Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Richmond Tea Party Henrico Town Hall

Update: Link added to Executive Order 13489 which may seal President Obama's records. Possibly, though, it only seals current Presidential records. This order, does add to suspicions as the President refuses to explain his motives.

Richmond Tea Party Patriots hosted a town hall meeting last night in Henrico at J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College on Parham Road.

Approximately 100 people were on hand to ask questions of their representatives. Five Republicans and two Democrats were there to answer those questions and to meet their constituents. Senators Donald McEachin, John Watkins, Walter Stosch, and Delegates Joe Morrissey, Riley Ingram, John O'Bannon, and James Massie responded to the invitation to appear.

The moderator, Joe Guarino, opened the meeting with a prayer and the recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance. He was gratified that so many people were there and spoke about the value of citizen activism. The recent surge of citizen involvement in politics was beneficial because input from the citizenry pushed the Legislature to pass bills such as the Virginia Health Care Freedom Act. That act, Att. General Cuccinelli told him, gave greater standing to Virginia in the suit to fight ObamaCare.

Each representative was given a few minutes to speak and to answer the question, "Why did you come to the meeting?" Later, they were asked questions from the Tea Party and from members of the audience, which were written down and handed to the moderator before commencement.

Part ONE: (To any of the representatives that read this, if I misrepresent any position, please contact me.)

Senator McEachin: Did not get into detail about future plans. (Or I missed them.)
He debated whether or not to actually come. His invitation was at short notice and his experience with the public image of the Tea Party predisposed him to not attend. He did not think that there would be anyone other than Republicans in attendance. However, he felt it was his duty to attend because, wherever one of his constituents might be, he should be there. It was an opportunity to meet his constituents. (In later comments, he did mention, paraphrased, that the reality of the Tea Party crowd did not meet his preconceptions.)

Senator Watkins: Will concentrate on budget matters to prevent overspending, like other states have done. Virginia is in great shape in relation to other states of the union.
He came to the meeting because citizens made the effort to actually organize, get involved, and set up the meeting. He "doesn't care what you call yourself, if you are a constituent and have an opinion, and make an effort to come, I want to hear it."

Senator Stosch: He agreed with Sen. Watkins. "If you want to have a meeting, I want to hear from those constituents." He identified with the Tea Party motivations, saying that he, too, is dissatisfied with "what is going on in DC."

Delegate Morrissey: Stated that he actually agreed with many of the stands put forth by his fellow representatives, though he was a Democrat. Considered himself a fiscal conservative. He showed up because, "I was invited." He got a good laugh by describing the shape and location of his district, calling it a "truly gerrymandered district" and called for non-partisan designed districts. Stated that he realizes that not all of the Tea Party are Republicans and that he will go anywhere to speak or to listen to constituents. One of his upcoming projects will be to introduce a bill to tax plastic grocery bags to reduce their use. (I remember when those things were introduced as the savior of the forests. It was a "green" idea.)

Delegate Ingram: Spoke about his district reaching from the inner city to the rural farmlands. Every year he sends out a survey to find out his constituents concerns. Stated that illegal immigration and its concurrent problems were one of the top concerns by a large margin.

Delegate O'Bannon: He came because we called a town meeting. He finds the Tea Party to be "refreshing. As a doctor, he keeps a close eye on any health care legislation. He spoke also about how the activism of the Tea Party helped him get a bill passed calling for a "Don't Tread On Me" license plate. He feels that the Gadsden Flag is very appropriate today.
"Virginia is in good shape." He will push to keep the state as a competitive state by keeping taxes low, continuing the Right to Work status, and seeking business to re-located to Virginia.

Delegate Massie: "The Tea Party is a group that is not taking freedom for granted." He decried that the citizenry, as a whole, was uninvolved, quoting the low turnout during the last election and that the Tea Party is a positive movement showing that some people are waking up. He will be focused on job creation, education, taxation, and spending.

Part Two - Questions (Answers are summarized.)

1) The Constitution is scheduled to be read at the start of the new House of Representatives session. Is this a good idea and how often should it be read, either in Congress or the Virginia legislature? (No one wanted to jump on this one. Even an audience member called out, "Don't all answer at once, now.")

Sen. Stosch: Reading the Constitution is a good reminder of the rule of law and what the representatives have sworn to uphold. It should be read a sufficient enough times so that all those that swore to uphold it should understand it.
Del. Massie: Good idea to read it 1-2 times per year. But if those listening are not interested in following it, it won't matter. Voters should hold those representatives accountable.
Del. Ingram: Every Delegate has a copy of the State Constitution on his/her desk. He refers to it often in the course of executing his duties.

2) Would you support legislation to oppose federal Commerce Clause authority over-reach?

Del. Massie: We've already done it. See the current lawsuit against HCR.
Del. Ingram: Intra-state commerce should not be a federal matter.
Del. Morrissey: As one who has taught constitutional law, he states that even strict constructionist judges have determined that the Commerce Clause does affect intra-state commerce. It has been interpreted as a broad power.
Del Massie: This interpretation shows how important the Repeal Amendment is. Current interpretation shows that there are few checks on federal power.
Sen McEachin: It is the Commerce Clause that allows all of us to participate in commerce, describing how it was the federal power using that clause to force discriminatory businesses to allow his father to use said services.

3) In 2007, a statute was passed restricting eminent domain powers in Virginia. Would you support the idea of that statute becoming part of the Virginia Constitution?

Del. O'Bannon: Yes. It protects individual rights and provides checks and balances to local power. Adoption would prevent the statute from being repealed.
Sen. McEachin: No. We need more time to experimentation to see how this law continues to affect the state and examine its ramifications.
Sen. Watkins: Agreed with Sen. McEachin. We should always show restraint in putting amendments into the state constitution.

4) Do you support the Repeal Amendment and how do we get Democrats to support it?

Sen. McEachin: No. As written, it has no limitations and any law in our history could be repealed. We could repeal the Civil Rights Act. Also, (naming off states) a majority of legislatures, numbering 2/3 majority could still represent a minority of Americans.
Del. Morrissey: No. There are already systems in place to repeal laws. Vote out the current representatives and repeal laws or challenge them in court.
Sen. Stosch: The Founding Fathers did not anticipate such a non-responsive Congress nor a national effort to put us into such a debt. Its not a perfect solution but a tool is need to restrain the federal government.

5) Immigration Law Enforcement Act - prevents localities from approving "sanctuary laws" for illegal immigrants. Do you support this?

Del. Ingram: Yes. We have to have a legal way to enforce the law. Its wrong that children of illegal immigrants are considered US citizens. (applause from audience)
Sen. Watkins: Has not read it. However, on that concept, something must be done. The feds have the 287 G program that allows localities to operate with federal approval, but goes around state agencies or LEO. We should give the state and the local agencies the same powers.

6) Virginia is #10 on illegal immigration population density. Should Virginia companies be required to use the E-Verify system?

Sen. Watkins: As the representative that pushed for E-Verify for state hiring and by the VEC, he still thinks that the system has too many glitches still for private use. Since the VEC is using it, however, he feels that no illegal immigrants will find work or get benefits, from that agency.
Del. Ingram: As a real estate businessman, he has been seeing A LOT of Social Security number fraud and believes its necessary. He believes that there is organized crime, of a sort, assisting illegal immigrants in getting fake ID.

Part Three - Individual questions

Sen. Watkins: Two part question - A) do you support the bond bill for transportation costs and B) Should Northern Virginia be allowed to retain some sales taxes for transportation or would that cause trouble?
On B) Cause trouble? yes. On A) Issuing the bonds may cause us to raise our debt ceiling by too much. Another committee is actually responsible for putting them on the market.

Del. Ingram: Do you support a bill that would exempt Virginia from cooperating from any changes to building codes resulting from "cap and trade" legislation? Yes. Virginia codes are satisfactory.

Sen. Stosch: Since "green energy policies" have been shown to fail miserably, cost jobs, and lose money, why is Gov. McDonnell providing tax credits to such companies?
He feels that the Governor is on the right track in trying to attract any energy company to Virginia but hopes that legislators would approach any "green" energy policies with care.

Del. O'Bannon: Should Virginia op out of Medicaid under ObamaCare?
Virginia is basically between a rock and a hard place. Staying in Medicaid will raise our costs but so will opting out, and that federal money will just go elsewhere.

Del. Morrissey: $340 million has been borrowed. $600 million may have to be borrowed to meet the unemployment benefits need. How can we pay it back without raising taxes?
The $600 million WILL have to be borrowed. The unemployment fund is broke. We will have to pay it back and raise unemployment taxes, but that should only increase by a few dollars per employee per employer. The best way to do so would be to increase the number of jobs.

Sen. McEachin: Funds were borrowed from the VRS. Should we pay it back this year?
Supports the return of the money, but that cannot be done within one year. He wished that the budget had been funded by other means, though he did vote for the borrowing.

Del. Massie: There is a concern that the federal government is bypassing the Congress and legislation by the using of regulations; over 25000 last year were issued. How can the states fight this?
These regulatory actions, such as the EPA's ruling on CO2 is a tax. We either sue them or get Congress to deny funding to the agencies.

Part Four - More questions from audience

Del. Massie: Do you support vouchers and charter schools? Yes. We have choice in almost everything but schools. Parents should have choices.

Sen. Stosch: Given the GOP record in past legislatures, will our tax money be spent wisely?
24% of thsoe in Virginia pay 85% of the taxes. The problem is that the non-tax payers are driving the demand for more spending programs.

Del. Morrissey: Do you support an increase in the gas tax? Yes. Because we need the funds to fix the roads. 10 cents per gallon will cost only about $60 a year for the average driver. However, ALL the money must be "lock boxed" for transportation uses only.

Sen. Watkins: Are there any assets that Virginia can sell to raise money to meet budget shortfalls?

Del. O'Bannon: "Sustainable Use" policies, based upon policies promulgated by the UN, are being enacted across the country and abuses property rights. How can Virginia protect property rights?
Withdraw from the UN. (thunderous applause)
Actually, Virginia's laws do a good job of protecting property rights.

Del. Ingram: What are you doing to make us less dependent upon federal money? That depends upon a group effort between you and your representatives.

All in all, I found it to be an interesting and productive night. However, I learned the best information from Senator McEachin after the meeting. He spoke of the resistance to the Tea Party in the minority community. He said that we had to get away from the "birthers and the Glenn Beck crowd. He felt that Beck contributed to hatred of Obama and that there was a belief that the Tea Party was not welcoming to minorities.

Identifying myself as a Beck fan, I reiterated that he may be falling for the slanted media presentation of the Tea Party and Glenn Beck. Furthermore, I spoke to him of the fact that the Tea Party polices itself and that, actually, the concern over President Obama's secrecy of his past is what drives many "birthers." The good Senator did not know that President Obama had sealed his records and, so I sent him a link.

Like the Senator did, minorities should come visit the Tea Party. They will find that their preconceptions are just that. The reality should show them that we share many ideals. They will find that the Tea Party sees them as fellow Americans, not a minority.

Autographs available. I'm at 46 secs.

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