Session has been moving along much slower than usual, I think this is due to the new, inexperienced leadership of the House. Normally by this time, we have taken action on dozens of bills, but up to this point, the only legislation that we have actually passed is the purported ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA), which actually expired in 1982.

Given the misinformation that has been put out in recent years on the status of equal rights and the ERA, I think it is worthwhile to share the current state of law regarding equal rights.

Women and men have equal protection under the US and Virginia Constitutions. Courts have ruled that both women and men have full claim to equal rights through the 5th and 14th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution; this is why VMI was ordered to begin admitting women more than 20 years ago. Virginia’s Constitution also prohibits discrimination based on sex.

Additionally, legislators have worked to address equal rights on both the state and national level, there are at least 50 laws in the Virginia Code and more than 125 Federal laws prohibiting discrimination based on sex, including employment and equal pay protections. Equal pay has been Federal law since 1963 and in Virginia code since 1974. Any employers who are discriminating on pay between women and men for the same work, are breaking both Federal and State law.

Congress submitted the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) to the US Constitution in 1972 with a seven-year deadline for ratification by the states. The amendment appeared to be moving quickly towards adoption with 35 states ratifying it when concerns were raised about potential unintended consequences, including the loss of religious liberties and privacy rights.

The ERA language was very broad and allowed no exceptions. The way it was written could prohibit separate facilities for women and men in public buildings as well as separate programs and teams for girls and boys in public schools. This could not just impact restrooms, but dormitories and showers at public universities, prisons and jails, the military, programs and scholarships designed to help women and girls, etc… Also, the ERA language gives Congress the authority to implement it. So, our rights could be at the mercy of the changing political whims of Congress. Once these concerns were raised, not only did no new states ratify the amendment, but 5 states rescinded their previous ratification. Virginia’s anti-discrimination amendment includes language that fixes a lot of these problems by simply saying that separation of the sexes shall not be considered a violation.

As the original 1979 deadline approached, Congress extended the deadline to 1982. The extension was legally questionable and subject to a court challenge; however, when the second deadline passed, Congress declined to extend it again. This effectively withdrew the amendment from consideration.

This fact was generally recognized by both proponents and opponents of the amendment at the time, as efforts to get additional states to ratify it ceased for more than a decade. Not only that, but in 1983, proponents introduced a new ERA in Congress.

In 1992, the 27th Amendment to the US Constitution, dealing with Congressional pay, was ratified long after it was submitted to the states for ratification. This caused some ERA proponents to renew their efforts to get it adopted. The fundamental difference between the two amendments is that Congress did not set a ratification deadline for the 27th Amendment, while they did set a deadline for the ERA.

Since the submission of the Prohibition Amendment, Congress has routinely added a seven-year ratification time limit, except for two proposed Amendments (Women’s voting rights which passed and Child Labor prohibition which did not pass). Additionally, an Amendment granting full voting authority to residents of Washington DC with representation in the US Senate had a seven-year limit and also failed.

The passing of the ERA deadline has been recognized by the US Supreme Court. Lawsuits over ERA were pending before the Court and on October 4, 1982, in NOW v. Idaho, 459 U.S. 809 (1982), the U.S. Supreme Court declared the questions moot on the grounds that the ERA had expired.

In 1994, the Attorney General’s office issued an opinion stating: “Because the Equal Rights Amendment was not ratified within the original or the extended time limit established by Congress for its ratification, it is no longer before the states for ratification, and any action by the General Assembly to ratify it now would be a nullity”.

More recently, the US Justice Department stated that the ERA had expired and Virginia’s purported ratification of it would make no difference.

Some ERA proponents want to ignore facts they do not like, such as the ratification deadline, that 5 states withdrew their ratification, and that other states placed time limits on their ratification which expired decades ago. While I certainly support equal rights for all, for the General Assembly to be able to consider the ERA, the US Congress needs to resubmit the amendment to the states for ratification.

I expect Virginia’s ratification of the old ERA, after the fact, will set off a series of expensive and divisive lawsuits over the validity of the amendment. Regardless of who wins these lawsuits, a large portion of the country will consider the Constitution to be tainted, either with an amendment that is not valid or because an amendment that should be included was not. All this confusion and divisiveness could be avoided by Congress simply submitting a new amendment to the states.

I hope that ERA proponents will spend their time lobbying Congress instead of getting the General Assembly to pass a resolution that would have no effect or worse spark a series of costly and divisive lawsuits.


The General Assembly got off to a bumpy start last week. The new Democrat majority appeared unprepared to assume control. Normally session rules to conduct business are adopted within the first hour of convening; unfortunately, this took three days to get done this year, putting us behind schedule. I think the Democrats are finding that governing is very different than campaigning.

This is the long session and is scheduled to run for 60 days. Things move very quickly during session. We will have to deal with thousands of pieces of legislation and budget amendments in just a few weeks.

If you would like to come down for a visit during session, please let me know and I would be happy to schedule a tour.

Not only did it take longer for the rules to be adopted, but there were some significant changes to the rules. The first change was empowering the House Rules Committee to change the rules regarding discrimination and guns without a vote by the full House. In the past, any changes to the rules required a vote by the full House. This change allows a committee to make rules that affect all Delegates without their approval. It is also the only committee that does not have proportional representation, it is stacked with 13 Democrats and only 5 Republicans, the other committees reflect the 55/45 split in membership.

Another significant rule change is the banning of firearms and knives (with a blade over 3 inches) in the Capitol and legislative buildings. This was adopted by the Joint Rules Committee last week and changes a long-standing policy of allowing people with a concealed carry permit to possess a gun.

People have been allowed to carry a firearm at the Capitol for almost 20 years with no negative incidents, there was no need for this change. “Gun free zones” do not prevent criminals from using guns to commit crimes, all they do is make it harder for law abiding citizens to defend themselves.

One of the consequences of the Democrats’ Capitol gun ban is that visitors must go through airport-type security before getting the opportunity to speak to their representatives. If you are coming to the Capitol this session, please allow extra time to go through security.

School Funding

Funding for education is the largest part of the state budget. The General Assembly has provided nearly $ 4 Billion in new funding for public schools since the Great Recession. Below are the recent state school funding figures for the localities in the 88th District. This only shows state funding; local governments provide significant funds in addition to state funds. Fiscal Year 2020 are budgeted numbers, previous years are actual expenditures.

The share of state funding per locality is based on the Local Composite Index (LCI) which is periodically recalculated. It attempts to measure local ability to fund schools. Poorer localities have a lower LCI, which means they receive a greater share of state funding, while wealthier localities have a higher LCI and receive a smaller share of state funding.

National Rating

The online publication Wallet Hub has announced their 2019 list of States With the Best School Systems, and Virginia is near the top. Virginia is ranked 4th overall in terms of best school system, and 2nd for school safety. The study also found that Virginia schools had the 4th highest scores on math tests, 4th lowest incidence of bullying.

School safety has been a major focus of the General Assembly in recent years. The Select Committee on School Safety completed its work recently and presented a comprehensive final report with recommendations last session to make our students and schools safer through threat prevention, counseling realignment, increased mental health services, and increased training for school personnel and school security. The final report also includes best practices for localities on mutual aid agreements, school design and security planning, and infrastructure improvements. These recommendations were recently adopted by the General Assembly.



Transportation continues to be a high priority, especially for our area. This year I am sponsoring two resolutions (House Joint Resolutions 580 and 581) to direct the Commonwealth Transportation Board (CTB) and VDOT to develop a strategic plan to improve I-95 from our area north to the Beltway. Currently the CTB and VDOT have no long-term plan to make improvements, which I find unacceptable. I know that making significant improvements in the corridor is expensive and takes years to get done, but VDOT should have a plan in place so that they can begin working on it and at least start addressing the problem.

In recent years the General Assembly, spearheaded by the House of Delegates, has significantly increased transportation funding to try to address traffic issues, not just on I-95, but throughout the state. Here is a brief summary of some of our efforts to improve transportation.

In 2005, we increased transportation funding by more than $ 1.4 Billion, the largest increase in nearly 20 years, including $ 850 million in funding to reduce congestion on major thoroughfares like I-95. The following year, in 2006, an additional $ 568 million was directed to transportation.

During the 2007 session, the General Assembly financed largest transportation investment in two decades by providing nearly $ 500 million in ongoing, new transportation funding and authorizing $ 3 Billion in transportation bonds.

In 2008 we restored $180 million in transportation funding that former Governor Kaine had diverted to other programs.

Soon after coming into office in 2010, Governor McDonnell ordered a performance audit of VDOT that revealed $1.4 billion in previously authorized funds that were not being spent on needed highway maintenance and new construction. These dollars were collected and redirected to long overdue transportation projects.

In 2011, we passed legislation to authorize nearly $4 billion in bond funding for transportation that jump-started over 900 projects around Virginia.

In 2013, the General Assembly passed a variety of fee and tax increases to raise over $ 1.3 Billion additional funds annually for transportation. Also, other fees and tax increases were imposed on Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads to raise funds for critical regional projects.

In 2016 we increased transportation funding by nearly $ 1 Billion. Total funding for transportation is $13.4 Billion over the biennium. We also passed my House Bill 97 which directed the Department of Transportation to conduct an evaluation with the Fredericksburg Area Metropolitan Planning Organization to address traffic congestion on the Interstate 95 in our area, with a goal towards reducing congestion on I-95.

Our transportation problems are not just due to a lack of funding. A big part of the problem is all the bureaucratic hurdles that must be cleared before a road project can start. Not only do road projects have to go through VDOT in Richmond for approval, but Washington also gets involved in most projects. Major projects must be reviewed and approved by several Federal agencies such as the EPA, Army Corps of Engineers, and the Federal Highway Department. It can take years or even decades for a project to get all the approvals needed to proceed.