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Posted at 5:20 PM ET, 01/18/2011

Va. Senate Republicans outline legislative agenda

By Rosalind S. Helderman and Anita Kumar

Republicans in the Virginia Senate said Tuesday that one of their top legislative priorities for the year is to ensure that the state budget does not include funding for private charities or not-for-profit cultural and historical sites known as "non-state agencies."

The GOP included the proposal in a package of legislative initiatives their caucus will advance during this year's legislative session, even though Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) has proposed amending the state budget to include funding for several charities.

McDonnell wants the state to spend $1 million to promote OpSail 2012, a tourist event that will bring tall sailing ships to ports along the Eastern seaboard to commemorate the War of 1812. He's also proposed a $500,000 grant to help fund a new headquarters for Operation Smile, a Hampton Roads-based charity that helps children with facial deformities, and another $500,000 for Virginia's food banks.

Asked about the governor's proposals at a news conference unveiling their legislative plans Tuesday, Senate Minority Leader Thomas K. Norment (R-James City County) responded that senate Republicans believe that this is not the year to spend tax dollars on private groups.

"We have to exercise some fiscal restraint and concentrate on those core areas of government and see that we're appropriately funding those," Norment said. "That is the position that we're taking in this 2011 session."

He added, however, "Having said that, this isn't your first rodeo. You are very much aware that once that bronco gets let out into the corral it's amazing how things change sometimes. It's going to be a long and very interesting budgetary process and we'll just have to see how it works out.

Senate Republicans unveiled the proposal at a news conference highlighting a seven-package of proposals for the 46-day legislative session.

The bills include proposals to increase transparency in the budget process, support a proposed amendment to the U.S. Constitution to allow federal laws to be repealed if two thirds of states agree, reduce the number of state boards and commissions, require state contractors to use e-verify to prevent the hiring of illegal immigrants, restrict taxpayer-funded abortions and write into Virginia's constitution a state law that makes it illegal to require employees to join unions.

The 18-member GOP Senate caucus was the only one of four to formally unveil its agenda for the legislative session.

"The Senate Republican Caucus is united in its commitment to advancing principled conservative proposals that will make state government more responsive and accountable to the people of Virginia," Sen. Steve Newman (R-Lynchburg) said.

By Rosalind S. Helderman and Anita Kumar  | January 18, 2011; 5:20 PM ET
Categories:  Anita Kumar, General Assembly 2011, Rosalind Helderman, State Senate  
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