company’s future is “uncertain.”

“House Republicans, like their brethren in Washington D.C., have once again proven that they have no clue what middle-class men and women are facing,” said Del. Joe Morrissey. “They turned the other way when Virginia workers needed help. President Bush’s economic policies may not trickle down to the middle-class, but his ideas have certainly trickled down to Virginia Republicans.”

The full, five-minute exchange on the budget amendment can be viewed below:


Written by assemblyaccess

October 14, 2008 at 4:34 pm

Posted in Press Release


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Friday May 16, 2008

The Republican leadership has clearly stated that they have no idea how to solve our transportation crisis, relieve congestion on our roadways, ensure the safety of our highways and bridges, or make investments that will grow our economy. When faced with Virginia’s growing transportation crisis, Republicans have only one response – “NO.”

Republicans offer NO plan or vision…

“‘I don’t have a particular plan or vision,’ said [Attorney General Bob] McDonnell when queried yesterday in a conference call with reporters on how he would fix the 2007 transportation plan gutted last month by the Virginia Supreme Court.” [Richmond Times-Dispatch, 3/26/08]

Republicans have spent NO time working to solve the problem….

“House Majority Leader H. Morgan Griffith (R-Salem) said he did not even bother to show up for the second meeting with Kaine and other legislators because Democrats insist on considering only plans that call for statewide tax increases. ‘It’s dead on arrival. Until that issue is put on the backburner, I don’t see us agreeing on anything,’ he said.” [Washington Post, 4/25/08]

Republicans say NO to even considering proposed solutions…

“Del. David B. Albo, a Fairfax Republican involved in transportation negotiations, said Kaine’s plan had a ‘0.000 percent chance’ of winning approval… Minutes after Kaine unveiled his proposal, House Majority Leader H. Morgan Griffith (R-Salem) and Minority Whip M. Kirkland Cox (R-Colonial Heights) predicted it would not reach the House floor. ‘I don’t see anything positive in the governor’s plan that makes it something that’s likely to be considered,’ Cox said.” [Washington Post, 5/13/08]

“[A]nti-tax Republicans who control the House of Delegates suggested the plan was all but dead on arrival. They said they have only to decide how to kill it – ‘whether we send it into a conference or if we just go home,’ said House Majority Leader H. Morgan Griffith, R-Salem. [Richmond Times-Dispatch, 5/13/08]

Republicans say NO to working towards bipartisan compromise…

“‘The governor has the prerogative to call us back into special session and waste the taxpayers’ money if he so has the desire,’ said House Republican Leader Morgan Griffith of Salem. Asked if the proposal would ever reach the House floor, Griffith said, ‘I see it on the floor, but not the floor of the House.'” [Daily Press, 5/13/08]

Republicans say NO when asked to acknowledge the problem…

“‘What we need to do is figure out how we can implement the fees that were structured last year instead of having a statewide transportation crisis created out of thin air,’ said House Majority Leader Morgan Griffith, R-Salem.” [Examiner, 4/4/08]

Republicans say NO to fixing Virginia’s ongoing transportation crisis but Virginians are saying NO to failed Republican leadership…

“Virginia Republicans wasted no time declaring Gov. Tim Kaine’s latest road-funding plan dead on arrival. But they have offered no cogent plan of their own. Perhaps they propose to use pixie dust to pay to build and maintain the state’s bridges and roads.” [Bristol Herald Courier, 5/14/08]

“Partisanship has gotten in the way of any road plan that looked like it had the green light. The Republicans stopped the process cold every chance they could.” [Virginia News Leader, 5/15/08]

“The governor has proposed a substantive, sensible and sustainable package of taxes and fees that would inject around $1 billion of new funding annually into the state’s transportation budget — a minimal infusion, given the massive needs. His program, which he plans to present next month to a special session of the General Assembly, is already under attack from a state GOP whose unrelenting hostility to investing in basic infrastructure is matched only by its contempt for Northern Virginia’s most critical needs…” [Washington Post, 5/13/08]

“The Republicans in the General Assembly have an obligation to shed their obstinacy and offer a comprehensive alternative.” [Northern Virginia Daily, 5/14/08]


Written by assemblyaccess

May 16, 2008 at 3:35 pm

Posted in Press Release

Republicans throw in the towel

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April 25, 2008


Delegate Morgan Griffith Declares Transportation Talks “Dead on Arrival” and Refuses to Show Up to Meeting to Discuss Transportation

(Richmond, Va.) – Virginians throughout the Commonwealth trapped in gridlock can once again thank the Republican majority in the House of Delegates who continue to put their heads in the sand in hopes that Virginia’s transportation problems magically disappear.

House Majority Leader Morgan Griffith was quoted in the Washington Post today saying that he has given up on trying to fix Virginia’s transportation problems and did not show up to a Wednesday, April 2 meeting to find a solution:

House Majority Leader H. Morgan Griffith (R-Salem) said he did not even bother to show up for the second meeting with Kaine and other legislators…

“It’s dead on arrival. Until that issue is put on the backburner, I don’t see us agreeing on anything,” he said. [Washington Post, 4/25/08]

“Apparently giving up on issues critically important to Virginia is what the House Republicans consider leadership,” Senator Mary Margaret Whipple (D-Arlington), Senate Democratic Caucus chair, said.

“We have been working with the Governor and trying to work with members of the House of Delegates on the other side of the aisle to find a solution to our transportation problems. It is clear to everyone the need for a state-wide fix and these problems don’t get solved by declaring it ‘dead on arrival’ and refusing to participate in discussions,” she said.

House Minority Leader Ward Armstrong (D-Henry) was not surprised by Morgan Griffith and the House Majority’s failed leadership in fixing transportation.

“Morgan Griffith couldn’t waste his time meeting with legislative leaders to discuss transportation, but clearly has no problem wasting the time of commuters stuck in traffic in Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads.

“Last year Republicans took the lead on a transportation plan and what they came up with was abuser fees and a plan that was ruled unconstitutional. Now we are trying to work together on a common-sense solution that will fix our transportation problems across the Commonwealth, and Morgan Griffith refuses to even show up for a meeting. This is indicative of the poor leadership the House Majority has shown over the last several sessions,” he said.


Written by assemblyaccess

April 25, 2008 at 4:11 pm

Posted in Press Release

House Democrats Declare Victory on Protecting Public Education

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RICHMOND – House Democratic leaders celebrated a victory today in protecting Virginia’s education system when House Republican budget conferees ‘walked away’ from their demand to drastically reduce future funding for K-12 education. The proposed changed to the Standards of Quality would have cut $78 million from this years budget and upwards of $250 million in the next budget according to the Joint Legislative Audit Review Committee.

“Democrats stood firm in our opposition to cutting funding for public education. We sent a clear message that we will not lower per pupil spending, we will not pass the burden to localities, we will not play budget games with our children’s education and the future of our Commonwealth,” said Delegate Ward Armstrong.

The gap between the national average teacher salary and Virginia’s teacher salary has doubled in the past decade. We have fallen $6,100 per teacher behind the rest of the country. Virginia’s attorneys general have consistently supported public education and stated that our funding formula must take into account the actual costs of education.

“Today is a great victory for those who want a strong, quality public education system,” said Delegate Brian Moran. “We have successfully defeated an ill-conceived proposal that would cut education, hold back teacher salaries and drive up property taxes.”

Written by assemblyaccess

March 6, 2008 at 5:07 pm

Posted in Press Release

House Democrats Celebrate Pollard Victory

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The House Democratic Caucus celebrated the victory of Albert Pollard today as the newly elected delegate from House District 99. Following overnight certification of the election results, Pollard will join his House colleagues at the capitol Wednesday morning.

“We are looking forward to having Albert join us tomorrow as the 45 th Democrat in the House. He is a respected and experienced leader who will proudly represent the citizens of his district and serve as a valuable member of our Caucus,” said House Minority Leader Ward Armstrong.

Democrats have gained 11 seats in the House of Delegates since 2001 and are poised to regain the majority in 2009.

“Albert is a true environmental leader and a strong advocate for his community. He brings his unique background and experience to the important issues facing the Commonwealth. I’ll be proud to serve with him once again,” said House Caucus Chairman Brian Moran.

Albert Pollard defeated Republican Lee Anne Washington in a special election to replace former delegate Rob Wittman who successfully ran for Congress last December. Pollard previously served in the House of Delegates from 1999 to 2005.


Written by assemblyaccess

February 19, 2008 at 8:35 pm

Posted in Press Release

House Democrats pass tougher ethics laws

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For Immediate Release
January 22, 2008

House Democrats pass tougher ethics laws

Richmond, VA — Today, House Democrats led the way for stricter ethics reform in the Virginia General Assembly. A floor amendment offered by House Minority Leader Ward Armstrong received bi-partisan support and passed overwhelmingly. The amendment would ban legislators or statewide officials from attending an event from any organization that had given them a campaign contribution in the previous year.

The amendment was offered to HB322 sponsored by Delegate Chris Saxman. His legislation sought to make partisan issue with the Democratic Party of Virginia holding their annual Jefferson Jackson Day dinner during the legislative session.

Armstrong’s amendment sought to broaden that to all events held by organizations or registered lobbyists that contribute to legislators’ campaign accounts.

“Today, House Democrats led the way for tougher ethic reforms,” House Minority Leader Ward Armstrong said. “Rather than seeking to make partisan issue with one dinner, we believe there should be wholesale change in the way the legislature does business. We are glad that our Republican colleagues followed our lead.”

Delegate Kenny Alexander offered a similar amendment in the House Privileges and Elections Committee.

“It is a great day for the people of the Commonwealth because House Democrats have led the way in fighting off influence from lobbyist and other special interests groups during the legislative session,” Delegate Alexander said.


Written by assemblyaccess

January 22, 2008 at 2:17 pm

Posted in Press Release

Virginia Legislative Black Caucus Unveils Agenda

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For Immediate Release
January 16, 2008

Virginia Legislative Black Caucus Unveils Agenda; Introduces Officers

(Richmond, VA) Today the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus (VLBC) released its legislative agenda for the 2008 General Assembly Session and introduced its newly elected officers.

The VLBC officers for the 2008 General Assembly session are:
Chair Delegate Dwight C. Jones
Vice Chair Delegate Kenneth C. Alexander
Secretary Senator Mamie Locke
Treasurer Delegate Jeoin Ward
Chaplain Senator Donald McEachin

“Getting our priorities right in the 2008-2010 biennial budget is the number one issue this session and the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus will play a pivotal role in that process, given its expanded representation on the two money committees and the number of new committee chairs among our members, ” said VLBC Chairman Dwight C. Jones.

Delegate Jones explained that the policy objectives the Legislative Black Caucus will pursue through the budget and in legislation are true to the Caucus’ stated mission of “voicing the legislative concerns of people of color and other historically underrepresented groups throughout the Commonwealth” and consistent with the six major objectives that form the Caucus’ covenant with its constituents adopted last year.

“These policy objectives are reflected in the broad-based legislative package that we announce today — a package that includes: i) legislation that focuses on economic security issues including pay day lending, enhanced enforcement of the minimum wage laws, and financial literacy; ii) protecting voting rights including restoration of rights to those who have served their debt to society; iii) improving health care by attacking health care disparities and reforming the mental health system; iv) promoting healthy communities by continuing to focus on responsible, common sense gun laws; v) helping to ensure everyone has a home by focusing on affordable housing; and v) criminal justice reform.” Delegate Jones added.

“Our number one budget priority continues to be funding for the proton beam treatment facility in Hampton Roads, Delegate Jones said. And, he added, “the Caucus is united in its support for ending pay day loan abuses and expanding the Commonwealth’s pre-k education programs as recommended by the Governor.” Finally, Jones said, “with expanded representation on the Assembly money committees, the Caucus is looking forward to playing a strong role in passing the Governor’s higher education bond package (which will fund important projects at Norfolk State and Virginia State) and to enhancing the funding for the teaching loan scholarship program that will help bring quality teachers to schools in our communities.”

Economic Security
“As a part of its goal to offer economic opportunity to all Virginians, the Caucus continues to support repeal of pay day lending,” said Senator Donald McEachin (D Henrico). “The average Virginian who borrows from a payday lender gets 12 payday loans per year and pays $840 to repay a 6-month $300 loan,” McEachin said. “We are united with the Family Foundation, the Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy, the Virginia Organizing Project, the AARP and others in seeking an end to this financial exploitation and abuse.”
HB 176 Database for payday lending (Delegate Ware, D Roanoke)
HB 730 Repeal of payday lending(Delegate McClellan, D Richmond)
HB 1404 36% interest rate cap (Delegate Jones, D Richmond City)
SB 156 Repeal of payday lending(Senator McEachin, D Richmond)
SB 670 36% interest rate cap (Senator McEachin, Henrico)

“Enhanced minimum wage enforcement is also a priority for us this session,” said Delegate Dwight C. Jones (D Richmond City). “We want to enhance penalties for the most serious violators and beef up the staffing for wage enforcement at the Department of Labor and Industry and the Office of the Attorney General so that every worker gets the pay that he or she has earned,” he continued. Jones also pointed out that “an added benefit to tougher wage enforcement is that cracking down on sweatshops and wage violators would be one of the most effective deterrents to employers recruiting undocumented immigrants who gain an economic advantage over their competitors by exploiting vulnerable people.”
HB 1038 Minimum wage enforcement (Delegate Jones, D Richmond)

Delegate Lionell Spruill indicated that the Caucus continues to believe that “financial literacy is the key to enhanced economic success,” and said that the Caucus will be seeking to strengthen financial literacy education by requiring 12 classroom hours of instruction.
HB 1272 Financial literacy education (Delegate Spruill, D Chesapeake)

Health Care
Senator Donald McEachin (D Henrico) expressed pride in the fact that the Legislative Black Caucus is taking a leading role in the Governor’s initiative to reform the Commonwealth’s mental health programs related to evaluation and treatment of mentally ill criminals. “Reforming our mental health system is a bipartisan priority following last year’s tragedy at Virginia Tech, and we are pleased that the Black Caucus can provide leadership on this important issue.”
SB 440 Mentally ill defendants; treatment and hospitalization

Delegate Jennifer McClellan (D Richmond City) spoke about the role that the Caucus will take in supporting the Governor’s initiative to reform health care and provide improved access through the VirginiaShare Health Insurance Program. “I am honored to be a co-patron with Delegate Phil Hamilton (R Newport News) of HB 593, which will provide health insurance premium assistance to allow eligible low-income working individuals to purchase health insurance coverage through a certified VirginiaShare Health Insurance Policy,” said McClellan. “This program will help the Commonwealth begin to address the serious problem of the working uninsured in Virginia, and move us toward a day when every Virginian will have equal access to quality, affordable health care,” she concluded.

“Another important quality of life issue important to the Caucus is the disparity in health care and medical outcomes that exists in Virginia’s minority communities,” said Senator Mamie Locke (D Hampton). “We are committed to building healthy communities, and we need to start by ensuring that all Virginians have access to cutting edge health care. Studies show that African American men are more than two times more likely to die of prostate cancer than white men. And, a recent study of geographic disparities in prostate cancer deaths indicates that from 10% to 30% of geographic differences in medical outcomes may relate to access to care. That is why our number one budget priority this year continues to be funding for the proton beam cancer center in Hampton Roads that will bring a promising new cancer therapy to Virginia and to a part of Virginia where the incidence of certain cancers is greatest.”

Voting Rights
Virginia continues to restrict access to the ballot box for thousands of Virginians. Restrictive laws on absentee voting, early voting, and restoration of rights must be set aside in favor of full and free ballot access,” said Senator Yvonne Miller. “We need to do more to assure that all voters can get to the polls and make informed choices once they enter the voting booth,” she added. “That is why the Caucus is again introducing legislation to amend the Constitution to permit greater legislative involvement in the restoration of rights, and to amend our laws to assure fuller access to the ballot box for all Virginia voters, particularly our senior citizens and those without private transportation,” she concluded.
HB 1278 Early voting (Delegate Spruill, D Chesapeake)
SJ 7 Constitutional Amendment; Restoration of rights (Senator Miller, D Norfolk)

Healthy Communities
Healthy communities are communities free from gun violence, and that is why the Caucus is supporting responsible gun regulation that will protect children and other library patrons” said Delegate Mayme Bacote (D Newport News). “It is also time that we finally close the gun show loophole that allows guns to be sold without the community security provided by instant criminal records checks,” said Senator Henry Marsh (D Richmond City). “It is also important that we give police officers information about guns in the possession of those against whom protective orders are entered so that they will be aware of the availability of firearms when they are investigating subsequent allegations of family abuse,” offered Delegate Jeion Ward (D Hampton).

HB 697 Control of firearms, libraries (Delegate Bacote, D Newport News)
HB 814 Information in protective orders about firearms (Delegate Ward, D Hampton)
S 32 Control of firearms, libraries (Senator Locke, D Hampton)
SB 109 Transfer of firearms, criminal record check (Senator Marsh, D Richmond)

Criminal Justice
“Ensuring that the criminal justice system works fairly and in a manner free from bias is a matter of essential vigilance for the VLBC,” said Delegate Onzlee Ware (D Roanoke). “That is why one of our budget initiatives will be to secure funds for a full time staff person in the Department of Criminal Justice Services to work on training and other matters related to bias-based policing and racial profiling,” he added.

“Another area of concern highlighted by the Governor’s Commission on Sexual Violence is the practice of requiring sexual violence victims to submit to lie detector tests as a condition of going forward with the prosecution of the crime committed against them,” said Senator Louise Lucas. “I am pleased to be carrying the Governor’s bill that would conform Virginia law to the federal Violence Against Women Act and end this practice in Virginia.”
SB 164 Use of polygraph on sex offense victims (Senator Lucas, D Portsmouth)

A member of the Governor’s Commission on Sexual Violence, Delegate Jennifer McClellan (D Richmond City), is carrying the Governor’s bill that would end the arcane practice of allowing a defendant in a statutory rape case involving a minor to escape punishment by marrying the child. “It is past time to repeal this law that is a throwback to another time,” said Delegate McClellan.
HB 597 Crimes; effect of subsequent marriage to child over 14 years of age. (Delegate McClellan, D Richmond City)

The Virginia Legislative Black Caucus (VLBC) is a bi-partisan organization committed to voicing the legislative concerns of people of color and other historically underrepresented groups throughout the Commonwealth. The VLBC is dedicated to improving the social, economic, educational, and political status of African Americans in the Commonwealth of Virginia. Among the purposes of the VLBC is to serve as a force to raise the consciousness of non-African Americans about the contributions made by African Americans throughout the Commonwealth.

The six major policy objectives that form the Caucus’ covenant with its constituents are:
· The VLBC will seek to bring economic opportunity to all Virginians.
· The VLBC will seek to protect the right to vote and to make voting more accessible.
· The VLBC will seek to make quality educational programs and schools equally available to all Virginians.
· The VLBC will seek to promote healthy communities.
· The VLBC will seek to assure that every Virginian has a home.
· The VLBC will seek to ensure that the criminal justice system is fair and just.

Written by assemblyaccess

January 16, 2008 at 4:06 pm

Posted in Press Release

Honoring our veterans

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For Immediate Release
January 15, 2008

House Democratic Leaders Propose Military Veterans & Personnel Bill of Rights

Richmond, VA-House Democratic Caucus Chairman Brian Moran was joined by Delegate Joe Bouchard and House Democratic Leader Ward Armstrong to propose a military veterans & personnel bill of rights for those serving honorably in the armed services.

The bill is sponsored by House Democratic Caucus Chairman Brian Moran and Delegate Joe Bouchard (HB 1193). This year’s effort will protect financial security for Virginians activated in our armed services, provide additional life insurance benefits for our veterans, decrease tax costs of service and protect service members from credit fraud. They also announced support for new mental health initiatives for our returning soldiers.

The four point bill would:
• Expand supplemental pay to any state employee who is on active military duty.
• Allow National Guard to participate in the group state government life insurance program
• Provide an income tax exemption for Guard and Reservists activated to service.
• Authorize members of the armed services and their spouses to freeze access to their credit reports.

They also announced their support for a proposal from the Joint Military Leadership Council to create a wounded warrior center for Virginia veterans with traumatic brain injury, post-traumatic stress disorder, and other concerns.

“The men and women serving honorably overseas deserve our support at home,” House Democratic Caucus Chairman Brian Moran said. “In trying times, Virginia must serve those who serve our Commonwealth and our country. This bill of rights expands protections for our services members, ensures their financial security and financial future, and protects them from fraud.”

“Having served and been a leader in the US Navy, I have seen how our soldiers and sailors serve with distinction and honor. They are entitled to all the support they can receive from the Commonwealth and from Washington,” Delegate Joe Bouchard said.

House Democratic leaders proposed a Veterans’ Bill of Rights during the 2007 fall elections. This legislation would be the first step towards achieving those goals.

“This November, we campaigned on taking care of our soldiers, seniors and middle class families in need. We plan on keeping our word to fight for middle class Virginians,” House Democratic Leader Ward Armstrong said.

Written by assemblyaccess

January 15, 2008 at 5:59 pm

Posted in Press Release, Video

House Democrats revisit subcommittee votes measure

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Today, House Minority Leader Ward Armstrong, House Democratic Caucus Chairman Brian Moran and Delegate Ken Plum will introduce a House rules change measure to require recorded votes in subcommittees.

Last session, House Republicans rejected this transparency measure on a party line vote. Since then, Republicans such as former Republican Caucus Chairman Terry Kilgore, Finance Committee chairman Bob Purkey, Tom Rust, and freshmen Delegates Donald Merricks and Brenda Pogge have pledged in a candidate questionnaire to support a rules change that would require recorded subcommittee votes. (Virginia FREE Candidate Questionnaire, 2007)

“We call on Speaker Bill Howell and House Majority Leader Morgan Griffith to join leaders in their own caucus like Delegate Terry Kilgore in support of open government and giving the people of Virginia the right to know how we vote,” House Minority Leader Ward Armstrong said.

“It’s time for us to ensure accountability in state government by making sure every vote is public,” said House Democratic Caucus Chairman Brian Moran. “Virginia is the birthplace of Democracy and Jefferson’s House deserves better than voting behind closed doors.”

“Hundreds of bills were dispensed without a recorded vote last session,” Delegate Ken Plum, who introduced the resolution last session to require recorded votes in subcommittee. “Every vote should be recorded and open to the people of Virginia. It shouldn’t matter whether it happens in a subcommittee or on the floor of the House of Delegates.”

The House Clerk’s office reports that 491 bills were killed in House subcommittees without a recorded vote in 2006. Last year, more than 840 legislative measures met their demise without a roll call vote.

“The practice of killing bills in subcommittees without recorded votes continues in the Virginia House of Delegates. Blame the House Republicans. They voted the party line Friday, opting to keep this legislation-devouring black hole in place. What a shame,” said the Bristol Herald Courier last year after Delegate Ken Plum offered his amendment to eliminate the rule. Yesterday, the Roanoke Times called on Republicans to “abandon this shameful secrecy.”

“Business leaders strongly disapprove of a new rule adopted in 2006 in the House of Delegates that allows for the defeat of legislation in House subcommittees without a recorded vote. This is a dangerous precedent that removes accountability and sunshine from the governing process,” said Virginia FREE, a bi-partisan business advocacy organization, in their Incumbent Evaluations released this spring.

Written by assemblyaccess

January 9, 2008 at 10:58 am

Posted in Press Release

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For Immediate Release
February 8, 2007

Democrats fight for education, public safety, minimum wage and legislative audit in House budget

Richmond, VA— Today, House Democratic leaders objected to key provisions in the proposed House budget that would have cut funding for economic development grants, increasing teacher salaries, and funding additional benefits for deputy sheriffs.

“By investing in our schools, our economy, and our law enforcement personnel, we can keep moving Virginia forward and make Virginia government work for our families,” House Minority Leader Frank Hall said.

House Democrats also proposed an amendment to the budget that would require any company doing business with the Commonwealth of Virginia to provide employees with a minimum wage no less than $6.50 an hour.

“Raising the minimum wage for Virginia families will ensure that working hard and playing by the rules is never a ticket to poverty,” House Democratic Caucus Chairman Brian Moran said. “Raising the minimum wage is not only a matter of fairness and valuing hard work, but it will help drive Virginia’s economy.”

Delegate Steve Shannon also offered an amendment that would appropriate state funds for audit of the legislative branch. Currently, the Legislative Department has an annual budget of $63 million. The Department of Planning and Budget has developed successful programs for evaluating the efficiency of schools that has to date produced savings of over $15 million dollars in multiple school divisions across the Commonwealth.

“We have an obligation to make sure we are conducting business in the most efficient way possible with Virginia taxpayer dollars,” Delegate Steve Shannon said. “We should be investing our tax dollars towards our roads, our schools, and keeping our streets safe, not towards unnecessary spending in the legislative branch of government.”

Written by assemblyaccess

February 8, 2007 at 4:21 pm

Posted in Press Release

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For Immediate Release

February 5, 2007

Republicans oppose embryonic stem cell research
Would close the doors to cures for thousands suffering from painful, debilitating diseases

Today, every member of the House Republican Caucus passed an amendment that would oppose using public research funds in pursuit of cures for life threatening diseases through embryonic stem cell research.

Stem Cell research holds the potential for life-saving cures for millions of Americans including those suffering from Alzheimer’s, Cancer, and Juvenile Diabetes. Last year, House Republicans passed a measure that would have banned embryonic stem cell research at Virginia’s institutes of higher learning. The measure was removed in conference committee.

“The hope and opportunity that embryonic stem cell research provides should never be closed to thousands of Virginians suffering in silence,” House Democratic Caucus Chairman Brian Moran said. “We all know someone who has been the victim of a life-threatening disease like Parkinson’s or Cancer. Now we have a real chance to cure the incurable and it’s morally wrong to close the door.”

Stem cell research has already provided, and holds tremendous promise to provide progress for finding a cure or treatment for conditions including breast and prostate cancer, leukemia, diabetes, Parkinson’s diseases, Alzheimers’s disease, and spinal cord injuries. It also holds the potential to repair and regenerate human tissues, nerve cells, and skins cells.

“We should not close the doors of research to the colleges and universities across Virginia,” Delegate Jim Shuler said during a floor debate today. “Embryonic stem cell research could allow Virginia scientists at our colleges and universities to explore medical avenues that could cure some of the most painful and debilitating diseases,” Delegate Mark Sickles said. “By closing any avenue of scientific research, we are standing in the way of curing diseases.”

Even Republicans like former first lady like Nancy Reagan voiced support for embryonic stem cells research: “There are so many diseases that can be cured, or at least helped, that we can’t turn our backs on this. We’ve lost so much time already. I can’t bear to lose any more.” [Letter, Judiciary Committee hearing on March 19, 2003]

Embryonic stem cells are better equipped than adult stem cells for scientific research. Unlike adult stem cells, embryonic stem cells contain two salient features important to research: 1) they can divide to a great extent because their proliferative capacity is far greater than stem cells isolated from adults; and 2) they can form (virtually) any cell type. [Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation].

Written by assemblyaccess

February 5, 2007 at 4:03 pm

Posted in Press Release