CORRECTION, March 9, 2022: an earlier version of this story incorrectly identified Del. David LaRock as opposing sex ed opt-in and anti-CRT legislation; in fact, he supported both. LifeSite apologizes for the error.
RICHMOND (LifeSiteNews) — Conservatives have seen several victories in a relatively short period of time following a Republican takeover of the governor’s mansion, attorney general’s office, and House of Delegates, but moderate-to-liberal legislators within the state GOP continue to stymie some of the issues Gov. Glenn Youngkin campaigned on.
Youngkin defeated Democrat Terry McAuliffe last November in part by riding a wave of discontent with COVID restrictions and leftist radicalism in public schools, and upon taking office set to work addressing that discontent. On his first day he issued nine executive actions, including a ban on the promotion of critical race theory (CRT) in public schools, clarification that parents have the sole right to decide whether their children wear masks in public schools, a request for an investigation of the Loudoun County School District over allegations it covered up student rape, and a rollback of COVID-related business regulations and COVID vaccine mandates for state employees.
Youngkin, Attorney General Jason Miyares, and Republican lawmakers have since taken steps to codify and enforce those measures, including a law banning forced masking in schools, legal actions and opinions against draconian COVID policies in education, and an investigation of Loudoun County.
At The Federalist, however, former Trump Department of Education official Nick Bell details how certain Republicans in the legislature are working against efforts to fulfill the rest of Youngkin’s promises.
Republican state Del. Carrie Coyner and state Sen. Siobhan Dunnavant, for instance, have killed in committee bills to empower school districts to disregard state transgender mandates. Coyner also opposed bills to prohibit the teaching of CRT in kindergarten through high school and to require parents to opt their children into sex education.
Several of these Republicans and others have also voted for things that, while ultimately unsuccessful, evidence priorities out of step with the Virginians who elected Youngkin, including legislation empowering governors to close churches during pandemics and a proposed constitutional amendment formally rescinding the state’s recognition of marriage as a monogamous opposite-sex union.
Perhaps most disappointing to conservatives, Bell also relays a lack of legislative success on the pro-life front, including the failure of a 20-week abortion ban, as well as statements by Senate Minority Leader Tommy Norment, Del. Rob Bell, and Speaker Todd Gilbert downplaying the bill’s prospects or opposing the procedural moves reviving it would take.
In response to a question directly after the election about his party’s plans to combat abortion, [Gilbert] oddly seemed to claim pro-life issues played a minimal part in the election,” Bell writes, quoting the speaker as saying: “You didn’t hear our caucus running on those things … We’re going to stay focused on the things we believe the majority of Virginians want us to focus on.”
“This is curious coming from the same man who once baited Democrat Del. Kathy Tran to infamously admit in 2019 that a bill she sponsored would allow abortions right up until the moment of birth and that prompted Gov. Ralph Northam shortly thereafter to come out in favor of infanticide,” Bell says.
However, Bell also explains that Youngkin has options to compensate for such disappointments via executive action, such as his appointees to the State Board of Education, as well as ways to rouse lawmakers to take a stand.
“With the divided legislature, ‘failure’ is too strong a description of the lack of pro-family, pro-parent legislative accomplishments this session,” Bell writes. “But a good place to start for Youngkin is by impressing on timid legislative Republicans that his historic election upset turned on precisely the same issues that have induced their timidity: cultural flashpoints on which the left took deeply harmful positions, and which Virginia voters emphatically rejected last November.”