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Legislative Update

It’s a new day in Virginia

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Happy New Year! I hope that you and your families had a safe and healthy holiday and that you are starting 2022 off on a positive note.

2021 certainly was full of highs and lows. In November, Virginia sent a very loud and clear message that we need new leadership for our Commonwealth to get moving in the right direction once more. The House of Delegates is now back to a Republican majority. Governor-elect Glenn Youngkin, Lt. Governor-elect Sears, and Attorney General-elect Jason Miyares will be sworn in to their new posts this Saturday. I am looking forward to working with them over the course of the next four years to bring about positive changes to critical issues like education, public safety, the business climate, and more. One thing is for sure, they are ready to go to work for you on Day One. It’s a very exciting and refreshing time for Virginia!

This year’s General Assembly Session began today and will continue for the next 60 days. During that time, the legislature will be working on a new state budget for the next two years along with about three thousand bills that will be filed and debated over the coming weeks. Committee meetings and floor debates will get underway in full next week and the pace for the next two months will be fast moving.

You will remember that last year’s session was like no other. Due to the pandemic, the Senate met in person but it was at the Science Museum of Virginia where we could spread out. The House of Delegates, however, had completely virtual meetings. Testimony from the general public in support of or in opposition to all bills in both chambers was done via Zoom. I did not support the lack of transparency this process afforded but am happy to report that this year, it will be back to business as usual – live and in person – at the Capitol.


The Senate will hold committee meetings in person at the Pocahontas Building and the daily floor sessions will be held in the Senate Chamber in the state Capitol. The Pocahontas Building will be open to the public again (maximum capacity limits will be monitored by the Capitol Police). Testimony from the general public on bills will be allowed in person, and a virtual option will be available for those not able or comfortable to come to Richmond.

I promise you that I will continue to stand up for our conservative ideals for you and your family. While the Democrats still have a slim majority in the Senate, we have a Republican House and Republican Governor. After two years of complete Democrat control, there is a lot that needs to be corrected. We will work to roll back many of the liberal policies that have been detrimental to our Commonwealth – burdensome business regulations, pro-labor union bills, so-called social justice reforms that actually make our most vulnerable communities less safe, and climate change policies that make Virginia look more like California than the Commonwealth that we know and love. It is a new day in Virginia. The core values on which my viewpoint on the world is built – small government, lower taxes, less regulation, and the freedom to bear arms and worship – will continue to guide my voting and actions this session.

I have a number of bills that I will be introducing this session that will deal with charter schools, small businesses, right to work, elections, elder abuse prevention, and public safety. I will be covering these more extensively in future updates along with other bills of interest the legislature takes up. To follow my legislative package, click here.

Even though this session still may look and feel a bit different, one thing that remains unchanged is my stellar legislative team. We will again have two offices operating during General Assembly:

Richmond Office- Room 502E Pocahontas Building
Connor Smith
connor@markobenshain.com
804-698-7526

Harrisonburg District Office
Jenni Aulgur
jennifer@markobenshain.com
540-437-1451

If you have scheduling requests, constituent concerns or would like to let me know what you think about a piece of legislation please reach out to my office at the contact information above or email me at mark@markobenshain.com As always, I appreciate hearing from my constituents on issues that are important to you.

I am grateful for the privilege of serving the Shenandoah Valley in the Virginia Senate!

Best,

Mark Obenshain

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Legislative Update

Warner & Kaine announce $19,962,161 in funding for the Appalachian Development Highway System

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WASHINGTON (January 26, 2022)  U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) announced $19,962,161 in funding for the Appalachian Development Highway System (ADHS) to help further connect Virginia’s Appalachian region to national Interstates. The funding, awarded through the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) in coordination with the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC), was made possible by the bipartisan infrastructure law negotiated by Sen. Warner and supported by Sen. Kaine.

“We are pleased to see these infrastructure dollars headed to Virginia, where they’ll help further connect Appalachian communities and maximize economic opportunity in the region,” said the Senators. “We’re proud that the bipartisan infrastructure law is dedicating the resources needed to advance this crucial development project.”

The ADHS is a 3,090-mile network of highways linking the Appalachian region to national Interstates, which provide access to regional and national markets, contributing to growth opportunities and improved access in Appalachia. The bipartisan infrastructure law represents the first sustained, robust, and dedicated support for the system in a decade, since funding for ADHS was not provided by Congress from 2012 to 2020.

As of September 30, 2021, Virginia’s ADHS corridors consist of 204.6 miles, with 192.2 miles currently eligible for funding. The estimated cost to complete Virginia’s ADHS corridors is $440.5 million – $172.9 for Corridor H, which runs from the West Virginia State line to I-81 at Strasburg, and $267.6 million for Corridor Q, which runs from Breaks Interstate Park at the Kentucky State line to I-81 at Christiansburg. Corridor B, which runs from Weber City at the Tennessee State line to the State line near Jenkins, Kentucky, is currently complete.


ARC is an economic development partnership agency of the federal government and 13 state governments, focusing on 420 counties across the Appalachian Region. ARC’s mission is to innovate, partner, and invest to build community capacity and strengthen economic growth in Appalachia to help the Region achieve socioeconomic parity with the nation. Since 1965, ARC has invested $4.5 billion in approximately 28,000 economic development projects across Appalachia, attracting over $10 billion in matching project funds.

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Legislative Update

Sixth District Perspectives with Congressman Ben Cline – January 24, 2022

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Special Report: Biden’s First Year

As we reach the one-year anniversary of one-party Democrat rule in Washington, D.C., we can see all-too clearly the disastrous results that it has brought for our Nation, for our economy, and for our families. During his inauguration speech, last January, President Biden said, “Politics need not be a raging fire destroying everything in its path.” However, that is exactly what has happened over the course of the last twelve months. The policies that have been pushed by this Administration, Speaker Pelosi, Leader Schumer, and Democrats across the country have culminated in crises on many fronts, the likes of which our Nation has not seen in decades.

On an economic front, rising costs are crushing blue-collar Americans. With inflation having risen every month since Joe Biden was sworn in, real wages have not only decreased, but folks are paying more for goods as they shop for the essentials. In fact, the Consumer Price Index increased by 7% from twelve months ago, marking the highest rate of inflation in 40-years. On top of this, the national average for a gallon of gas reached $3.28 last month, which means folks are paying 49.6% more than they did last year simply to commute to work. This surge in inflation has cost the average American family more than $3,500 this year, or nearly two paychecks – according to the Penn Wharton Budget Model.

Aside from the economic crisis, fueled by Democrats’ out-of-control spending, the Left’s policies over the past year have made our Nation inherently less safe. Since President Biden took office, more than 1.7 million illegal aliens have been encountered unlawfully crossing the border – the highest number in history. To make matters worse, Democrats reimplemented Catch and Release, and recent data shows that more than 47,000 illegal immigrants have failed to report to Immigrations and Customs Enforcement, meaning the Department of Homeland Security is entirely unaware of where in the country these individuals are. This flood of illegal immigration has also brought record levels of drugs across our border, most worrisome of which is fentanyl. Under President Biden’s and the Democrats’ watch, more pounds of fentanyl entered the United States through our southern border in FY2021 than in the previous two years combined. This powerful drug is incredibly dangerous and is fueling the opioid epidemic, which is tearing families apart. Fentanyl overdoses have even become the leading cause of death this year for Americans ages 18 to 45. Coupled with the immigration crisis that threatens our citizens’ well-being and safety is the crime crisis. Stemming from the Democrats’ “Defund the Police” agenda, at least 16 major U.S. cities set new homicide records in 2021. Further, this anti-police attitude led to 346 members of law enforcement being shot in the line of duty last year, 63 of whom were killed. This is a tragedy, yet Democrats refuse to support law-and-order policies that would keep Americans safe.


However, illegal border crossings and the rising rates of violent crime are not the only threats to the physical health of this country’s citizens. Despite adamant pledges, Democrats took their eyes off of COVID. Rather than focus on defeating the virus and healing the economy, President Biden immediately launched into a radical “transformation” of America, beginning by ramming a partisan $1.9 trillion “COVID Stimulus” through Congress that ignored the need for crucial COVID tests and treatments (less than 10 percent of the bill was COVID related), paid people more to stay home than to work, and fueled inflation. Then, as vaccinations stalled and case numbers soared, he demanded a $5 trillion Build Back Better socialist spending bill that included trillions in new tax hikes on Main Street businesses and massive giveaways to the wealthy, big corporations, and special interests. If we truly want to bring this pandemic to an end, we must address the nationwide testing shortage to ensure that those who are positive know to stay home.

And while there are many more crises to mention, one glaring failure that must be noted is the Administration’s feckless foreign policy. President Biden surrendered Afghanistan to the Taliban, sat idly by as Israel was pummeled with rockets, failed to offer real support to our friends in Taiwan and Ukraine as they face threats from authoritarian regimes, and is currently negotiating a nuclear agreement with one of the most prominent state sponsors of terror – Iran. These actions have weakened the United States in the eyes of our allies and emboldened our enemies who wish to do us harm.

In one year of a unified Democrat government, our economy has failed, our border has been overrun, violent crime has surged, COVID has spread like wildfire, and our reputation of rooting out terror has been tarnished. Our Nation cannot afford continued Democrat “leadership.” Republicans are ready to govern and are eager to get this country back on track.

Thank you for the opportunity to serve as your Congressman. If my office can ever be of assistance, please contact my Washington office at (202) 225-5431.

Follow me on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter for the latest updates.

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Legislative Update

As 2021 tax filing season begins, Warner raises concerns with IRS delays

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On the first day of the 2021 tax filing season, Sen. Warner raised concerns with the IRS after hearing from Virginians who are still waiting on their refunds from the 2020 filing season. These delays come as millions of Americans continue to face economic hardship due to the COVID-19 crisis.

In a letter to Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig, Sen. Warner stressed the importance of getting Virginians their individual tax refunds as soon as possible in order to avoid further processing delays. As of December 31, 2021, there were approximately 6 million unprocessed tax returns from 2020.

“I appreciate the IRS’ efforts to address the significant backlog of unprocessed returns, and recognize the significant challenges the agency has faced in operating during the pandemic while implementing major programs such as the stimulus payments and the Advance Child Tax Credit payments,” wrote Sen. Warner. “However, persistent delays harm taxpayers who are waiting for their returns to process – often those who need their refunds most – and the agency has an obligation to implement a clear plan that alleviates this backlog while avoiding major delays for the processing of filed returns during the 2021 tax filing season.”

This letter follows up on a February 2021 letter addressing the same issue of persistent processing delays at the IRS.


“Since my last letter, I have continued to hear from constituents that have still not had their 2020 tax returns processed, which has also caused delays in receiving the Advance Child Tax Credit payments, stimulus payments, tax refunds, and other much needed financial aid from the IRS,” Warner noted. “Additionally, businesses that have pending tax returns face delayed processing of their SBA EIDL loan applications. Taxpayers have increasingly expressed to my staff that they are unable to garner any information related to the processing of their tax returns via IRS phone lines or the website.”

In order to further understand the ongoing situation, Sen. Warner asked for answers to the following questions:

1. What formal plans have the IRS and Treasury developed to resolve the significant backlog of individual and business tax returns that remain unprocessed from the 2020 tax filing season?

2. How specifically will that plan allow the IRS to continue to process the backlog in parallel with the processing of returns for the tax year 2021 filing season?

3. Will taxpayers whose 2020 returns remain unprocessed or delayed face any difficulties in filing returns – electronically or in paper form – for the 2021 tax year? If so, what might these delays or difficulties be, what are your specific plans for addressing them, and how will taxpayers be informed in a timely fashion?

4. When do you anticipate that the Taxpayer Advocate Service (TAS) will resume accepting inquiries related to the processing of amended tax returns? If TAS is unable to accept this casework, will the IRS dedicate other resources to assist with inquiries that TAS is unable to accept?

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Sen. Warner has been a strong advocate for Virginians, working to ensure that they get the funds to which they are entitled. In April 2020, he pressed the Treasury Department to ensure that families who are not normally required to file taxes do not need to wait until the following year to receive the additional $500 payment per dependent child that they were promised. He also successfully pushed the Treasury Department to allow Social Security recipients to automatically receive CARES Act direct cash assistance without needing to file a tax return.

A copy of the letter is below.

Dear Secretary Yellen and Commissioner Rettig,

I write today to express my concern with the alarming number of my constituents who have not received their long-awaited tax refund from their 2020 taxes. As you are well aware, millions of Americans are still facing economic hardships and are desperately in need of these funds to help make ends meet.

In my letter to you on February 8, 2021, I noted that as of November 6, 2020, there were approximately 6.8 million unprocessed tax returns. As of December 31, 2021, there are still 6 million unprocessed tax returns; additionally, as of January 8, 2022, there are still 2.3 million unprocessed 1040-X, and 1.1 million unprocessed business tax returns as of January 12, 2022.

Since my last letter, I have continued to hear from constituents that have still not had their 2020 tax returns processed, which has also caused delays in receiving the Advance Child Tax Credit payments, stimulus payments, tax refunds, and other much-needed financial aid from the IRS. Additionally, businesses that have pending tax returns face delayed processing of their SBA EIDL loan applications. Taxpayers have increasingly expressed to my staff that they are unable to garner any information related to the processing of their tax returns via IRS phone lines or the website.

On November 10, 2021, National Taxpayer Advocate Erin Collins announced that the Taxpayer Advocate Service (TAS) would no longer accept congressional inquiries solely related to the processing of amended tax returns, due to the agency not being able to meaningfully expedite or improve case resolution for taxpayers. Ms. Collins also issued a Taxpayer Advocate Directive directing the IRS to “complete processing of all backlogged amended tax returns by December 29, 2021, or provide a detailed plan for completing processing the backlog”. The absence of assistance from TAS further aggravates the problems my constituents and other Americans face.

I appreciate the IRS’ efforts to address the significant backlog of unprocessed returns and recognize the significant challenges the agency has faced in operating during the pandemic while implementing major programs such as stimulus payments and the Advance Child Tax Credit payments. However, persistent delays harm taxpayers who are waiting for their returns to process – often those who need their refunds most – and the agency has an obligation to implement a clear plan that alleviates this backlog while avoiding major delays for the processing of filed returns during the 2021 tax filing season.

Please reply to me as soon as possible, and no later than February 4, 2022, with specific answers to the following questions:

1. What formal plans have the IRS and Treasury developed to resolve the significant backlog of individual and business tax returns that remain unprocessed from the TY 2020 tax filing season?
2. How specifically will that plan allow the IRS to continue to process the backlog in parallel with the processing of returns for the tax year 2021 filing season?
3. Will taxpayers whose 2020 returns remain unprocessed or delayed face any difficulties in filing returns – electronically or in paper form – for the 2021 tax year? If so, what might these delays or difficulties be, what are your specific plans for addressing them, and how will taxpayers be informed in a timely fashion?
4. When do you anticipate that TAS will resume accepting inquiries related to the processing of amended tax returns? If TAS is unable to accept this casework, will the IRS dedicate other resources to assist with inquiries that TAS is unable to accept?

Thank you for your attention to this important matter.

Sincerely,

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Legislative Update

Warner Weekly Wrap-Up: Firing on all cylinders

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From volunteering to voting rights to inflation letters, Sen. Warner had another busy week. He kicked it off by traveling around NoVa for a day of action on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, before returning to DC to advocate and vote for the reauthorization of a law King championed – the Voting Rights Act. Sen. Warner also continued his push to fight inflation, announced a new round of funding from the infrastructure law, and issued statements on major Intelligence Committee issues, including Havana syndrome. He’s ending the week traveling around the Commonwealth again, making stops in Richmond and Hampton Roads.

Let’s go through it:

LIVE LIKE KING JR.

For Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Sen. Warner embodied Coretta Scott King’s vision of a “day on, not a day off,” and traveled to meet with and serve alongside constituents. He started off delivering Meals on Wheels with members of Alexandria’s City Council – a bit of a family tradition, as the Senator’s late dad Robert Warner volunteered with Meals on Wheels well into his nineties. Then he met with recently resettled Afghan refugees and commended the work of Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Services, where he and U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield rolled up their sleeves and got to work sorting donated goods. Finally, he wrapped up the day by speaking about the legacy of voting rights activism at the Tinner Hill Heritage Foundation’s commemoration of Martin Luther King Jr.



 

Sen. Warner brought this energy back to the Capitol, where he continued the week by fighting for voting rights legislation. While the Freedom to Vote: John R. Lewis Act ultimately didn’t proceed, Sen. Warner continues to advocate for commonsense laws that protect democracy and prevent election subversion.

 

 

CURBING INFLATION

For months, Sen. Warner has continued to monitor and address inflation on a variety of fronts. From negotiating and passing his bipartisan legislation to ease the supply chain and restore American competitiveness in the semiconductor field, to support the nomination of Fed officials devoted to tackling inflation, he remains committed to addressing the issue.

While he trusts economic forecasts that suggest the effects will likely be temporary, Sen. Warner is still trying to do everything he can to get more solutions now. This week, he wrote a letter to National Retail Federation (the world’s largest retail trade association, representing companies like Target and Wal-Mart) inquiring about efforts to ease the supply chain and offering federal assistance to help these initiatives. He said:

“I write today concerned with the challenges posed by elevated levels of inflation in our economy. Despite the unprecedented challenges associated with reopening the nation and fighting the Delta and Omicron variants, our economy has recovered significantly since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, increasing prices continue to threaten our progress. I understand that persistent supply/demand imbalances and supply chain disruptions are contributing to inflation and urge you to continue working with me, my colleagues, and the Biden Administration to identify ways to alleviate these supply chain issues as quickly as possible.”

You can read the full letter here.

 

MONEY FLOWS INTO VA PORTS

So you’ve probably heard this one before: Virginia is getting another round of major funding thanks to the bipartisan infrastructure law that Sen. Warner negotiated.

This week, Sen. Warner applauded $359 million in federal funding for various key infrastructure projects around the Commonwealth, including $249 million for the City of Norfolk Coastal Storm Risk Management Project and $69 million for the Norfolk Harbor Deepening and Widening Project. These investments are part of a key effort to support resiliency across Virginia, and ensure that its ports are ready to face the evolving threat of climate change. These wins follow years of advocacy from Sen. Warner to get these projects more funding.

 

In a joint statement with Sen. Tim Kaine, Rep. Elaine Luria and Rep. Bobby Scott (all D-VA), Warner said,

“We applaud the Biden administration and the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers for recognizing the invaluable role the Port of Virginia and Norfolk Harbor have in supporting our nation’s economy. Additionally, we applaud the administration’s significant investment in the City of Norfolk to protect this community from the increasing threat of rising seas and significant flood events. After years of advocating for this funding, we are thrilled that Virginia will receive the federal dollars it needs to carry out these projects, which will help further strengthen our supply chains, mitigate the growing risks of sea-level rise, and secure our economic and national security interests in and around the region.”

INTELLIGENCE ADVANCEMENTS

As Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, Sen. Warner carefully monitors the activities of the U.S. intelligence community. This week, he issued two key statements surrounding developments in these communities, first applauding steps by President Biden’s administration to improve the cybersecurity of federal government computer systems and networks. He said,

“I applaud President Biden for signing this order to improve our nation’s cybersecurity. Among other priorities, this National Security Memorandum (NSM) requires federal agencies to report efforts to breach their systems by cybercriminals and state-sponsored hackers. Now it’s time for Congress to act by passing our bipartisan legislation that would require critical infrastructure owners and operators to report such cyber intrusions within 72 hours.”

Cybersecurity remains one of Sen. Warner’s top priorities – at the end of last week, he attended a briefing in Richmond about the cyber-attack against the General Assembly last December.

 

In other news in the Intelligence community, Sen. Warner offered a statement after the CIA released a report by their interim task force on anomalous health incidents (also known as AHIs or so-called “Havana syndrome,” after the location where these incidents first emerged). Since 2016, more than 1000 intelligence, diplomatic and military personnel have reported a constellation of troubling and mysterious health ailments, including brain injuries. As the leader of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Sen. Warner has been working to get to the bottom of these cases, many of which have required significant medical treatment. In October 2021, President Joe Biden signed the Helping American Victims Afflicted by Neurological Attacks (HAVANA) Act into law. The new law, which Warner introduced with Senators Susan Collins (R-ME), Marco Rubio (R-FL), and others, authorizes financial support and ensures medical care for American public servants who have suffered brain injuries.

In response to work by the CIA to identify the cause of these mysterious symptoms, which some have speculated is the result of a directed energy weapon developed by one of our nation’s adversaries, Sen. Warner said:

“While Director Burns has earned the trust of the Senate Intelligence Committee that he is taking this challenge seriously, it’s important to note that today’s assessment, while rigorously conducted, reflects only the interim work of the CIA task force. The Senate Intelligence Committee will continue pressing for answers on a bipartisan basis, and we look forward to robust engagement with the intelligence community, as well as the conclusions of the outside experts’ panel that has been assembled to seek answers to these very urgent and difficult questions.”

The full statement can be found here.

GRAB BAG

BROADBAND BRIEFING: Today, Sen. Warner met with the Governor’s Broadband Advisory Council to discuss the path to achieving universal broadband coverage.

WMATA GOODBYES: Sen. Warner issued a statement thanking the WMATA CEO and General Manager Paul J. Wiedefeld as he announced his retirement.

SUPPORTING TRIBAL COVID RESPONSES: Sens. Warner and Kaine applauded $2 million in federal funding awarded to the Chickahominy Eastern Division and Nansemond Indian Nation to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, made possible by their votes on the American Rescue Plan. This follows a visit from Sen. Warner to the Nansemond Indian Nation in April 2021.

MERGING REGULATIONS: Sen. Warner welcomed the announcement by the FTC and DOJ to update their guidelines on horizontal and vertical mergers. He also celebrated the advancement of the first major tech antitrust bill to arrive on the Senate floor, of which he is a cosponsor.

WEEK AHEAD

This weekend, Sen. Warner is traveling to Richmond and Hampton Roads. The Senate will be in recess next week, and Sen. Warner plans to use the time to get ahead on legislative planning for the rest of the year.

 

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Legislative Update

Warner seeks more information from major retailers on supply shortages & rising costs

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WASHINGTON – On January 20, 2022, U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) requested more information from major retailers regarding omicron-related supply chain problems and shortages that are contributing to inflation and rising costs. In a letter to the National Retail Federation – the world’s largest retail trade association, representing large retail companies like Target and Wal-Mart – Sen. Warner expressed concern with the ongoing supply chain disruptions and stressed that companies and the government must work together to tackle the problems that are leading to higher prices and directly hitting Americans’ pockets.

“Despite the unprecedented challenges associated with reopening the nation and fighting the Delta and Omicron variants, our economy has recovered significantly since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, increasing prices continue to threaten our progress. I understand that persistent supply/demand imbalances and supply chain disruptions are contributing to inflation and urge you to continue working with me, my colleagues, and the Biden Administration to identify ways to alleviate these supply chain issues as quickly as possible,” Sen. Warner wrote.

He continued, “I am also continuing to advance legislation that addresses targeted supply chain issues that have shown to have sweeping impacts on our economy, including the U.S. Innovation and Competition Act which includes $52 billion for domestic semiconductor manufacturing. However, it is clear that these efforts will likely take time to bear fruit, and that more needs to be done now to help Americans facing rising prices.”

In the letter, Sen. Warner asked companies what they are doing to resolve the supply chain problems and what more the federal government can do to support those efforts. Specifically, he posed the following series of questions to better understand the steps being taken by companies to alleviate supply chain pressures and to inquire about any additional measures that Congress can take to assist with this effort:



1. Alleviating existing backlogs continues to be an immediate priority for the private sector as well as the government. Can you please explain what your companies are doing to alleviate backlogs and what challenges you are facing? Are there any constraints that lend themselves to policies that Congress should pursue?

2. How long do you see supply chain pressures lasting? Do you believe the supply chain problems we are seeing will begin to soften in 2022?

3. What more can Congress, or the federal government, do to support your efforts to clear these backlogs and strengthen our nation’s supply chains?

 

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Legislative Update

Obenshain: Time for Virginia to embrace public charter schools

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We are one week into Session and it has been an eventful week here in Richmond. On Saturday, I was joined by my colleagues and hundreds of supporters and friends at the State Capitol to participate in the inauguration of our 74th Governor of the Commonwealth of Virginia, Glenn Youngkin. We also witnessed the swearing-in of our new Lieutenant Governor Winsome Sears and Attorney General Jason Miyares.

I tell you what – watching these three conservative leaders and public servants take office was one of the most satisfying occurrences in recent memory. We all worked so hard this past election season to elect these three fine individuals and I am excited to get to work in partnering with them to legislate effectively.

I am proud to bring a host of bills this year to protect our liberties and advocate for efficient, limited government.

First, I am working with Governor Youngkin on a bill to help expand Virginias’ access to charter schools. It’s time for Virginia to open its arms and embrace public charter schools. Who could oppose giving more flexibility to schools and teachers and more choice for families? It’s an honor to partner with this new administration in this important effort. To read more about my Senate bill 125, click here.


I am also carrying two bills to increase voter confidence in the integrity of our elections. My first bill, Senate bill 390 (click here to read it), would require the local electoral boards and general registrars to annually conduct a post-election audit of at least one-fifth of all ballot scanner machines. These measures will undoubtedly help restore confidence in our elections – a confidence that has been eroded by Democrat policies over the past few years.

The second bill had to do with voter identification. Democrats here in Virginia repealed the mandate requiring photo identification to vote. There’s no doubt this repeal undermined voter confidence in the fairness of our elections. My Senate bill 127 (click here to read it) would have reinstated the mandate to require a photo ID to vote. Unfortunately, that bill met a quick death by “PBI” (an acronym that stands for “passed by indefinitely”) in the Democrat-controlled Senate Privileges and Elections committee.

I am deeply concerned with the increase in the financial exploitation of elderly and vulnerable adults. Preventing this exploitation has been a priority of mine for years and this year I have introduced two bills to address it. First is, Senate Bill 124 (click here to read it), which creates a new class 1 misdemeanor for someone who knowingly or intentionally abuses the power of attorney to financially exploit an incapacitated adult. Second is Senate Bill 126 (click here to read it), to expand the definition of “incapacitated adult” in the law to provide more financial protection for the elderly. I’m proud to say that both these bills are supported by our Attorney General Jason Miyares.

If you wish to see the full list of the bills I am introducing this year, click here.

In addition to sponsoring legislation, I am also responsible for voting on my colleagues’ proposed bills in the committees on which I sit. These include Agriculture, Conservation and Natural Resources, Commerce and Labor, Judiciary, and Transportation. From time to time in this weekly update, I will highlight bills of note on which I voted in committee. This morning, the Judiciary Committee met for the first time.

One bill in particular worth noting from Judiciary this morning was SB 105 which effectively eliminates ALL mandatory minimum sentences from the Code of Virginia. Mandatory minimums have long since provided closure and security to victims of crimes and their families as well as Virginians as a whole. This blanket repeal will make our streets and communities less safe.

The elimination of these mandatory minimums hits close to home for those of us who have lived in the Shenandoah Valley for a few decades. It arose from the case of Daniel Lee Zirkle, who was executed in 2002 for the killing of his 4-year-old daughter and her 14-year-old half-sister (read about the murders here). Zirkle committed these heinous acts in a fit of rage, after being released from jail days after violating the terms of a protective order for the 4th time. That minimum sentence would have kept Zirkle in jail longer allowing him to cool off and may have prevented these awful deaths.

While I would consider the elimination of some mandatory minimums, this blanket repeal goes way too far. Take, for example, it repeals the sixty-day mandatory minimum sentence for the repeat violation of domestic violence protective orders. This mandatory minimum was adopted in 2009 by unanimous vote in the House and Senate and it was signed into law by then-governor Tim Kaine.

The passage of this bill out of committee this morning was lauded by liberal groups like the Progressive Prosecutors of Virginia who proclaimed it as an “excellent moment in Virginia history.” This liberal-driven approach represents a missed opportunity to review some mandatory minimums that should be reconsidered.

The one silver lining about the passage of this bill is that Republicans in the Virginia Senate are no longer the last line of defense for liberal bills like these (like we have been for two years). I’ve said for years that elections have consequences and a positive one of the 2021 elections was that we now have a Republican majority in the House of Delegates and a Republican governor in Glenn Youngkin who will have an opportunity to veto liberal bills like these.

This week, we were honored to welcome a number of individuals to our office – both in person and virtually. Some of our visitors included advocates from the Virginia Citizens Defense League and members of the Virginia Federation of the Blind. If you would like to meet with me or my office, please email me at mark@markobenshain.com or come by our office in the Pocahontas Building, office 502E.

I’ll continue to provide regular updates throughout the session so stay tuned!

Best,

Mark Obenshain

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The Valley Today - The River 95.3

The Vine and Leaf

Warren Charge (Bennett's Chapel, Limeton, Asbury)

Warren County Department of Social Services

Warrior Psychotherapy Services, PLLC

What Matters & Beth Medved Waller, Inc Real Estate

White Picket Fence

Woodward House on Manor Grade

King Cartoons

Front Royal
19°
Sunny
7:22am5:28pm EST
Feels like: 19°F
Wind: 0mph WNW
Humidity: 67%
Pressure: 30.45"Hg
UV index: 1
FriSatSun
36/18°F
23/9°F
34/18°F

Upcoming Events

Jan
28
Fri
12:30 pm Free REVIVE! Opioid Overdose and... @ ONLINE
Free REVIVE! Opioid Overdose and... @ ONLINE
Jan 28 @ 12:30 pm – 1:30 pm
Free REVIVE! Opioid Overdose and Naloxone Education @ ONLINE
Northwestern Prevention Collaborative, in conjunction with Northwestern Community Services Board, will offer a free, virtual REVIVE! Training on January 28th from 12:30 pm to 1:30 pm. The one-hour online class provides an overview of how[...]
Jan
31
Mon
3:00 pm Virtual Financial Services Workshop @ ONLINE
Virtual Financial Services Workshop @ ONLINE
Jan 31 @ 3:00 pm – 4:00 pm
Virtual Financial Services Workshop @ ONLINE
People Incorporated is cohosting a virtual financial services workshop for small business owners to learn about business loans, technical assistance, training, and other services provided by the agency. The workshop is scheduled for Monday, Jan.[...]
Feb
2
Wed
6:30 pm Front Royal Wednesday Night Bingo @ Front Royal Volunteer Fire Deptartment
Front Royal Wednesday Night Bingo @ Front Royal Volunteer Fire Deptartment
Feb 2 @ 6:30 pm – 9:30 pm
Front Royal Wednesday Night Bingo @ Front Royal Volunteer Fire Deptartment
Bingo to support the American Cancer Society mission, organized by Relay For Life of Front Royal. Every Wednesday evening Early Bird Bingo at 6:30 p.m. Regular Bingo from 7-9:30 p.m. Food and refreshments available More[...]
Feb
4
Fri
all-day First Friday @ Downtown Main Street
First Friday @ Downtown Main Street
Feb 4 all-day
First Friday @ Downtown Main Street
Come celebrate First Friday! Downtown businesses will be open late, until 8 p.m., on the first Friday and Saturday of each month.
Feb
5
Sat
all-day First Friday @ Downtown Main Street
First Friday @ Downtown Main Street
Feb 5 all-day
First Friday @ Downtown Main Street
Come celebrate First Friday! Downtown businesses will be open late, until 8 p.m., on the first Friday and Saturday of each month.
9:00 am Women’s Wellness Workshop @ ONLINE
Women’s Wellness Workshop @ ONLINE
Feb 5 @ 9:00 am – 1:00 pm
Women's Wellness Workshop @ ONLINE
Women’s Wellness Workshop – Virtual via Zoom Webinar – Key Note Speaker Dr. Neema. Registrations will begin January 5: frontroyalwomenswellness.com
4:30 pm Astronomy for Everyone @ Sky Meadows State Park
Astronomy for Everyone @ Sky Meadows State Park
Feb 5 @ 4:30 pm – 7:30 pm
Astronomy for Everyone @ Sky Meadows State Park
Historic Area: Discover our International Dark-Sky Park! Our evenings begin with a half-hour children’s “Junior Astronomer” program, followed by a discussion about the importance of dark skies and light conservation. Then join NASA Jet Propulsion[...]
Feb
9
Wed
6:30 pm Front Royal Wednesday Night Bingo @ Front Royal Volunteer Fire Deptartment
Front Royal Wednesday Night Bingo @ Front Royal Volunteer Fire Deptartment
Feb 9 @ 6:30 pm – 9:30 pm
Front Royal Wednesday Night Bingo @ Front Royal Volunteer Fire Deptartment
Bingo to support the American Cancer Society mission, organized by Relay For Life of Front Royal. Every Wednesday evening Early Bird Bingo at 6:30 p.m. Regular Bingo from 7-9:30 p.m. Food and refreshments available More[...]
Feb
12
Sat
10:00 am Winter Tree Identification Workshop @ Sky Meadows State Park
Winter Tree Identification Workshop @ Sky Meadows State Park
Feb 12 @ 10:00 am – 2:00 pm
Winter Tree Identification Workshop @ Sky Meadows State Park
Winter Tree Identification Workshop: Botany and Bloom Series Historic Area Even after the chilly breezes of autumn have stripped them of their leaves, trees provide clues to their identification by way of their bark, leaf[...]