Agriculture

With two counties in this Senate District being the first and second largest agricultural communities in the Commonwealth, agriculture is our history and I believe it is also a vital, thriving part of our future. After sponsoring a resolution to create a task force on farmland preservation a number of years ago, I have been involved legislatively in promoting programs to not only preserve farmland, but to preserve farming as a viable business throughout the Commonwealth. I have played a role in the development of farmland transition and of agriculture vitality programs, establishment of the Office of Farmland Preservation, purchase of development right programs, efforts to repeal the estate tax, creation of a cabinet level Secretary of Agriculture, as well as numerous initiatives aimed at promotion and protection of various areas of the agriculture industry.

Agriculture in it’s broadest sense including crop and livestock farming, forestry and the seafood industry have long played a vital role in not only Virginia’s economy, but in defining Virginia traditions and Virginia quality of life.

I have been honored to be the recipient of many awards from the Agribusiness industry and serve on the Senate Standing Committee on Agriculture, Conservation and Natural Resources. I remain committed to protect this vital part of Virginia’s past, present and future prosperity.


Education

I am a strong supporter of public education. My wife is a long-time elementary school teacher and all my children have gone through our public schools.

Judge by my actions rather than my words though. When I first ran for office a several years back, I was advised to always say that I supported education. Seemed kind of silly to me, but sometimes that is exactly how shallow politics are. Who in the world would go around saying that they were opposed to education? Well a few years later, and the dynamic is a little different. Candidates will tell you they support education, but you have to dig deeper if you want to move beyond the rhetoric.

There are now at play those that seek to undermine public education. In that regard, be cautious of anti-tax and libertarian groups that are fond of calling our public schools; government schools. No question our public schools face challenges, but we need to deal with the problems rather than allowing the elitists to dictate standards and expectations for the average Virginia working family and their children.

I have been active in promoting academic excellence in Virginia’s schools. I sponsored legislation to create and then chaired for several years the Commission on Educational Accountability. We are improving our Standards of Learning to insure less testing and more flexibility, and if we continue to foster a cooperative relationship between the state and local governments here in Virginia, we will be able to continue to address the educational needs of the Commonwealth.

Virginia has a history of quality in education for K-to-12 instruction and for our schools of higher learning. This includes both public and private institutions.

A couple of influences outside of the classroom need to be corrected. First, we must as a society work on returning to the more stable influences that are the hallmark of a traditional family with both a mother and father present; and we need to insist that the federal government observe its constitutional limitations. That means, among other things, that programs like No Child Left Behind, no matter how well intentioned, need to go and the federal government bureaucracy needs to get its tentacles out of Virginia classrooms.


Environment

On issues concerning the environment and conservation I take back seat to no one and consider myself to be a Teddy Roosevelt Republican. I have a record of leadership and strong support for programs designed to preserve and protect open space and clean air and streams. I have been at the forefront of our efforts to clean up the Chesapeake Bay and have served as Chair of the multi-state Chesapeake Bay Commission. I have lead the expansion and improvement of our state park system, with which even its lean funding has been ranked tops in the nation. And I have worked to control urbanization in vital farming communities and stressed smart-growth initiatives. I am proud to have helped in creating an incentive program for conservation easements that is serving as a model for the nation. I am a strong proponent of common sense conservation practices and I remain committed to efforts to protect and preserve Virginia’s natural resources, but at the same time, I am equally committed to preserving individual property rights and a positive climate for the businesses that create opportunities for Virginia’s working families.


Gun Rights

As a rural legislator, I have long been a leading advocate for the protection of 2nd Amendment rights.

From consistently opposing legislation intended to chip away at gun owner rights, to patroning key legislation to afford statewide protection of this constitutional right, I am regarded as a leader in the Senate on this issue.

I am proud of my A+ rating from the National Rifle Association and have a clear record of consistency on this issue over the years. I also am pleased to be co-chair of the Sportsman Caucus in the General Assembly.


Illegal Immigration

For centuries, immigrants who followed the rules to come to this country legally have been the foundation of the American culture. So when we tolerate illegal immigration, we insult those immigrants who played by the rules to come here. More importantly, the failure to secure our borders jeopardizes our national security. With the federal government failing to do its duty to secure our borders, I believe Virginia must do more to crack down on illegal immigration and I am working hard to make that happen.

I wrote Virginia’s landmark law requiring individuals to show proof of legal presence in order to receive any taxpayer-funded benefit (SB1143 in 2005). No other law has done more to discourage illegal immigrants from coming to Virginia.

In addition, I sponsored legislation to bar illegal immigrants from receiving in-state tuition rates when attending Virginia’s public colleges and universities (SB1204 in 2007). I firmly believe that people who are in this country illegally should not receive an education at a Virginia public college or university, especially at the taxpayer-subsidized in-state rate.

I also firmly oppose the Supreme Court decision barring state and local governments from verifying that a public school student is here legally. I feel that Virginia should test the decision and seek to have it overturned. I have attempted to place a provision in the state budget to require local school systems to determine the legal status of all children seeking to enroll.


Social Issues

Social issues, and in particular, matters of faith, are areas where I cannot compromise.

I believe the dignity of life should be protected and honored from conception until natural death.

I cannot in good conscience support any proposition that allows someone to make a decision about whether someone else should live or die, no matter how early in the womb or late in life, which is based on some supposed issue of choice or personal convenience.

As a Christian, I believe my life, though pitted by errors and shortcomings, should be patterned after the example of Christ.

I try to guide my decisions based on biblical instruction including the Ten Commandments and I believe strongly our form of representative democracy cannot survive, at least in a manner that is efficient and affordable, unless the majority of our citizens are “Godly” people and are willing and capable of assuming their role as responsible citizens in a free society.

I have patroned and supported restrictions on abortions long before it became a dominant “Republican” theme. I continue to maintain that while the state, along with the faith-based community should provide a safety-net and support for those in dire circumstances, it remains the ultimate responsibility of the individual to provide for themselves and the welfare of their family.


Medicaid

This issue seems to fit well here, between my comments on being a Christian who values all life and my thoughts on taxes and spending….

I don’t support a straight expansion of Medicaid. What I do support is a broad-based reform of our healthcare delivery system and a private option insurance plan to provide a more economical way for the uninsured (mostly the working poor, many veterans, and some disabled citizens) to get care rather than showing up at an emergency room.

The following points are a part of my reasoning on this-

-Even though there are lots of features in “Obamacare” I don’t like, it is the law currently, and it requires Virginians to pay additional taxes and fees amounting to about $2.5 billion per year. I believe we should get that money back. I don’t believe this issue should be based on liking or disliking President Obama; I think this issue is about our citizens who are uninsured and costing all of us Virginians excess in taxes.

-The Obamacare law also changes the manner in which hospitals get payment for treating the uninsured and reduces the money they receive through Medicare. Many Virginia hospitals will not survive unless we make changes.

-We have tremendous unmet needs for funding and policy in the areas of mental health, intellectual and developmental disabilities, and substance abuse disorders. As taxpayers we simply cannot afford to address these problems adequately without reforms in the system.

-The overall rate of growth in healthcare spending is unsustainable. Reforms must be pursued to address this or most of us will be unable to afford insurance in the future.

I remain committed to reforming our healthcare delivery system, closing the coverage gap and insuring the viability of a fiscally sound and productive healthcare system in Virginia.


Tax Reform & Spending

Tax reform and the whole issue of Virginia’s budget, including how we raise money from our citizens and how we decide the appropriate levels of taxation and expenditures at the state and local level is very contentious in today’s political environment.

One of the problems, it seems to me, is that political consultants rather than political leaders have taken control of the process and the way to get elected now is to promise reduced taxes and increased spending at the same time. Obviously, this line of thought doesn’t work in reality. Yet this has been exemplified by the federal government which continues to run deficits, borrow more money, and rob from the social security trust fund.

At the state level the options are not as plentiful. You can increase debt, rob from various funds, work on efficiencies in providing services, but ultimately, by Constitutional mandate, our budget must be balanced. Unfortunately that budget can be partially balanced by shortchanging the localities and forcing the local governments rather than state government to be the ones who must raise taxes or reduce services. When the budget is balanced on the backs of local government budgets, the less affluent rural areas of the state and inner cities are generally the losers.

As a conservative Republican, I am a strong advocate for fiscal responsibility. I recognize though, however politically unpopular, that the term fiscal responsibility may or may not mean lowering taxes and it may or may not mean reducing spending; but it always should mean providing necessary services in as an efficient manner as is possible and within the constraints of a balanced budget.

I pledge to continue to work to insure that as Virginians we pay only those taxes that are necessary to support desired levels of core services. If we are to completely eliminate any existing unfair tax, such as the car tax or the estate tax, and I do support eliminating both of these taxes, then we need to insure that we have alternative resources to adequately support core services.


Transportation

We need to continue laying plans to address transportation policy in a statewide, comprehensive manner. There is no question, based on current policy; that we do not have adequate revenue coming into the Transportation Trust Fund to pay for existing needs. Our future planning must focus on innovations in mass transit and possible alternatives to traditional construction and maintenance programs.

We made some progress in recent years but I think we all know a solution will only come incrementally if we continue to engage on this issue in the way we have. I could not support some of the new taxes and fees and I could not support the $3 billion bonding that was authorized in the 2013 legislation. I do not support the impact fees that were authorized, but some of the growth management tools may prove helpful. The biggest shortcoming of the funding package, in my opinion was that it relies totally on taxes and fees that are paid by just Virginians and do not extend to the out-of-state motorists and truckers that use our highways. We did authorize the limited imposition of tolls. The tolling authority may actually prove to be of more significance than the funding package, particularly for high cost projects in Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads.

We also created a Transportation Accountability Commission, to provide some additional oversight from the legislature on the implementation of transportation policy.