OUT OF RICHMOND: Virginia legislators sound off on Trump Inauguration

 

By Nick Versaw

Capital News Service for Culpeper Times

Several members of the Virginia House of Delegates spoke out Monday in regard to the events surrounding the inauguration of Donald Trump over the weekend.

Members from both sides of the aisle made their voices heard, both in support and opposition of the 45th president and the activities that engulfed his inauguration weekend.

Del. Kirk Cox, R-Colonial Heights, alluded to the events as a teachable moment for America’s youth.

“As a government teacher … I had a real passion for my students to understand what an incredibly unique representative democracy this was,” Cox said on the House floor Monday. “I thought of that on Friday when we saw one of the things I think is one of the greatest things we do, and that’s the transition of power.”

However, Cox was quick to voice his displeasure over both Trump’s Democratic opposition and those who took to the streets of Washington, D.C., to protest over the weekend.

“I’d be less than candid if I didn’t say I was disappointed in the 67 Democratic congressmen that did not attend,” Cox said. “I was probably even more disappointed with some of the violent protests I saw. I thought that it was bad for the country and, frankly, probably kept some of those good folks from various parts of the country from attending.”

Cox also used his platform as a call to action for his colleagues on both sides of the aisle. He referred to recent remarks delivered by Del. Cia Price, D-Newport News.

“I was reflecting on a speech that Del. Price gave last week,” he said. “I think we all need to look at other people’s perspectives, and I really took to heart when she said that for her, her grandmother and, I think, for so many others, what President Obama’s presidency meant. I thought that was very well said. And so, having said that, I think it’s crucial that whether you did or did not support President Trump, that he’s our president and we need to pray for his success, success for Americans and Virginia’s success.”

Del. David Toscano, D-Charlottesville, agreed with Cox’s call to support the new president but warned against doing so blindly.

“I, too, share (Del. Cox’s) support for the notion of a smooth transition of political power in this country. I think that’s what distinguishes our country from many other countries around the globe,” Toscano said.

But he added, “Be careful before you walk down the road with President Trump. He is our president, and we have an obligation to support him, but we also have an obligation to tell him he is wrong when he is wrong.”

Toscano cited the administration’s stances on repealing the Affordable Care Act and a reported freeze on federal government hiring as two examples where Americans need to remain vigilant.

“In these two instances – ACA and freezes on federal employment – he is wrong, and we should stand up for those principles,” he said.

Del. Nick Freitas, R-Culpepper, was quick to address Toscano’s claims.

“I actually agree with some of the comments from (Del. Toscano),” Freitas said, “and I have to say that if President Trump accomplishes nothing more than once again reinvigorating the Democrats’ passion for the Fourth, Fifth, Ninth and Tenth Amendments to the Constitution, he will achieve more than I ever thought possible in my lifetime.”

Freitas, like Cox, also expressed his disdain over the weekend’s protests.

“As I looked at the violent riots that broke out – probably by a bunch of people with ‘coexist’ bumper stickers on their cars – at the inauguration, I couldn’t believe it,” he said. “These are some of the same people that are constantly lecturing us on tolerance and diversity and getting along, and the moment there’s an election result they don’t like, we’re setting things on fire and throwing bricks through windows.”

Freitas compared the protesters with what he characterized as the oppressive regulations of his opponents across the aisle.

“When it comes to things like Obamacare and when it comes to a lot of these other government-imposed programs that don’t require voluntary cooperation, they use coercion. If it’s such a good idea, why does it always require government force to implement on an otherwise free people?” Freitas asked.

“I think that’s a fair question to ask, because at the end of the day, coexistence is not a bumper sticker you put on your car. Coexistence is resisting the urge to coerce those whom you can’t convince. I think we need to be a little bit more cognizant of that.”

However, Freitas concluded by reiterating Toscano’s point on holding government accountable.

“I, for one, hope this administration will rely more on free people to resolve their problems through voluntary association as opposed to a top-down Washington, D.C., approach for everything,” he said. “I commit to holding the administration, even though it’s my party, accountable to that end.”

Legislators seek to curb ‘Distracted Driving’

By SaraRose Martin

Capital News Service for Culpeper Times

A coalition of Democrats and Republicans called Tuesday for new laws to discourage Virginia motorists from using their cellphones while driving.

The legislators unveiled several bills targeting “distracted driving,” which they said caused thousands of traffic accidents and killed 175 people in the state last year.

HB 1834, sponsored by Del. Rich Anderson, R-Woodbridge, would make it illegal for drivers to “manually select multiple icons or enter multiple letters or text” in a handheld device – meaning they couldn’t check Facebook, send a tweet or view a video on YouTube. Current state law prohibits drivers only from sending emails or text messages.

Anderson’s bill also would create a new offense called distracted driving in the Code of Virginia.

“In partnership with law enforcement, we can make this happen, and that’s what this collective effort is all about,” Anderson said. “This is a bicameral, bipartisan effort.”

Existing law against texting while driving applies only when the vehicle is moving. Anderson’s bill would extend the ban to when the vehicle is stopped on the roadway. It would not apply when the vehicle is legally parked.

Anderson’s bill would not affect drivers using a GPS navigation system or accessing a name or number stored on their cellphone to make a call.

“The real reason we’ve got to do this is simply because, based on reports from Jan. 1 to Dec. 31 of 2016, 175 Virginians died on our highways as a result of distracted driving,” Anderson said. “On top of that, 14,700 Virginians were injured.”

Del. Ron Villanueva, R-Virginia Beach, and Del. Tag Greason, R-Potomac Falls, have introduced legislation to educate young people about the dangers of distracted driving.

Under Villanueva’s proposal, HB 2015, people who use the E-ZPass electronic toll collection system could make a voluntary contribution to the DRIVE SMART Virginia Education Fund. The fund sponsors training and activities to promote roadway safety.

Greason’s bill, HB 1763, would authorize the issuance of special license plates for supporters of highway safety, including awareness of distracted driving. For each plate sold, $10 would be used to promote safe driving.

Greason suggested that the plates be designed by high school students.

“High school students said something interesting to me: ‘You might pass a new law, you might create a new impaired-driving statute, you might increase the penalties, but that’s really not going to make an effect,’” Greason said.

“‘Somehow, you have to get us engaged in the process.’”

Sen. Scott Surovell, D-Fairfax, introduced legislation that would deal with injuries caused by distracted driving. SB 1339 says a person who operates a motor vehicle in a careless or distracted manner and causes serious injury to a pedestrian or bicyclist would be guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor. The driver’s license would be suspended.

As a lawyer, Surovell said he dealt with this kind of personal injury first hand. He recalled representing a family whose son was killed by a distracted driver.

“That collision opened my eyes to how dangerous texting while driving can be,” Surovell said. “The individual in that case was never convicted of anything.”

A study by Virginia Tech found that 80 percent of all crashes are from driver inattention three seconds before the accident, according to Janet Brooking, executive director of DRIVE SMART. She said texting while driving makes a person 2,300 times more likely to be in a crash.

Dana Schrade, executive director of the Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police, said the legislation would help clarify, educate and enforce safe driving.

“What we are talking about is something that has become an accepted practice, and that’s that we can multitask. When you get behind the wheel, driving is a full-time job,” Schrade said.

“The more we make a clear message through our legislation with the help of these legislators, the more we put forth a clear message about how this is a No. 1 danger in driving today.”