Assessing the General Assembly session at the midway point members of the Legislative Black Caucus said Wednesday that contrary to GOP counter claims this year has indeed been dominated by social issues they have had to spend a good deal of their time fighting and explaining to the public the full implications of voter ID bills, gun rights legislation and measures on women's reproductive rights.
Earlier in the day, the Republican House Caucus trotted out a chart showing that the majority of legislation passed in the House of Delegates this session has been focused on jobs, education, government reform and public safety.
Speaker of the House William Howell, R-Stafford, said less than 2 percent of Republican legislation this year has focused on what he considers social issues - which he defined as gun and abortion legislation.
But Black Caucus chair Sen. Mamie Locke, D-Hampton, asserted that claims there hasn't been a policy shift in the General Assembly session are full of hogwash.
"One has to wonder what planet they're on, or if indeed marijuana was legalized without our knowing," Locke said.
Black Caucus member Del. Jennifer McClellan, D-Richmond, said many of the high profile bills coming out of the House, such as repealing the one-hand-gun-a-month purchasing limit, requiring women to receive an ultrasound before an abortion, defining life as beginning at the moment of conception and voter ID laws, are measures that "will turn back the clock" in the commonwealth.
"On the House side we can't stop a lot of these bills - we've never been able to stop a lot of these bills - but we will shine a spotlight on these bills that will have a negative impact on our communities, on other minority communities and on the community as a whole," McClellan said. "And if House Republicans get upset with that I'm sorry. But with power comes responsibility. And if their not going to do their job to address the unintended consequences of these, somebody's got to do it."