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Congratulations are in order

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By John Barnhart

Congratulations are in order for the Bedford area’s General Assembly delegation.

    The Family Foundation released its report card for the Virginia General Assembly, covering our state legislature for 2008 and 2009. The delegates and state senators were rated on their record for family-friendly votes. Senator Steve Newman, Delegate Lacey Putney and Delegate Kathy Byron all received a score of 100 percent.

    According to The Family Foundation’s report card, they looked at bills that relate to the principles of life, marriage, parental authority, constitutional government or religious liberty. It must also must have a substantial potential impact on Virginia families.

    One of the bills that Putney, Newman and Byron helped vote into law this year includes the value, benefits, challenges and responsibilities of marriage in the list of topics to be covered in Virginia’s family life education curricula. This is taught in our public schools.

    The Senate also voted to add “Choose Life” to Virginia’s list of license plates designating revenue from it to pregnancy resource centers. Newman voted for this.

    Last year, they helped pass legislation that protects a public school student’s right to voluntarily express a religious viewpoint in their classroom work. The law bars local school divisions from discriminating against this sort of student expression, and requires them to develop policies to make sure such discrimination doesn’t happen.

    They also put some salt on the tails of payday lenders. Among other provisions, the law bars these loan sharks from making a loan if it would cause a borrower to have more than three payday loans outstanding at the same time. It also bars them from knowingly making loans to members of military service or their spouses or dependents. The law also requires payday lenders to query a database, before making a loan, to check the applicants eligibility.

    I’ve seen an example of how harmful this lending practice is. I know a fellow in Roanoke who got himself in deep trouble with payday loans. He had a bankruptcy a few years before, so he couldn’t get conventional credit. The interest rate he had to pay was astronomical and he had more than one outstanding. In fact, it was snowballing on him until some folks got together and helped pull his feet out of this quagmire.

    In addition to helping pass some good legislation, the Bedford area delegation also helped stop some bad bills. Last year Newman helped stopped a bill that would have eliminated Virginia’s abstinence standard in family life education. In the House, a bill that would have dramatically expanded horse race betting opportunities and a 5-cent hike in the state’s gas tax never emerged alive from the House Finance Committee. Putney, who chaired that committee this year, has been a powerful voice on the Finance Committee for some time.

    This year, a bill to reinstate the death tax died in Putney’s Finance Committee. The death tax has a nice “tax the rich” sound, but estate taxes can nail people who are not rich. The heir of a farmer whose farm is in an area where development has boosted real estate values, or the heir of the owner of a capital intensive small family business can end up having to sell the farm or business in order to pay this tax.

    They didn’t always win, but they at least voted the right way. For example, they voted for legislation that would have prohibited spending taxpayer money on research that requires the destruction of human embryos. Putney and Byron voted for a House constitutional amendment that would have limited budget increases to population and inflation. Newman never got a chance to vote on this as it never emerged from the Senate Policies and Elections Committee.

    The entire Family Foundation report card can be viewed on-line at www.TFFAction.org.