May 23rd, 2016 Newsletter

There is an ongoing political debate and ongoing litigation over which bathrooms transgender students should use at public schools.  The question is whether requiring a student to use the bathroom that corresponds with their biological sex violate federal law, which prohibits discrimination “on the basis of sex.”

As you know, President Obama recently released “guidance” to public schools that directs schools to allow transgender students to use the bathroom of their choice or face the possible loss of federal education funding.  President Obama’s so-called “guidance” is yet another example of executive overreach.  The President is trying to rewrite the law from his desk in the oval office and force his liberal ideology onto communities across this country.

I believe, like most parents, that boys should use the boy’s restroom and girls should use the girl’s restroom. Whether you’re a boy or girl depends on your biological sex. If a student feels uncomfortable using a sex-specific bathroom, schools should make reasonable accommodations for the student – like a unisex or staff restroom.

This is not a question that should be dictated by the President or the federal government. I am encouraging my local school boards to adopt the policy that is best for our community.  This decision should be made by parents and local elected leaders, not President Obama.  We should apply commonsense and keep our children safe.

In the 2016 General Assembly session Delegate Mark Cole introduced legislation requiring students to use the bathroom that corresponds to the biological sex listed on the student’s birth certificate. The legislation also required schools to provide reasonable alternative accommodations to students who were not comfortable using the restroom for their biological sex. The legislation failed in committee because of the ongoing litigation surrounding the issue.

Governor McAuliffe purported to veto the "Stanley Amendment" on Friday, May 20th, the language in the budget prohibiting him from expanding Medicaid. The line-item veto would eliminate the so-called Stanley amendment, sponsored two years ago by Senator Bill Stanley Jr., R-Franklin County, to prevent the governor from appropriating billions of dollars in federal funding under the Affordable Care Act without General Assembly approval to expand health coverage.

 This veto is not valid. Speaker Howell stated, "The Governor's purported veto is not valid and will not be reflected in the final budget law.  This position is consistent with rulings of the Supreme Court and has been applied by both Republican and Democratic Speakers.  The Governor cannot veto conditions attached to appropriations without vetoing the appropriation as well.  This has been the consistent practice of the General Assembly, and the Governor will be notified accordingly next week."

 Last month, Governor Terry McAuliffe announced that he is immediately restoring the political rights of over 200,000 convicted felons, including 40,000 felons who committed violent crimes. That means violent felons will now be able to vote and serve on a jury.

The Governor's action is not only bad policy but more importantly - it's unconstitutional. His action defies the plain text of the Constitution, flouts the separation of powers, and has no precedent in the annals of Virginia history. 

Monday, May 23rd, we are officially filing a lawsuit in the Virginia Supreme Court to stop him. We’re asking the Supreme Court to reverse the Governor’s executive order and to prevent him from issuing similar orders down the road.

A plain reading of the Constitution, 240 years of practice, and precedent-setting Virginia Supreme Court cases lead to the unambiguous conclusion that the Governor’s order is unconstitutional and cannot stand. 

We have three separate and co-equal branches of government to serve as checks and balances against abuses of power.  We are compelled to challenge the Governor’s action to fulfill our constitutional duty to check the excesses of executive power.

Already, attorneys for a man accused of killing a state trooper have filed a motion to allow convicted felons on the jury for his trial this summer. This is just not right. This case is the first example of many that will follow from this executive order.  

If you have any concerns, questions, comments or issues that I or my Aide, Jenna, can help you with, please contact us at (434)821-5929 or email at Delmfariss@house.virginia.gov. You can also keep up with me on my Facebook page at www.facebook.com/DelegateMattFariss.

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