Observations

J.R.’s written observations on politics, public policy, and society.

Justin Fairfax faces another accusation

Fairfax facing increasing evidence that he is not fit for office.

For choice in education

Before agreeing to spend millions on education, concessions need to be made regarding school choice.

A Tale of Two Amendments

The Virginia General Assembly has reconvened in Richmond, and the longest continuously serving democratically elected legislature presses on.

In its 400th year, the legislature has an opportunity to do something extraordinary: ratify an amendment to the United States Constitution and set in motion a state amendment that transforms politics as we know it.

Pretty heady stuff.

Equal Rights Amendment
In 1923, Alice Paul, the drafter of the ERA, proclaimed, “We shall not be safe until the principle of equal rights is written into the framework of our government.”

Her vision was that women would have the same rights as men and that this specifically would be codified in our Constitution.

The amendment has gone through several revisions and still doesn’t have consensus on its wording.

In 1943, when the amendment finally made it to a vote in Congress, it read:

Section 1: Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.
Section 2: The Congress shall have the power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article.
Section 3: This amendment shall take effect two years after the date of ratification.

In 2014, Congress reintroduced the amendment as follows:

Section 1: Women shall have equal rights in the United States and every place subject to its jurisdiction. Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.
Section 2: Congress and the several States shall have the power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article.
Section 3: This amendment shall take effect two years after the date of ratification.

The difference in the two is the clear identification of women.

Five states voted to rescind their ratification, but the Constitution doesn’t say if states have that power. Additionally, new concerns over what genetic makeup constitutes a “woman” has been clearly conveyed in the recent transgender discussions.

Finally – and in my view, most importantly – states that have enacted similar laws have faced challenges from pro-choice advocates demanding state funding for abortion as protected under this law. And their appeals have been upheld.

“We the people of the United States …” plus amendments 14, 15, 19, and 26 have more than abundantly clarified the question. The language of the ERA will bring about a new era of judicial process, should the U.S. Supreme Court rule that states must fund abortion as part of its healthcare plans.

This new era of litigation will largely focus on an individual’s right to exercise their faith by not funding abortion – and take direct aim at our First Amendment.

State Gerrymandering
Politics is involved in everything. And the preservation of power is certainly at its root.

It really doesn’t matter if Patrick Henry was trying to oust James Madison from Congress, or if Democrats drew uncompetitive lines for George Allen and Randy Forbes, or whether Republicans attempted to hold the state House of Delegates by making a deal with state Senate Democrats.

It is a simply flawed process.

Our U.S. Constitution leaves the process of how to determine the drawing of legislative boundaries to the states. And, in this case, the drafter of Virginia’s state constitution, A.E. Dick Howard – along with former Attorney General Ken Cuccinell, former Democratic Leader Ward Armstrong, and many others – have all come to the conclusion that the best check and balance on legislative tyranny and judicial activism is a very detailed process that has its own checks and balances.

That is an independent redistricting commission.

Now is the time to act. Because of Virginia’s constitutional amendment process, this proposal must pass this General Assembly, be voted on by the public in an intervening election, and then pass the Assembly again.

It’s imperative now because of the 2020 Census. Only if this amendment is passed now and winds its way through the previously described wickets will it be in place to have any meaning for the next decade.

Stop fooling yourself. If you think your vote is a secret, yet you vote consistently in any partisan political primary, you’ve identified yourself. And that data will be isolated with today’s technology to ensure the majority has the partisan makeup it needs to retain its power.

That was never the intent of our Founding Fathers, nor our state constitution’s crafters.

It’s time for an independent redistricting commission.

Pretty amazing things are happening this General Assembly session. It’s nice to be part of living history.


This column appears in The Princess Anne Independent News.

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