The General Assembly's Progressive Caucus announced its agenda for the 2012 session Thursday much of which centered on opposing provisions of Gov. Bob McDonnell's two-year budget plan and legislation put forward by the the Conservative Caucus, such as the "personhood bill" and voter id laws.
"There is nothing heroic or courageous about balancing your budget on the backs of vulnerable Virginians," said caucus co-chairman Del. Patrick Hope, D-Arlington, "Funding our most vulnerable populations is neither a priority nor a remote interest for this administration or the Republican Party. The Progressive Caucus will continue to fight for making funding our most vulnerable citizens a top priority and will seek to restore funding in these areas."
Members of the caucus said they are pushing amendments that restore funding to community based health clinics, public schools, the state's preschool program, child advocacy centers and child care subsidies.
Del. Jennifer McClellan, D-Richmond, said the caucus is committed to stopping the controversial "personhood" bill sponsored by Del. Robert Marshall, R-Manassas, which would define life as beginning at the moment of conception.
She said people should be concerned about the implications of the measure because under Virginia law even some procedures to deal with miscarriages of wanted pregnancies would be considered abortions.
"Women who don't think they're going to be in a position where they need to have an abortion, they need to be very concerned about bill passing," McClellan said.
WIth GOP control of both the House of Delegates and the Senate, and an emboldened Conservative Caucus that stands at the extreme opposite on most issues with the Progressive Caucus, the group of Democratic Delegates and Senators have a series of hard fights ahead.
But Del. David Englin, D-Arlington, said there is one area the progressives and conservatives agree - looking at the variety of the state's tax credits, extensions and loopholes with an eye to doing away with many. Englin said both he and Conservative Caucus co-chairman Del. Ben Cline, R-Rockbridge, have introduced nearly identical pieces of legislation to start the process. The Conservative Caucus introduced it's legislative agenda on Tuesday.
"Whenever you have the most liberal and the most conservative members of the General Assembly actually agreeing on something the I think that everyone else should sit up and take notice," Englin said.