My side. Your side.
I win. You lose.
You win. I lose.
All of us lose.
Over recent years, I’ve noticed an increase in inflammatory rhetoric from some elected officials in my area of Virginia. I’m on the official mailing list of most of the elected state and federal representatives in this region.
Two Congressmen from this area, Rep. Ben Cline and Rep Morgan Griffith, routinely send out hyper-partisan constituent emails. Two state senators from our region, Sen Chris Head and Senator Creigh Deeds, have recently sent out much more professional, less-partisan communications.
For Senator Head, I find his latest effort refreshing. In the past, he’s used his official email to promote his radical positions by demeaning and discounting the views of over a third of his constituents.
Reps Cline and Griffith have a rich history of hyper-partisan constituent emails. Griffith tends to wrap his in specific charged legislative issues. Cline’s emails tend to be less focused on legislation and more focused on partisan misinformation. Both Cline and Griffith (as well as Bob Good) are proud members of “The Freedom [sic] Caucus”.
I’ve pasted the latest constituent emails below along with my impressions after reading them. Overall, I wish that all of our representatives would consider toning down the partisan rhetoric and focus instead on legislating in a bipartisan manner.
Senator Chris Head: I’ve met Senator Head many times over the years. He’s always been willing to sit down with me. I can honestly say that we disagree on just about everything, except our love for our country and commonwealth. He was just elected to the state senate after many years as a state delegate. His letter here is reasonable, non-inflammatory, and welcoming for all of his constituents.
The 2024 Session of the Virginia General Assembly kicked off at noon on Wednesday, January 10, and the pace is already beginning to ramp up. There are a lot of new faces in the Senate (including mine). Following the 2023 election, 19 of the 40 senators are Republicans, putting the GOP in the minority. However, we look forward to working in a bipartisan manner with our counterparts across the aisle on areas where we can agree. Another change is that we are all working out of a new General Assembly building. If you have visited your legislators in previous years, be ready for a whole new experience as we all find our way around this new facility. Some remaining construction kinks are still being worked out, which always happens with a large project. Still, we hope the new building will provide a better experience for constituents to meet with legislators and their staff while improving efficiency for our ongoing work.
NEWS FROM THE FLOOR
The Senate went through the traditional organization process on the first session day. We were sworn into office, adopted the rules under which we operate, and received our committee assignments. This year, I will be serving on the Education and Health, General Laws and Technology, and Rehabilitation and Social Services committees. Although much of my work will be on the issues that come before those respective committees, I will always be focused on ALL of the problems and concerns that affect my constituents, whether related to my committee assignments or not.
STATE OF THE COMMONWEALTH
Later, on the first day, Governor Glenn Youngkin addressed a joint Session of the Senate and House and delivered his annual State of the Commonwealth Address. In it, the Governor discussed his administration’s accomplishments and laid out his vision for Virginia in the coming years. [Picture Deleted] The Governor outlined an ambitious agenda, which includes legislation to keep Virginians safer from violent crime and destructive street drugs, a proposal to allow students to earn career credentials while completing their high school diplomas, and improvements to our mental health care system, to name a few. In the coming weeks, I will closely review the Governor’s proposals as they go through the legislative process. I look forward to working with the Governor to improve our schools, make our neighborhoods safer, and ensure every Virginian has the skills and the opportunity to obtain a good job.
You can follow my legislation as it makes it way through the General Assembly HERE and all 2024 bills introduced by members of the Senate of Virginia and the House of Delegates HERE.
Here are just a few of the many visitors who came by the office this week! [Pictures Deleted] As we look forward to the upcoming Week 2, committees will all be meeting, and legislation should begin to come to the floor for consideration by the full Senate. Please let me know where you stand on legislation impacting you. You can email my office at email@example.com or call us at (804) 698-7503. And if you are in Richmond, please come by my office at the General Assembly building. I am in Room 619, and while my schedule is often hectic and subject to change, I would love to say hello to you. I’ll be in touch next week with another update from the General Assembly. In the meantime, you can also follow me on Twitter @SenChrisHead or like my Facebook page to stay current with all the action in Richmond. Have a wonderful week!
Sincerely, Chris Head Senator, 3rd District
Senator Creigh Deeds is a long-time member of Virginia’s state senate in the area from Bath COunty to Charlottesville. He’s aspired to even higher office in the past. In his last few years, since the horrific death of his son, Creigh has campaigned constantly for mental health services in Virginia. I have always appreciated Creigh’s dedication and thoroughness as a representative. His latest constituent letter is normal for him. It’s free of partisan plays and focused on governance and policy.
The 2024 Regular Session of the Virginia General Assembly is underway. We started last week with committee assignments, a speech from the Governor, the annual convening of the Agribusiness Council, and the first committee meetings.
As you know from previous columns, Virginia budgets on a biennial, or two-year, cycle. The next biennium runs July 1, 2024 through June 30, 2026. We will adopt a new two-year budget for the cycle as well as make some adjustments to the current fiscal year. Our starting point for discussions is the Governor’s proposal introduced in December. A previous column dealt with my initial thoughts on that proposal.
This year’s session is long under Virginia's rules. This is a 60 day session, which includes the weekend, so this will fly by. We essentially have eight and a half weeks to deal with thousands of bills and finalize our two-year budget.
In the Senate, we have a 21 bill limit per member. The House of Delegates does not have any limitations. So this year, a majority of work for the Senate will happen after crossover. We will spend the first five weeks dealing with bills originating in the Senate until crossover, at which point bills originating in the House of Delegates must come to the Senate for consideration. We will spend the remainder of the session considering bills originating in the other chamber.
Since both chambers are controlled by Democrats, there will be a real temptation, in my view, to challenge the Governor as much as possible and to send bills to him that he will be tempted to veto. In fact, he will probably veto a lot of legislation. Our goal should be to find policy issues we can achieve to move Virginia forward. With a divided government, we need to work on items with bipartisan support. However, that does not mean we abandon our principles or lower our sights. It does mean we have to be realistic and focus on areas where we can work together to lift all boats. I think it will be a busy session.
A couple of things are clear. We need to work together to get a budget done on time. As written before, the Governor’s plan has a number of unrealistic proposals, among them plans to cut about $2 billion in taxes. He proposes raising the sales tax by .9 cents, to the tune of about $1 billion. And in my view, while he raises some issues that need to be discussed, it is simply not feasible to cut taxes in this environment. The federal COVID dollars run out this year, and we have major obligations that have to be met, including over $4 billion in K-12 that was identified in the JLARC report. Simply said, we are underfunding education and have been doing it for years. Localities have been filling in the gaps to a large extent, but that means that while state taxes have remained relatively low, local taxes have increased particularly in the area of real estate taxes. I do not think we can get this fixed in one session, but we need to set short and long-term goals if we are to address that funding shortfall.
The Governor has also raised the issue of the car tax. The car tax is a complicated issue, because it is a constitutionally mandated tax. Eliminating the car tax would require amending the Constitution, which is a multi-year endeavor. Then we would need to develop an alternative to replace it. The personal property tax is the second largest source of revenue for local governments in the Commonwealth of Virginia. All of this is much easier said than done.
Another issue garnering significant attention is energy policy. In 2020 we passed the Clean Economy Act. To date we are simply not generating enough renewable energy to meet our goals for carbon reduction. This is especially true given the increasing demand of data centers situated throughout Virginia that require more energy than most other industries.
A popular idea is to ban data centers or to keep them out of certain areas. However, this is not realistic. More than 70% of internet traffic in this country goes through Loudoun County, Virginia. So much internet traffic is centered in Virginia, this is where the data centers will be. From my perspective, we can’t say no to data centers, but we can impose some rules and figure out how to take advantage of the tax revenues generated from data centers, the jobs they create, and the investments that flow from that industry. We can’t do that unless we figure out a way to generate more alternative sources of energy. In my view, that is going to require us to grow our solar and wind-based energy. We have a lot of work to do.
Last session I was co-chair of the Judiciary Committee, which has now been restored to the name it held for hundreds of years, the Courts of Justice Committee. I also chaired the Capital Outlay Subcommittee of the Senate Finance and Appropriations Committee. This year I will chair the Committee for Commerce and Labor, and the SFAC Health and Human Resources Subcommittee. While both of those jobs are somewhat lateral moves from important work I was doing (and by the way I will remain a member of both of those committees) they will increase my workload significantly. The Commerce and Labor Committee will hold its regular meetings on Monday afternoon. The HHR Subcommittee will meet on Thursday mornings. Both will require significant preparation and homework.
Thank you again for allowing me to serve in the Senate. We are still settling into the new office, room 612, in the General Assembly Building. We also have transitioned to our new email address, firstname.lastname@example.org, and our new phone number, 804-698-7511. While the building is beautiful and more accommodating to the public, we are still working out a lot of the kinks. If you come to Richmond for a visit, I hope you will stop by my office.
Rep Cline, my Congressman, has become increasingly hyper-partisan. His latest email to all constituents is typical for him. Essentially a fiscally moderate Democrat like me has no voice with Rep. Cline as you can see by his rhetorical choices. Cline rarely addresses his solutions to problems and focuses instead on stirring division and intolerance. I’ve written to him respectfully several times in the past with nothing more than form responses.
Sixth District Perspectives with Congressman Ben Cline
As the 118th Congress convenes Washington for the second year of the session, House Republicans are determined to pursue a responsible spending deal that cuts wasteful spending, secures our border, and returns money to the taxpayers. In more theater, Hunter Biden made a surprise appearance during his contempt hearing in the House Oversight Committee. As Congress prepares for the road ahead, I remain committed to fighting for our shared values in the Sixth District of Virginia.
America's Broken Border
All across the country, Americans’ primary concern is the broken border that President Biden and Alejandro Mayorkas created. In the past three years, over 6.2 million encounters have been at our southern border. In December 2023, there were over 302,000 incidents of migrants attempting to cross the border. These failed policies have enabled fentanyl and other deadly drugs to pour into our communities, as well as criminal migrants, to be released into the country with a low likelihood of removal.
Last week, the House Committee on Homeland Security, led by Chairman Mark Green (R-TN), conducted their first impeachment hearing of Alejandro Mayorkas and laid out the facts for Americans. While accountability for the broken border ultimately rests with the President, we must act to remove Secretary Mayorkas for violating his oath of office and encouraging the chaos we are seeing at the border right now. Impeaching Mayorkas is the first step, but we must continue to pressure the Senate to pass legislation such as H.R. 2, the Secure the Border Act, the strongest border security package in United States history.
"Bidenomics" Is Wrecking American Families
Last week, the latest Consumer Price Index (CPI), a key inflation index, reminded us that "Bidenomics" is not working for hardworking families. The report was "higher than expected" as it increased at an annual rate of 3.4%, and it is the 33rd straight month with inflation above three percent.
Despite the Biden Administration's push for "Bidenomics", the absolute truth is families have seen skyrocketing grocery and fuel bills and depletion of their savings accounts. To guarantee that hard-working taxpayers can keep more of their money, House Republicans are working daily to restore fiscal responsibility in Washington and revive our economy.
Hunter Biden Surprise Appearance on Capitol Hill
House investigators have continued to follow the facts into President Joe Biden's involvement with his family's business dealings for months. Instead of appearing for his deposition on December 13, 2023, Hunter Biden staged a media event on the Senate side of the U.S. Capitol, where he made a public statement without taking any questions. Then, this week, at the Oversight Committee's markup of his contempt resolution, Hunter Biden pulled a publicity stunt, continued defying the orders, and appeared at his contempt hearing.
Hunter Biden believes that defying orders and executing publicity stunts will divert attention from the investigation into his family's shady business dealings. However, the House Oversight Committee and House Judiciary Committee remain committed to uncovering the truth for the American people. No one, including the Biden's, is above the law. [Image Deleted] District Travels
For 90 years, the Salem Rescue Squad has displayed selfless sacrifice to the city of Salem as it stands as the second oldest all-volunteer rescue squad in the United States. It was an honor to present them with a commemorative plaque recognizing the squad winning the 2023 Volunteer EMS Service of the Year award at their banquet.
Thank you for the opportunity to serve as your Congressman. If my office can ever be of assistance, please contact my Washington office at (202) 225-5431. For the latest updates from Washington and across the Sixth District, please follow my Facebook and Twitter pages.
Rep. Morgan Griffith and I have a long history, although I suspect he has no clue who I am. Once back when he was serving as the Virginia House of Delegates Majority Leader (and my representative), he called the school where I worked and had me leave my classroom to speak with him in the main office. He proceeded to give me a ten minute tongue-lashing over a newsletter I wrote to the members of my local teacher union. In that article, I recounted how he had avoided meeting with my team and me earlier that month with his secretary claiming that he was in a meeting and wouldn’t be available. I hung around a bit and spotted my representative sneaking out his back door and escaping to a bathroom. This was not unusual behavior on his part.
As you can see from his email, Rep Griffith is really focused on Covid-19 and Dr. Fauci instead of the pending government shutdown and aid to Israel and Ukraine.
Congressman Griffith's Weekly E-Newsletter 1.12.24
Deposition with Fauci
On January 8th and 9th, I participated in a two-day Congressional transcribed interview (what normal people would call a deposition) with Dr. Anthony Fauci to learn more about his role in the COVID-19 outbreak and response. These are my key takeaways from my preparation for the deposition and the deposition itself:
1. We need better protocols and oversight of biosafety laboratories. Fauci, who was the Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), claims he did not know much about the grants awarded to EcoHealth Alliance and nothing about the subsequent subgrants to the Wuhan Institute of Virology. This is unacceptable. He was the head of the agency that awarded the grants, and the buck should stop with him. At the very least, before his agency got the U.S. involved with the Wuhan Institute of Virology, he should have had a working knowledge of their operations. He disavowed all knowledge of the Institute, even saying if someone said Wuhan before COVID-19, he wouldn’t know if they were referring to Wuhan University, the Wuhan Institute of Virology, or another entity in Wuhan. And when EcoHealth Alliance did not forward required reports for more than a year, someone at NIAID should have been aware and raised Cain.
2. We need a generally accepted definition of gain-of-function (GoF) research for U.S. grant purposes. According to Fauci, NIAID was not funding any GoF research. Under the definition he was using, that may be so. But NIAID is a division of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and on the NIH website at the time the research was being done, they used a different definition of GoF. Under that definition, NIAID was funding GoF research. Both definitions are acceptable in various settings, but this type of research is too serious to not have a generally accepted definition.
3. At a structural level, some scientists referenced in an email to Fauci found aspects of the virus perplexing. They queried how it could happen in nature. When looking at the makeup of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, researcher Mike Farzan took issue with how the furin cleavage site was in the virus. He believed it was difficult to explain how this could happen outside of a lab. While possible, it is highly unlikely to occur in nature. Additionally, Dr. Bob Garry observed the virus had a perfect 12-nucleotide insertion as part of the furin cleavage site and didn’t know how this could happen in nature. The furin cleavage site is a large part of what made the virus so contagious. And, interestingly, prior coronaviruses did not contain a furin cleavage site.
4. Fauci said he had an open mind when it came to how the COVID-19 outbreak could have started, whether it was spread via animal transmission at a wet market or a lab leak, but he believes it was due to animal transmission. However, he gave no indication of his open-mindedness to the American people in public statements.
Those who believed COVID-19 started due to a lab leak were universally shunned and their opinions were taken down and/or barred from many social media sites.
Based on the evidence I have seen, I believe COVID-19 started due to an accidental lab leak. This is in part because no animal source has ever been found (in the past we’ve been able to find one). Further, the Chinese government did not look at a large sample of animals in their search, nor was the virus found in animals near the time of the outbreak. If the Chinese thought the virus started in animals, they would have scoured the region looking for the animal source. Their lack of strenuous effort indicates to me the Chinese know the source was a lab leak.
Fauci said we needed to continue to look for the animal source, but also admitted that without Chinese cooperation, we may never be able to determine with scientific certainty which theory is correct.
As a long-time practicing attorney, I only need proof that eliminates reasonable doubt, not proof to a scientific certainty. For example, circumstantial evidence and little else was sufficient to put the murderer of Gina Renee Hall (a student at Radford University) in prison. As you will recall, she disappeared and later in 1980, her murderer was convicted in Pulaski County and given a life sentence based substantially on circumstantial evidence.
That being said, the evidence of an accidental lab leak, in my opinion, also eliminates reasonable doubt.
If you have questions, concerns, or comments, feel free to contact my office. You can call my Abingdon office at 276-525-1405 or my Christiansburg office at 540-381-5671. To reach my office via email, please visit my website at https://morgangriffith.house.gov/.