WASHINGTON DC – The American Conservative Union Foundation (ACUF) has just released its ratings for the 2017 meeting of the Virginia General Assembly. These ratings, a portion of the comprehensive and nationwide ratings released by the ACUF, are designed to reflect how elected officials view the role of government and are helpful in illustrating how both chambers of the legislature as well as individual members’ prioritize a wide variety of issue areas that directly affect Virginians.
The ACUF has reviewed each piece of legislation voted on in both the Senate and House of Delegates to produce average scores for each chamber as well as individual scores for each sitting member.
Virginia legislators took pen to paper on various issues during the 2017 legislative session including First Amendment rights, the foster care system, green development, scholarship eligibility, and refugee resettlement. Most notably:
- The House signed on to legislation that allows Virginia homeschooled students to participate in high school sports and extracurricular activities after paying a reasonable fee to cover costs.
- A bill supporting freedom of speech for students, faculty members, school employees, and others invited to speak on campus passed the House, securing a victory for First Amendment rights at Virginia colleges and universities.
- The Senate voted to raise gas taxes in Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads, two of the most populated regions in the state.
A number of bills passed both the Virginia House and Senate but were later vetoed by Governor McAuliffe, including:
- A bill that reroutes Title X funding to organizations like Planned Parenthood that provide abortions;
- Legislation supporting religious freedom rights for individuals and organizations refusing to participate in the solemnization of same-sex marriages;
- Legislation requiring the state Department of Social Services to publish non-identifiable information on refugees resettled across the state; and
- A bill that would have expanded charter schools across Virginia.
Though the two chambers worked together to pass a handful of beneficial legislation this year, their scores varied from last year’s ratings, suggesting that the legislative body has room for improvement. The Virginia Senate’s average score increased by 5% points this year – from 47% in 2016 to 52% in 2017 – and House’s score only increased by a mere 2% – from 55% in 2016 to 57% this year.