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Peter’s Take is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

Peter Rousselot

Virginia’s Republican Leaders are continuing their multi-year crusade to stifle the hard-won rights of Virginia’s women.

In my March 19 column, I highlighted the systematic efforts by this year’s Republican gubernatorial candidate, Ken Cuccinelli, to drive Virginia women’s rights back to the 1950’s.

But Cuccinelli is far from alone. The current Republican Governor of Virginia, Bob McDonnell—who is eyeing a race for President in 2016–doesn’t want to let Cuccinelli overshadow McDonnell’s own efforts to restrict women’s rights. Last week, McDonnell exercised his gubernatorial authority to modify legislation passed by the Virginia legislature earlier this year.

McDonnell added an amendment to Virginia health care reform legislation that interferes in women’s private medical decisions by prohibiting insurance companies from offering policies that cover safe and legal abortion as a part of Virginia’s health exchange. This is part of McDonnell’s effort to curry favor with the far right wing of his party. McDonnell does not want to be outflanked by Cuccinelli in Republican right wing circles just as jockeying among the 2016 Republican Presidential contenders begins to ramp up.

From 2011’s invasive ultrasound requirements (which made Virginia a laughingstock on late night comedy shows) to burdensome and medically unnecessary health clinic regulations, Virginia’s Republican politicians continue to generate outrage with their attacks on women’s health.

Important and private medical decisions should be made by a woman and her doctor, not by politicians. Caring for pregnant women means making sure they have all the options they need for all medical possibilities during pregnancy – whether carrying a pregnancy to term or making the decision with their doctor to end a pregnancy.

The federal constitutional right to an abortion is an integral part of basic health care for women, and must be part of comprehensive insurance plans in Virginia. McDonnell’s amendment sets yet another dangerous precedent of political interference into health care decisions by eliminating coverage for care to which he is ideologically opposed—but about which he lacks the medical training to evaluate.

McDonnell and Cuccinelli need to find other ways to cozy up to the far right wing of the Republican Party.

Peter Rousselot is a member of the Central Committee of the Democratic Party of Virginia and former chair of the Arlington County Democratic Committee.

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Peter’s Take is a weekly opinion column published on Tuesdays. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

Peter RousselotRepublican Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli wants to be elected Virginia Governor this year. If he succeeds, the values on which he has built his political career ensure that he would exploit every opportunity to set Virginia’s women back 60 years to an era in which they were “stuck in the drudgery of domestic servitude.”

You think I’m exaggerating? Cuccinelli supports a “personhood amendment” to Virginia’s Constitution.

The practical effect of enacting a personhood law in Virginia would be to end or cripple a series of personal rights and private decisions that Virginia’s women have enjoyed for decades, such as:

  • Birth control
  • Fertility treatment
  • Management of a miscarriage
  • Access to safe and legal abortions

Cuccinelli is also the godfather of the effort to drive all abortion clinics in Virginia out of business. In 2011, the Virginia legislature passed a law that classified abortion clinics that perform more than 5 first-trimester abortions per month as hospitals rather than doctor’s offices. The intent of the law, candidly admitted by many of its sponsors, was to drive these clinics out of business entirely because of the expense of compliance.

This 2011 abortion clinic law was patterned after an earlier bill that Cuccinelli had sponsored when he was in the Virginia State Senate. In his current role as Attorney General, Cuccinelli has fought every step of the way to be sure that this abortion clinic law is harshly and mercilessly applied to wipe these clinics out.

Further cementing his role as a champion of setting women’s rights back decades, Cuccinelli recently welcomed a $1.5 million pledge to his campaign for Governor from the Susan B. Anthony List — “a national organization known for its extreme stance on women’s health care.”

A Virginia governed by Ken Cuccinelli would be a 21st century real-life version of Margaret Atwood’s classic 1985 science fiction novel, The Handmaid’s Tale. Cuccinelli’s views on the proper role of women in our society are central to his values and the way in which he would govern our state.

This is not science fiction — this is all too real. We can’t afford to take a risk like this.

Peter Rousselot is a member of the Central Committee of the Democratic Party of Virginia and former chair of the Arlington County Democratic Committee.

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Del. Alfonso Lopez, Sen. Janet Howell, gubernatorial hopeful Terry McAuliffe, Sen. Dick SaslawDemocratic Northern Virginia legislators joined gubernatorial hopeful Terry McAuliffe in spending part of the afternoon praising the state’s newly passed transportation bill and Republican Governor Bob McDonnell’s role in pushing it through.

State Sen. Dick Saslaw, Sen. Janet Howell and Del. Alfonso Lopez joined McAuliffe in discussing the bipartisanship and compromises needed for passing the legislation. Howell noted that nobody fully backed the bill but legislators had to put aside their difference to reach a compromise on the state’s first transportation funding plan in nearly three decades.

“We had very different views on what the ultimate solution should be. We had philosophical differences, we had regional differences, we had partisan differences. But we agreed on one crucial matter — doing nothing was no longer an option,” said Howell. “We’ve all disagreed with Governor McDonnell on certain issues, but this was a time when we came together. Like every compromise, no one got exactly what he or she wanted. In fact, there are parts of it that make me want to gag. But we made progress for Virginia.”

The press conference took place near the Washington Blvd bridge over Columbia Pike; speakers took turns referencing the bridge and how the new bill would fund similar infrastructure projects.

Construction on Washington Blvd bridge“We have needed this in South Arlington for literally decades. Because of the compromise that we were able to hash out in the General Assembly, there will be projects like this happening all across the Commonwealth,” Lopez said. “Literally, there have been pieces falling out of that bridge for decades and now we’re getting it fixed.”

Although he wasn’t directly a part of passing the legislation himself, McAuliffe said he spent hours on the phone with members of both parties, pushing them to find a compromise. The former Democratic National Committee chairman commended all legislators involved while alluding to more projects on failing infrastructure should he win the governor’s seat.

“We finally have some money to do what we need to do to keep the citizens safe,” said McAuliffe. “This was a bipartisan effort to deal with transportation. We are able to stand here today, where inaction has been happening for 27 years, and say something was done.”

McAuliffe did take time to blast Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, who is expected to be his Republican rival for governor. He bashed Cuccinelli, as did the other officials in attendance, for acting as a roadblock to the transportation bill. He then turned his focus to another of his campaign issues — job creation.

“We need to be making sure that if we’re going to get cuts here, your next governor is focused on diversifying this economy, bringing in 21st century jobs. And you can only do that by a great transportation system, a great education system, workforce training,” said McAuliffe. “I can work with anybody, any time of the day, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, anybody, anytime if you’re going to help me create jobs for the Commonwealth of Virginia.”

One of the issues in the transportation bill that has been controversial in Northern Virginia is the $100 annual tax for hybrid vehicle owners. Saslaw told ARLnow.com that he could potentially argue for either side of that issue, but it might be better for the governor in the long run if he performs a line item veto on that particular measure.

“The governor probably would be better off lining it out. You could say the squeeze ain’t worth the juice having it in there. It’s an awful lot of aggravation for $18 million out of an $800 million dollar thing,” Saslaw said. “It only takes a minute to look at it, I don’t know if he’ll do anything. And if he starts mucking with it too much, it’s going to start to get rejected.”

Saslaw said the issue will likely create more trouble than it’s worth because the number of hybrid drivers in the state is so small — only a little more than 1 percent of the total vehicle owners. He believes it might have made more sense to find another revenue boost, such as raising vehicle registration fees or imposing a tax based on a vehicle’s gas usage per gallon, not simply the fact that it’s hybrid. In the end, he reiterated that the bill was imperfect, but it needed to pass.

“I voted for the compromise, as did everyone else, because when that thing comes out of conference you either vote for it or you don’t vote for it,” said Saslaw. “As Senator Howell pointed out, [it] is not the ideal situation. In fact, when it becomes law, it’s going to have to be tweaked.”

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Peter’s Take is a weekly opinion column published on Tuesdays. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

Peter RousselotVirginia’s Republican Attorney General, Ken Cuccinelli, wants to be elected Governor of Virginia this year. So does his Democratic opponent, Northern Virginia businessman Terry McAuliffe.

This year’s campaign for Governor presents starkly different visions of the direction Virginia should take. There will be many opportunities to debate which vision makes more sense. And, there is still a chance that a third major candidate — Virginia’s current Lieutenant Governor Bill Bolling — might jump in the race.

But only one of these candidates for Governor — Cuccinelli — has a track record of denying the conclusions of the scientific community.

To advance his cause as a climate science denier, Cuccinelli went so far as to sue the University of Virginia — our flagship university. Although Cuccinelli’s lawsuit was thrown out as frivolous by Virginia’s highest court, it had chilling reverberations within the scientific research community.

Regardless of what you think of Cuccinelli’s positions on any other issue, he should be disqualified from further consideration as Virginia’s Governor because of his record as a science denier. Why?

This is only a sampling of public policy issues facing Virginia’s next Governor:

  • Uranium mining
  • Rising tides
  • Offshore drilling
  • Transit technology choices
  • Tax incentives for green technologies

What to do about each of these issues depends on an understanding and respect for scientific findings.

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Morning Notes

I-66 on dreary winter's day (photo by wolfkann)

School Boundary Meeting on Wednesday — Arlington Public Schools will hold its next school boundary meeting on Wednesday (February 6), at 7:00 p.m. in the Williamsburg Middle School auditorium. APS will share feedback gathered at the January 23 meeting, and present a smaller set of boundary options. After reviewing the options, meeting attendees will have the opportunity to offer feedback. The final set of options is expected to be offered to the School Board in late March.

Metro Region Worst for Traffic — The annual Texas A&M Transportation Institute survey lists the D.C. metro area as number one for the country’s worst traffic congestion, topping Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York and Boston. The average driver is said to spend 67 hours per year sitting in traffic. Analysts believe drivers will add seven hours to that number by 2020. [Washington Post]

Cuccinelli Backs Alternative Transportation Plan —  Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli is not backing Gov. Bob McDonnell’s transportation plan, but rather a plan that’s considered the conservative alternative. Instead of eliminating the gas tax and increasing the sales tax as McDonnell’s plan proposed, the alternative plan would replace the current gas tax with a sales tax on gasoline. McDonnell’s plan has been controversial, including when the Arlington County Board bashed the proposal late last month. [Washington Examiner]

Free Pancakes at IHOP — Customers at IHOP can get a free short stack of pancakes today. Guests celebrating National Pancake Day are encouraged to leave a donation for Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals. The offer is limited to one stack per customer while supplies last. Arlington’s lone IHOP is at 935 N. Stafford Street in Ballston.

Flickr pool photo by Wolfkann

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It’s a season for giving, but apparently some scam artists are instead using the opportunity for taking. The Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli’s office is warning residents to watch out for holiday scams, particularly those involving false charities and phishing.

Some groups use names that sound similar to legitimate charities and pressure consumers for donations. They might also offer particularly touching stories in an attempt to garner sympathy and contributions. The AG’s office said many consumers who would typically notice the sketchy “charities” may be too busy or distracted by the holidays to pick up on the normal cues.

Phishing involves using deceptive emails or text messages to obtain usernames, passwords and financial information from a victim. Consumers might receive an email or text message from someone posing as a representative from a bank or retail establishment, saying the customer’s account has been restricted due to unusual activity or too many unsuccessful online login attempts. The scammer then requests bank account numbers, passwords and/or a social security number to reactivate the account.

Some consumers have received fraudulent text messages, emails or phone calls stating they won a gift card from reputable companies such as Target or Best Buy. Scammers might also say the consumer entered a contest at a store. Both of these tactics are used to bait consumers into providing personal information.

In all cases, consumers should avoid handing over sensitive personal information, and should never feel obligated to donate to a charity under pressure. Ask charity representatives who approach you for more information, and do your own research, the attorney general’s office advises. Check the charity’s website, along with resources such as the Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Alliance or the National Association of State Charity Officials.

If a charity is legitimate, it will accept your donation at any time and will not need to pressure for donations. Never give cash, and if using a check, make it out directly to the charity instead of an individual person. Do not use money transfer companies to send money to a person you haven’t met.

“My office is committed to helping consumers protect themselves from falling victim to fraud. When it comes to charity scams, especially around the holidays, it is best that people do lots of research and only give money to charities and businesses they can really trust,” said AG Cuccinelli in a statement. “It is our hope that all Virginians can enjoy a joyful and safe holiday season without being taken advantage of by scammers.”

You can file complaints regarding scams on the consumer protection section of the attorney general’s website.

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Morning Notes

Author to Discuss Potomac River — Local author Garrett Peck will discuss his book, The Potomac River: A History and a Guide, at Arlington Central Library (1015 N. Quincy Street) tonight. The free event will be held at the library’s auditorium from 7:00 to 8:30 p.m. [Arlington Public Library]

Yorktown Wins, Again — The Yorktown Patriots varsity football squad chalked up another big win on Friday. The team defeated the Herndon Hornets by a score of 51-21. Bishop O’Connell also won on Friday, beating the St. Mary’s Ryken 17-13 on the road. Washington-Lee and Wakefield both lost. [Sun Gazette]

Cuccinelli Coming to Arlington for Constitution Day — Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli will celebrate today’s Constitution Day observance with the Arlington Falls Church Young Republicans. The group is hosting Cuccinelli at RiRa Irish Pub (2915 Wilson Blvd) in Clarendon starting at 7:00 p.m. [Facebook]

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By a 5-4 decision, announced this morning, the Supreme Court has upheld President’ Obama heath care law. Numerous local and state officials and candidates are now weighing in on the high court’s ruling.

Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) called the decision a “blow to freedom.”

Today’s Supreme Court ruling is extremely disappointing for Virginia and for America. The PPACA will create a costly and cumbersome system that will impair our country’s ability to recover from these challenging economic times, infringes on our citizen’s liberties, will harm small businesses, and will impose dramatic unfunded mandates on Virginia and all states. Simply put, this is a blow to freedom. America needs market-based solutions that give patients more choice, not less.

Virginia will evaluate the steps necessary to comply with the law. While we have awaited this decision, planners have been working to identify necessary resources and issues to be addressed to ensure Virginia implements this flawed law in the most effective and least costly and burdensome way possible. In coming months, Virginia’s healthcare leaders will work to develop the best possible system to meet the healthcare needs of our citizens. It remains my hope that we will elect a new President and Senate so that the existing law will be repealed and states will be given the freedom they need to implement healthcare solutions that work best for their citizens. We will evaluate the opinion in detail in the days ahead and determine what policies are proper for the people of Virginia.

Rep. Jim Moran (D) applauded the ruling, saying the Affordable Care Act will result in “life-saving reforms.”

Today the Supreme Court reaffirmed what Democrats and President Obama have known for two years; the Affordable Care Act stands on firm constitutional grounds.

People across the country are already benefiting from reforms in the Affordable Care Act, including 6.6 million young people who can stay on their parents’ insurance, 105 million Americans who no longer have a lifetime limit on their coverage, and 5.3 million seniors in the ‘donut hole’ who have saved $3.7 billion on their prescription drugs.

Though today’s ruling provides assurance as the Administration phases in life-saving reforms including a ban on insurance companies denying coverage to individuals with pre-existing conditions, Republicans in Congress will undoubtedly continue their efforts to dismantle critical provisions of the Affordable Care Act. We must continue fighting these efforts in the House of Representatives to repeal ACA.

Passage of the Affordable Care Act in 2009 represented a giant leap forward to not only make our health care system work better for Americans of any age, race, gender, or income level, but to rescue our economy from the suffocating grip of spiraling health care costs. We spend nearly 18 percent of our entire economy on health care – twice what every other industrialized nation pays. The Affordable Care Act will reduce our deficit while improving access to, and the quality of, care for all Americans.

Washington has been struggling to deliver meaningful health care reform for more than six decades. Today’s ruling means the United States can finally see its way closer to delivering on that promise for all Americans.

Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli (R), a leading opponent of the health care law, said today is “a dark day for American liberty.” He is planning to hold a press conference at noon today in Richmond to discuss the decision.

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The Virginia Attorney General’s Office says D.C. officials have agreed to meet with representatives from Virginia and Maryland about the District’s Wildlife Protection Act of 2010.

Earlier this month Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli publicly spoke out about the law, which is intended to ensure the humane treatment of wildlife by animal control personnel. Cuccinelli told WMAL radio that the law prevents the use of lethal traps against certain pests, while increasing the likelihood that trapped animals — which may carry diseases or parasites — will be illegally brought into Virginia and released. The attorney general called the law “a triumph of animal rights over human health.”

Conservative commentator Rush Limbaugh later picked up on Cuccinelli’s complaint and blasted D.C. officials on his radio show.

Despite the heated rhetoric, Cuccinelli’s office announced today that D.C., Virginia and Maryland officials have begun a dialogue regarding the Wildlife Protection Act. Cuccinelli issued the following statement this morning:

I have recently expressed concerns publicly that the D.C. Wildlife Act of 2010 could potentially lead to nuisance wildlife being dropped off across the Potomac River into Virginia. Nuisance wildlife includes certain rodents, raccoons, and other animals known to carry rabies, Lyme Disease, and other diseases which can potentially infect humans. These concerns are shared by such organizations as the bipartisan Maryland and Virginia State Sportsmen’s Caucuses, the National Wildlife Control Operators Association, the Wildlife Society, and the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries.

Like others, I want to ensure the humane treatment of animals, but when it comes to rodents and other animals that often carry diseases, human health must come first.

While I expressed these concerns publicly only recently, I had tried to get the attention of District officials for the last 10 months. After we brought this issue to the public’s attention last week, my staff had a conference call with Mayor Vincent Gray’s office, Councilmember Mary Cheh’s office, Virginia Congressman Frank Wolf’s office, and other D.C. officials. As a result of that call, Mayor Gray has agreed to convene a meeting within the next three months among representatives from the District, Virginia, Maryland, and Congressman Wolf’s office. I want to thank the mayor for his willingness to discuss the concerns his neighbors have.

I am hoping that we can also convene a panel of scientific and wildlife experts, as well as officials from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, to discuss how to best deal with the public health ramifications of this act for our jurisdictions. The alarming increase in vector-transmitted diseases in the metropolitan area is not just a D.C. problem. That is why a regional approach is needed.

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Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli called a local talk radio show on Tuesday to complain about rats in D.C. Specifically, Cuccinelli was peeved about a D.C. law — the Wildlife Protection Act — which, since March 2011, has outlawed some common pest control practices including the use of lethal traps on certain species of rats and mice (and on other wild animals that get stuck in homes).

“Last year, in its finite wisdom, the D.C. City Council passed a new law — a triumph of animal rights over human health,” he told the hosts of WMAL’s ‘The Morning Majority‘ show. “Those pest control people… aren’t allowed to kill the rat. They have to relocate the rat. And… that’s actually not the worst part. They cannot break up the family of the rat.”

“Oh no,” one of the hosts said solemnly as another loudly gasped. But what does any of this have to do with Virginia? Cuccinelli explained that wildlife trappers might now simply take the rats they catch in D.C. into Virginia.

“Actual experts in pest control will tell you, if you don’t move an animal about 25 miles, it will come back,” Cuccinelli said. “So what’s the solution to that? Across the river.”

“It is worse than our immigration policies, you can’t break up rat families or racoons and all the rest,” Cuccinelli continued. “And you can’t even kill them. It’s unbelievable.”

(The audio can be found at 92:35 here.)

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State Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli will speak to members of several Northern Virginia Young Republican clubs in Clarendon tonight.

Cuccinelli will be speaking at the clubs’ joint meeting at RiRa Irish Pub (2915 Wilson Blvd), which is scheduled to get underway at 7:00 p.m. Cuccinelli, who earned his J.D. from the George Mason University School of Law, has won the plaudits of Republicans and the ire of Democrats for challenging a number of federal laws and policies from health care to immigration to climate change.

“During his first year in office, Cuccinelli gained national attention as the man who took on Obamacare, being the first attorney general to legally challenge President Obama’s 2010 health care legislation,” the Arlington/Falls Church Young Republicans said in a press release. “He made headlines after filing a lawsuit against the federal government on behalf of Virginia on the grounds that forcing people to buy health insurance was unconstitutional, especially since it went against state law.”

A federal appeals court recently dismissed Cuccinelli’s healthcare lawsuit, saying that Virginia lacked the standing to sue.

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