Economic Prosperity and Job Creation
Traditionally Virginia has been ranked as one of the top states for business and job creation, but in recent years our rankings have begun to slip. Last year we were actually near the bottom of the list of states for economic growth. These are more than statistics, this translates to less opportunities for jobs and upward improvement in the lives of Virginia families.
As a businessman, I know that government can’t create jobs, but it can foster a climate to make it easier for the private sector to prosper.
To improve our jobs climate, we need to let Shenandoah Valley families and small businesses keep more of their own money to invest in their communities by lowering the tax burden and controlling spending. Where appropriate, we should lift the burden of costly regulations that are not serving their intended purpose or the public interest. While overregulation can be harmful to all businesses, it can be most detrimental for small businesses that simply do not have the resources to try to stay both compliant and profitable. Additionally, we must maintain and strengthen our right-to-work laws that give workers the freedom to choose whether or not they want to participate in a labor union.
During my time in office I have opposed tax and fee increases and patroned measures that seek to cut through government red tape and place more scrutiny on our existing regulations. I have consistently supported legislation that solidifies our status as a right-to-work state, which is one of the greatest tools in our toolbelt for attracting new businesses and jobs to the Commonwealth.
I am a firm believer in our free market system. It provides the best opportunity for every citizen to pursue his or her dreams. Government has a responsibility to establish a level playing field and basic requirements for safety and welfare, but it should not be so intrusive and costly that it stifles the ability of individuals to pursue their dreams.
Ensuring a Quality Education for all Virginians
The Commonwealth consistently has one of the top ranked public education systems in the United States. However, changing technology and workforce needs require us to constantly reevaluate what can be done better. I support the current high school redesign effort to better prepare students for the workforce or higher education upon graduation from high school. While the success of our schools is not based solely on funding, it is an important factor. Since I took office, the General Assembly has invested an additional $1,040 per student annually back into k-12 education. I have supported teacher pay increases and efforts to direct more dollars to the classroom, and will continue to do so.
I believe in accountability for students and teachers, but I also understand that too much standardization and testing can stifle student interest and limit teacher effectiveness. This is why I supported the Standards of Learning Reform legislation in 2014 and will continue to favorably consider other reforms that seek to strike a more appropriate balance.
We are blessed to have local public schools that generally perform above the state-wide averages, but unfortunately some areas of Virginia are not so fortunate. Even in good schools there are students that are not thriving in the traditional learning environment. This is why I have consistently supported and co-patroned legislation that seeks to provide improved opportunities for all students, regardless of income, zip code, or individual learning needs. Among these proposals, I have supported measures to establish more charter schools in Virginia, a full time virtual learning program, a scholarship tax credit program that allows low income individuals to attend private school, and a measure that would empower parents of disabled students to utilize resources that would otherwise be expended on their student in the traditional classroom setting to get the specialized assistance they may need.
Law enforcement must have the tools they need to protect our communities. This starts with ensuring they are fairly compensated for putting themselves in harm’s way day after day. While no amount of pay is adequately sufficient, during the 2017 Session we provided a significant boost to our State Police along with more modest increases for locally supported officers.
I believe redemption and rehabilitation should be the goal for individuals that commit criminal acts. However, victims of crime cannot be forgotten. I support out truth in sentencing laws, as they ensure individuals that commit serious crimes do not get a simple slap on the wrist for their offense. During my service, I have patroned several measures to protect victims and make our communities a safer place to live. Among these are initiatives to expand the Address Confidentiality Program which helps protect victims of domestic violence and the creation of a presumption against granting bail for defendants who threaten a witness. I also sponsored legislation that increases the penalty for soliciting a minor for prostitution, straightened our texting while driving laws, and ensure defendants that commit heinous crimes post sufficient bond to guarantee they appear in court.
Defending the Second Amendment
As a lifelong sportsman and concealed carry permit holder, I am a strong supporter of our Second Amendment rights to keep and bear arms. I have fought attempts to restrict the rights of law-abiding citizens to use firearms for self-defense or for sporting purposes, and I will always support the rights of innocent citizens to defend themselves and their families from those who would seek to do harm. I have had the opportunity to advance pro-gun policies that eliminate unnecessary firearm restrictions and further expand the rights of lawful gun owners. I will continue to support this fundamental right.
The Right to Life
I am firmly pro-life. I will continue to do everything in my power to prevent our tax money from providing abortions. In cases where a mother chooses to have an abortion, I have and will continue to support efforts that ensure that she is fully aware of the decision she is making and all of the alternative options available to her. I also supported and signed on as a co-patron to the measure which ensures that when abortions are performed, they are performed in a safe, clean environment with all of the proper equipment available.
While there is a need for a safety net to protect the economically disadvantaged from falling into dire conditions, in most cases such entitlement programs should be designed as temporary assistance, rather than long term, which undoubtedly creates a culture of dependence. Furthermore, I support efforts which crack down on abuse, fraud, and unnecessary waste in these programs. I successfully carried a measure which prohibits TANF (welfare) recipients from purchasing inappropriate items with taxpayer dollars, such as alcohol and tobacco products. I intend to continue to pursue reforms such as this that ensure tax dollars are being used for their intended purpose.